By Mike Steffanos
Game 100: Phillies 8 - Mets 6
Games like this make you wish you never became a fan, at least for a little while. They used to absolutely kill me years ago. I handle them better now, but they still suck.
A bad loss like last night's make it very tempting to play the "what if" game, but it's something I've forced myself to get away from over the years. Yeah, I was disappointed that Santana didn't at least start the ninth inning, but a bullpen should be able to hold a 3-run lead against the bottom of the order even when the closer in not available.
The Mets did a good job piecing together a bullpen in 2006. The last couple of seasons haven't worked out quite as well, for a number of reasons.
A drop in performance from key guys is one factor. Aaron Heilman is an easy example, but Pedro Feliciano is also a good example. I thought he was the secret weapon in 2006 -- an effective lefty specialist who also did a good job getting righties out. Now he's not even that great against lefties.
Another factor is having a bullpen with guys who are so similar to each other. Heilman and Sanchez both depend on a changeup for their out pitch. Other than Wagner, most of this bullpen pitches to contact. The Mets could really use a young, hard-throwing pitcher that can come in and get a strikeout. Maybe Ambiorix Burgos comes back next year and gives them that, but right now they don't have anyone to do that.
Finally, you have a closer who is getting older and has trouble holding up physically over the course of a season, but you don't really have an understudy to hold the fort when he is unavailable. I'd love to see the Mets develop some young hard-throwing pitchers of their own and try to grow their next closer from within.
Every bad relationship I've ever been in seemed to entail the feeling that I didn't know what scared me more -- being with that person or losing them. Last night in the ninth inning I felt that way about Wagner. I realized that the only thing that scared me more than him coming in to save the game was him not coming in. This means I officially have a new dysfunctional relationship in my life.
So now we all wonder if the Mets can bounce back from yet another bad loss to the Phillies. Then again, if they can't, they're not really worth losing sleep over. I suspect they're more resilient this year than they were last year, but that bullpen may yet be the death of them. Minaya has some work to do this off-season. What he has now may squeak through this year if things fall right, but what was once a vital source of strength for this club is mediocre, at best.