The Mets sang a familiar tune last night as a close game through 9 innings was blown up by the bullpen in extras. After the game, the man responsible for most of those 10th inning Washington runs, Pedro Beato, was sent back down (or up, if you’re a stickler for geography) to Buffalo. The revolving door of relievers turned again, and the team “welcomed” back Manny Acosta to the big league club. Initial instinct is supposed to say Acosta will be an upgrade. Then instinct remembers it’s the Mets we’re talking about when it sees the team exchanged Beato’s 10.38 ERA for Acosta’s 11.86 mark. Swapping one 10+ ERA for something even higher? I guess that qualifies as some kind of “Amazin’”.
The Mets’ historically bad bullpen has been even more atrocious since the All-Star Break with a combined ERA of 6.51. Couple that with a starter ERA of just slightly better (6.24) and it’s no wonder the team has lost 9 of 10 since the Break and 10 of 11 overall. In the first half of the season when the team was winning with starting pitching and offense, a less-than-stellar bullpen could be overlooked. Now that starting pitching has faltered, even a pretty good offense (4.5 runs/game and a .283 BA) isn’t enough. Starting pitching you can make excuses for with all the injuries, but relief pitching has been a gaping hole in the team the whole season.
Speculation over the past month has been over which relievers Sandy Alderson will pursue before the trade deadline. That speculation was made under the assumption of Alderson’s word that the team would be buyers, but with the Mets playing much closer to preseason expectations, that time has come and gone. Trying to salvage something this year would be a waste of valuable resources and deviation from The Plan. The best thing to do at this point is to use the rest of 2012 to prepare for 2013, which must be the logic behind calling up Matt Harvey.
If the team does go into full-on “wait till next year” mode, it begs the question as to how to fix such a miserable part of the organization. The reemergence of Manny Acosta proves it: after nearly six years of trying, the Mets have run out of options concerning the bullpen. Absolutely everything has been tried at this point. Even R.A. Dickey was given a shot to relieve last Saturday and that didn’t work out at all. At this point Alderson is just rummaging through the trash hoping to find some hidden treasure. But the old adage doesn’t work that way, and no amount of sifting through Manny Acosta, Elvin Ramirez, or God forbid Chris Schwinden (who’s been back with the organization for a few weeks, it turns out) is going to fix the problem. Even the deadline strategy of trying to bring in reinforcements wouldn’t have worked out. When a building’s structures are beyond repair, you don’t just fix it with a couple extra beams and some WD-40; you knock it down and start over.
Significant money must be spent this offseason in order to not just shore up the bullpen but to completely reinvent it. Most other positions, save for backup catcher, are set for next year, so Sandy Alderson can allocate most of his funds searching for decent relief pitchers outside the organization. When it comes to the ‘pen’s current incarnation, absolutely everyone is expendable. Tim Byrdak is 38 years old and only under contract this season. Jon Rauch has lost 7 games as a reliever already. Ramon Ramirez hasn’t been nearly worth shipping Angel Pagan off to San Francisco for. Frank Francisco was inconsistent before his injury; just imagine what he’ll be like when (if?) he comes back this year.
The only exception I can envision to this mass eviction is Bobby Parnell, who’s still only 27 years old and has had a decent year up to this point. But if Alderson and Terry Collins are planning open auditions for the closer’s role, even Parnell should be shown the door; while his stuff is good, he’s shown in the last two seasons he doesn’t have the nerves to pitch the 9th inning.
Relief pitching has been a problem for the Mets for upwards of six seasons now, and the best thing Sandy Alderson can do to fix the problem is to, much like Anne Hathaway in the latest Batman flick, pursue a “clean slate” in 2013. Homegrown ballplayers are great, but when a section of your farm has gone completely rotten, there’s no shame in going out to eat.