- Last Updated: 9:54 AM, May 15, 2012
- Posted: 3:21 AM, May 15, 2012
The post-Madoff, post-Minaya Mets were supposed to be different. Under the leadership of Sandy Alderson, whose forward thinking with the A’s ultimately advanced the Q ratings of Billy Beane, Michael Lewis and Brad Pitt with “Moneyball,” they were going to pave a new baseball operations path in Flushing.
They largely have lived up to that billing. Yet as they took their turn yesterday in what has been a baseball-wide closer crisis, they sounded surprisingly old-school. They sounded wedded to old ideas and wary of new ones.
Frank Francisco retained his closer’s job following a dreadful weekend in Miami and an overall underwhelming start to the season, and he inspired little confidence as he saved the Mets’ 3-1 victory over the Brewers last night at Citi Field, allowing Milwaukee’s lone run and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.
Manager Terry Collins, who admitted to having a substantive, pregame chat with Francisco, admitted afterward the right-hander was one baserunner away from getting lifted for setup man Jon Rauch.
The spin of the night was that, if Francisco can get through this rough stretch, he’ll emerge as an asset. “That’s the hope,” Collins said.
It sounds like Francisco — who said he felt “great” about his outing and attributed some of his problems to “broken-bat singles” — has received his first and final warning. Yet it also sounds like Collins very much hoped to avoid uprooting his current bullpen hierarchy.
“When we left camp, we had a plan,” Collins said before the game. “You run into situations we just saw in Florida. They pulled their closer [Heath Bell] out, they put another one [Edward Mujica] in, they didn’t like it, they reversed it back. Again, I think it’s a juggling act. You’ve got to, I think, really wring the rag dry a little bit.”
Eh. Last year, the Mets left camp resolved that Brad Emaus, a Rule 5 draft selection, would be their everyday second baseman. Within just a few weeks, it became evident they bet wrong, so they designated Emaus for assignment. They scored points for dealing decisively with the issue, and ironically, Emaus is back in the Mets’ organization at Triple-A Buffalo.
The Francisco situation isn’t identical to Emaus’. The Mets signed Francisco to a two-year, $12-million deal in December with the understanding he would close for them. There’s a wide gulf, however, between winter hopes and spring reality.
Moreover, no one’s talking about releasing Francisco and eating all of that money. We’re discussing taking a break, a la Ross and Rachel on “Friends.” Or like when the 2011 Blue Jays flip-flopped their closer and setup man — that would be Francisco and Jon Rauch, respectively — in July before a Rauch injury returned the job to Francisco in late August.
Collins admitted the club considered deploying a closer by committee, with Francisco, Rauch, lefty specialist Tim Byrdak and last year’s flop Bobby Parnell in the mix.
“In our case, at this particular moment, Byrdak would be dead by July,” Collins said, drawing laughs from reporters.
Again, though, Collins could simply exhibit self-discipline with Byrdak, knowing on some nights, one of his right-handers would have to come through against a dangerous lefty batter.
There’s something to be said for patience, an attribute Collins referenced as he brought up the struggling Ike Davis. The difference there is Davis’ upside is much higher than that of anyone else the team can play at first base, whereas the other closer options might be just as effective, particularly on an interim basis.
Francisco’s nine saves don’t carry much weight when you look at his two blown saves and the two other times Collins lifted him before the save could be blown. Or the 8.59 ERA. Or the eight walks that accompany the impressive 16 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
When a closer struggles, Collins acknowledged, “You bring down the entire emotion of the ballclub.”
The Mets are playing surprisingly well in a winnable division. Why lose more games with a shaky closer?
It seems old-school to stand pat. Maybe it’ll be correct. If it isn’t though, the price will be pain in what has been a relatively pain-free season.Follow @NYPostsports