Ah, spring training. The one time when losing is acceptable and the Mets have done a ton of it. Several hours after the loss to the Cardinals on Sunday I read a review of the game on a few websites, as I had not watched it, and there were a couple bright spots; Curtis Granderson doubled, Brandon Nimmo had a hit, and Steven Matz struck out a pair. However, with these bright spots a right hook to the face by Mike Tyson in his prime came: Terry Collins prefers Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan to Jenrry Mejia for the fifth spot in the rotation. This opinion by Collins really irked me and here’s why.
To begin, I have agreed with all of Sandy Alderson’s decisions this offseason (with the notable exception of the first base situation), from the signing of Granderson to not acquiring a new shortstop. The acquisition of Matsuzaka and Lannan were good ideas for a fallback option in the case of a Mejia injury or a complete loss of pitching skills. With this comes risk because, of course, Collins and Co. took them as serious contenders for the 5th spot. What is interesting about the possibility of their presence in the rotation is that the Mets tried to avoid over-spending in the offseason. I’m not going to sit here and criticize Alderson for not signing Nelson Cruz – that wasn’t his fault – but why would he not at least attempt to go all-in for two starters if he was going to be serious about filling the rotation? He’s signing two pitchers that are down on their luck and could make up to $1.5 -$2 million if they made the team, but he was trying so hard to go under a $100 million payroll. Why spend more money than is needed? Mejia is going to earn league minimum and will probably be pitching better than either of the other options. While $1 – $2 million is a fraction of the Mets’ payroll right now, the Mets should decide if they want to spend money or save it for a great player next offseason. Stop creating a paradox Mr. Alderson.
I can almost guarantee that Collins’ reasoning for these two pitchers making the rotation is for “veteran leadership.” In all honesty, I love veteran leadership on a young squad (i.e. John Buck), but there is a 40-year old former CY Young award winner on this staff. What more do you want? The clear argument is that Colon can’t speak much English, but he would be tutoring one of his fellow “Dominican Mafia” members so what does it matter? What kind of advice is Zack Wheeler going to receive from pitchers that are the polar opposite of him? Plus, Jon Niese is already considered a veteran and Dillon Gee probably has the most advice anyone can give after overcoming a serious blood clot and then hitting rock-bottom. This is not to say that Matsuzaka or Lannan couldn’t provide leadership, but the position players need advice more than the pitching staff.
As most Mets will remember, the spring of 2010 was the beginning of excellence for Mejia. Unfortunately, Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya decided that it was an absolute necessity to have him make the roster. This caused Mejia to pitch in a very ineffective way and throw off his development. His progress was put on hold until late 2012 when he produced a couple of shaky starts. When Mejia was finally given the chance in 2013, he figured everything out in his first brief five starts. It was all that the Mets had hoped for and to stop him now would be the biggest crime of all. The Mets have wanted the young players they painstakingly developed over the past few years to come up and make positive contributions to the team. How would it look if the Mets chose an outsider that is approaching, or already on, the wrong side the 30 over a homegrown pitcher that could be dominant for about 100-120 innings?
Mejia is not only the best suited for the job, but also he is the favorite of most fans and might become the best pitcher for a few months. The way that I see it, Minaya produced three great things during his tenure; a Cy Young Winner from nowhere, a ton of debt, and lots of foreign talent (i.e. Wilmer Flores & Mejia). Alderson has disassembled two of the three, for the better, and ruining Minaya’s greatest achievement would be just cruel. The Mets haven’t made the greatest decisions over the past decade and they certainly have not picked the right players for spots on the roster recently, but just this once Collins – pick the right man.