Ready to give K-Rod a fresh start

With Opening Day upon us, it’s time for new beginnings and fresh slates.

Mets’ fans know this all too well, as hope springs eternal with each opening day. It’s always a time to put the past behind you, while turning over a new leaf.

I know that it must seem difficult to remain optimistic, and keep up a positive outlook coming off the 2011 season. Then there was the Madoff scandal. And with the recent news of Jason Bay’s injury, it only seems to get worse.

However, it’s time for all of us to hit the restart button.

Perhaps no one on the Mets wants to do this more than closer Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod). After getting into an altercation with his then girlfriends’ father in the Mets clubhouse last summer, K-Rod injured his thumb and was out for the rest of the season.

What followed was an ugly dose of vitriol heaped upon K-Rod from Met fans. It was a public relations nightmare K-Rod couldn’t have possibly won. Not that he had any right to.

Heck, even I had enough. I wanted all the bad karma removed from the clubhouse. I didn’t want the stench of this fiasco to linger.

He had to man up and be accountable, and by all accounts he has done just that.

I believe in second chances. I also adhere to the rule that you don’t let good things go to waste.

We all have to remember that K-Rod was having a stellar year before last year’s dust-up. K-Rod had converted 25 of 30 saves last year while sporting his best ERA (2.20) and WHIP (1.15) since 2006.

It’s not like he wasn’t earning his keep like his other hated brethren (i.e., Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo). He was productive and dependable. Albeit he did rattle some nerves with his ability to get in and out of jams.

When you have a questionable starting rotation, you at least need a good bullpen, specifically a dominating closer. Like him or not, K-Rod is a dominating closer. You don’t beat the season record for saves in a season on luck. When K-Rod is on his game, he is one the leagues top five closers.

K-Rod came to Spring Training in the right frame of mind and also in the best shape in his life. He has been sterling in camp; yielding no runs over 10 2/3 innings pitched while striking out 13 and allowing four walks. This is no time to be hating on K-Rod.

Where it can become tricky is with his vesting option for 2012.

There is a stipulation in K-Rod’s contract that calls for a $17.5 million vesting option for 2012 if K-Rod pitches in more than 55 games for the year.

This could get dicey.

While, of course, the Mets want to be competitive and give their closer as many chances to shut the door on teams, they also don’t want a bloated contract on the books for 2012 if they can avoid it.

But what about days when K-Rod just needs to get some work in after sitting out in blowouts? What about tie games in the 9th inning on the road? How do you balance this act, while trying to remain fiscally sound and keeping the payroll at bay?

Aside from last year, K-Rod has pitched in more than 55 games in the previous seven years. Outside of an injury, if K-Rod doesn’t pitch in 55 games or more, it would look really fishy. Why would the Mets want to go down that road with K-Rod and possibly the player’s union?

You know what? If K-Rod is appearing in that many games, it could only mean the Mets are doing a lot of winning. That’s what we are all here for: to see our team win.

To see a breakdown on why it would be a good idea if K-Rod’s option vests, read Brian Joura’s February article.

So, with that said, let’s hit the restart button and give K-Rod the benefit of the doubt and hope that he is past his anger management issues. On the field, he could just very well be the Mets most important player this year.

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With Opening Day for the Mets falling on April Fools Day, we’re playing it straight this year at Mets360. But click here if you want to see last year’s April 1st entry.

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