Accountability Or Posing

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There was talk—specifically from Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen—that the club should consider demoting Mike Pelfrey.

Given the righty’s struggles so far this season; that he has remaining minor league options; and the new era of accountability with the Mets that has taken hold, it’s not a totally ludicrous idea to ship a veteran—albeit a young veteran—to the minor leagues to straighten himself out.

Would this be a positive maneuver for the mets? Would it do more harm than good? And would it be seen as an overreaction to take a relatively proven starting pitcher like Pelfrey and send him down?

Because the Mets supposedly have an “extra” starting pitcher with Dillon Gee and Chris Young healthy (for now), they can conceivably look at the six (Pelfrey, Gee, Young, Chris Capuano, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese) and say that Pelfrey’s been the worst of the group and, based on performance and not a scholarship for the past (or time served—this is the Mets we’re talking about), he should be demoted.

Putting him in the bullpen makes no sense; nor does it make sense to use Gee out there.

So what to do?

I don’t see sending Pelfrey to Triple A as a viable option at this point. The Mets reactionary dumping of winter darling and vaunted Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus was indicative of the short window of opportunity certain players are going to get under the new regime; 42 plate appearances and out was neither fair nor was it an accurate gauge of what Emaus can and can’t do. Mets assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi drafted Emaus while he was GM of the Blue Jays, presumably he knows what he is; if what he is is the hitter we saw in those 42 plate appearances, the Mets: A) should’ve halted the outside rhetoric of what a steal they got; and B) shouldn’t have given him the 2nd base job to start with.

Pelfrey did win 15 games last season and should’ve been an All Star.

Yes, he’s inconsistent; yes, he gets flustered and implodes; but he’s a big, workhorse starter who will be an innings-gobbling and durable entity on a good team.

GM Sandy Alderson has preached that name recognition, contractual status and ancillary factors won’t influence his decisionmaking. He’s acted in accordance with that statement in releasing Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and by dispatching Emaus so quickly. But to send Pelfrey to the minors would be too much too soon. A bad April isn’t cause to embarrass the opening day starter to that degree. Sending him to Buffalo won’t do him much good with the issues that currently plague him. Plus, what difference should it really make to the Mets now as anything other than florid showmanship to exert the front office’s authority on the veteran players?

He’s not pitching poorly due to a lack of effort. That would be grounds for immediate demotion. He’s off to a bad start and a large part of it is clearly mental—he feels he has to step up and take the place of the injured Johan Santana, something he’s not capable nor equipped to do. His problems appear to be in his head and with his mechanics.

I wouldn’t have gone the route of manager Terry Collins when the built-in excuse from Friday night was that Pelfrey’s bout with the flu  was a large factor in his poor outing; if he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch, he shouldn’t have pitched; and he was fine for the first few innings before the wheels came off.

It was a weak caveat from the manager designed to protect; it wound up looking like an after-the-fact bit of whining because that’s what it was.

There are times to take a strong stand and perhaps even issue the threat of demotion; there’s nothing wrong with putting a little scare in someone who might have gotten a bit too comfortable in his station, but now’s not that time for Pelfrey.

If he pitches poorly throughout May and casts the pretense of one who’d benefit from such a wakeup call, then fine; but to do it now is a bullying tactic that won’t do any good. If sending him down is a consideration, they shouldn’t do it until the warm weather comes and a greater basis upon the move can be reached.

Besides all that, Young’s not going to stay healthy; so the point is moot.


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