A clue on No. 2

The back page of today’s Daily News features the headline, “GET A CLUE ON NO. 2” with a big picture of John Lackey and a small picture of Omar Minaya. In smaller font, it reads, “Harper: Mets need to realize they need big name like Lackey.”

Let’s go to the article!

Who exactly is the Mets’ No.2 starter?

The question is especially troubling because Mike Pelfrey took a major step backward last season, to the point where baseball people are whispering about him as a head case.

OK, first of all, about the whole “No. 2 starter” thing: That’s meaningless, you know. The only time the presence of a “true No. 2 starter” matters even a little bit is in the playoffs. The order of a team’s starting rotation does not matter.

It doesn’t. Think about it: Would you rather have a team with a “true No.1” and a “true No. 2” and three replacement-level starters, or a team with five pretty decent starters? I’ll take depth. I understand that labeling guys by their theoretical place in some non-existent rotation is convenient, but it’s pointless. Find me a team that has one “No. 1,” one “No. 2,” one “No. 3” one “No. 4” and one “No. 5.”

Harper continues on a long tangent about Mike Pelfrey and how he’s obviously crazy and terrible, but fails to mention — unsurprisingly — that there’s a good deal of evidence to suggest Pelfrey, a pitcher who relies on the players behind him, got a little bit lucky in 2008 and a lot bit unlucky in 2009. Sure, Pelfrey had his yips and balks and everything else, but who wouldn’t get anxious pitching in front of that defense?

Anyway, Harper knows “the Mets don’t seem willing to spend [the] kind of money” required to net Lackey even though “a tough-minded pitcher like Lackey almost cetainly would have a comforting effect on Peflrey, Maine and Perez” (obviously Johan Santana is not tough-minded enough), and despite the fact that “they were expected to meet with Lackey’s agent [at the Winter Meetings] last night.”

There’s plenty in the article I could pick apart, but it mostly boils down to Harper’s opinion that the Mets need a starting pitcher and so should sign Lackey. It’s hard to argue that, because the Mets do need a starting pitcher.

But it seems like a whole lot of people are hell-bent on this logic:

The Mets need a starting pitcher, and John Lackey is the best available starting pitcher, so the Mets need John Lackey.

And that’s just not how it works.

The object of baseball is to score more runs than the other team. You can attempt to do so by stockpiling the best pitchers, or the best hitters, or the best defenders, or, most likely, some combination thereof.

The Mets, dealing with finite resources, need to find the most efficient way to spend their offseason capital. John Lackey is a good pitcher, but at 31 and with some history of minor arm trouble, he’s probably not the best longterm investment.

And the Mets absolutely must consider the years beyond this one. Harper learned this less than two months ago.

Of course, a potential Lackey acquisition should depend, like everything else, on the cost. Maybe Lackey’s demands in dollars and years will drop and the Mets can scoop him up at a reasonable rate.

But rewarding Lackey simply for being the best pitcher in a weak class of free-agent pitchers is foolish, especially when there’s a chance several better pitchers — Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb, to name a few — could be available next offseason.

2 thoughts on “A clue on No. 2

  1. Notice the headline says the Mets need a “name” like Lackey, and not a “pitcher” like Lackey.

    I’m not one for going after “names” to make headlines.

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