By now you know the whole saga that unfolded last night, during and after the Mets’ 10-7 win over the Nats. Jerry Manuel pulled John Maine after five slow and ineffective pitches, even though Maine wanted to continue pitching. After the game, the Mets told reporters that Maine was heading to see a doctor in New York.
Only they forgot to tell Maine. Maine lashed out at his manager and pitching coach for doubting him, then Dan Warthen capped the evening by calling Maine a “habitual liar, in a lot of ways, as far as his own health.”
First things first: Manuel was absolutely right to pull Maine from the game. I’m never quick to defend the Mets’ beleaguered manager, but if he left Maine in and Maine got shelled (or hurt, or more hurt), we would be torching Manuel today for trotting out a fastball pitcher who couldn’t crack 85.
And it’s hard to blame Maine for wanting to stay in the game. John Maine didn’t become a Major Leaguer by rolling over at the first sign of a challenge or without desperately wanting the ball in his hand every fifth day. If Maine was throwing fastballs in the low-80s, something was likely wrong with him. But it’s not on John Maine to diagnose or police himself. Baseball players should want to play baseball.
Where everything went wrong, as it so often does with the Mets, was when it came time to communicate what had happened. Maine claimed he never got a good explanation from his manager, no one thought to tell Maine the Mets wanted him to see a doctor, and then Warthen went ahead and called Maine a liar.
So really, the only breaking news here is that the Mets, for once, actually pulled an aching player before he further injured himself. John Maine getting hurt is no surprise. The Mets improperly communicating a message internally is nothing new. And Dan Warthen throwing players under the proverbial bus isn’t, either. Remember, this is the same guy who tried to blame some of the team’s 2009 pitching woes — his primary responsibility — on catchers who couldn’t call games.
It’s vaguely notable that Warthen said even a single negative word about Maine, a pitcher whose career has taken a veritable nosedive since the Mets hired their current pitching coach. Under Rick Peterson, Maine averaged 5.9 innings per start (and didn’t miss many starts), a 3.83 ERA and a 4.28 FIP. Under Warthen, he’s averaged 5.1 innings per start (and missed a bunch of them) with a 4.86 ERA and a 4.91 FIP.
It’s the worst type of post hoc ergo propter hoc argument to say Maine’s struggles are the result of Warthen’s hiring, as there are plenty of other factors — especially injury — that could turn a pitcher’s fortune. But since there have always been concerns about Maine’s arm strength and stamina, and since Peterson is a renowned expert on biomechanics, it’s at least worth noting that Maine’s run of arm issues started a little over a month after Warthen replaced Peterson.
It should also be noted that after calling Maine a habitual liar, Warthen called him a “warrior” and “a competitor” and basically said all the right things. But if I’m Dan Warthen right now, with all sorts of internal change looming on the horizon, I’m not saying anything at all — especially if someone asked me about John Maine, the embodiment of all the struggles the Mets’ staff has had in the past two years.