All the walk-off losses on the road is indicative of an eighth-inning guy. That’s where an eighth-inning guy pitches. It’s basically that simple. If that eighth-inning guy is the guy, he pitches the tie game on the road. At home, the closer pitches the tie game because you get a chance to bat. That’s just the way that works. I mean, that’s baseball.
- Jerry Manuel.
The Mets’ absurd and quixotic quest for this elusive “eighth-inning guy” has crippled them all year. It forced Jenrry Mejia into the big leagues before he was ready, Fernando Nieve into an ungodly amount of work, and now Pedro Feliciano and Elmer Dessens into situations they should never face.
That’s not baseball. Not good baseball, at least.
Look: Some teams have an eighth-inning guy. If you have two awesome relievers, great, make one the closer and one the eighth-inning guy. Shorten the games. And yeah, you might be better served using one of them in higher-leverage spots in the sixth or seventh when the starter tires and there are men on base, but whatever. The eighth inning and ninth inning of close games are pretty big spots. By all means, use your two best relievers there.
But if you don’t have some distinct second-best reliever, or hell, even a second decidedly good reliever, holy crap, don’t force it. There’s no need at all to anoint someone “eighth-inning guy” if he’s not cut out for it.
Pedro Feliciano is a valuable bullpen arm who can pitch nearly every day and retire tough lefties with unbelievable reliability. I am a fan of Pedro Feliciano. He is very good at his job.
But he is not capable of reliably getting right-handers out, nor has he ever been. He should absolutely not be facing right-handed hitters with the game on the line.
And look, before you ask: I’m not even certain what I would’ve done there. Presumably Bobby Parnell was unavailable after pitching in three of the last four games, clearly next in line for the Nieve treatment. And Jerry’s not getting much help from the front-office, with his team already man-down and carrying three catchers and a crappy bullpen.
But if K-Rod needs work badly enough to come in with the Mets down one run in the eighth inning Tuesday, why is he not allowed to pitch with a tie game on the line on Thursday? Hell, he was warming up. Is it — heaven forbid! — that a save situation might arise without K-Rod available to nail it down? Because, you know, managing to a pointless stat, that’s baseball.
Also a big part of baseball: Throwing your entire bullpen under the bus when you’ve mismanaged it all season. The Mets aren’t suffering walk-off losses on the road because they need an eighth-inning guy, they’re suffering walk-off losses on the road because they think they need an eighth-inning guy.
Sagiv at Fire Jerry Manuel covered last night’s game with his unique brand of vitriol. Check it out (language furiously unsafe for work).