The Mets took a Pyrrhic victory last night. They won the game, improving their record to 25-28, but Francisco Rodriguez finished it, his 20th finished game on the season. He is well on his way to finishing 55 games, the benchmark at which the $17.5-million option on his contract becomes guaranteed for 2012.
Of course, you know all this. You know because The Great Games Finished Scourge is the most compelling reason to tune into the Mets every night. Every night, scores of Mets fans tune in with bated breath to see if Terry Collins will have the gall to turn to his best reliever in the last inning, knowing what he does about that reliever’s contract situation and the way it could financially hamstring his already financially hamstrung club next season. And once Rodriguez enters the game, we sit on the edge of our seats, fingers crossed, hoping — of course — he will allow the opposition to tie the game so he can exit without it ending.
I kid, obviously. And the vesting option does matter. Hell, if the $14 million difference between paying Rodriguez for 2012 and paying the buyout on his contract somehow means the Mets can’t keep Jose Reyes, it matters a hell of a lot. And sometimes it seems like Terry Collins is straight-up trolling the Mets’ front office, bringing in his closer to finish games like the six-run loss on Thursday in Chicago.
In the grand scheme of closers-with-awful-vesting-options-misuse, though, Collins should get a pass for Rodriguez’s appearance in last night’s game. The Mets’ bullpen has been overworked and shaky lately, and Jason Isringhausen was already lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth when the Mets scored their sixth and seventh runs — giving them a three- and then four-run cushion.
So those robbling on Twitter over using Rodriguez in a non-save situation would have presumably sat the closer down — dry-humped him, in bullpen parlance — to turn the game over to some other, not-yet-warmed-up reliever in a recently overworked bullpen that very well might be needed tonight with an ailing R.A. Dickey set to start.
And really, that argument assumes managers should be managing to the reasonably arbitrary save stat, pitching guys labeled closers with three-run leads but not four-run leads and everything. Silly.