How Heroes Are Made
God, you know how much I love playoff baseball.
The Saturday day-night game between the San Francisco Giants and the Washington Nationals will be written about for decades as one of the most incredible games in a series of incredible games we call the 2014 baseball playoffs. First we have two teams (Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals) with two of the top two pitchers in baseball (Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright) give up a combined 14 earned runs in 11-innings pitched, in a 10-9 game eventually won by St. Louis.
But this was nothing compared to the Washington Nationals-San Francisco Giants Bataan Death March which eventually timed out as the longest playoff game in baseball history.
You’ll read about a lot of things regarding this game in the next two days, but I just target two pitchers, the one that was accredited the victory and the other that got the save.
There probably was no one further on the fringes of baseball than Yusmeiro Petit going into the 2014 season. He was signed by the New York Mets as UDFA in 2001 and actually pitched pretty damn good for Binghamton in 2005 21-ST, 9-3, 2.91).
In November 2005, the Mets traded Petit along with Mike Jacobs and Grant Psomas for Carlos Delgado[i]. His career was never the same… two years in Florida… three in Arizona… a season in the minors for Seattle… and another season (2011) in the Mexican League. Finally, he signed with the Giants and 2014 is now his fourth season there.
Petit continued throughout his career to mix starting with relief appearances and this year was accredited with setting a new major league record of throwing an incredible 46 scoreless innings in a row, breaking the old record held by Mark Buehrie.
And then, Saturday night, he comes in when the game is at 1-1 and throws six innings of scoreless ball for the win.
The other unsung hero is RP Hunter Strickland.
Strickland was an 18th round draft pick in 2007, by the Boston Red Sox, straight out of Pikes County (GA) High School. He bounced around three organizations (Boston, Pittsburgh, Giants), who actually waived him and eventually signed him back up. To date, he went into this playoff series with nine major league games under his belt (7.0-IP).
Saturday’s game… seventh reliever out of the pen… a scoreless 18th inning for this first professional save,
(we return you to your normally scheduled programming... )
The Mack’s Mets season has begun. Most Mets fans and writers can’t wait for the season to start. We live for the ending.
This is my opening day 25-man squad based on who’s available to this team now. It really isn’t different than what the team was in 2014 so I don’t expect much of a different end result; however, I do expect the pitching will create a team with at least a .500 record. It will take management and a creative signing (or two) to make them a playoff contender.
This will be in three parts on Sunday mornings:
Part 1 – Players 1-10
Part 2 – Players – 2-20
Part 3 – Players 21-25, Reductions, Waiting In The Wings
RP Vic Black – My assumption here is that Black will heal just fine in the off season. Boy, did I love this pickup by Alderson. There’s nothing tremendously exciting about this guy other than the fact he gets a lot of people out. Yes, he has the velo levels to be considered for the closer role but the Mets seem to have this covered. For some reason, Mets starters seem to reach the 100-pitch level far earlier than other staffs around the league. All this means is that the team needs 3-4 successful relievers per game to generate a win. To me, Black is one of the better members of the Mets pen. Like I said, I just love this trade.
RP Jeurys Familia – Like Black, I’m thoroughly thrilled with this guy being in my pen. I also think he’s the perfect 8th inning guy, regardless of who closes. I also think he will become next year’s backup closer, especially if the Mets move Mejia in a trade. The 2015 Mets have an opportunity to set up a very exciting back-end to this bullpen, built around guys like Familia, Montero, Parnell, and yes, even Mejia if he’s still around.
RF Curtis Granderson – I’ll tell you what. If this guy starts off the same way he did in 2014, I’ll eat this friggin contract and never sign anyone again for more than a year and a team option. Of course, I say this before Brennan moves the right-center wall in to around where Murphy plays the shift. The funny thing about Grandy’s 2014 season. With all his sucky-ness, he still hit almost 20 home runs. I’m stuck with this contract, so I’m going to play him, but I’m not going to make the mistake of placing him in the lineup above the #6 slot. His replacement someday is Michael Conforto, but that’s at least two years away. Instead, take the 20 home runs he’ll give you with the .220-.230 range batting average.
11. RP Bobby Parnell – Parnell did one thing wrong in 2014. He got hurt. I expect him to come back as strong as he was in the past, but we must be patient and take a wait and see attitude here. Word right now is he will NOT be ready on opening day. I also expect him to lose a couple of ticks on his fastball, but his secondary pitchers have become a much more important part of his overall game in the last couple of years. I don’t expect Jenrry Mejia to be around next year (we’ll talk about that later) but, either way, Parnell is the incumbent closer on this team and he should be handed the ball as soon as he is ready to return to the mound.
14. SS Wilmer Flores – On ‘my’ team, there will be a home for Flores. I would give him 2015 to prove to me he should start, but even if he fails miserable at this, I would keep him around in a utility/pinch hitting/designated hitter role. Expects in this game have always recognized the ‘ceiling’ projections of this guy and he’s now beginning to produce, at a major league level, what we all hoped he could do. His outs are even hard. You have to keep this guy in 2015 to let this potential develop of you could be making one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history. He seems to have that potential.
15. SP Dillon Gee – (Trade Bait) – First, let me explain something. The only reason I project and recommend for Gee to be traded is that there are other, younger (cheaper) starters coming up the pipeline that room needs to be made for. Gee is still totally marketable at his current age and the least he can bring you is a left-hand reliever or a prospect leftfielder. Or… you do have the option of sending him to ‘our’ pen and keeping him on the roster. I’m not sure he would mentally accept that making a trade a better option. Either way, baring injuries to other starters, this guy has to be gone by the All-Star break.
16. SP Jonathan Niese – (Trade Bait) – Like Gee, Niese has a young dude biting up his arse. Steven Matz should be both ready and Super 2 cleared by the second half of the 2015 season and he will be ready to take over the lefty role in the Fab Five Rotation (what are we going to settle on calling these guys… Fab Five? Dream Team?). Also like Gee, he could be moved to the pen to be the second lefty with Edgin, but Niese has a cheap contract in his pocket and (frankly) it’s a surprise someone hasn’t traded for him already (unless Alderson prevented it). Again, a good pitcher, but someone without a future on the Mets past the 2015 All-Star break.
17. RP Jenrry Mejia – (Trade Bait) – Yeah, I know… the Mets are still trying to build the final pieces in their pen. So why would I be trading Mejia who has had flashes of excellence this past season? Well, I have him on my opening day 25-man, but I’m not sure he will survive once Parnell returns and takes back his closer role. Mejia is an emotional guy and only signed off on becoming a reliever if he was named the closer. Take that away and I’m not sure how successful he could be. I would rather see the Mets market him around the league as a closer and try and fill in other cracks we have in our system (left-handed reliever).
19. RP Bartolo Colon – (Trade Bait) – I expect Bart to be gone, but, if he isn’t (and none of the other 2014 rotation pitchers are gone either) somebody has to be moved to the pen. Yes I know, he’s the best innings eater. Well, if I move Gee or Niese, I lose any chance of marketing them as a starter. Moving Colon just gets us through the 2015 season with his contract. Again, this should be a moot point and he should be the first player off this list.
20. UT (3B-1B-LF) Erik Campbell – Campbell really was a 2015 bonus and proved he’s capable of holding his only at three positions. No, he’s never going to be the starter we need at any of them, but he can be platooned with Matt den Dekker in left until something better comes along. Still, my hopes is that a better full time left fielder is obtainable from another team or via free agency… but for now, Campbell has a solid lock as a part of the 25man squad.