The Pedro Problem

By the end of Tom Glavine’s five years with the Mets, he was getting booed.  When Mike Hampton comes back to Flushing, people forget that he lead the team to the World Series and went on to be a huge financial bust when he left as a free agent.  Hearing Al Leiter broadcast for the YES network makes any Mets fan pine for Suzyn Waldman (well, maybe not quite…).

But Pedro Martinez was never booed.

How many players have the Mets given huge contracts to over the years, only to have their time in blue and orange spent on the DL?  And of the players who haven’t been hurt, how many have simply underperformed? (early ‘90’s ringing any bells?) By and large, those players had to eventually be traded, released, or ignored to save them from the wraith of the Shea faithful.

But Pedro Martinez was never booed.

So the question must be asked: should the Mets bring him back for one more year?

Look at the facts before jumping to a resounding “NO!” as I’m sure your gut is telling you to do.  He signed in 2005 as a totally different pitcher.  He had a fastball/changeup combo that was among the best in the NL.  He was still a couple years removed from his Cy Young years, and he’s not going to be in that conversation any more in the years to come.  But in 2005, he pitched really well, going 217 innings to a 2.82 ERA.

Since that time, he’s pitched only 260 innings and not even approached that level of efficiency in terms of ERA. He pitched in 23, 5, and 20 games in each of the last three years, respectively.  That’s not good.  Nobody will have the gull to say that Pedro Martinez earned his salary with the Mets.

But the difference between Pedro and everyone else is still huge.  People love him.  The players on the field treat him as a mentor, the fans in the stands treat him as a showpiece, and the writers of the newspaper columns treat him as a go-to guy on all baseball issues great and small.  That sounds like a guy you’d want on your team, as long as it’s understood that he’s not your ace any more. Perhaps the problem in 2008 was that the management was counting on Pedro to be a number 2 starter, and he’s just not that anymore. But if there was a more realistic number 2 option, Pedro could have been more of a number 4 or 5 starter, and that would make it easier to bear his injuries.

Your intrepid Blue and Orange staff, one of whom is wearing a jheri curl wig. Can you guess which one it is?Nobody is saying that Pedro should be brought back to be the Mets number 2 starter behind Johan Santana, and to count on him for 200 innings would just be foolish.  But with Jonathan Neise and Brandon Knight and Bobby Parnell showing signs of reliability in the minors, why not take a flyers on Pedro in 2009?  Slot him in as a fifth starter, and give him a chance to succeed.    If he doesn’t there are plenty of guys who could fill in at the bottom of the rotation.

If Pedro would settle for a contract in the neighborhood of $4 – $5 million or so, that’s a gamble to take.  If he flops, the Mets can eat that money.  If he succeeds, Omar looks like a genius for giving a guy who everyone has written off a chance.

One Response to “The Pedro Problem”

  1. Chris Wilcox says:

    The problem with signing Pedro is, if you sign him, you aren’t really filling a hole. Because of his health, you can’t rely on him to pitch a full season, you just can’t. This is also compounded by the John Maine situation; who knows if he really will be ready to start 2009 in the rotation.

    If you spend $4-5 million on Pedro, you have to spend another few million on another starter to hedge your bet on Pedro or hope one of the kids is ready to move into the rotation faster than expected. Is that the wisest use of that $4-5 million? Is it worth $4-5 million to have a buddy for the other guys in the clubhouse?

    I’m not utterly against bringing Pedro back, but objectively speaking, it just doesn’t make sense. Unless he’s making the league minimum, he’s too much of a risk, and I can’t see him swallowing his pride like that. If nobody else will pay him, he will retire.

    I think Mets fans will always fondly remember 2005, and will always love how hard Pedro worked his ass off to come back after surgery when he didn’t have to. But at this point, all we have are the memories of old Pedro. It’s probably best for all concerned to move on.

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