If you’re a Mets fan, one of the great things about the off-season is that, for a few months at least, it’s virtually impossible for the bullpen to screw anything up. Especially when said off-season involves the acquisition of the best closer on the market. But that doesn’t mean the club can’t prepare itself for future late-inning failures! At yesterday’s introductory press conference for Francisco Rodriguez, manager Jerry Manuel disclosed that he intends to split closer duties between the record-setting Rodriguez and his other new face, J.J. Putz.
There are at least two problems with this. First, closer by committee never, ever works. The Mets even tried it for a while last season, and eventually decided that letting Luis Ayala close indefinitely was a safer bet. (Just let that sink in for a moment.) Even then, they didn't exactly do it willingly, but were forced to when Billy Wagner got hurt. But next year’s team seems to be an especially suspicious one to try it with, since, you know, they have a real closer, one whom they just signed for three years and $37 million. Whether you think he’s worth that contract or not, it’s an even bigger waste to not fully utilize him. (Manuel said he envisions a 70–30 split.)
Yes, there was a two-year span in which Putz was an effective closer, and yes, he made it clear when he was traded to the Mets that he doesn't consider himself a set-up man. But this might just be a case of Manuel being overly optimistic. "(K-Rod) doesn’t have to save, say, 75 games,” Manuel said, as if that’s something the team will actually have to worry about. (We also imagine this experiment will end as soon as Putz blows his first ninth-inning save.) Either way, we already knew the two Mets story lines going into 2009: How will the revamped bullpen perform, and is Jerry Manuel in danger of losing his job? Now, it looks like one will be dependent on the other.