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The Pitchers We Must Have

Posted By Greg Prince On July 23, 2006 @ 3:36 am In Main Page | Comments Disabled

If simulation equals stimulation, consider me titillated.

Pedro Martinez, who threw 80 pitches to bat boys who stood statue-still after Saturday's game, pronounced himself as havin' it goin' on, and Willie Randolph seconded that assessment. Facing kids with VICTOR 06 on their backs may not be the same as mixing in offspeed stuff to Marcus Giles, but as with everything that regards Pedro Martinez, we'll have to take his word for it.

Chances are we'll be aces up by next weekend. One ace, anyway. The second needs to countenance the third out of the seventh inning one of these days. Really, the guys we need to front the rotation when it counts more urgently than it does now are Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine from April 2006. If they're not available, I'll settle for healthy autumnal variations of themselves. They haven't gotten this far in their careers without being able to fake it now and then.

As for the rest of our pitching, geez, what are we gonna do? We obviously need lots of other guys. I've made a wish list:

• We should get an extraordinarily crafty righthanded vet. I mean one who's been through the wars, especially late in the year. A guy who can, I don't know, look like he's going to shrivel up and blow away in the first inning and then right himself and give you at least seven solid. Momentum like that is priceless in a big game.

• Maybe another veteran, one who's pitched in New York for at least five years. He doesn't have to be flashy. In fact, he needn't be that at all. He should just be dependable and have the right combination of guts and guile to grind it out. If he can lull the opposing batters into a hypnotic trance, all the better. If he has a recent track record of overcoming difficulties and posting wins, that's a great sign.

• We could use a hard thrower with these guys. A young gun. Not a raw rookie, but one who everybody agrees has a live arm and has begun to show it on a consistent basis. Works fast, slings it, isn't afraid. Keeps improving would be a nice touch.

• And it would be nice to have an X-factor, someone who's really coming on. Few have seen him yet, not really, but what he's displayed is dynamite. All he needs is to get a little comfortable and the hitters will be contorting themselves more than we can imagine.

Those would be the ideal pitchers from whom to choose to place behind Pedro and Glavine. Boy, for the chance to acquire a quartet like that, I'd give up…

…absolutely nothing. Because we have them already.

You're NUTS! if you think I'm endorsing the trading of Lastings Milledge for anybody in July. I mean anybody, and that includes summer rentals, projects, innings-eaters, certified third starters and the almost certainly unpryable Mr. Willis of Florida — a fine, fine, fine, fine pitcher, to be sure, but is he a dead, solid lock to:

1) put us over the top, which would be the only reason to trade our bona fide best prospect?

2) not flail around while becoming accustomed to the pressure of pitching for a New York team with much/all on the line?

3) not go into one of his Dontrellesque funks that he's been known to fall into for starts at a time when he's not particularly effective?

I believe in Dontrelle Willis. I just don't believe in him enough to be the Dontrelle we all envision exactly when we need him to be on short notice. Almost nobody is that pitcher. Frank Viola, as sure a bet a lefty stud as a contender ever brought in at the deadline (defending Cy Young winner, Long Island native, St. John's alum, World Series MVP), wasn't when we got him in 1989. There's an adjustment period for everybody. The Diamondbacks got Schilling in 2000 and he wasn't a differencemaker until 2001. The Blue Jays won having hired Coney in 1992 but he had his struggles, and I'd argue they might very well have won without him.

The other half of this equation is the future. Would Dontrelle Willis, theoretical Met starter in 2007, be awesome? Probably. But would Lastings Milledge blossom as a Marlin and torture us 19 times a year for the next five years if indeed there are Marlins? Probably. Do you really want to watch him and his mates do that to us? I don't. I want to watch more of him here, if not now, then next year. It's taken us a zillion years (and that's an exact measurement) to not only sport an overwhelmingly talented outfield but to have someone ready to step into it.

Milledge showed me enough to make me believe in his long term more than I do Willis' near term. He's our leftfielder for '07 and beyond if Cliff says goodbye or, if sentimentality gets the best of everyone and Cliff stays but Xavier is moved in the offseason, our rightfielder. This is not “ohmigod, how can you even think of trading Alex Ochoa?” This is the guy who showed more tools than True Value Hardware and continues to be 21. Was he up here only to be showcased and dangled? That I don't believe.

I've just spent several paragraphs swatting down a trade that's on the outer edges of hypothetical. I can't see Jeffery Loria sending away his only proven and beloved player when everybody else on his roster is making $5.15 an hour. If I were Loria, I wouldn't do it, but that doesn't mean I'd do it from our end. We're not the Marlins.

We're the Mets. We got here not on a wing and a prayer but via a fairly spectacular assortment of talent and personalities that has served us to near-perfection. While Pedro has been hip checking and Glavine's been crashing into the fifth-inning boards, the rest of our starters, even when changing on the fly, have been reasonably good skates.

Sure, Stevie Somnambulant bores the green off of the grass (have you ever seen a single, solitary Shea patron representing TRACHSEL 29 on his back?), but save for the rain delays that drown him, he accounts for himself quite nicely. Maine we saw as capable of marching through New Hampshire and annexing Vermont Friday night. Pelfrey is 2-0 and a potentially exciting antidote to Roy Oswalt (a.k.a. Cliff's bitch, I hope) Sunday afternoon.

And on Saturday, Orlando “El Whatever He Wants To Call Himself, I Still Don't Care For The Lingering Associations With His Past Employer” Hernandez demonstrated exactly the kind of stuff [1] in innings two through seven that you'd want on your side when the leaves turn brown and the stakes pile high. He's had his sweaty Wrigley Field moments but he's more than compensated for them with icy outings that render managers like Phil Garner clueless. Or cluelesser.

I like a good Metropolitan improvement project as much as the next fan, but I'll take them in a) December and b) when we desperately need improving. As July 31 approaches, let's remember we're in first place by a time zone or two because we already have the players and the pitchers who got us here. I'll take my team the rest of the way as well.


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[1] exactly the kind of stuff: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=260722121

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