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Roulette, That's the Game Now

Well, they showed us. That bullpen of ours — they sure don't stink!

For one night they did all right, Smith and Feliciano in particular. Was it all because Jerry Manuel called them out, challenged them, questioned their intestinal fortitude? Because Jerry Manuel, as smooth an operator with the press as any Mets manager, is smart enough to call it as it truly is? Because sooner or later you're going to have the roulette wheel spin your way?

Is that what it takes to get six outs around here?

I don't know if I ever dreaded the Mets holding a lead the way I was dreading it all day Tuesday. Even the thought they'd hold a lead frightened me. One run? Three runs? Ten runs? It wouldn't be enough. I knew it, you knew it, everybody knew it.

Except for that plucky band of bullpeners who met before the game at the behest of temporary relief corps captain Scott Schoeneweis and decided that enough simultaneous sucking and blowing was enough.

Manuel had made it clear (as if it had to be clarified) that the performance on Monday was abysmal and that a change was gonna have to come. It would come from Eddie Kunz if necessary; it would come from Sammy Starter if it had to. I don't know about Kunz, the backpack-toting rookie, but apparently the notion that one of those hothouse flower boys from the rotation would be sent to the 'pen to right the sinking ship seemed to offend the delicate sensibilities of those paid handsomely to get an out here, an out there. Other Pedro answered afterward to Kevin Burkhardt that yes, it was something of an insult. Schoeneweis, the beat writer's temporary designated go-to reliever (Feliciano gets the save, Scott gets the questions; what was that Lo Duca said about other guys on the team speaking English?), revealed he had called a crisis meeting before the Nats game. With Wagner out, he took it upon himself to be their leader. Leader of a lost and troubled tribe at least before Tuesday. And like Feliciano, Schoeneweis all but spat with rage (albeit nicely) about how wrong it would have been for a Perez or a Pelfrey or, once activated, a Maine to be cast among them.

And not because it would be a blot on a Perez or a Pelfrey or a Maine to associate with the likes of Schoeneweis, Sanchez, Heilman, Smith and Feliciano.

You have to admire the relievers' chutzpah, acting as if their exclusive club is too good to be breached by men who sometimes have to throw six, even seven innings. Now I don't know if Ollie or Pelf or the recovering Johnny Maine could adjust to life among the specialists. Once in a great while, however, a starter takes one for the team and it sends a great message. Twenty-nine years ago, Goose Gossage had his thumb broken by Cliff Johnson in a clubhouse tiff and defending Cy Young winner Ron Guidry stepped in to serve as Yankee closer. It was a remarkable gesture and it even worked for a while. That was 1979. That was Billy Martin managing. Still, that was chutzpah.

Maybe Manuel's threat that if you fellas don't clean up your act, I'll be sending a new broom down to the 'pen to clean it up for you breached their weird sense of entitlement. Maybe it occurred to the lot of them that, as Schoeneweis put it of their arsonist ways, “Enough was enough.”

So they couldn't have had this fantastic meeting before the loss to the Pirates?