If you've explored the upper reaches of your digital cable or satellite packages, you may have come across the test airing of the MLB Network. It's debuting in earnest New Year's Day, which is excellent counterprogramming against all that inane college football. We know the only bowl game on which to be truly Bullish is the not-at-all embarrassingly named magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, kicking off this Saturday at 4:30 P.M. on ESPN2. USF is an 11½-point favorite…to beat the traffic from Tampa, presumably. But never mind that right now.
All MLBN has shown to this point as it gives a transponders and whatnot a dry run is the 2004 World Series film (with a generous dose of 2004 ALCS, always delightful viewing); the 2005 World Series film (an underrated affair despite it being a sweep); one long montage of great moments; and a slew of promotional spots wherein the images of players past and present assault you at lightning speed.
There are a couple of Mets in Met uniforms, which is of course uplifting as hell in the third week of December. There are too many shots of Phillies, which is of course dismaying as hell any week in any month. But then there is the final player pictured, throwing a pitch and punctuating emphatically the highlights. He's not wearing a Mets uniform, but he is a Met. He's Francisco Rodriguez.
The guy who ends the spot is a relief pitcher, chosen to represent all relief pitchers…chosen to represent all closers…chosen to represent what it means to wind down a game successfully and definitively. And that relief pitcher, that closer, is a New York Met.
He's dressed as an Angel, but that's a mere technicality. We, the home office of bullpen apoplexy, now model excellence in the field. We have K-Rod. It is exciting to consider. We have J.J., for that matter. I find that exciting as I consider it. I am hoping for a couple more exciting arms in their department so my tentative (if not exactly contemporary) nickname for this presumably rehabilitated crew, Frankie & The Knockouts, can become operational, sweetheart.
The implication is they will be relievers who knock out the opposition, not relief pitchers who are knocked out by the opposition. We tried that formula a lot in the latter stages of 2008. It didn't work.
I've never been enthused in advance about a Mets bullpen. We've had some good ones gel, but those came together by happenstance and sampling. I wasn't sitting and ruminating ten years ago about how I couldn't wait for Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell to hand the ball to Armando Benitez so he could set it up for John Franco even if that turned out to be a darn good pen. Maybe it's because the Mets have, to date, done nothing to improve anything else about their flawed team that I'm anxious to get to the ends of the games and see these stress-tested late-inning guys do their highly compensated thing.
In Mets garb, naturally.