The immediate impulse upon hearing the Mets are signing Tim Redding is to express eye-rolling dismay, replete with a sigh and a smart remark like, “What's the matter, Jose Lima wasn't available?”
Having poisoned the thought process with that impulse already, I'll throw out a couple of happier possibilities: 1) Sometimes guys you write off as journeymen surprise you; 2) Redding may not be altogether awful.
I saw Tim Redding pitch in Washington in April. He wasn't too bad for five innings. Or maybe the Mets weren't that good until they woke up in the sixth. It was Redding vs. Santana, and even in the what's wrong now? world of Willie Randolph's 2008 Mets, that matchup was eventually going to favor Johan. Still, the home pitcher seemed sharp enough, and he seemed even sharper a few weeks later at Shea when he defeated Claudio Vargas, one of the many Tim Reddings the Mets trotted out last year. We kicked his ass pretty good in September, though as Mike Steffanos points out at Mike's Mets, injuries may have had something to with his putrid second half. Not that Tim Redding was ever going to be the most distinguished alumnus of the 1999 Michigan Battle Cats pitching staff, but he's probably worth a long look as a fifth starter for 2009.
Long look as a fifth starter…see, that's the reason I impulsively scoff at this acquisition. You sign a guy to be your fifth starter, or if you don't have much pitching to begin with, your fourth starter. Sometimes those journeymen do surprise you in ways large and small: Rick Reed, Brian Bohanon and Glendon Rusch leap to mind from the relatively distant past as no-names who became good pitchers as Mets for anywhere from a little while to several years. You usually don't get that lucky. You usually get Jose Lima or Scott Erickson or the late Geremi Gonzalez in this decade or the late Dave Roberts (with whom I spent one interesting evening) going back almost thirty years now. You kind of get what you pay for when you scrounge around for fifth starters. The bolt from the Reed blue excepted, you get fifth starters.
Mets Walkoffs (naturally) found some historical statistical doppelgängers for Tim Redding where wins and losses and percentages of each are concerned. In his career, Redding has won 34 and lost 51 for a winning percentage of .400. Mark at MW acknowledges that pitchers' wins can be misleading, but stresses that among the 948 pitchers who have at least 80 decisions in the post-World War II era, Redding's winning percentage is the 36th worst, or “among the bottom 4 percent of pitchers in that time”.
Mark mentions Redding trudges off the mound in the company of Met hurlers like Pete Smith, Jay Hook and Rusch when it comes to lousy records. I'll dispensate Glendon immediately for his übersolid 2000 (to say nothing of the venal identity theft to which he was briefly subject that very same year). Hook was an Original Met. You can't hold any Original Met's record against him. But Pete Smith…
Man, Pete Smith. I remember when we acquired Pete Smith in the offseason preceding 1994. It was the most memorable aspect of Pete Smith's Met tenure, and then only because of the remark Joe McIlvaine made upon trading Dave Gallagher for him. Our GM said he was confident Pete could be a “serviceable” pitcher. Next thing I know I get a phone call from Chuck, up in arms over our newest arm. Why, he asked, are the Mets getting a guy whose ceiling Joe Mac is placing at winning no more often than he'll be losing — and why is he issuing quotes indicating that such output would be considered satisfactory?
Pete Smith's single season as a Met yielded a won-lost record of 4-10. Lest that seem misleading, his ERA was 5.55 and his WHIP was…oh, like it mattered.
The subject of journeymen who rise above their perceived stations always brings me back to Reeder. Laurie and I used to laugh at the way Bobby Jones and then Al Leiter were designated the “ace” during stretches when Rick was clearly outpitching them. It was less about Reed than the concept of the ace. The ace, we agreed, is whoever's pitching that day. I grant you the ace concept carries a little more weight when Johan Santana graces your payroll, but on any given day, you need to throw somebody who you can count on to play a large role in winning you a baseball game. That's more or less the job description of an ace. It's also the job description of a starting pitcher. Every starter, even your “fifth starter,” is your first starter when he gets the ball.
So my question, even in the context of budget constraints, is why doesn't this team make every conceivable effort to secure the services of nothing but top-flight starters? Why are we dabbling in Tim Redding after years of endless dabbling in Jorge Sosa and Brian Lawrence and Chan Ho Park and so forth? Yes, I know Derek Lowe and the mysteriously untouched Oliver Perez are still out there, and the Mets are angling to get one of them, but why not just go for it and get both, especially as winter wears on and prices drop? Maybe Sabathia's tag was prohibitive, but what about Burnett? Why weren't the Mets players for more pitching? I don't know who Omar's called to talk trade, but is pitching at the center of his swap talk?
When we do all-time teams, we generally have Piazza as starting catcher and Carter as his backup; Mex at first, Olerud behind him. Our idea is the best and the next best. That's fine for paper, but that wouldn't work in real life. Starting position players need to start. It takes a certain mindset and acceptance of skill level to play in reserve. You wouldn't keep a 100-RBI bat on the bench to back up a 110-RBI bat. It just doesn't work that way. But pitching? Tom Seaver didn't start more than once every five days. Neither did Jerry Koosman. Or Jon Matlack.
I'm a little in pipe dream territory now (not that that's unusual). I don't think teams set out to have five starting pitchers who perform in descending level of ability, but when you go out and say, in so many words, we're gonna sign Tim Redding and his lifetime 4.92 ERA and he'll be in the back of our rotation…why on earth do you think you have a “back” to your rotation? Your rotation needs, to every extent it can, to have nothing but a front. Tim Redding coming on board because Derek Lowe hasn't bitten and Jon Niese may not be ready doesn't really appear to be a giant step forward in constructing the kind of rotation that won't have us rotating on our own axis — or getting our axis kicked — come those myriad days when Santana isn't batting ninth.
And speaking of back ends…
This Inaugural Season patch the Mets will be wearing on their right sleeves this season to “honor” their first year inside the facility bearing the name of the company that needed a massive taxpayer-funded injection to stay afloat…Holy Pete Smith, does that thing look unserviceable.
Paul Lukas of Uni Watch takes the Mets to task as they should be taken. One of the many unpleasant phrases Mike Francesa and Chris Russo used to throw around on their pleasingly defunct unpleasant radio show was that “[somebody's] not a patch on [somebody else's] fanny”. I thought of that vaguely revolting verbiage upon learning this long-rumored blight would really be sewn on to Mets uniforms in 2009, because it shouldn't be on a Major League sleeve. It should be a patch on somebody's fanny — that way, you wouldn't see it.
The kicker, as Lukas revealed, is the Mets have a much better design in their arsenal, one that plays up the most outstanding and obvious feature of Citi Field, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. They've had created on their behalf a logo that celebrates it…here. It's very attractive. It would be even more attractive without the Citi mark, which is actually a helpful coincidence since MLB wouldn't allow a corporate name (other than that of a licensed apparel maker) to be flashed on garments worn on the field of play. So the Mets could just do what Lukas did and crop out “Citi Field,” and they'd have this. Or they could do what one enterprising poster at Baseball-Fever did and stitch “Mets” in place of “Citi Field”.
But no. The Mets don't do that, even if, as Lukas explains, a lot of teams have done something like it and made their commemorative patches look real nice. The Mets have to take that abominable pizza logo they've made their stadium shield and play off of that because…why, I don't know. It's the sort of patch you slap on the sleeves of an entire rotation of fifth starters if projecting such an image is indeed your goal.
Given organizational finances and the existing marketplace inventory, bringing in a couple of stud starters to go with Santana, Pelfrey and Maine may be out of reach for 2009. But, honestly, you have to advertise your aesthetic shortcomings right there on your right sleeve? I'm fond of saying there are no style points in baseball. The Mets' wretchedly designed Inaugural Season patch is certainly in no danger of scoring any.
An overdue finger is pointing you atta way to Metphistopheles, where Ray takes us through his 101 indelible Shea memories and such. It's the such that makes it a treasure.
Tonight at 8:00, the surprisingly watchable MLB Network threatens to become completely intolerable when it presents the most endlessly dwelled upon loss in FAFIF history. Viewing advice: find something else to do after the top of the sixth.