Coutinho: How Does Terry Collins Handle “The Closer” Issue?
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Most of you who regularly follow me on this blog know I generally do not overreact to bad losses and like to give the player the benefit of the doubt but Frank Francisco’s meltdown in Miami yesterday was troubling on a number of levels. Terry Collins did the right thing by not committing to any course of action after the game because decisions made with emotion generally backfire, but clearly something must be done about this bullpen.
Closing is a tough chore unless you wear #42 on your back and the issues the Mets experienced this weekend are pretty common around baseball but to cough up 2 games in one weekend in which your offense took a lead late in the game hurts a young team trying to inch up the standings in the NL East. The two immediate options for the Mets manager are Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell and each has advantages as well as disadvantages.
Rauch is the more experienced of the two but clearly does not possess the stuff that Parnell has. He is much more of a breaking ball control pitcher despite his height and mound presence while Parnell throws harder and has more weapons at his disposal than Rauch. But to me the issue is more the head than the arm as a closer has to be able to brush off bad breaks and simply get the job done. That was the most troubling thing about Francisco’s performance yesterday. His body language was awful and he let some borderline calls by the home plate umpire unnerve him which is totally unacceptable.
I have seen a maturity develop in Bobby Parnell the past few months and my gut tells me that he will eventually get the shot to close here. Part of it is that he added a knuckle-curve to his arsenal thanks to Jason Isringhausen but I think that is not all the former Met taught Parnell. He taught him to control what he can and do not worry about all the other stuff. The other night in Philly, Parnell was the victim of a defensive error but instead of melting down, he executed pitches and got the outs he needed to get out of the inning unscathed. 12 months ago, a situation like that would have eaten Parnell alive and likely snowball into future ineffective appearances.
Is there a risk involved in entrusting Parnell with the closer role? You better believe it but it is a high risk high reward move and makes sense at this point. At least until Jennry Mejia is ready to assume the role of closer at some point in his development. I am all for giving players a chance knowing that it is a long season but my sense with Frank Francisco is that closing is not in his DNA. Maybe a 7th or 8th inning role would better suit him at least in the short-term. This team had a chance to sweep the Marlins and make an excellent 4-2 trip an off the charts 6-0 trip. Their trio of starting pitchers (Santana, Dickey, and Niese) held the Marlin bats in check and the offense did enough to win all three games. But the closer could not close twice in three days.
Terry Collins knows it and said all the right things after the game yesterday. But he is also smart enough to realize losses like yesterday seems like more than one loss. And in his heart of hearts, he knows Bobby Parnell might be his best choice right now.