By Ernie Palladino
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Rob Manfred hasn’t done the Mets any favors with his handling of the Jeurys Familia situation.
In fact, the whole thing has reeked of hypocrisy. While Manfred conducts an investigation into what exactly happened to prompt Familia’s wife to call the cops during an argument last October, the right-hander has been allowed to represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
Concurrently, the Mets find themselves caught in limbo between Addison Reed, who will serve as closer if Familia is indeed suspended, and a Familia who has now booked more innings with the Dominican team’s catcher than with his own guy, Travis d’Arnaud.
That Familia chose to participate in the WBC at all is an issue unto itself, as is the number of innings he has thrown. What is relevant here is that MLB should have decided his fate weeks ago so that Terry Collins could work out a clear bullpen plan for opening day.
Neither Collins nor Sandy Alderson are in a position to criticize Manfred, since MLB sits firmly behind the idea of a global competition. But you can bet that they are none too happy about seeing Familia pitch and work out for Tony Pena while his real boss, Collins, experiments with the back end of the pen.
There really is no preference in the matter. Suspend Familia. Don’t suspend him. Either choice would have been fine, if fair. But this is fair to no one. An early decision would have afforded both Collins and Familia a clear idea of the April landscape. And Familia, if suspended for the start of the regular season, could have been banned from the WBC and spent his spring working exclusively for the team that pays his salary.
In allowing Familia into the WBC, MLB gets it both ways. It benefits from the public relations juice of a record-holding closer in a quadrennial showcase, while putting off punishment — or not — for violation of its policy on domestic violence.
One can say Familia had this coming. Something obviously happened on the evening in question. He was arrested, and the reality of that doesn’t go away because the court dropped the charges six weeks later. Nor does his wife’s assertion that she never felt endangered erase the need for the cops to knock on their Fort Lee apartment door in the early morning of Oct. 31.
Given the way Manfred handled the Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman cases, Familia probably deserves some sort of suspension. The Mets would go along with whatever the commissioner decides. But to throw part of Collins’ plan in limbo during a period where all teams lock down their players’ roles reeks of unfairness.
On top of that, MLB has allowed Familia to train far from the Mets’ eyes. According to the Daily News, they have quietly lodged a complaint over his WBC workload. His 11th-inning appearance Sunday in the DR’s seven-run victory over Colombia proved a particular sore spot. Pena had him warming up throughout the long, seven-run 11th a day after he threw 11 pitches against the USA. He then came in for the save.
Collins is trying to balance his pitchers’ spring workload to keep them healthy throughout the season. He was particularly concerned with Familia, whose 51 saves in 67 appearances caused him to weaken in the postseason.
Something like Sunday’s outing would not have happened under Collins’ supervision. But Manfred’s foot-dragging, which ostensibly benefits MLB more than Familia or the Mets, allowed him to land in Miami with a manager working his own agenda.
Suspend. Don’t suspend. It’s not about what happens in the future.
It’s the past that makes baseball’s actions so hypocritical.
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