Monday, May 29, 2006

Closers Are Overrated. All of Them.

by Doug Silversten

Bring back Braden Looper!

A deranged Met fan? An overreaction to Billy Wagner's early struggles?

Neither. More like common sense, and I stand by my words...with one major condition. We get back our $43 million too. And we use that $43 million wisely. Perhaps using some to sign another solid starter before the season. Or putting some towards a 2B who can field and hit, a combination the Mets can't seem to find with Matsui or Hernandez.

Is Wagner going to get better? Definitely. Is Wagner an improvement over Looper? Obviously. Is he worth the money? No way. No closer is worth that much. So it's nothing personal, Billy. I like you. I forgave you already for your meltdown against the Yankees. I'm confident you will go on a dominating stretch, something that Looper could never do. However, unless you can start throwing 150+ innings a year, I want my money back. In my opinion, most closers, even one of your supposed caliber (we quite haven't seen that caliber yet) are inherently replaceable. And the Mets can easily replace you.

Say a typical closer on an average team who holds his job gets about 50 opportunities a year. The best of the best (Rivera, Ryan, Nathan, etc.) maybe blow 2-3. The worst? About 7-8. Pick any above average reliever on any team, appoint him "the closer," and throw him in there for those 50 opportunities...he only blows 4-6. Fortunately, the Mets have several above average relievers. Oliver. Sanchez. Heilman. If tomorrow the Mets decided to primarily pitch one of those guys mostly to start the 9th inning when the Mets had a lead of no more than three runs, do you think the Mets fortunes from here on out would change? While not as dominant as Wagner could and should be, would you really even notice a change? Bob Wickman, BOB WICKMAN for crying out loud, is the Indians "closer". Duaner Sanchez can certainly be ours.

Sanchez's 2006 salary? $399,500.

Wagner's 2006 salary? $10,500,000.

Ok, Sanchez it is. Of course, losing Wagner certainly weakens the bullpen. But remember, we just freed up $10.5 million. Player salaries certainly have gotten out of hand, but $10.5 million can still go a long way. It can get you a few quality arms in the pen. Or go a long way to obtaining a top-notch starter. To put it in perspective, Tom Glavine will earn exactly that amount this year. And he will pitch nearly 130 more innings than Wagner and have a much greater impact on whether the Mets earn their first playoff birth since 2000. I realize it is not that easy to get another Tom Glavine, but $10.5 million is a nice way to start.

I want my money back.

Doug Silversten's column, "The Big Picture," appears alternate Mondays

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