Desperate times call for desperate measures. With the Mets bullpen currently a disaster, manager Jerry Manuel acknowledged,
“I’ve got to use all the options that I have here… Everything from here on out is a possibility.”
If Manuel is serious about “everything”, I have a wacky idea: reverse the game.
In other words, start the relievers at the beginning of the game, and have your “starter” finish.
For example, tonight’s starter is Johan Santana. He’s counted on to throw at least six innings. So, instead of throwing the opening pitch, you hold him out until, say, the bottom of the fourth.
Meantime, Aaron Heilman starts the game and pitches the first inning. That’s right — Aaron Heilman. He always wanted to be a starter anyway, so here’s his big chance. He hasn’t shown the chutzpah necessary for the pressure of the late innings, so put him into the most tension-free situation — the first frame. When the second inning starts, split it between Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith, depending on the batters due up. In the third, Eddie Kunz comes in. When the fourth inning rolls around, hand the ball to Johan and tell him, “it’s your ballgame from here.” Johan can then pitch his masterpiece, finish what he starts, and get the W (for a change).
The trick, of course, is to get through the first three innings without allowing too many runs — ideally, none at all. Essentially, that’s the same role the bullpen is handed at the end of the game — the only difference is, there’s less pressure at the beginning of the game.
Crazy? Of course. But then, 25 years ago, Tony LaRussa had this radical idea of using one guy for the ninth inning every game. And yes, there are flaws in the plan. For one, the idea looks really dumb if the other team scores six runs in the first three frames. The possibility of extra innings presents a problem as well.
But hey, it’s all about being creative — thinking “out of the box” as middle managers like to say. Continuing to do the same thing every day, and expecting different results, is just as crazy — if not crazier.
Next ideas on the agenda: moving Carlos Delgado to shortstop, coaxing Doug Flynn out of retirement, and batting Brian Schneider in the leadoff spot!