The Mets employed closers such as John Franco, Armando Benitez, Braden Looper, Billy Wagner, Francisco Rodriguez in my 27 years of watching New York’s National League team.
Those closers will be remembered for heartbreaks than celebrations. They always blew saves in big games, and they would be savaged for it by frustrated Mets fans for a long time. Mention their names to Mets fans, and they will give you the stink eye.
Jeurys Familia is the current Mets closer, and the Mets fans don’t trust him, either. This is what happens when he gave up a hit-me pitch to Conor Gillaspie, who hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning of last year’s NL wild-card playoff game that gave the Giants a 3-0 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. This is how it goes when he blew three saves in the World Series that cost the Mets a championship couple of years ago.
It’s not going to change until the Mets have a closer that can finish the deal when it matters the most, which is meaningful games in September and the playoffs. It remains to be seen if Familia can earn the trust of the Mets fans. The Mets have to quietly wonder if he can get it done, too.
Familia has done nothing to ease concerns. He blew his first save of the season Wednesday afternoon in the Mets’ 6-5 loss to the Giants at Citi Field. That was a game the Mets should have won. That was a blown opportunity of sweeping the Giants. That ruined all the good vibes the Mets had as they travel to Milwaukee on their off day today.
Keep in mind Mets manager Terry Collins took his closer out in a game against the Nationals several weeks ago. With the bases loaded and Bryce Harper at the plate, Josh Edgin was inserted in to get the double play. This managerial maneuver worked as Edgin got the double play to end the threat, giving the Mets a 7-5 victory. That set the stage for the Mets to win eight out of 12.
Yes, it was a move out of strategy, but a cynic can say this was a move out of desperation. Familia has not been great since starting the season after his domestic violence suspension. His command has been off, and his velocity has been at 89 mph on most days. His sinker has not been there for him to get an out pitch.
Let’s put it this way. He doesn’t inspire fear to other hitters when he is out there. If anything, they salivate at his presence.
Yes, Familia will get his saves during the season, but like most Mets closers over the years, Mets fans wait for him to implode. His track record speaks for itself.
There’s this ridiculous claim that if Familia was not overused to protect a big lead Tuesday night, he would have been effective in closing out Wednesday’s game. Three things to this theory that we can rebuff: One, we are making excuses for him. Two, he only threw 10 pitches, so he should be able to handle pitching back-to-back games. Finally, closers should be ready to go, even if they pitch three or four days in a row since they are being paid to get it done.
The only way Familia can erase any doubts if he steps up in September and in the playoffs. That remains to be seen if he can get it done.
The Mets would be better off finding someone more suited to close. That would be Fernando Salas. He throws hard. He strikes out hitters when he needs to get a key strikeout in a game. He is a guy that can get hitters to hit ground balls for outs. He has had closer experience as an Angel, and he did quite well. He can’t be any worse, right?
The Mets should try someone else for the ninth. It’s hard to believe Familia has what it takes to be that guy. Being a closer means having a short memory, and that’s not something the Mets closer has based on his body of work. He is a pitcher that lives on the edge such as putting runners on base before he can get three outs.
Maybe it’s in the best interest of the Mets that Familia keeps failing. This is something they can’t overlook. There’s a fine line between protecting lead and losing it when it comes to closing.
The Mets will say the right things about their closer right now. They have no choice. If they rip him, they lost him altogether. This is what we call encouraging him to believe in himself. But there are limits. That’s the way it is in pro sports. If one guy can’t get it done, a team will find someone else that can get it done.
If Wednesday’s game is the start of Familia losing his role, this might as well be a win for the Mets in the long run.