Pitchers and catchers haven’t even officially reported to spring training yet, and already New York Mets manager Terry Collins has made a mistake by saying that Frank Francisco would be the team’s closer. Without as much as a bullpen session, Collins has anointed Francisco, who’s coming off a season in which he pitched to a 5.53 ERA, as the Mets go-to guy to finish off games.
It’s not as if the Mets have other candidates to close out games, although Brandon Lyon could be an option and Bobby Parnell could also give closing games yet another try, but why just hand over the job to a guy coming off what is easily the worst season of his career? The Mets signed Francisco last offseason to a two-year contract to be their closer, but in terms of payroll, the damage is already done. Francisco will make the same amount of money whether he’s the closer or not, so why force him into a role that he hasn’t earned and where he can do more harm than good?
Perhaps Collins is hoping to instill some confidence in Francisco by assuring him that he’ll be the closer, but how confident could he be after general manager Sandy Alderson spent the offseason acquiring as many veteran bullpen arms as possible, while also speaking openly about his lack of confidence in Francisco and his need to step up and perform better this season. If Francisco were to compete for the job in spring training and rightfully win it, wouldn’t that justly give him in the confidence he needs to be the team’s closer? It would also give Alderson and Collins the confidence they need to have in Francisco to keep putting him on the field with the game on the line.
Why would Collins want to make things easier for Francisco and take the pressure off him anyway? Being a closer is all about handling pressure situations and being able come away victorious in them, and Francisco needs to prove he can handle that pressure. Besides, a player coming off the worst season of his career should be forced to prove himself all over again. Francisco doesn’t have the track record of dominance that should allow him to brush off a rough season as an aberration. If the Mets allow Francisco to waltz back into the closer’s role after the way he performed last season, not to mention after offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, then they are just asking for a repeat of last year’s disaster when it comes to Francisco and the back end of their bullpen, and that’s something they just can’t afford to see happen in 2013.