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Mailbag: Is Perez closer material?

Mailbag: Is Perez closer material?

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What do you think about bringing back Oliver Perez as a closer? He is a strikeout pitcher who thrives in pressure situations, and he would come cheaper than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes.
-- Erick E., San Marcos, Calif.

Typically, closers throw strikes. Are you sure you want Perez -- 105 walks in 194 innings -- closing? He's not that much of a strikeout pitcher. And this image that has been created, that he is a big-game pitcher, fascinates me. What is its origin? Perez can beat any team on days when he has command and lose to any team when he doesn't. I suspect the stature of his opponent or the significance of the game has less to do with it.

In short, you'll never see him as a closer.

I'm 61, and I've been a Mets fan going back to when they played at the Polo Grounds. I've always loved being at the ballpark. But in recent years, it has become increasingly unpleasant because of fans who are looking for a reason to tear apart the players on their own team.

It began with the opposition becoming "the enemy." When I was a kid, I went to the ballpark with my father if Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Stan Musial was on the visiting team. They were applauded when they were introduced and when they came to bat.

There was a time when I'd have felt jealous of you and other sportswriters. No longer. You couldn't pay me enough to make me deal day after day with the ravings of these fans.
-- Bob L., no address provided

We are of the same generation, Bob, and we have the same outlook. I wanted to see Vada Pinson, Musial and Eddie Mathews play as much as I wanted to see Mickey Mantle hit one out. And I recall being offended by so-called Yankees fans who jeered Mantle.

And when is the last time you remember hearing simple but respectful applause for an opposing starter when he was removed mid-inning? That was routine in the '50s and into the '70s.

Goose Gossage and Kevin McReynolds expressed thoughts similar to each other's when they left New York the first time. Gossage said he could see "hatred" in the eyes of fans at Yankee Stadium, and McReynolds said he believed Mets fans wanted them not to succeed if absolute success were not available.

I doubt the majority of fans behave that way, but 10,000 boos are quite audible in crowd of 50,000 otherwise cheering fans. Thanks for the thoughts.

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Recent mailbag comments from Kay E. (it was the first item in the Nov. 3 mailbag) about appreciating what the Mets did accomplish in 2008 struck me. Hard as it is to admit, the Phillies were a better team than the Mets. And I think the Mets, with all the problems they had, should be proud they finished only three games behind the Phillies in the National League East. They had significant weaknesses in numerous areas. Should they improve in those areas, we should feel very confident they can win the division in 2009. Let's just say, I am also proud to be a Mets fan.
-- Larry H., Auburn, Ala.

I don't know your age, Larry, but your reaction and that of Kay E. are consistent with the way fans were when I grew up. I rooted for players and teams to succeed, and was disappointed without abusing them when they didn't.

With Billy Wagner most likely to be assigned to the disabled list for all of 2009, how much of his salary will paid for by insurance? This should free up a sizable amount of dollars to afford to trade for a high-priced "hired gun" for 2009. What do you think?
-- Rick C., Princeton, N.J.

Scrap that strategy. None of the $10.5 million the Mets owe Wagner is covered by insurance.

I have a contract proposal I think the Mets should offer Pedro Martinez -- all incentives, $1 million per victory.

I suggest general manager Omar Minaya sit down with him and say, "Listen, we want you back, but we can't do much in the way of guaranteed money." This contract would offer Martinez another shot at performing at the level he always wanted to for Mets fans. And if successful, he could make a lot of money while he's at it. Wouldn't $15 million for 15 Martinez wins be money well spent? If you get more, you're happy to pay more. And if you don't, then you're not on the hook. Everybody wins. For most players, this wouldn't be an attractive offer, but Martinez's a wealthy man with a lot of pride, so I think it might be a good fit.
-- Jeremy Z., Utica, N.Y.

Even if the Major League Baseball Players Association would allow a contract without a minimum salary, it would not allow a contract based solely on production. Such structuring wouldn't cover Martinez in case of injury -- you have noticed he has made merely 25 starts in the two most recent seasons combined -- or in case of a bullpen breakdown. And that is a possibility, as we all know. Moreover, contract provisions based on qualitative statistics -- home runs, victories, saves, batting average, stolen bases, et al. -- are prohibited.

And even if he were capable of winning 15 games, $15 million would be a lot to pay. In only one of the four seasons in which he pitched regularly for the Mets -- 31 starts in 2005 -- Martinez earned $10 million. And his highest salary was $14 million (2006-07). And finally, none of what you suggest seems to address the likelihood that Martinez no longer is a high-caliber pitcher or even one likely to pitch 200 innings. No metaphors here; he has lost his fastball.

I remember watching Ryan Church in Spring Training when he was being platooned with Brady Clark. We both know who made out better in that scenario. As a fan, I am completely humbled by players who just want to play baseball. The quote from Church about his wanting to finish his career with the Mets is one of the best quotes from a Met player.

After these past two seasons, the Mets need his work ethic and mental approach to the game need to rub off. Leaders often do not speak. They lead by their actions. Church is the clear definition of that. I hope he becomes one of the core players, so, one day, I can shake his hand and tell him that he was a role model to me, at 32 years of age.
-- Bryan H., Highlands, N.J.

My take on Church is that he's a professional and a pretty good guy.

I do agree with you that the Mets' celebrations may draw the ire of other teams. But my concern is not the celebrations, but the fact that they let the other clubs walk over them. I remember the 1986 team constantly celebrating and being one of the most hated teams in the big leagues. But their attitude was, "Yeah, we danced on your grave, and we're going to do it again. And you can't do a thing to stop us."

They had the killer mentality that wouldn't let them lose. If this club is bowing to other teams because the opponents are "motivated" by the Mets' antics, then I hate to say it, but this club doesn't invoke the '86 Mets.
-- Hector V., no address provided

The '86 Mets could do and say what they wanted and not care about consequences for, primarily, one reason -- they had superior talent. They had attitude, no question, but it was born in their talent. Remember, that team had Howard Johnson, a year short of a 30-30 season, and Kevin Mitchell, three years short of an MVP season. And neither played regularly. Find a bench anywhere these days with comparable talent. And the regulars weren't too shabby.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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