-- Bryan L., Ramsey, N.J.
First off, no statistical minimum exists. Any player with rookie status is eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award. A position player is a rookie unless he has exceeded 130 at-bats (Don't ask me why the limit isn't measured in plate appearances). A pitcher is a rookie unless he has exceeded 50 innings. And the following limit applies to all players -- no more than 45 days on a big league roster before Sept. 1, when the roster limit increases from 25 to 40 players.
Murphy retained rookie status in terms of days on the roster. He was promoted on Aug. 2, so he had 30 days service before Sept. 1. But his pinch-hitting appearance -- he struck out -- in the eighth inning of the final game increased his at-bat total to one over the limit. Had he walked, he would be eligible for the 2009 Rookie of the Year Award.
Wright's at-bat total in 2004 more than doubled the limit. He didn't fall through the cracks; he wasn't eligible to walk on the floor.
Before asking my question, I want to answer one of yours. You wrote: "And this image that has been created, that [Oliver Perez] is a big-game pitcher, fascinates me. What is its origin?"
Its origin is in the fact that he has pitched very well in a lot of big games, even when he had recently seemed to be struggling in games of less importance. For instance, there is the way Perez pitched in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series.
-- Alex S., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Your "for instance" is more the exception than an example. Perez did pitch effectively in that game, but I do recall a left fielder making an extraordinary catch to deny the Cardinals two runs in the sixth inning of that game. The remainder of the response that you quoted was this: "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."
That final sentence applies to many pitchers. What often separates the quality pitchers from the mediocre is the ability to win on days when either command or stuff isn't available. You've heard pitchers say, "I couldn't throw my breaking ball for strikes" or "I didn't have my slider" after they've won. They figure out a way to win. The great pitchers do that. And some with lesser resumes do, too. I don't believe Perez does that.
He did have a run of consistency last summer -- 13 consecutive starts in which he pitched at last six innings and produced a composite 2.46 ERA -- after Dan Warthen replaced Rick Peterson as pitching coach. That uncharacteristic run suggested Perez had developed that ability. But in his final five starts, he pitched 26 innings and allowed 19 earned runs for a 6.58 ERA, and he pitched six or more innings just twice. He didn't oppose the Phillies in those starts, but given the Mets' circumstances, every September game was important. He also lost two of his final three starts in 2007, pitching deadfully -- six walks in 4 2/3 innings -- in one of them.
Perez can win games, though he won merely five of those 13 during the summer, but again I submit that he wins when he's right, and if he isn't, he's in trouble. The stature of his opponent or the significance of the game has less to do with his performance.
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Marty, it's always nice to read your real-world take on a lot of issues. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Mets acquiring Randy Johnson. Coming off another back surgery, he was back to throwing consistently and with heat last year. Also, signing him would be a cheaper and more short-term option to re-signing Perez. I know Yankees fans weren't too satisfied with Johnson's two 17-win seasons with them, which could rub off on Mets management and fans. Your thoughts?
-- Justin M., Tempe, Ariz.
I don't expect the club to show any interest in the Big Unit. I would think the Mets' experiences with Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez would scare them off older pitchers with recent histories of injury. Another reader suggested the Mets sign Johnson and use him as a closer. That would have been a nice idea eight or nine years ago. Not now. Moreover, Johnson, 45, needs five victories to reach 300. I doubt he'd be interested in relieving at this point. So, no, I don't think the Mets and Johnson will be Unit-ed.
I don't know why people are even talking about all these expensive free agents, guys like Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia and Francisco Rodriguez. They are way too expensive. The Mets need to go after smaller names because they have far too many needs to spend it all in one place like they did last year with Johan Santana. We all saw how that worked out. The Mets need to address all their needs. They need a couple of starters, an outfielder, a second baseman, a closer, and more than half a bullpen. Sabathia, K-Rod and Manny are too expensive. If they spend all their money on one of them, they won't be able to fill all their other needs. What do you think?
-- Shawn A, Great Neck, N.Y.
How dare you express logical thoughts? 'Tis the time for fantasy -- deal three Double-A utilitymen, Kevin Kobel's left spike and D.J. Dozier's No. 7 uniform for Dustin Pedroia.
Your thoughts make entirely too much sense. But I think you can rest assured the Mets aren't the ones talking about Manny and Sabathia. They'd love to have Sabathia. But they already recognize what you said. At the same time, I hope your "We all saw how that worked out" comment wasn't meant to discredit the acquisition of Santana. The Mets finished out of the playoffs. Without Santana, they would have been out of the question as a contender. And, really, I do appreciate your sensible take on what they need to do.
In the past, you've received some pretty outlandish trade proposals. Perhaps this one's more realistic. How about offering Jose Reyes and a couple of other incidental pieces (i.e. Aaron Heilman and a mid-level prospect) to the Padres for Jake Peavy? The Mets would acquire a solid starting pitcher under a reasonable contract for a couple of years. To replace Reyes they could sign a hard-nosed free agent -- Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera. Perhaps such a move would afford the team the "face-lift" Wright spoke about. Interesting?
-- Phil D., Iowa City, Iowa
It would be difficult for me -- and, I suspect, for the Mets -- to deal a dynamic everyday shortstop even for a pitcher of Peavy's stature. I doubt Wright was thinking in such terms. Dealing Reyes would be much more than a face-lift.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.