David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
General manager Sandy Alderson, handcuffed by limited financial resources this past winter, deserves credit for signing Young to an incentive-laden deal worth only a guaranteed $1.1 million. After two starts, Young has a 1.46 ERA, and he held the Nationals to one hit -- a single -- in seven innings.
Spending pennies on the bullpen, however, is not going to earn many Executive of the Year awards. Aside from Francisco Rodriguez, who is earning $11.5 million, Alderson has invested a total of about $4 million for the other six relievers. That's what the Yankees gave former Met Pedro Feliciano for 2011, the first season of his two-year, $8-million deal.
The Mets said they didn't re-sign Feliciano, in part, because he was basically used up. And it sure looks that way, as the lefty reliever has not yet thrown a pitch for the Yankees because of arm trouble. But the money also was a huge deterrent, and Young got to witness firsthand Sunday what happens when a team tries to build a bullpen on a budget.
D.J. Carrasco, whose two-year, $2.4-million deal made him the big offseason signing, blew Young's 3-1 lead in the eighth with a walk and two hits.
Blaine Boyer had a worse day. After a perfect 10th inning, the reliever who beat out Jason Isringhausen for a spot on the Opening Day roster gave up the go-ahead run on Ivan Rodriguez's single in the 11th. Five pitches later, Laynce Nix took him deep into the Mets' bullpen -- how fitting -- for a three-run homer. It turned out to be his last pitch for the Mets; Boyer was designated for assignment after the game.
"I can't even put it into words," Boyer said. "It's an utter letdown. You just feel disgusted with yourself."
Alderson wasn't too happy, either. Boyer had an out in his contract that would have let him walk March 31 if he hadn't made the Mets, so Alderson convinced Isringhausen to stay in Port St. Lucie for two weeks and also designated Manny Acosta for assignment (he ultimately made it through waivers and landed at Triple-A Buffalo).
But just nine games in, Alderson ditched Boyer, the first casualty of an ineffective bullpen. After the 7-3 loss, Alderson was asked to assess the pen's performance, and he managed to keep it G-rated. "Ah," he said, clearing his throat. "It's been inconsistent. That's probably as positive an adjective as I can use. Chris pitched great. It's one of those things that's going to happen over the course of a long season."
So with Boyer dumped and the rest of the overworked relief corps on fumes, Alderson held court in the clubhouse after the game to announce that he was freeing Isringhausen from Port St. Lucie and calling up Ryota Igarashi from Buffalo to fortify the bullpen.
The clock was ticking on Isringhausen, who agreed to stick around only until April 15 or so. As for Igarashi, he was basically an afterthought and among the first to be cut. It was former GM Omar Minaya who signed him to a two-year, $3-million deal, a salary considered exorbitant in these early months of the Alderson era.
But there is a price for success, and the Mets were reminded Sunday that the old adage is true. Most of the time, you get what you pay for, and Alderson's Filene's Basement bullpen ruined Young's otherwise sparkling Citi Field debut.
"It's a great ballpark, a great mound," Young said. "My first impressions were nothing but positive. It was a great experience being out there."
Right. It's just that Young, and the rest of the starting rotation, may need to stay out there a little longer from now on.