The New York Mets fell to the Miami Marlins yesterday by a score of 4-3 as the Marlins walked off with two outs. Tyler Clippard (not the Mets’ closer) took the loss, allowing a game-winning sacrifice fly on the 41st pitch he threw in the ballgame. Clippard’s pitch count was slightly inflated by the fact that eventual hero Martin Prado battled through a 12-pitch at-bat before plating the winning run. Closer Jeurys Familia was not called upon even though it was evident that Clippard was in a world of trouble.
Sunday’s loss was the third of the week for the Mets, and the third that featured a bullpen meltdown. The Mets lost to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday as Bobby Parnell, Eric O’Flaherty, and Carlos Torres combined to allow an eight-spot in the sixth inning of a 14-8 loss. Friday saw the Mets fall to the Marlins by a score of 6-5 in 11 innings. It took a comeback to get even that far, as the bullpen blew a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning. Again, Familia did not pitch.
The team trying to catch the Mets, the Washington Nationals also endured their own fair share of bullpen catastrophes last week. Two losses were snatched from the jaws of victory by Casey Janssen and Drew Storen. Nationals’ manager Matt Williams, like Collins, did not go to his closer Jonathan Papelbon in either loss. For his decision-making skills, Williams was openly questioned, eviscerated by analysts, and fired by armchair GM’s across the country. In New York, Collins own struggles with bullpen management barely registered (although that may have a little something to do with the hullabaloo surrounding that guy named Matt Harvey).
One manager, Williams, is torn to shreds for not going to his closer in consecutive losses while the other, Collins, is left relatively unscathed (even the tabloidish New York Post does not have a witty headline for him). That’s because Collins is managing the upstart Mets while Williams is managing the under performing World Series contender. Collins is the folksy guy who will probably win Manager of the Year for the National League, an honor Williams claimed in 2014. The Washington manager is viewed as the prickly Old School guy who does not connect well with players or work a bullpen well. Williams drew the ire of many for riding Bryce Harper repeatedly last season. When Harper left his team’s 4-3 victory on Wednesday with an injury, the initial blame went to Williams for allegedly removing a player for not hustling. Barely a peep is uttered when Collins tears Harvey apart in a public forum for expressing concerns about the future of his surgically repaired elbow.
Though both managers have had their head-scratching moments with the bullpen all year, one is nearly untouchable, while the other has his job called for every time his team loses a game. The double standard is clear, but it makes sense. Collins and the Mets had no expectations entering the 2015 season. A .500 finish would have been seen as a step in the right direction. Williams was supposed to use the regular season as a warmup for the eventual coronation of his team as World Series champions. The tables turned only because Williams was able to use his full starting lineup less than five times all season as the Nationals turned into a MASH unit. Arguably, what Williams has done just to cobble together a winning season from mostly spare parts is just as impressive as what Collins has done. Unfortunately for Williams though, he will continue to be dogged by the weight of preseason expectations that were not adjusted even as his team struggled to stay healthy.