The good news for the Mets is that Jeurys Familia is blowing hitters away in the World Baseball Classic for Team Dominican Republic, showing no psychological hangover from blowing the wild-card game to the Giants last October.
The bad news is that on Sunday he pitched for the third time in four days, in an atmosphere defined by its high intensity. On March 12, with more big games ahead in the tournament, that’s not exactly ideal for a closer who has carried a heavy workload the last two seasons.
So from a baseball standpoint, perhaps it will turn out to be a blessing for the Mets if Familia is suspended, as expected, perhaps 30 games or so at the beginning of the season for his role in a domestic violence episode last fall.
That is, if MLB ever, ahem, concludes its investigation.
Last year, it’s worth remembering, after an incident similar in timing from the previous fall, MLB announced a suspension for Aroldis Chapman on March 1.
So why is this one taking so long, considering that the prosecuting attorney in Fort Lee, N.J. dismissed the case back on Dec. 15, nearly three months ago?
It seems pretty obvious MLB wants Familia eligible for the WBC, the international tournament it created and promotes to the hilt, even forbidding individual franchises from discouraging player participation.
A few weeks ago Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson speculated that MLB would wait until after the WBC to announce any suspension for Familia. He didn’t say that was a self-serving decision by MLB, but that pretty much speaks for itself.
After all, it’s hard to believe MLB hasn’t concluded its investigation by now. And while commissioner Rob Manfred set a strong example in the first year of MLB’s new domestic violence policy with his suspensions of Chapman and Jose Reyes, holding off on an announcement for its own purposes takes some away some credibility on the issue.
Such a decision might even turn out to be pivotal in determining how far the Dominican Republic goes in the WBC.
Bullpens are crucial, especially in this first round of the tournament, where starters are limited to a maximum of 65 pitches.
The DR survived close calls with the USA on Saturday and then an 11-inning game on Sunday against Colombia thanks largely to a deep pen that includes Dellin Betances, Fernando Rodney, Alex Colome, and Hansel Robles, all of whom are set-up men to some degree for Familia.
The Mets’ closer has finished each of the DR’s three wins, including a win over Canada as well, and he has yet to allow a hit in 2 1/3 innings, while racking up four strikeouts.
As it turned out, Familia had a 10-3 lead when he pitched the 11th inning on Sunday, after the DR took advantage of the tournament speed-up rules, which start innings with runners at first and second from the 11th on, by rallying for seven runs.
But without Familia at the back end of the pen, the DR might not have gotten to that point, using six relievers ahead of him in relief of Wily Peralta.
Actually, DR manager Tony Pena, the Yankees’ first base coach, said he had no intention of using Familia had the game not gone into extra innings. But he was allowed by rule to use him, and with national pride on the line, the Mets’ closer was not about to say no.
Therein lies the inevitable conflict that comes with the WBC. It is great theater, as we have seen the last couple of days, in part because of the elimination aspect, in part because of the pride and passion that comes with playing for your country.
But there’s no getting around the risk involved. Injuries happen in spring training too, but the intensity with which these games are played surely increase the chances.
As it is, the Mets took a hit on Sunday when Brandon Nimmo suffered a significant hamstring injury playing for Team Italy, and is expected to be out a few weeks.
For most teams, however, the real concern is for pitchers that need to ramp up the high-stakes mentality a month earlier than normal.
For that reason you can’t argue with Noah Syndergaard and others who, for the sake of their team and perhaps their individual goals as well, say no to playing in the WBC.
Who knows, maybe some of them have pangs of regret when they see the intensity with which these games are played and how much it seems to mean to the players involved.
But if someone like Familia or Betances pays a price for it, either in terms of injury or late-season fatigue from going so hard so early in the year, certainly Mets and Yankees’ fans will regret their decision.
In that respect some mandatory time off in April could serve Familia well. That a decision hasn’t been announced regarding his suspension yet, however, is only serving MLB’s interest at the moment.
Published at Mon, 13 Mar 2017 00:12:33 +0000