On Thursday, February 28th, at approximately 4:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, relief pitcher and former closer Jenrry Mejia, late of the New York Mets, three PED suspensions, and the largesse of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, strode to the mound at Jetblue Park in Fort Meyers, FL.
Over the course of approximately five minutes and at least nine pitches, Mejia struck out each of Chuck Taylor, Tres Barrera, and Brandon Snyder in succession, and, upon so doing, ended the game in which the Boston Red Sox proved victorious, 13-5. At least some of the 9,568 individuals rumored to be in attendance at this event are assumed to have been pleased by these developments. As of this writing, this remains Mejia’s sole outing of Spring Training.
It may interest you to note that, during this competitive outing, relief pitcher and former closer Jenrry Mejia, late of the New York Mets, three PED suspensions, and the largesse of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, wore a uniform veritably emblazoned with the number 58, a number that is, incidentally, both the record for most points ever given up by the Celtics in the fourth quarter (on October 20, 1972 against the Buffalo Braves) and the atomic number of cerium, the significance of the confluence of which I needn’t comment upon here.
Though encouraging, it must be stated that Mejia’s performance should be placed in its proper context, and that great pains should be taken not to overemphasize its importance. Thus, for example, I am not saying that Mejia will save as many games this season as every other Major League team saved in all of 2018, or that, based on his brilliance, which will shine like the sun (the sun, my children) other teams will call him in to close their games, and that, as a result, and more than once, he will be pressed into pitching against himself, on which occasions he will garner not one but two saves and both will be Perfect for they are of the Mejia. I’m not saying that.
I am also not saying that teams and fans alike will come to revere him, in a scant, four months’ time, as a minor deity, and then, inexplicably (but understandably) as a major deity, or that whole cities will collapse and whole governments will be led on a road to perdition into wrack, ruin, and penury by their failures to recognize Him as the One True Closer. I’m not saying that.
I am also not saying that the time will come when legions of his followers, acolytes, and adherents will bear him on their backs to the very gates of Oslo, where they will demand that every Nobel Prize from the first day they were presented until now, from that day to this, be melted down and fashioned into a likeness so awesome and bright and fearsome that all those who look upon it for millennia to come will Know at one Glance that they should give thanks for they are gazing upon an abyss containing an infiniteness that is at once ineffable and terrible and complete beyond their strangest and most decadent imaginings.
I’m not saying any of that.
What I am saying is simply this: Jenrry Mejia might have a decent season this year. Or not. Probably not. Maybe so, but probably definitely not.
Second chances don’t come around often. Third, Fourth, and Fifth chances are even rarer. I still regret leaving the bar to go to that party on October 23, 2004. To date, I’ve yet to be given a second chance to replay that night. Much to my chagrin.
Jenrry Mejia is on his fourth chance? Or is it five? Named Mets’ closer in 2014, there was the first 80 game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs to begin the 2015 season, then the second in July of the same year for the same reason. Then the third, permanent, this time, or so they said then, in February of 2016, until he applied for reinstatement, which Commissioner Rob Manfred granted in February of 2018. Mejia has had a time of it, admittedly one of his own making, but he’s served his suspensions and is back on the field accordance with Major League Baseball’s drug policy. The system works, or, at the very least, functions.
Even so, Mejia has to know how profoundly lucky he is to be getting this chance with Boston, a team coming off a World Series championship, no less, and to his credit, by all accounts, he is. And I take him at his word when he says that he believes that he could be better with the Red Sox than ever he was with the Mets. I take it with a barrelfull of salt packed in a crate filled with even saltier salt, but I’ll take it. Hell, he’s never lied to me before – I’ve never even met the guy.
But any hype or hope surrounding Mejia, or any of the cavalcade of arms that surround Spring Training this year, for that matter, must be understood through the lens of Boston’s unwillingness to spend money on a name reliever this past offseason. This is not to say that the bullpen is atrocious – they pitched to a 3.72 ERA last year, good for ninth in the league – it’s simply that this is the same bullpen that, even with the addition of Ryan Brasier (who, it must be said, put up Larry Andersen down-the-stretch in 1990 type numbers in limited time) STILL needed to impress each and every starter into bullpen service to build a
rickety workable bridge to Kimbrel during the entirety of last year’s magical postseason run to the title. And that was WITH Kimbrel, a closer whom, despite his obvious faults, most would agree looks to be headed for Cooperstown.
Yes, Boston was a juggernaut last year that rollicked through the league to a team-record 108 wins, but the bullpen was clearly the weakest link, and it wasn’t close. And with the team spending SO much money in 2019 to field the team in the first place, what’s a little more to try for two in a row, or, dare I say it, try and grasp the beginnings of a dynasty? 27-9 is quite a gap, and it isn’t going to close itself.
I think it’s great that Mejia struck out the side on the 28th in his Spring Training debut. I also think he had a not-so-terrible-at-all performance with Toros Del Este last winter. I think there could be something left in the tank that allows Mejia to make some impact with the big club come April, or May, or whenever, or if, the club chooses to use him.
Or not. He might have lost too much velocity to be effective. His command might desert him completely. He might not have the stamina to make it through the season. Whatever happens, however the bullpen functions as a unit and whatever its larger flaws happen to be, these flaws were baked into the design by Boston’s unwillingness to open their wallets for one of the winter’s top-of-the-line relief options, or, depending how you look at it, their willingness to stand pat and trust the guys they have to do the job.
I vacillate between camps – one day I’m certain that the club knows precisely what it’s doing, and the next, I’m equally certain they’ve made a grievous miscalculation. The only sure thing is that time will tell, and that I’ll be watching (and, maybe, cursing) when it does.