One of the few issues I have with the game of baseball, and all of professional sports for that matter, is the copy cat/unoriginal way teams handle situations.
Everyone wants to follow the leader. Straying from the norm is hugely unsupported by fans.
Until it works.
Are the Mets truly hampering Jenrry Mejia’s development by keeping him in the bullpen? That has been a question that has been asked countless times this season.
At the beginning of the season, Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya were challenged for their decision to use Mejia in the bullpen rather than letting him learn how to be an effective starter.
The detractors all said it was a waste of his development and that they were mortgaging their future on futile wins in the present.
I’m not buying it.
I have yet to read any concrete evidence that what the Mets are doing will actually ruin Mejia’s future as a starter. If he can help the team now, then keep him in the bullpen. In fact, I contend that he is actually being developed in ways he could never be in the minors.
Before I get into how Mejia is being developed in the bullpen, let me take a second to remind everyone that he has been working with the Mets since he was seventeen.
Mejia has logged 210 innings in the minors already, which includes forty games as a starter. Its not like the Mets just signed him and placed him in the bullpen.
Just because he is in the bullpen now, doesn’t mean he will forgot everything he has learned in the last three seasons in the minors.
Now, on to why I think he is gaining extremely valuable experience with the major league club.
There is a huge difference between facing hitters in the minors versus facing hitters in the show. There is a reason why these players have made it. They are the best in the world.
The notion that Mejia is toiling away to nothing by being in the bullpen is absurd. He has faced 122 major league hitters this season. That is 122 more major league hitters than he would have faced in the minors.
Let us not forget some of the valuable things he is learning while on the big league roster. On a daily basis, he has the opportunity to watch, learn, and listen to Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and Francisco Rodriguez. Just by watching Johan’s preparation alone, he is gaining extremely valuable knowledge.
Mike Pelfrey’s confidence and competitiveness has to have made an impression on the young prospect.
He has also had an opportunity to watch how not to do things.
He has observed Oliver Perez’s selfishness, lack of focus, and me first attitude earn him a demotion to the bullpen as well as public enemy number one status to many Mets fans.
Mejia has witnessed John Maine’ struggles and surly attitude garner a quick hook from Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen.
Speaking of Dan Warthen. It is a fair assumption to make that he, along with other members of the coaching staff, work with Mejia on a regular basis. The coaching staff doesn’t just hangout in the coaches office and then suit up for games.
They are constantly working with their pitchers as they throw on the side and make adjustments. Sometimes it seems people forget about all of the work and preparation the players go though prior to the games.
Every time Mejia does side work, it is an opportunity to learn and get better. He has the luxury of doing this work with Dan Warthen, rather than the minor league coaching staff.
Everyone communicates differently, even if it is the same message. Jennry doesn’t have to make the adjustment of learning how differently Dan Warthen communicates. He has already learned that by now.
This may sound boring, but Mejia also has also been learning what the day-to-day schedule is like for a big-leaguer. He understands the travel and all of the other details associated with it.
The public relations demands for major league players can be a distraction for younger players. Mejia has built a foundation on how to handle these demands. This will be extremely helpful if he becomes the great starting pitcher that everyone thinks he has the potential to be.
He is a part of the clubhouse culture and is learning how each player interacts with each other and where they fit in. He bares witness to the circus that is the New York media as he watches players like David Wright and Jose Reyes handle their constant demands.
Being a successful major league baseball player is much more than just having the talent. The talent part is a given for everyone on the roster. The best players learn how to thrive in all of the non-baseball areas as well.
Jennry Mejia is most certainly developing with the Mets. Not only is he learning how to get the best hitters in the world out, he is getting plenty of experience in the areas that don’t show up in the box score.