Remember how the Mets kept saying that they had confidence in Willie Randolph last season, right up until the day they fired him? The guy who replaced Randolph definitely seems to recall that operating principle. As the idea of Pedro Martinez returning to the Mets picks up momentum, Jerry Manuel is publicly sticking with the guys he's already got under his command.
"Pedro is a Hall of Fame pitcher and one of the greatest pitchers of our time, but I feel very confident in the people we have in camp that can get the job done," Manuel said. "Do you like Pedro? Of course, you love Pedro. But you have to be fair to the people that we have here."
Whether Manuel was trying to throw water on Martinez rumors or show support for his three stooges, the statement's a gigantic fail.
Manuel knows, however, that baseball, like life, isn't fair. He also knows that not every decision is made simply along the lines of what team brass thinks is best. Randolph was fired because the Mets were pegged as underacheivers, but also because Mets fans had a taste for blood after the way the 2007 season ended.
Freddy Garcia, Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding are losing the PR battle to Pedro in a major way, and this isn't the right season to lose such battles. Peter Gammons wrote on ESPN Monday that Major League Baseball is telling teams to anticipate a 17-20 percent drop in attendance this season, something that the Mets can't afford while moving into a new stadium.
Now, the flip side of that is that other teams won't be able to meet Martinez's salary demands, which haven't budged despite his extended job search. That's a double-edged sword for the Mets. If he were on another team, they wouldn't have him looming over every start by one of the other guys. The media and fans already clamoring for his return aren't going to be put off by how much he costs, even though that was the whole reason he's not with the team.
Going back to Martinez and paying him $5 million or so after spending the same amount on three other pitchers already would be a bitter pill to swallow. Eating a little crow now, though, would be a lot easier for the team than swallowing a 9.00 ERA from their fifth starter in April.