I hate to say it, but I think the wheels might have come off Nelson Figueroa’s pumpkin carriage last night. And this , alongside Jorge Sosa’s continued inability to do anything of value, may have led to Nelson’s premature demise.
Actually, to be fair, Nelson didn’t pitch that badly last night. It was a raw, lousy night for a ballgame. But he did expose more than a few of his weaknesses — and got manhandled by one of the worst offenses in baseball. Mind you, I’m not talking about his high walk totals - I’m talking about his inability to handle a slight touch of outside pressure.
Last night, in the third inning, when the Mets and Nats were trading runs like Pokemon cards, the Washington bench decided to start a little rallying cheer for Austin Kearns. Like a bunch of little girls who got bored of hopscotch, they started chanting, “Let’s-go-Au-stin” in that third grade cadence we all know and love. Stupid? Immature? Indicative of why the Nationals have no respect around the league? Yes to all three. But should this have affected Figueroa’s ability to throw strikes? Not even a little bit.
Even if the Nats weren’t aiming to get under Nelson’s skin, they did just that. And the results were more than evident. Though he retired Kearns, and defiantly walked off the field clapping in the direction of the Washington bench, Figueroa was clearly rattled, and went on to hand the Nationals the victory over the next few innings.
More importantly, he gave up a big tell about his (in)ability to deal with the idiosyncrasies that make up life in a Mets uniform. Which is why a move to the long relief role might be more appropriate for Nelson at this point in the season. Sosa has proven to be useless, time and time again, and the Mets don’t seem to be in any hurry to get Matt Wise back, so why not roll the dice and put Figueroa in the long relief role, releasing Sosa to the wild, and promoting a younger, less fragile head like Brian Stokes to the rotation? I can’t think of a reason, can you?
Nelson’s story has been a great one. A former major league journeyman working his way back to the bigs after stopping in every country that manufactures hazardous toys. And after his first few starts, we all started to believe that a little time in Taiwan might have unearthed a gem. But since those games, no one has wanted to admit that Nelson hasn’t been at all effective, and at times, has been pretty damn bad on the mound.
I know I didn’t.
But right now the Mets rotation is Johan, Maine, and anyone who feels like showing up. Pelfrey is only as good as his last inning, and Oliver Perez has more personalities than Herschel Walker. Figueroa has become a liability in a rotation that doesn’t need any more charity workers. The last thing the Mets should do is continue trying to create a Cinderella story out of an increasingly ugly stepsister. Let’s use Nelson how God intended — a few innings at a time — one turn through a lineup.
Who knows, this might turn the story back into a happy one. Because at the rate he’s going, Nelson Figueroa is running out of pages to change the plot.