Mets' image won't be helped by K-Rod
Originally Published: December 23, 2008By Bob Klapisch | Special to ESPN.com
In the days before the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, Mariano Rivera asked Yankees clubhouse employees for a small but important favor: keep Francisco Rodriguez's temporary locker as far away from his as possible.It was a stunning request from the mild-mannered Yankee, but given how different the two closers are, perhaps not so surprising. By signing with the Mets, K-Rod will bring to Citi Field all the qualities that Rivera finds distasteful, not the least of which are Rodriguez's self-congratulations after each of his saves.
If Rivera took exception to K-Rod's two-handed point to the skies, imagine how the rest of the National League will feel about it in 2009. The Mets already have an image problem with the Phillies, and their new bullpen savior isn't likely to improve matters. In fact, K-Rod has been a Met for a little more than a week, and is already immersed in the division's war of words. He declared the Mets, not the Phillies, were the team to beat. The world champs have other ideas: Cole Hamels made the back pages of the New York tabloids recently after calling the Mets "choke artists" on a local radio show. Of course, K-Rod was lured to Flushing to heal that very wound. The Mets' bullpen blew 29 saves last season, which is why K-Rod's lack of restraint made no difference to Omar Minaya during negotiations with the free agent. The Mets' general manager reckons that, if Rodriguez can secure the ninth inning, he's free to act as if he's brought down the Berlin Wall. The Mets certainly are beyond caring what the National League -- and, specifically, the Phillies -- think of them. And Rodriguez isn't about to temper his behavior now that he believes he's been validated by a three-year, $37 million contract. "Of course, I'm never going to change the way I do my job. Never going to change," Rodriguez told reporters. "There might be a little more adrenaline the New York fans, they make a lot of noise. I try to rob that energy from the crowd. For me, all the noise they're going to make excites me more." K-Rod's celebrating profile will be layered atop Jose Reyes' customized high-fiving after scoring an important run in a big game -- outside the dugout. Such gloating, which has been part of the Mets' legacy since the '80s, has been steadily irritating opponents for the past four years. But unlike the 1986 club, as arrogant as it was successful, the latter-day Mets have collapsed in the past two Septembers -- choked, just as Hamels says. They've yet to win a pennant since the miniature renaissance began in 2006, despite an influx of marquee talent and the ballooning of the payroll over $130 million. That's the fine line Jerry Manuel must navigate in his first full season as the Mets' manager: He wants his players to emote, but without looking foolish.
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireFrancisco Rodriguez will bring his affinity for celebrating saves to the Mets in 2009.
MLB saves leaders in 2008
|B. Lidge||Phillies||41||J. Papelbon||Red Sox||41|
Of course, I'm never going to change the way I do my job. Never going to change.
-- Francisco Rodriguez