again." - Armando Benitez, in Newsday, after blowing a one run lead Thursday night against the Florida Marlins."> again." - Armando Benitez, in Newsday, after blowing a one run lead Thursday night against the Florida Marlins.">

Here's The Thing...

"I feel good. I have no complaints. I tried to throw strikes, but I lost the game. I take full responsibility. I didn't do my job <i>again</i>." - Armando Benitez, in Newsday, after blowing a one run lead Thursday night against the Florida Marlins.

Here's the thing: Armando Benitez has great stuff, in terms of being a Major League closer. He has a commanding presence on the mound, an evil stare, a wicked split-finger fastball and slider to compliment a fastball registering consistently near 100 MPH.

MLB General Managers drool over qualities such as these, however what these attributes fail to site is how that intense fastball cools and the off-speed offerings lose their bite when he pitches on back-to-back days, resulting in easy to hit, up in the strike zone meatballs. In addition, the same can be said when he is too well rested.

Benitez's overall stats cannot be argued; he is simply one of, if not the best closer in baseball over the last four seasons as no other pitcher has converted a higher percentage of saves, 90.7, in that time; not Mariano Rivera, not Troy Percival, not even Trevor Hoffman have higher rates.

Many of Mets' fan will argue that Benitez is at his worst during September, but this is not the case, his failures have been rather consistent. Since the 2000 season, Benitez's blown saves and losses break down as follows: 3 in April, 3 in May, 5 in June, 3 in July, 2 in August and 4 in September. Subsequently, it also will be argued by Mets' fans that Benitez surrenders more walks and home runs during the later part of the season, which is also false.

Benitez's homers and walks allowed break down as follows: 5/20 in April, 9/9 in May, 3/23 in June, 3/19 in July, 5/12 in August and 5/20 in September. If one thing can be deduced from these stats it is that his inconsistency is consistent.

What statistical reviews reveal, is that Benitez's major problem comes not in the month he is pitching in, but from which team he is pitching against. Although former Mets manager Bobby Valentine would argue that every game on the schedule is worth the same, he cannot argue against the fact that there are other emotional reparations which come from a loss to the Braves in September as opposed to a loss to the Expos in May, indicating that every game is actually not worth the same.

Since the 2000 season, Benitez has blown or lost seven games to the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies combined (the Mets major late season competition within their division over that time) while totaling only two against the Florida Marlins and zero against the Montreal Expos.

In the same time span, Benitez has allowed a combined 8 HR and 35 BB to the Braves and Phillies, while allowing nearly half that number to the Marlins and Expos with 4 HR and 16 BB.

The bottom line is that although Benitez is extremely valuable from a "role" stand point, it is becoming quite apparent that his days are becoming numbered in New York based mostly on his inability to come through in the "big spot". The fans are growing increasingly restless, the players on the team are beginning to lose faith, and it's only a matter of time before the New York media becomes New York-ruthless and sinks its fangs into the vulnerable raw-steak known as Armando Benitez, a ruthlessness which would make the last few years of Benitez's relationship with the media look like a loving family at Disney World.

With a young Mets minor league hurler being groomed for a closers role in Tyler Yates, as well as a plethora of free agent closers about to hit the market during the upcoming off-season, and a New York Mets pen already having John Franco and Jaime Cerda (a star in the making by the way), the time may finally be quickly approaching for a Benitez trade, if not now, at least by late summer; by the way, does anyone have Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's phone number?

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