When I heard my beloved Mets traded Jorge Julio for Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, it took me a few minutes to weigh the pros and cons. Those of you who don’t live here in NYC, let me explain some things before I continue.
We Mets fans as a whole never fully approved of the Kris Benson for Julio trade that brought him to Shea to begin with. It didn’t seem like a baseball trade, but more of a “your wife reminds me of spilled beer and stale peanuts on a sticky floor of a strip club – please get her away from me” kind of transaction, which never seems to end well. Sure enough, the back end of the Mets rotation had us relying on Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez, and Met fans started pining for the Bensons. Meanwhile, Jorge Julio absolutely bombed his first four outings of the season. I mean, absolutely bombed. The media branded him useless, criticized Omar Minaya for making the deal (and for making the team too Latino-centric, whatever the hell that means). Julio became the scapegoat because fans couldn’t boo Omar. But they can get on Julio’s case every time he came out of the bullpen, which they did.
I was at a Mets game with my brother on May 6 (the day Victor Zambrano’s career died) against the Braves. I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I began defending Jorge Julio to my brother. I told him that Julio had actually been pitching well of late, and if you took away those first four outings, you’d have yourself a very reliable reliever on paper. There was a middle-aged couple sitting in front of me who then turned around and continued to argue with me that Julio was awful, that they never should have traded away Benson, so on and so forth. As the game progressed, Willie Randolph called on Jorge Julio to close the game out with a two-run lead. When Julio came out, my entire section went ballistic. Everyone wanted Wagner, apparently not realizing that Billy had already pitched 2 innings about 18 hours earlier. The couple in front of me turns around and just gives me this look – as if they were going to blame me personally if it didn’t work out. Well, Julio didn’t do as well as I’d liked, but did get the save after allowing a run.
After hearing about the trade yesterday evening, I looked up the stats again. Nothing had changed. Jorge Julio was still putting up numbers than were just as good, if not better than, his other bullpen mates, Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, and Billy Wagner. Here’s what his numbers look like over his last 14 appearances (after his four horrendous appearances to start the season):
IP: 17 2/3
OPP AVG: .189
OPP OBP: .295
These are great numbers. But they went completely unnoticed. This morning as I flipped through the sports pages, I was reading things like “Mets relieved of Julio”, as if he had been a huge burden on the team. Well, they’re wrong. So I will miss Jorge Julio. He probably will not continue pitching this well in Arizona since no one not named Webb could ever do well pitching in that stadium, but he was more than serviceable. With the big three Mets relievers racking up so many innings this year already, I would have much preferred to keep Julio around. Now I’ll have to enjoy watching Orlando Hernandez get hit just as badly as Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez did, except that El Duque gets paid about $4 million more than either of those guys. This is going to be fun. Jorge, I will miss you and your tubbiness.