There was no possible way that Omar Minaya could send a relatively similar bullpen out on the field in 2009. After the 2007 season, I could agree with him giving them the benefit of the doubt. I'm all for giving second chances. Losing streaks happen; these were all players who were productive in the past who just happened to get cold at the same bad time, plus they were without the key component of the 2006 bullpen in Duaner Sanchez.
In retrospect, it was a wrong decision, as the team suffered the same problems in the 2008 season, even with Sanchez back in the mix. After the second "collapse" (2008 wasn't much of a collapse, but it's easy to lump it together with 2007), something had to be done. The fans would begin to riot if Omar didn't make much of an effort to change, even if he still thought these guys deserved a chance, and he would certainly be out of a job when they continued to struggle again.
The bullpen was obviously the biggest change the fans wanted to see, and Omar wasted little time in giving us what we wanted. I'm not even going to talk about the acquisitions right now. Last year I wrote about how happy I was to see Guillermo Mota traded away for basically nothing. Addition by subtraction. Some players just needed to go.
Aaron Heilman was projected as a great starter. He was converted to a reliever where he was unhappy but performed. Now, he had become our biggest liability. He was the first that had to go and probably our easiest to move. I wish him well in Seattle if they allow him to be a starter again. But good riddance.
Then there is Scott Schoeneweis. I thought he would be tougher to move because of his contract. But like Mota, we were able to find somewhere to dump him off in return for someone that will probably hardly be worth anything to this team. He needed to go. Good riddance.
Unfortunately, you cant just dump the bad pieces in an attempt to rebuild. The one piece of our bullpen that I loved and wanted to see return was Joe Smith. However, he had to be packaged into the deal that rid us of Heilman and brought in our great new set-up man. I will certainly miss him.
That leaves Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, and Brian Stokes as the returning members of our bullpen. Stokes did a fine job in his role last year, but I am still wary about a full season of production in the bullpen from him. Feliciano I would like to see gone, but it seems like Omar doesn't want to have too much of a turnover, and will hope that he returns to form. Sanchez also struggled last year, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After being away from baseball for so long with the injury, his pitches and his stamina may not have been what they should be. I expect to see him return to form in 2009, but if not, then it will be time to move on.
In the upcoming days, I will discuss the key additions to our bullpen, which I am very excited about.