Warm Winter For The Jacket

Think of Psychology, science, research, as well as data analysis. Fear not Mets faithful, you haven’t mistakenly entered a web-site designed for fans of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Rather, the terms listed above are all key words that can be directly related to New York Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, who in hindsight, utilizes all of those tactics to better assist in his tutelage of the Mets pitching staff.

Beyond the aftermath of the catastrophe that was the Mets 2007 collapse, is a great deal of blame being hurled the way of Peterson. Dubbed as “the jacket,” Peterson is rarely if ever seen on the field without sporting the team’s official on-field jacket, regardless of what the thermometer may read. The fourth year pitching coach may better suited to be labeled as the “bullet-proof vest,” after attracting countless criticizing shots from the media and fans a like this off-season.

Certainly blame should be placed upon each and every member of the Mets organization for the debacle that is unquestionably the most majestic collapse in the grand history of America’s pastime. Peterson must be held accountable for the demise of the bullpen that couldn’t seem to record an out in the month of September. Tom Glavine’s final two starts of the season were gutless to say the least; he did not appear to be swift or prepared enough during that stretch, again that falls to the pitching coach as well as the manager.

However, it would be a horrible organizational move to relieve Jacket from his duties. After joining the staff in the 2004 campaign, Peterson was the only member of Art Howe’s staff to be retained by the incumbent Willie Randolph upon his arrival to Flushing in 2005. Peterson’s résumé is far more rock solid in terms of success than it is with let down.

With a degree in the field of psychology along with a 30 year study of pitching, Peterson is more equipped than perhaps any other pitching coach in the league in terms of physically being able to improve a pitchers performance.

In his tenure in the Big Apple, the New Jersey native has transformed such pitchers as Kris Benson, Aaron Heilman, John Maine, and Oliver Perez into terrific pitchers.

Before a 2004 deal that sent Benson from the Steel City to Queens, he had been filled with glaring promise, but had never been able to live up to the expectations surrounding his ability to perform. Benson arrived in Atlanta the day after the trade had been completed and quickly participated in two bull-pen sessions with Peterson. The since departed hurler later on revealed those gatherings really helped him turn the corner.

“I felt much more complete after the few corrections we made,” stated Benson. “He made a huge difference.”

In the midst of those meetings with Peterson, Benson threw seven innings of three hit ball against St.Louis in his next start. Benson failed to reach the fourth inning against the very same lineup just two weeks previous.

Though he was not able to fix Victor Zambrano in “ten minutes,” like it is believed he stated to the front office, he certainly has produced his fair share of stars. Prior to arriving in New York, his time in Oakland was spent producing three twenty game winners in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, who won the Cy Young award in 2002 behind the philosophical schooling of Peterson.

Emerging from the depths of disappointment in 2007, Perez and Maine combined to go 30-20 with a 3.73 ERA. A far cry from their career numbers, but under their first full season on Peterson’s watch, he got the most out of his youngsters. Most telling about Peterson is his ability to teach. He makes throwers into pitchers, it is a form of art, as well as an aspect of science, and he brings that understanding to the fore front. Though he doesn’t have a spunky ego or a comedic sense of expression, Peterson gets the job done, just not in ten minutes.