On Monday night, as Ambiorix Burgos was trying to nail down a 6-1 Mets win in the top of the ninth inning, having walked the bags full o’ Rockies and prompting a visit to the mound from Willie Randolph to ask Burgos what kind of tuna sushi was his favorite, tekka, toro or albacore (I don’t know why, but my gut instinct tells me Willie’s an albacore kinda guy), two words popped into the mind of this old Metsie: “Wayne Twitchell.”

You remember Wayne. No, actually, you don’t. Back in 1979, when he was plying his, ahem, trade for the Mets, shortly before he quit the game entirely, you either weren’t born yet, or you were having a life, and thus were blissfully unaware of what havoc Mr. Twitchell played amongst the the three of us who still admitted to being Mets fans at the time. He was “game over” in entirely the wrong sense of the term; i.e. if the Mets brought him into a game with the score weighted towards themselves, it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

And if you’re the kind of person who ever thinks about Wayne Twitchell and doesn’t know him personally, you’re also the kind of person who remembers (despite your best efforts) other Mets bullpenners who weren’t exactly flame retardant (almost wrote “fame retardant”!). Doug Sisk. Greg McMichael (variously called “McMigraine” and “McMeatball” amongst mid-90s Metsies). Doug Henry. (I used to refer to him as “Doug My Own Grave” Henry, and then a mutual friend, unfamiliar with my nickname, procured me his autograph. Kinda felt bad about that afterwards, sorry Doug.)

And then there was the quartet from a decade ago of Toby Borland, Ricardo Jordan, Yorkis Perez and Barry Manuel, deathlessly dubbed “The Flammable Four” by Greg of Faith and Fear in Flushing, who furthermore wickedly suggested at the time that Toby, Ricardo, Yorkis and Barry had also been the monikers of the Banana Splits. Way to piss on one of my few fond childhood memories, Greg! (Although I can’t deny the nearly fraternal resemblance between Toby Borland and Drooper.)

Heck, even when we’ve had relief pitchers who were good, they’ve always given us thromboses aplenty. Tug McGraw is beloved of every Mets fan in the world and deservedly so, yet history shows the man was anything but consistent on the mound. John Franco was so fond of spotting the opposition a couple of baserunners before he got around to recording an out, cartoonist Bill Gallo published a Daily News cartoon depicting “Francovision,” wherein Mets fans would watch Franco on the mound only during furtive peeks between the fingers covering their eyes. Armando Benitez didn’t blow up very often, but when he did it always seemed to be during the most crucial games.

And now there’s Billy Wagner, who came pretty darn close to blowing it last night, surrendering a tenth-inning double and then a triple to Yorvit Torrealba and Troy Tulowitzki, respectively (and yes, I spelled their names correctly after a single glance at the box score, take that!), and was saved only from being hung with an ignominious loss only by Damian Easley hitting a two-strike-two-out dong in the bottom of the inning and then Endy Chavez and his pure-genius drag bunt to win it two innings later. Billy is certainly a giant improvement over his immediate closer predecessor, the lighter-fluid-saturated Braden Looper, but “game over” he hasn’t been. “Game more likely to be over than it was before he got here,” maybe.

And today…ick ick ick ick ick, no one could pitch worth a lick. (Andrew Dice Clay, phone home.) Ambidextrous Burgos might have just barely squeaked by without damage on Monday, but today he shoulda used his other arm; between him and Aaron Sele and starter Mike Pelfrey, who’s acting like he’s craving some of that Louisiana jambalaya big time (no tekka maki for him), it wasn’t nearly as close as the 11-5 Rockies final suggested, since the Rockies got their deuce minus one before the Mets even sanded the splinters off their bats.

When your relievers are bad, it’s like having carpenters and construction workers spending seven hours sweating in the hot sun putting up a house, only to have Paul Bunyan come along and sit on it at the end of the day and crush the whole thing to bits. When your relievers are bad, why even bother having the rest of the team show up? Starters don’t go nine innings on a regular basis anymore. They can’t, not if we want them to last past age 30 unlike the starters of old. And even in the old days before there was such a thing as dedicated “middle relief,” as opposed to simply mop-up guys who only went out there when the starter didn’t have it, plenty of starters didn’t have it. So even then, you couldn’t necessarily get away with having a completely useless bullpen.

Not that I think that’s what the Mets have now, by any means. Last year’s bullpen was so ridiculously deep, it would be hard to top. But with relievers, you more or less have to get lucky, because they’re never guaranteed to give the same performance this year that they did last year. (Toby Borland, for example, was actually quite effective for the Phillies before the Mets got him.) But it does seem like we never quite have the lights-out, game-over kinds of guys either, not even for closers. We’ve never had a Mariano Rivera, a John Smoltz, an Eric Gagne.

Of course those guys falter(ed) too, everyone does. Would fans of the Yankees, Braves or Dodgers tell us a different story about those supposedly lights-out guys? Or does a guy only look “lights out” when he’s not pitching for you?