Mismanager of the Year
Yesterday at his blog for Newsday, David Lennon had this to say:
Jerry Manuel = NL Manager of the Year? If the Mets somehow hold on and make the playoffs, he has a better chance of winning that award than Carlos Delgado has of getting the MVP. Watching Manuel trying to win the division with this bullpen makes David Blaine’s stunts look mundane by comparison. Hang upside down over Central Park? Big deal. See if Blaine can get three outs with Duaner Sanchez or Aaron Heilman.
I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m always stunned when a consistently solid, professional journalist such as Lennon (who I respect highly) makes such an inconsistent, illogical proclamation.
Maybe I’m the crazy one, but it’s been Manuel’s “pedal to the metal” (mis)management of the bullpen — carried over from Willie Randolph’s playbook — that has resulted in this late-season collapse of the relief corps. We saw it in 2006, but were lucky to have the PED-filled Guillermo Mota, we saw it in 2007, and we’re seeing it again in 2008.
I’m not sure how many times we have to go over this, but in this day and age, without PEDs, a Major League team cannot expect a 5-man staff of relievers to carry 90+% of the innings between the starting pitchers and the closer — unless that team is extremely lucky and/or has a starting rotation that goes unusually deep into their starts.
The bullpen is not full of guys who “stink” — they have simply been overused and overexposed. You can’t “manage” every game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series — as if there is no tomorrow — and expect human beings to pitch effectively through a 162-game season. At some point, after all those pitches in both the bullpen and the games, there is going to be a breakdown.
Further to the point, one of those five is Duaner Sanchez, a man who hadn’t pitched at full strength in over a year and a half. How could an organization responsibly expect Sanchez to “shoulder” a load of more than 45-50 games? He’s appeared in 64 thus far, by the way. Additionally, another of those five is Joe Smith, who is only two years out of college and already appeared in 20 games more than last year. For those who remember, Smith ran out of gas right around the All-Star Break last season; to think he’d be able to handle a more rigorous schedule this time around was wishful thinking. Remarkably, he’s been effective lately … but for how much longer? With the way the rest of the ‘pen has performed, I’m guessing we’ll see Smith pushed to the limit — likely, beyond.
Bottom line: you can blame the bullpen’s poor late-season performance for the Mets’ misfortunes, but you can’t remove the manager’s ill-advised “management” of that same crew from the equation. Had Jerry Manuel been more cognizant of the “big picture” from the beginning, and understood the long-term effects of his incessant pitching changes and matchups — the same ones, by the way, that Willie Randolph used to wear out the ‘pen last year — we’d be watching a fresher and far more effective relief corps today.