Head Scratchers

Starting Pitcher: Brian Lawrence

This game was doomed 24 hours before it began, when Lawrence was summoned to be the “emergency starter”. Did we miss something? I didn’t see an ambulance, nor hear sirens.

The gist of it is this: Pedro Martinez needs a full five days’ rest between starts. OK, fine. So throw John Maine on his regular four days’ rest (he last pitched on the 12th), then go with Mike Pelfrey (who last pitched in relief on 9/11) for game two, and Tom Glavine (9/14) for game three. The problem then is who pitches the opener in Florida — but worry about it then, after you’ve likely swept the Nationals and it doesn’t matter as much. You can throw Jason Vargas against the Marlins (who last pitched on 9/14), or Philip Humber, who has pitched all of three innings this month. In fact, why didn’t Humber get the “emergency start” in the opener in DC? Did the Mets really believe that he would do worse than the nail-biting four-inning disasters Lawrence has provided in every one of his previous five starts?

The Double Switch

Poor Willie Randolph has had a hard time wrapping his head around the whole “double switch thing” ever since entering the National League. It’s not really his fault; after all, he spent most of his life in the American League, where they play a modified version of baseball.

Finally, after almost three years, Willie figured out how to execute the complicated maneuver. It was a nice try — and you have to commend him for trying — but it didn’t quite make sense. Willie replaced the pitcher’s spot with Mike DiFelice, and brought in Jorge Sosa to hit in Paul LoDuca’s position in the order. This was an ill-advised decision on several fronts. First, Sosa is actually a better hitter than DiFelice (Sosa was originally signed as a power-hitting outfielder). Secondly, of all the players in the lineup to replace, it can’t be LoDuca — one of the few guys on the field currently with a pulse. According to Randolph, he wanted to pitch Sosa for multiple innings without his turn coming to the plate. If that’s true, why? Despite his recent troubles, Sosa has been one of the guys Willie’s leaned on when the Mets are ahead in the game. If he pitched more than an inning on Monday, he would not be available on Tuesday. That means if the Mets need pitchers for the 6th and 7th the options will include Pedro Feliciano and … Guillermo Mota. This was a bad idea from the beginning, never mind the fact that it was exacerbated by Willie’s decision to pinch-hit DiFelice with Ruben Gotay — thereby eliminating the purpose of the double-switch.

Paulie’s Tirade

Paul LoDuca’s postgame quote:

“There’s no excuses,” said Paul Lo Duca, who appeared to seethe at being removed on a double-switch in the sixth. “We get paid a lot of money and we’re not playing the game the right way. We’re lackadaisical on defense. We swung the bats a little better tonight, but it just seems like we’re not really playing to win. We’re being very passive and leaning back on things and just not playing well. It needs to turn around quickly or we’re going to be going home.”

Not sure why Paulie’s so excited … this has been the Mets’ modus operandi all year. And the strategy has worked quite well — cruise along, put in just enough effort not to lose more than you win, and wait for the Braves and Phillies to lose more often. That strategy looked like it would work fine last night, when the Cardinals nearly came back from an eleven-run deficit to beat the Phils.

The “Big” Games

Throughout the first half of the season, Willie Randolph continually downplayed the Mets’ struggles and justified his giving away weekday afternoon games with the illogical view that the most important games of the year are played in September. (Of course, at the same time, he’s been quoted as saying “every game is important”.)

Willie’s stone-aged philosophy that the games at the end of the year are somehow more important than those in the beginning or middle is now coming back to bite him in the ass. For example, we’re now looking at “throwaway” games — such as the Dave Williams start right before the All-Star break — with new perspective. We’re wondering why Damion Easley and Jose Valentin were given so many chances over the hot-hitting Ruben Gotay in the first half, and no longer buying the “it’s not all about the numbers” explanation handed by Randolph. But perhaps more relevant is the fact that Willie made September games appear so much more important than those played from April to August, that the team is choking. Sound defensive teams such as the Mets do not make ten errors in two days. Only two things cause that kind of lapse: fatigue and/or nerves. It wouldn’t be surprising if exhaustion was at least partly to blame for some of the errors in the field. After all, two of the culprits are the two most-worn players, David Wright and Jose Reyes. Keith Hernandez can say all he wants about youngsters not taking a breather, but the fact is, these two guys are dog-tired — and it’s too late now to do anything about it. Much was made of the day off finally given to Reyes a couple weeks ago, but unfortunately, 48 hours doesn’t necessarily rejuvenate a guy who needed a rest since mid-May.

Back in Keith’s day, players had access to greenies, and almost no one stole 75 bases a year. The biological fact is, bodies eventually break down, and a guy like Reyes — who exerts more than anyone else in MLB — needs more rest than the MLBPA-sanctioned every-other Monday off. Consider this: the year Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases, he played in 149 games — and his position was the outfield, which mentally and physically is less demanding than shortstop. Further, anyone who watched Rickey will tell you that there were plenty of moments he “took it easy” (less-nice people called him “a dog”). However, Reyes doesn’t cruise, or dog — ever. He’s putting out 100% from the first pitch to the last, and Randolph should have realized early on that he would need frequent breaks during the season to stay fresh. With two weeks left in the season, there’s obviously no time for that for either of the Mets’ young stars.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Coop September 18, 2007 at 1:08 pm
    Joe, about the second half of this posting, you are dead on my friend (as usual, but more so than usual)…I wrote almost the sme damn thing on FU today. Check it out when you have a chance!
  2. isuzudude September 18, 2007 at 5:07 pm
    I have to disagree, actually. Most of the above rings true – Willie’s ass-backwards philosophies, second rate starting pitchers getting opportunities over highly touted prospects, etc – but I don’t buy the “Reyes is tired” argument. I think you look at Reyes’ recent numbers and his lackadaisical attempts at the plate and in the field and you assume he’s tired, using his iron-man status and his gung-ho attitude as sources. But come on. The “kid” is only 24. He’s in good shape. He certainly has plenty of energy to be jumping up in the air and dancing during home run celebrations…but somehow he’s too dogged out to run to first base? I’ve seen it on more than one occasion this season where Reyes stands at home plate eyeing a pop up along the line, assuming the ball will either be foul or be caught. Why is he not running? Just this past Sunday there was another example. I was at the game and saw Reyes not run out a pop up in CF that he assumed was going to be caught. Well, it wasn’t, and instead of being on 2B, he’s standing on first. Luckily, the mental blunder didn’t cost the Mets b/c Beltran hit a 3-run 2-out homer a few batters later.

    And although I won’t disagree that Reyes exerts himself more than 95% of other players in the sport, other players who exert themselves just as much have played more than him this season with more successful results. Reyes has appeared in 147 games this year. Jimmy Rollins, 150. Arod, 148. Even the fragile and ancient Derek Jeter’s at 146 (and don’t scoff, his .316 BA is almost 30 points higher than Reyes’). And those are all players with physically demanding positions, so don’t feed me that BS.

    The truth is Reyes is immature and he’s not subject to disciplining because the Mets are too reliant on his talent. Thus, you get a kid whose concentration wanders and plays hard when he feels like it. He’s not tired…or at least not to the point where it’s going to effect his performance on the field. He’s lazy and attention deficiant.

  3. joe September 18, 2007 at 11:21 pm
    isuzudude, you sound just like Michael Kay and Jon Heyman … not sure if that’s a compliment or a stake in your heart.

    i have to respectfully disagree with your disagreement, and in particular with your examples of A-Rod and J-Roll — specifically because of the Rickey example I cited.

    In other words, have J-Roll or A-Rod (or Jeter) attempted 100 stolen bases this year? Have either of them attempted one bunt hit? not sure if you ever played baseball but running full-out for 90 feet (sometimes several times in a row, if the batter hits a foul) can take a lot out of a ballplayer — particularly one who is hustling his ass off the entire game. And further, last I checked everyone is different. Maybe A-Rod or Rollins or Jeter don’t show fatigue because their body makeup / chemistry is different from other players. Maybe they’re taking vitamins or other supplements (!) that help them stay fresh. Why is Cal Ripken’s consecutive games record so revered? Could it be because he was unique — mentally and physically — or can any guy in MLB play in 2500 straight games?

    You point out an example of Reyes not running out a popup recently. Did you see him “dog it” at any time before July? I didn’t, and I’ve watched 90% of the innings played by the Mets this year. The dogging started about a week before the infamous sit down by Willie Randolph. And now you’re seeing him dog it again. You really don’t think it has something to do with fatigue?

    Which brings me to my next point — you are WAY off base with the discipline issue. Reyes is the ONLY guy on the team that gets disciplined (OK, maybe LMillz does on occasion as well … and Gotay). Willie Randolph is harder on Reyes than any other player — he is always pressuring him to play hard and always sitting him down for constructive criticism. That’s well known, and any beat writer will attest to it. And I think it’s GREAT that Willie pushes him, because he’ll eventually be a superstar because of it.

    But, you can believe he has ADD or whatever (that’s the fun of this blog, we all have our opinions). I might feel the same way — but Reyes didn’t have ANY brain farts from March to July, and suddenly has them at the end of the year. So either he’s tired or he’s a choker. Laziness is something that I think we would have seen a long time ago — it’s not something that develops before the age of 25 (IMHO).

  4. isuzudude September 19, 2007 at 6:12 am
    We can both sit here and justify our arguments to the point where we both sound right. To me, though, it sounds like you’re giving Reyes excuses to slack off, putting the blame on Willie for riding him too hard. Even IF he is tired, do you think Willie signaled him to steal for all 98 attempts this season? Or how many do you believe Reyes tried to steal on his own. My guess is about 60/40. Do you blame Reyes for not conserving his energy mid-season knowing the Mets would need production out of him later in the season and in the playoffs? You certainly have no problem telling Willie to conserve his arms out of the bullpen, but somehow it seems Reyes is immune to that criticism. Why? Also, often times you bring up the point that starting pitchers should be trained to max out no where short of 120 pitches, working on their stamina with side sessions and proper exercise. Again, why is Reyes not held to the same standards? Is he not working out enough and building up his endurance to be able to perform at a level that will help the Mets all season long? If it’s going to come down to the stolen base attempts and your position that they’ve caused him to break down physically, then I don’t want to see him do it ever again. Not at the cost of having a mediocre SS from August on.

    There’s no way I buy the “body makeup / chemistry” perspective. If he’s a baseball player and an all-star at that, he’s got the right DNA to do what he does for 162 games. And if he’s not and he’s only good to use for 140 games, than get rid of him and find someone who can help the team for the FULL season, not just a part of it.

    Don’t believe people get lazy before 25? Ever go to college? Hear of procrastination? How about high school? Watch any of their baseball games? Never see a kid not leg out a pop up or run hard on a grounder? I’m 26, so 25 wasn’t all that long ago for me. And I can tell you from experience laziness is something that develops real early in life, if you let it.

    Look at Curtis Granderson. Perhaps the best player to compare Reyes to, considering body style and playing style. Ok, he doesn’t play the IF and he doesn’t have 100 stolen base attempts, but humor me. He does have 22 triples, and 22 home runs, 23 stolen bases (with just one CS), 115 runs scored. In 150 games. Batting .318 since the all-star game. .328 so far in September. He’s showing no signs of tiring out, so it shows a high level of energy can be prolonged by players similar to Reyes’ stature.

  5. joe September 19, 2007 at 10:15 am
    As for your theory on DNA, I’d like to know why then, doesn’t every starting player do what Cal Ripken did and play all 162 games every year?

    I’m not cutting Reyes slack — I asked if you saw him dog it at anytime between March and the end of June. He started to lose focus right around the last week of June / early July, and it’s gotten progressively worse ever since. That’s not a sign of fatigue? Then what is it?

    You keep pointing out other players and that they are all keeping their numbers up. A few problems with the examples. First, all your examples are of guys who you don’t watch every day. I guarantee all of them have had their brain farts and lazy lulls during the season. Second, you’re missing the point that fatigue is not necessarily physical — a large portion of it is mental. Again, everyone is different (OK, that’s just my humble opinion) and every individual handles mental fatigue differently. Have you ever watched a heavyweight boxing match between two similarly skilled athletes? The last man standing is often the one with the better ability to handle fatigue, and keep concentration.

    If you’re right — if Reyes is a lazy dog and the Mets let him get away with it, and that Reyes has chosen right now, the most important time of the year, to be at his worst — then the Mets need to trade him over the winter and see if they can sign A-Rod or make a trade for Julio Lugo or someone.

    Maybe they can coax Cal Ripken out of retirement.

    You can have the last word here below … I’m done on the issue. Obviously we need to agree to disagree on Jose Reyes.

  6. isuzudude September 19, 2007 at 5:08 pm
    I respect your opinion, Joe, and have no major qualms with what you’re saying. Much like a pitcher becomes more injury prone when altering their delivery because of a different ailment, the same thing is likely happening to Reyes, where fatigue leads to mental break-downs, which leads to slumps, and so on down the line.

    My explanation for Cal’s streak is good luck. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a hell of an athlete and much stronger than others. But many potential streaks get broken by severe injury, whether it be concussion by getting drilled by a pitch, or a broken finger sliding into a base, or simply falling down a flight of steps in the hotel and spraining an ankle. To not get hurt to the point where you have to miss a few games over the course of a 20+ year career, there’s got to be some level of good fortune involved.