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.
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.