Archive: June 17th, 2008

Mets Game 70: Loss to Angels

Angels 6 Mets 1

It is simply implausible that the Mets lost this game to the Angels.

After all, they have championship talent on their roster, which had been impinged for the last 170 games by the follies of Willie Randolph. Now that Willie “Roadblock” Randolph has been removed, this team should be beating the bejesus out of everyone. The Flushing Juggernauts should be stampeding through the rest of the inferior teams that make up MLB, no?

Apparently, not. In fact, not even when the Mets have the best pitcher in baseball on the mound.

Within four pitches, there was controversy, as Jose Reyes strained a leg muscle and then threw a temper tantrum when new manager Jerry Manuel removed him from the game. Reyes slammed his helmet to the ground in disgust and headed for the clubhouse, with Manuel following him after the top of the inning ended. I imagine Jerry gave Jose some stern words and good spanking for that infantile display. No doubt Reyes will bat .375 for the rest of the year, and we’ll look back at this incident as the turning point in Jose’s season.

Or perhaps not. But I have to come up with some kind of story, don’t I? Going into the game I was completely apathetic in regard to the outcome, and as a result the final score meant zip to my numbness. Hopefully this feeling will blow over soon; I’d have to have to start knitting or engaging in papercraft activities to fill my evenings.

Notes

I watched Luis Castillo pull up halfway down the first base line and jog the rest of the way after hitting a grounder to second base to end the eighth inning. He remained in the game. I notice these “little” things, because as a former player and coach, I know they separate winners from losers. New manager, same tough talk, same half-assed effort from the players. Go ahead and let me know that Castillo has to be easy on his bad knees. What in the world was the off-season surgery for, then? The way I see it, there’s only one speed to play this game — full speed — and if you can’t physically handle that, you shouldn’t be playing.

Santana was awful, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings.

On the other hand, Aaron Heilman pitched another perfect inning — this time coming in to start the frame and with the bases empty.

The Mets collected only six hits, with the only run scoring on a double play grounder by David Wright in the initial inning. They managed one walk, and were retired on 130 pitches. I guess Jerry Manuel didn’t have any magic bat speed dust for these championship-caliber hitters.

In all fairness to Manuel, the players likely were in no condition — mentally nor emotionally — to play a baseball game after this firing fiasco. Good luck to you, Jerry — you have your hands full.

Next Game

The rubber match will be played again at 10:05 pm EST (what do these Left Coast folks have against afternoon games?), with Oliver Perez pitching against Jon Garland.

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Pre-game to Mets Game #70

Where is Trot Nixon?

Or as my wife quipped, “why are they not trotting out Trot?”

Another observation: why in the world is Luis Aguayo on the coaching staff? Further, why is he — and not Ken Oberkfell — the third base coach?

And as MetsToday loyal reader Julie asked, “how did Sandy Alomar get a free pass?”

A good question for Tony Bernazard … oops, I mean, Omar Minaya.

Finally, how funny is it that SNY covered the Willie firing similarly to CNN’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina? Please oh please find one more pundit to tell me that the Mets didn’t handle the situation properly — I still haven’t been convinced. Maybe if you could get the editor of the junior high school newspaper to come on to tell us (pending his/her parent’s permission), I’d believe it.

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10 Reasons Omar Minaya is Crazy

omar_minaya.jpgSo the stage has been set for Jerry Manuel to right the ship and guide the Mets to the postseason. He’ll do it, too, because as Omar Minaya stated in today’s press conference,

“Jerry Manuel was the best manager for this job, at this time”

And apparently, Manuel has the managerial skill to make the Mets a better than .600 team, because that’s what it will take to make it to the playoffs. I could be wrong, but I’m guesstimating it will take at least 90 wins to earn a Wild Card berth. And to do that, the Mets will have to go 56-36 the rest of the way. Yes, a team that has played under .500 ball over their last 160 or so games, will suddenly turn into one that can play 20 GAMES OVER .500.

Minaya had these parting words for the last person in Manuel’s role:

“I love Willie Randolph, he’s my friend I hope he finds another job as a manager,” Minaya said, “But this ain’t about love…The reality is, we’re not playing to the level of the talent that we have.”

Translation: Omar Minaya still believes that …

1. Carlos Delgado is 29 years old
2. El Duque is on the roster
3. Moises Alou is not on the DL
4. Pedro Martinez never had a torn rotator cuff
5. Brian Schneider is the “next Johnny Bench” he remembers from the Montreal Expos days
6. Duaner Sanchez never took a cab for Dominican food while in Miami
7. Luis Castillo has healthy knees
8. Carlos Beltran is a mega superstar
9. David Wright is even better than Beltran
10. Oliver Perez can be consistent

Keep repeating the above, over and over, and maybe you’ll believe it too.

Unfortunately for Omar, he can’t turn back the clock on Delgado, Duque, Pedro, Schneider, Castillo, and Duaner — what’s done is done. Further, he can’t install Steve Austin-like bionics into Moises Alou. Beltran might play like a superstar during hot stretches, but at the end of the day he’s a very good overall player with streaky power but who hasn’t hit over .278 in five years. Wright is also a very good player, and could be a superstar some day — but that time is not now. Perez is an eternal enigma; my guess is he’d flourish under the right pitching coach, but no one’s sure if that pitching coach exists on planet Earth.

While Minaya sweats out his “cover my butt”, short-term explanation that Randolph was a roadblock, the rest of us can see clearly that the 25-man roster was built on many assumptions and a lot of finger-crossing. If I’m Omar, I spend half my time updating my resume and the other half praying for a minor miracle.

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Why the Middle of the Night

Anyone else hear Billy Joel’s voice singing “River of Dreams” in their head when you found out the Mets fired Willie at like 3 am EST?

Well here’s the scoop from Newsday’s Jim Baumbach:

Here’s the sick part: By announcing at 3 a.m., the Mets undoubtedly figured they’d just miss the last deadlines for New York City newspapers, meaning there would be another 24 hours before the next day’s newspaper is published. So this way maybe something else can happen in the world and they won’t have to see their manager’s firing plastered all over the back pages, because it’s day-old news.

And if you’re a Mets fan, that should make you sick.

Because that means they care about their image more than their performance.

Hat tip to Playing for Peanuts for the link.

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Mets Fire Tom Nieto

tom_nieto.jpgIt was a long time coming, but the Mets finally came to their senses and fired the man who has been the biggest roadblock to their success: Tom Nieto.

The fact Nieto wasn’t let go after last season was unconscionable. Everyone and his brother knew that Nieto was the sole reason for the Mets’ “collapse” at the end of the 2007 campaign. His atrocious management of the bullpen catchers made it very difficult for relief pitchers to play cards in the bullpen, and there were times he outwardly refused to purchase hot dogs for Aaron Sele (I got this from a very reliable source “close to the team’s thinking”). In fact, his attitude was so deplorable that one time, while Nieto was sitting on the railing adjacent to the Shea scoreboard, Carlos Beltran purposely hit a homerun off his head. To get Beltran fired up, you really have to be despicable.

Remarkably, rather than eliminate the problem, Mets management chose to hide it, PROMOTING Nieto to first-base coach. Anyone with a tiny bit of baseball knowledge immediately saw Nieto’s grave flaws standing in the coach’s box. His inability to get batters to reach the first-base bag during the San Diego series glaringly exposed his weakness in his new role, and his helmet was at least one size too small. Apparently, that was the last straw for the Mets’ front office. Many inside the organization feel that Willie Randolph’s refusal to assign someone else as the first base coach was the main reason for his own dismissal.

Good luck and good riddance, Mr. Nieto. May you poison some other baseball organization with your disconsolate coaching skills.

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Mets Fire Willie Randolph

Scoundrels!

The Mets fired Willie Randolph in the middle of the night, only hours after winning a ballgame on the Left Coast that ended around 1:20 am EST. The timing and gutlessness was reminiscent of the Baltimore Colts’ move to Indianapolis in the wee hours of the morning back in 1984.

There are so many things wrong with this move I’m not sure where to start. First and foremost, Willie Randolph might be part of, but is the least of, the problem with the Mets this year. He was given a fragile roster of hasbeens and asked to make it into a championship club. The people — both inside the organization and the pundits — who believe the Mets “have the talent to go to the postseason” either haven’t seen any teams outside New York or are lost in a time warp. Yes, if this were 2003 or 2004, then a roster headed by Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, and Moises Alou would certainly be expected to go places. But all of those players are well past their prime — yet somehow people expect them to play like they’re 29 again (and healthy).

Beyond the ill decision is the timing. I’ll play “master of the obvious” and point out that it was unprofessional, illogical, and downright stupid to fly Randolph and his coaching staff cross-country, knowing full well they were going to be let go within 24 hours. The fact it was done in the middle of the night, while most of the Right Coast was dead asleep, speaks volumes about the front office’s lack of media savvy — which is a problem when you are headquartered in the media capital of the world. MetsToday reader “Walnutz” said it best:

the only thing missing surrounding the NY Mets lately is the Ringling Brothers theme music.

If you knew you were going to fire Willie Randolph, why make him make the trip to California? You didn’t want to spoil Father’s Day? Because your team is so gosh-darn “family friendly”? Newsflash: Father’s Day is a made-up holiday invented by Hallmark to sell greeting cards — so you don’t have to plan your personnel decisions around it. Firing Willie on Sunday meant nothing to the fathers — particularly the ones who had to feel like schmucks when they had to tell their kids, “sorry, you can’t run around the field like I promised”.

Also, how do you fire a manager after he’s just won three out of the last four games? Another MetsToday reader, Isuzudude, shares my thoughts exactly:

Sometimes I get the feeling that the Mets like to make it difficult to be a fan of their teams’. Willie finally starts showing a little personality, the team finally starts showing some spunk, and now is the time they decide they’ve seen enough?

And then some.

Finally, Mike Pelfrey begins turning a corner, and appears to be grabbing the bull by the horns and taking a rotation spot. Finally, Pedro Martinez returns from the DL and looks like he might be a valid #3 starter. Finally, Carlos Delgado starts hitting — and hustling. Finally, Luis Castillo is approaching his career average of .295. Finally, Carlos Beltran is hitting like a $119M man. Finally, Aaron Heilman puts together three consecutive strong relief performances. Finally, the Mets are hustling, keeping up the “fight”, and coming from behind to win games late. Finally, the Mets add a long-needed “gamer” in Trot Nixon.

Finally, Willie has most of the tools to win ballgames, has a team that cares again, and NOW you let him go? Absolutely despicable.

And I echo Isuzudude’s comment — the Mets DO make it tough for me to root for their team. Had they fired Willie Randolph last week, after losing four games in a row in San Diego, I’d have been more accepting. Not happy, but at least I’d be able to understand. To ax him now, right when the Mets look like they’ve found some passion and starting to “run on all cylinders”, is a major letdown. I’ll continue to watch every game, but I’m going to have a hard time caring one way or the other for a while.

Best of luck to Willie and Tom Nieto (and just what did Nieto do wrong coaching first base? ah, forget it).

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Mets Game 69: Win Over Angels

Mets 9 Angels 6

It would appear that Willie Randolph has his job for another day. Perhaps his coaching staff will remain intact for at least another 24 hours as well.

However, the game was not won without dramatics.

For most of the game, it appeared it would be an easy win, for once. The Mets exploded for eight runs against the mighty Angels, with the appropriately titled “designated hitter” Carlos Beltran leading the way with two solo homeruns.

And by golly, Mike Pelfrey might have — dare I suggest it? — finally turned a corner. Ever since I criticized him here and on MetsBlog, “Big Pelf” has pitched back-to-back-to-back outstanding games. He still doesn’t have an offspeed pitch, but he’s spotted his four-seamer and sinker well enough to mow down hitters. If he ever does develop a change-up or overhand curve, the Mets will have a legitimate ace.

Pelfrey pitched into the seventh inning before running out of gas, allowing six earned runs on 7 hits and two walks. He struck out none in a 113-pitch effort. Though he allowed five runs, it was only because Willie Randolph chose to push him through that seventh frame. Unfortunately, Pelfrey lost his command and left the game with runners on first and second and none out, yielding to Pedro Feliciano. It was Feliciano’s third game in two days, and he couldn’t stop the bleeding — by the time he exited, the score was 8-6 and there were runners on the corners, one out, and Vladimir Guerrero at the plate.

And then, it appeared that Willie Randolph was ready to give up his job, because out came Aaron Heilman from the bullpen.

The Angels fans probably weren’t aware, but every Mets fan still awake at 12:40 am EST knew the lead would be blown before midnight.

But a funny thing happened — Aaron Heilman struck out Guerrero on three pitches. Then, Aaron struck out Torii Hunter to end the threat. Wow.

Duaner Sanchez came on in the eighth and set the Angels down 1-2-3 on six pitches. Billy Wagner was called on to finish the game, and he decided to make things interesting, putting runners on first and second to bring the tying run to the plate with one out. Garrett Anderson drilled a Wagner slider to Jose Reyes’ glove, and Jose stepped on second base to double off Chone Figgins and end the game. Whew!

Notes

I love watching Trot Nixon bust it down the line on a routine grounder to second base. Love it.

Also loving Willie Randolph scoffing at the 100-pitch count.

David Wright drove in a run with a booming double that nearly left the park, his 19th of the year. Luis Castillo collected another two hits, and his average is slowly creeping back up to his .290-.295 standard. Marlon Anderson also had two hits, both doubles; he started in left field and Endy Chavez patrolled center with Beltran designated to hit.

Pelfrey faced 27 batters, and 13 of them hit ground balls.

In the top of the ninth, Jose Reyes hit a bloop single into right-center, took a wide turn that induced a throw behind him to first base, and he took off for second — making it easily. I’m not sure I ever saw that before. Interestingly enough, it was scored a double, his second of the night. He was bunted to third by Castillo and came home on a David Wright sac fly — something which has become fairly routine this year.

The emergency broadcast system decided to run a test at 1:02 am EST, makng a caustic, staticky, nasty noise erupt from my TV and waking everyone else in the house. Nice timing. By the way, has the ebs ever been used? Does it actually have a purpose? The only time it might have been used in my lifetime was 9/11, and I’m 99.9% sure it wasn’t employed then. If not then, when? I digress …

The home plate ump was really tight on Billy Wagner. There were at least four pitches that could have gone either way, which were called balls. Wagner, by the way, did not have his good velocity, hitting only 92-93 on the gun. That bothers me.

Luis Castillo gave a postgame interview for the first time since … ever. And he DOES speak English!

Also in the postgame, Willie Randolph relayed that he remarked to Jose Reyes, “you pulled the okey-doke on Mathews”, referring to the above-mentioned single-turned-double. He said Reyes nodded and smiled, to which Willie replied, “you know what that means?” “No.” “So why’d you say you did? … but that’s just Jose ….” Great stuff, Willie … stay loose, baby!

Next Game

Another 10:05 pm EST start (yawn!). Johan Santana goes against a Lackey named John.

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