Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Piling On Randolph And Other Stories

  • Is it necessary to dump on the dearly departed?
Willie Randolph is no longer the manager of the New York Mets, therefore isn't it time to let the man get on with his life without having to endure relentless piling on to his perceived failings as a manager? Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are
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going out of their way to point out the differences in style and tactics between Randolph and new manager Jerry Manuel. In particular, there is continued discussion of how much "looser" the Mets clubhouse is under Manuel in comparison to the "businesslike" Randolph; but when Randolph was hired, one of the things that got him the job was his history with the Yankees and the businesslike and serious clubhouse he worked in under Joe Torre. Now that approach was the root of all evil for the Mets? It would be one thing if the team was on a weeklong tear under the new manager, but
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they're 3-3 since Manuel took over.
Randolph had his faults and I felt that the Mets would have been better served to fire Randolph at the end of last year rather than bring him back with a guillotine hanging over his head; but even with those faults, he carried himself with dignity throughout what was a turbulent first managerial job in a very, very tough situation with factions working against him and a natural wariness of the media and notorious thin skin when it came to criticism. The only way to judge whether or not Manuel's style is the antidote for the Mets will be in retrospect and six games isn't enough to make that judgment. If the Mets clubhouse appears more relaxed, that may have little to do with Randolph's departure and more to do with the players not having to repeat the same answers to the same questions about the shakiness of their manager's job.
Considering his inexperience and all the factors he had to deal with, Randolph doesn't deserve to have people like Cohen (who clearly didn't like the way Randolph managed and who were reluctant to criticize him openly for whatever reason) making comparisons after a week. Randolph's gone and Manuel's the manager; it's time to move on.
  • Brewers 4-Braves 1; what's going to happen with Big Ben?
The most interesting question this winter will surround what's going to happen with Ben Sheets. Sheets has Cy Young Award quality stuff, but has been so injury-prone over the past
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four years that any team that wants to get him is going to have to take that leap of faith that their money isn't going to be predominately wasted a la Pedro Martinez/Barry Zito. Sheets is scary-good when he's healthy, but cannot be counted on to make more than 25 starts in a season. Is a team that needs an ace at the top of their rotation going to risk a 7-year contract on a pitcher who's 30 and has such a long injury rap sheet?
There are some likely scenarios with Sheets. One, he's going to get a Zito-type contract from a desperate owner who wants to make a splash and is willing to risk a catastrophic injury to roll the dice on Sheets fulfilling his potential; two, he's going to see that the market for pitchers isn't as free as it once was and he's going to have to take a down-the-line contract as Carlos Zambrano did to stay with the
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Cubs and Jake Peavy did to stay with the Padres; three, he's going to go for the bigger money on a shorter-term contract and if that's the case, there will be a long list of teams willing to take the risk.
If I had to bet now, I'd say Sheets winds up with the Yankees. They have a load of money coming off the books and they're going to need starting pitching, but the last case scenario might be intriguing to a large number of teams. The Dodgers have gone the high-salary, short-term route with Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones and, even though both appear to be blowing up in their faces, the injuries from the explosions aren't going to be that bad because of the short-term nature of the contract. Schmidt's provided nothing for them and his contract's up after next season; Jones has been a disaster, but his contract is also up after next season. If Sheets is willing to eschew the long term deal and accepts a three or four-year contract in the $58-80 million range, he'll likely have a larger choice of destinations rather than the Yankees or possibly Texas Rangers.
Every time the idea that the time for long-term, lucrative contracts for pitchers is gone, some desperate owner whips out his checkbook and, in the same motion, flings sanity out the window. Sheets is such a talent that it could go both ways for him, but any owner who shells out for such a historically fragile pitcher is either going to regret it or get himself a long-term ace. It's all going to depend on what Sheets wants and where he wants to play because someone's going to pay him; the question is who.

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