Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Uncle Charlie's Bizarre Strategic Decision

  • Mets 6-Phillies 3:
Charlie Manuel's main attribute as a manager is that his players like him, like playing for
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him and, for the most part, play hard for him 24/7. They know that he's in their corners as evidenced by his frequent ejections and, even when he does strange and unexplainable things (think of the theme from The X-Files), they do as they're asked and don't question him publicly. Even though Manuel abuses his relievers, and overmanages in times of stress, the bottom line is that the team wins for him rather than in spite of him. The manager of the Phillies before Manuel, Larry Bowa, was a strategic ace who the players hated----and it showed in their results. Even when they had playoff level talent, they were never able to make it over that hump for Bowa; the argument could be made that if they had a manager for whom they wanted to go above and beyond the call of duty, if for no other reason than to save his job, they might have wound up with a better record in one of those years. Even with
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that, Manuel's most diehard supporter in and out of the Phillies clubhouse has to wonder what's going through his head when he does some of the things he does.
In tonight's game against the Mets, the Phillies entered the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead. Having been overused up to this point in the season and due to last night's 13-inning affair, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin were apparently only available in an emergency; because of that, Manuel had to use former lefty specialist Scott Eyre for two innings and veteran journeyman Rudy Seanez as his eighth inning man. Seanez retired Luis Castillo and David Wright before allowing Carlos Delgado's second homer
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of the night to tie the game. After Carlos Beltran's infield single, Manuel removed Seanez and inserted closer Brad Lidge with the game now tied.
Disregarding that Lidge gave up the hits that scored three runs for the Mets, why was Lidge even warming up in the beginning of the eighth if Manuel wasn't going to use him while he still had a lead? In what has been a brilliant comeback season for him after two subpar years with the Astros, Lidge has not been used for more than a one inning save once this year----not once; yet Manuel not only had him warming up in the eighth inning, but only used him after the save opportunity was gone! It made no sense on so many different levels that it's going to be hard for the reporters to get viable answers from Manuel as to what he was thinking because there's too much to have to explain away.
First of all, if Manuel says that Clay Condrey, Durbin and Romero weren't available; that he
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didn't want to use the rookie Andrew Carpenter in that situation; that Seanez was his best and most reliable option and didn't want to use Lidge for more than one inning in a relatively meaningless game in late August, then fine; that would be a legitimate explanation; but he had Lidge warming up anyway! He ended up using Lidge in the eighth inning anyway! If the guy was warming up, what was he warming up for if he wasn't going to be used to save the game? Once the call was made to warm Lidge up, then why wasn't he brought into the game to pitch to Carlos Delgado, who has crushed Seanez in his career? Then he brought Lidge in as there's one runner on base in a tie game, has him intentionally walk Ryan Church after the runner, Beltran, steals second and sees Lidge give up a game-losing double to a rookie in Daniel Murphy. It literally made no sense whatsoever.
Add in that this game was, in the cosmic scheme of things, meaningless. It's late August and if the Phillies had held on and won, they'd have had a lead of 1 1/2 games; it's clear by now that this season the National League East is going to come down to a similar war of attrition as it did last season with the managerial gaffes and who abuses their pitching staff more being the deciding factors. The difference last year was that Charlie Manuel and former Mets manager Willie Randolph traded inept maneuvers throughout the entire month; it just turned out that Manuel was luckier and got better and guttier performances from his players; now the Mets have a manager in Jerry Manuel who has an idea of what he's doing and if it comes
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down to which Manuel is a better strategist, then the Mets are going to win.
I have no problem with a manager doing something that appears odd if it's done for a reason. It doesn't even have to be a good reason or one I agree with; a reason with some basis in logic is enough. Had Manuel stayed with Seanez and not had Lidge throwing it would've been one thing, but he ended up using his closer regardless and he lost the game. It was another example of Charlie Manuel's way of running things biting him on the behind and what made it worse is that it was a completely unexplainable decision not just because it didn't work, but because it was stupid.

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