- Give 'em what they want:
The bloodlust of Mets fans is a hair away from reaching critical mass.
After last night's sorry showing by manager Jerry Manuel what amounted to self-immolation with his bullpen calls, it's only a matter of time before he's mercifully put out of his figurative (or literal) misery as Mets manager.
Unlike many observers, I was completely on board with Manuel removing Oliver Perez after the ultra-talented and strangle-worthy lefty delivered his best performance since 2008. He did his job admirably---6.1 innings; 4 hits; 1 run; 3 walks; 4 strikeouts; and an above-and-beyond the call job on nullifying Albert Pujols, getting him to ground into a double play and striking him out----Perez deserved a better fate.
It likely would've done more harm than good to leave Perez in and run the risk of him blowing the game up, turning a positive into a negative when he allowed the leadoff batter in the bottom of the seventh to reach base. The smart, long-term move was to get Perez out while he could feel good about himself and his performance, which was eerily reminiscent to the pitcher who won 15 games in 2007 and has the stuff to dominate.
After that? There's no explanation for what Manuel did.
Jerry Manuel has a tendency to use relievers he trusts to the point of exhaustion.
The Mets have played 10 games this season.
Fernando Nieve has appeared in seven of them.
At what point is Manuel going to trust Ryota Igarashi in a big spot? Where was Hisanori Takahashi, who has the variety of pitches and changes speeds to get lefties out as well as righties? Then, to compound the error of overusing Nieve, why bring in Raul Valdes to pitch to Felipe Lopez? The argument that Pedro Feliciano was out with a stomach bug doesn't explain why he was bringing a lefty in to pitch to Lopez to begin with. Lopez, a switch-hitter, has more power from the right side of the plate and strikes out a lot; wouldn't it have been better to get a righty pitcher like Igarashi, who throws hard, over a lefty specialist like Valdes? And if he wanted to use a lefty, where was Takahashi?
This isn't second-guessing because ever before Lopez's grand slam, the decision made no sense. Had he brought in Jenrry Mejia or Igarashi, there would've been no debate. It was as if Manuel was gambling with no basis in fact behind what he was doing; sometimes that works, but when it works it can't be considered managing; it's throwing darts at a dartboard with eyes closed hoping to hit the bullseye.
Manuel's lost the team. He's lost the confidence of anyone and everyone associated with the club in any capacity from the players to the front office to the media to the fans. It's as if they expect to lose and are waiting for the other shoe to finally drop and end matters to move forward. Players thinking, "how are we gonna blow it this time?" is the final nail in the managerial coffin. And that's where the Mets are in every conceivable aspect.
They need to move forward.
And the only way to truly move forward is with Bobby Valentine taking over as manager.
It's frustrating to hear the stories of how the Mets front office is reluctant to bring back Valentine for a second go-round. Remembering Mets history is an antidote to that fear preventing them from doing what must be done to make the club relevant again; to lose the stigma of ineptitude that's following them around like a plume of smoke, fog or a raincloud. Every time the Mets have made a drastic leap forward, it stemmed from doing something bold and outside-the-box that made sense not only in theory, but in practice.
What would the Mets be had they never entered into the sweepstakes and winning the rights to Tom Seaver? Hired (essentially traded for) Gil Hodges from the Washington Senators to take over as manager? Acquired Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter? Hired a young, feisty and egotistical computer geek in Davey Johnson to manage a group of youngsters? Traded for Mike Piazza? Signed Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran? Traded for Carlos Delgado?
Whenever the Mets have done something bold and drastic, it's been the cure for the doldrums that have been as much of a franchise cornerstone as the dramatic and implausible victories they've achieved.
The most disturbing aspect of the shying away from Valentine is that there's no reason for it. He can handle New York; he wants the job; he has a good relationship with GM Omar Minaya, mitigating the need to clean out the entire front office and start over again; and he's box office.
Are the Mets again going to go the route of the outlet pass rather than throw the deep ball (and it's not a Hail Mary, it's a bomb with a purpose and plan) and hire Bob Melvin?
There's nothing wrong with Melvin. He's a solid game manager and good guy, but he's not what the Mets need. If there's such a love affair with Melvin, then put him in uniform as one of Valentine's coaches. If Manuel's dismissed, so too would be pitching coach Dan Warthen and presumably coach Razor Shines. (Leo Mazzone would be a good idea as pitching coach.) Melvin doesn't do the trick to address the Mets current multitude of issues.
The negatives against Valentine seem to have little to do with his baseball acumen; it's all personality and that which can be dealt with.
It would be one thing if fans were using sentimentalist nonsense and absurd nostalgia in an attempt to reach back into the past glory days by hiring Darryl Strawberry or Ray Knight to manage the team. What's conveniently lost in the dismissal of the idea of a reunion between the Mets and Bobby Valentine is that Valentine is one of the best----if not the best----baseball strategists in the world; he has the personality to get the Mets right back on the back pages of the papers with the Yankees; and he'd bring fans to the ballpark by his mere presence.
What's it going to take for the Mets to make this bold maneuver and bring back Valentine? The club has a tendency to let things decline to the point where they're cornered and have no choice but to do something that should've been done at an earlier juncture. Will an empty stadium in May and repulsed fan base force their hands? Another lost year of revenue, doomed to irrelevance and another GM to start over again?
If they wait; if they keep sitting on their hands hoping things get better under Manuel or decide to replace him with Melvin, they're still staring into the abyss; still delaying the inevitable. The difference between now and then is they'll have Melvin managing the team instead of Valentine; be under relentless and accurate attack from all sides; knowing a full-scale makeover with a new GM will be necessary at the conclusion of another dismal season of losses and, more importantly, unsold tickets; and Valentine may no longer be available because someone else might hire him.
Despite his politically-correct allusions to the contrary, Valentine wants the job; he wants to be back on the big stage befitting his personality; butting heads with the Yankees; the Phillies; the Braves; and I can guarantee you he's watching the Mets very closely and plotting what he'd do the second he slipped that familiar uniform number 2 on his back with Mets emblazoned across the front.
He's not going to wait forever.
He's available now.
It's the right move.
It's the only move.
Are the Mets going to let this opportunity pass them by again? Or are they going to make a preemptive strike to avert what's looking increasingly like a disaster and do what must be done coldly, fearlessly and with purpose?
The Mets must hire Bobby Valentine.
- Padres 6-Diamondbacks 3:
I'm developing a warm spot for the Padres.
They've got talent; they're feisty; and they don't quit.
Watching last night's game showed two teams heading in the opposite direction. There's been lust directed at the Diamondbacks all winter for reasons I can't quite understand. They're functioning with a back of the starting rotation consisting of Rodrigo Lopez; Ian Kennedy and now, they're recalling Kris Benson. Last night, their questionable bullpen imploded as the Padres notched an impressive comeback victory.
Never mind the performance of Aaron Heilman. It's clear by now that if he's going to make it in the big leagues as anything more than an inspiration for people to roll their eyes, leave the ballpark or shut the game off, he's got to be given the opportunity to start. He doesn't like relieving; he's not good at it; and the Diamondbacks have massive holes in their rotation.
The decision to demote Chad Qualls from the role as closer strikes of desperation that's been prevalent in Arizona over the past year. Qualls has struggled in the job; he's clearly better suited mentally to being a set-up man, but to use Juan Gutierrez as a replacement this quickly?
The worst part of the Diamondbacks proactive bullpen machinations is that they didn't work.
For their part, the Padres are taking on the personality of David Eckstein. Of deciding to get it done one way or the other no matter what. To make it as far as Eckstein has as a big leaguer (listed at 5'7", if he's 5'7", I'm Shaquille O'Neal) shows more than a reliance on talent.
There's something missing from the Diamondbacks. They're constructed oddly with a bad bullpen; the aforementioned rotation issues; a bad defensive team with questions on offense.
Manager A.J. Hinch has the smarts to be a good big league manager, but I've seen a pronounced absence of passion. Even when he questions an umpiring call from the dugout----some of the ball/strike calls were hideous against his club last night----he does it in an almost apologetic, meek fashion. It's cerebral and it's not enough to get the umpires to imperceptibly hesitate before sending a close call the other way.
Bobby Cox has spent his entire managerial career shouting at the umpires and getting them to give Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux the close pitches because the umpires don't want to deal with Cox barking at them. With Hinch, it's easier to shrug off his complaints.
Already some predictions are coming to pass (and of course, others, well, aren't), but the book is well-written and entertaining. Along with borderline psychotic. Enter my world....if you dare.