Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Willing the Loss
By Ben Valentine

Very rarely do I post reactions immediately following games. This isn’t a Mets blog, though that is what I post about most frequently during the baseball season. So while I might post insight about something I saw, or a recap of it as part of a larger feature, I usually don’t bother with reaction posts unless it’s a big game. Or something really, really gets on my nerves.

Well today, it’s both.

The Mets tonight just finished off trashing what was left of their season, getting swept by the Braves 4-3 in ten innings down at Turner Field, the Metropolitans' personal house of horrors. The loss sends the Mets five games back of the Wild Card leading Astros and done in the race for all intents and purposes.

The Amazins needed the win tonight, and managed to score two early runs on Tim Hudson. They didn’t score anymore, and amazingly, Tom Glavine made it stand as he continued his second half renaissance with 7.1 innings of one run ball. I love to bash Glavine, but I can’t say anything bad about the guy right now. He’s been great since the middle of July. The Mets aren’t going to be playing in October but it isn’t his fault.

After Roberto Hernandez got the Mets to the ninth, Braden Looper proceeded to give up doubles to Mini-Vlad Jeff Francoeur (he’s really good) and Ryan Langerhans (he’s not so good) and let the Braves tie it up. He ended up nearly killing the Mets in that inning, but somehow managed to get Marcus Giles to strike out to end it.

Inexplicably the Mets anemic offense scored in the top of the 10th to take the lead. Looper had thrown over 30 pitches in the 9th and looked awful in the process. So there was no way Willie Randolph would send him out for the 10th right? Right?

Wrong! Out goes Looper for the bottom of the inning.

Well there’s no way Willie can let him get into trouble again right? If someone hits him hard, there’s got to be someone up in the pen to relieve him. Aaron Heilman, Heath Bell, Shingo Takatsu, anyone...right?

Wrong! Chipper Jones singles to lead off. Looper hits Andruw Jones in the back. Then he walks Julio Franco. Finally Willie goes and gets him for Takatsu. Geez, all the soft tossing righty has to do now is get out of a bases loaded, no one out situation.

Surprisingly Takatsu got the first two outs. Then on a 3-2 pitch, Langerhans did it again, only this time two runs scored. Game over, season over, Mets lose 4-3. And this one ladies and gents, is all on Willie Randolph.

I’ve been critical of Willie from the start. I hate the way he uses lineups. I can’t stand the way he refuses to use young players in key spots over washed up veterans. His in game management gets on my nerves. Is he light years better than Art Howe? Hell yes. But he’s not making me forget the genius of Bobby Valentine anytime soon.

This loss is inexcusable. Nothing can be said to justify throwing Looper out there for the 10th. He’s been terrible all season. He was terrible tonight. He had already thrown too many pitches. Why would you send him out against the heart of the Braves lineup?? Especially when Met killer Chipper Jones will be facing him batting left handed. Looper has an OBA of over .300 against lefties this year!

Earlier today I read a post on No Joy In Metsville defending Willie, using the argument he’s a first year manager and like a first year anything, we have to cut him some slack. After all isn’t that what we would do with David Wright or Jose Reyes? There is some truth in that argument, but it is alarming to see a manager make a move that is so obviously wrong on so many levels that a novice baseball fan wouldn’t even think about making it. It’s like he lacked the baseball sense to know it was wrong and that scares the hell out of me and should scare any Mets fan. It should bother Met fans that Willie won’t play kids unless a veteran so badly embarrasses himself that he’s forced to. Why is Victor Diaz batting 8th again when he's put up better numbers than both Ramon Castro and Doug Mientkiewicz? Aversion to young players is something that many managers never leave behind. Hell just look at how things work in the Bronx.

Willie should not be fired at the end of the year. Hopefully he does grow up as skipper and learns from these mistakes. But I just can’t shake the feeling that the right man to manage this ball club is out there.

Too bad he’s managing in Japan.


Blogger David Arnott said...

"Geez, all the soft tossing righty has to do now is get out of a bases loaded, no one out situation."

He must've thought he had Rivera coming in or something. You can probably blame Joe Torre's influence for this shitty strategery. Jay Jaffe has written about how Torre and Stottlemyre don't have reasonable expectations for their relievers; they expect the superhuman every time out. Thus, Looper stays in for too long. Thus, Takatsu comes in to face a ricockulous situation.

1:18 AM  

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