Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Jerry Manuel’ Category

133 Days

Posted by JD on October 3, 2010

Season finales have their own unique feel, at least to me. 161 games have been played and a lot of passion has been spent. Second guessing the manager’s (and General Manager’s) decisions became a way of life but now, for one day at least, it becomes irrelevant. If Jerry Manuel wants to use Pedro Feliciano to face Adam Kennedy instead of saving him for Adam Dunn, well, who cares? What’s the point in getting worked up about it if this is the last game he’ll manage for the Mets?

Today’s game reminds me of a similar situation, not that long ago. I was at the final game of the 2004 season (also a Sunday, also October 3rd), when Art Howe was the resident “dead man walking”. GM Jim Duquette was planning on letting Howe finish the season, but word got out that he would be fired (sound familiar?). Duquette was forced to announce Howe’s dismissal on September 16th, and Howe had to manage the final two and a half weeks of the season knowing that he would be out of work.

It was a lost season: the Mets would finish 71-91. Though there were some positives (the Mets swept the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and had a winning record against their cross-town nemesis rival for the first time), it was mostly negative: there was the infamous Scott Kazmir/Victor Zambrano deal as well as the botched experiment with Mike Piazza at first base. By all rights, game 162 should have been a formality, one last exercise in futility. Maybe it was. Maybe I read too much into what I saw that afternoon, but it felt like more than that.

There was a new era on the horizon: the Mets were clearing the decks, preparing for a new beginning (Omar Minaya would be hired shortly). But there was also a lesson, a hidden message for us all…we’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, the game itself. Art Howe wasn’t the only Met who would be leaving: John Franco was appearing in his final game. The writing was on the wall: Franco was done with the Mets, and he knew it. Howe did the right thing: Franco entered the game after a nice video tribute in the top of the eighth, replacing Heath Bell. He pitched a third of an inning, gave up a single to Termel Sledge, and got Ryan Church to fly out to Todd Zeile, who was catching that day for the first time since 1990.

Zeile had announced his retirement earlier in the week and Howe chose to let him go out the way he came in. That was the day that I first heard that Zeile was a movie producer, and it was a day that he’d remember forever. Not only did he record the out on the final pitch that John Franco threw for the Mets, but he hit a three-run home run in his final at-bat in the bottom of the sixth. It really was a special moment, the future producer had a real Hollywood moment.

There were other nice moments for the Mets in that game, too. Joe Hietpas had his Moonlight Graham moment and rookie David Wright hit his 14th home run, a two-run shot off John Patterson in the bottom of the third. It was a generally uplifting game: a negative era in Mets history was ending and the future, though uncertain, looked bright. This was highlighted by the unfortunate fate awaiting their rivals that day: the Montreal Expos.

You see, that was the Expos’ final game. While the Mets were ending a lost season, Montreal fans were mourning the loss of their team. Those of us in attendance knew we were seeing a major league team’s death. The franchise’s fate was sealed: they were shortly to become the Washington Nationals (coincidentally, the Mets’ opponent in today’s finale). Really, we were watching the Expos being taken off of life support.

There was a decent contingent of Expos fans in attendance. They scattered a few “Let’s Go Expos!” chants throughout the game, but there was a moment in the top of the ninth where they rallied one last chant. I can’t speak for the other fans in attendance that day, but I found it a remarkably poignant moment. Here was a group of fans in a foreign stadium, watching the final moments of their favorite team, saluting them for the final time.

That moment remains fresh for me today. While we think about how poorly our team has played this year, we can look forward 133 days till pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie again. We’ll have a new General Manager, a new manager, new players. Our team, no matter how poorly managed, will get another chance to redeem itself. On February 13, 2011, the voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers, the Mets will once again take the field. Montreal fans can only wish they could say the same about the Expos.

Bad Mets baseball is better than no Mets baseball, and the 2010 season comes to an end today. Let’s enjoy what we have while we can while looking forward to new memories in the coming season. 2011 begins tonight, but today, let’s enjoy watching David Wright, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Mike Pelfrey, and all the others write the final chapter of the 2010 Mets. Hopefully, they’ll send us off on a positive note.

Posted in Jerry Manuel, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another Season Ended

Posted by JD on September 19, 2010

Luis Hernandez fouled a pitch off his foot yesterday, then proceeded to hit a home run on the very next pitch. Think about that for a second. This is a guy who, prior to September 3rd, had hit just one home run in 233 major league at bats. A guy who managed just 17 home runs in 3,026 at-bats over nine minor league seasons (0.56 home runs per at-bat). The fact that he hit one off of Tim Hudson is amazing in and of itself, but when you throw in a broken foot it becomes absolutely unbelievable. I’m sure adrenaline played a large part in it (adrenaline that, judging from the pictures I linked to above, looks like it wore off immediately after his first step out of the batter’s box) but, at least in this fan’s mind, that home run will go down as one of the most amazing moments in an otherwise lost season (think Dae Sung Koo’s double off of Randy Johnson).

That being said, this season-ending injury is for the best. I hate seeing players injured, even those I don’t care for. Bench them, cut them, waive them: by all means, please remove ineffective players immediately. But the Mets’ failure to make any of those moves with Hernandez, combined with Jerry Manuel’s insistence on playing him, means that this was pretty much the only way that Ruben Tejada was going to earn the lion’s share of playing time at second base. I’m sorry that it came down to that, but at least Tejada will get a better chance to show us all that he can contribute at this level.

The Mets have been out of the race for weeks now: there was no reason to play Hernandez over Tejada*. The fact that a slam dunk roster move was decided by a season-ending injury is ridiculous and insulting. There’s eight games left at Citi Field and I have plans to attend seven of them, but I’m doing so hoping that next season we have a manager that can fill out a line-up call rationally.

*Actually, there’s NEVER a reason to play Hernandez over Tejada.

Posted in Jeff Francoeur, Jerry Manuel, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innings Limit for Niese?

Posted by JD on August 21, 2010

Hat tip to Mets Police for bringing this NY Post article that indicates that the Mets may limit Jon Niese’s innings pitched (one good turn deserves another: thanks for linking to my Jason Bay post yesterday guys). It’s a sound move, especially as the Mets continue to tread water at the .500 mark. While I’m quite certain the “Future Hall of Famer” reference came with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Niese is nonetheless a big part of the Mets future. Running up his innings pitched total may or may not impact his future performance (the so-called Verducci Effect has come under scrutiny in the past year and it turns out it may not be the greatest predictor of future health), but why take the chance in what is turning out to be a non-competitive season?

Some minor quibles with Mike Puma’s article: while Niese did pitch 164 innings in the minors in 2008, his total innings pitched that season was actually 178 (when you factor in his time on the major league roster). Also, he pitched a total of 120 innings last season (factoring in those pesky thirds of an inning) and he’s logged 139 innings this season (he made one start for Buffalo in April).

That being said, there are 40 games left in this season. Without studying the current arrangement of the rotation, let’s assume that would leave him with eight starts. He probably wouldn’t throw five complete games, but if you assume that he throws five quality starts, that would result in him throwing 187 total innings this season (five seven-inning starts would give him 195, five five-inning starts would give him 179).

As you can see, there’s some maneuverability available for the Mets here. Personally, I’d let Niese make his next three starts (running him up to about 160 innings), call up Dillon Gee to take his place in the rotation, and spot Niese out of the bullpen to let him finish somewhere around 170-175 innings pitched. Do I trust Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen to behave accordingly? Of course not.

Given his recent injury history and the Mets’ fall from contention, the plan to limit Niese’s innings pitched is sound. How the Mets go about executing it (if they do it at all) bares watching. Here’s hoping it all works out: I look forward to watching Jon Niese pitch for the Mets for years to come.

Posted in Jerry Manuel, Jon Niese, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bay Done For Season

Posted by JD on August 20, 2010

The beat writers provided the news today via Twitter (here’s a representative sample from Newsday’s David Lennon): Jerry Manuel expects Jason Bay to miss the rest of the year as he recovers from a concussion suffered back in July.

Great. As if the team’s play of late hasn’t been depressing enough, now one of the more expensive pieces of the lineup has been placed on the sidelines indefinitely. His production hasn’t matched his paycheck yet, but he gave an honest effort throughout the season (and was far more productive than his counterpart in right field). It’s a shame to see his season end this way.

Looking for a silver lining, it’s may actually be a good sign if Bay doesn’t return (I’m not bashing Bay here…stick with me for a minute). If he’s struggling with concussion-related symptoms, sitting him indicates that management is implementing their Prevention and Recovery policy. Medical science is still struggling to understand the full impact of head injuries, but one thing that we’ve learned is that they are no joke. Unlike broken bones, concussions have no timetable for recovery. Benching Bay for the rest of the season ensures that he’ll be given every chance to return to health. Even if we can’t reliably predict that he’ll return to his previous levels of performance, this will at least give him the best chance to do so. Short-term sacrifice is in his (and the team’s) best interests, and I’m glad Mets management isn’t rushing him back* needlessly.

*However, I’m not ruling out his return this season yet: after all, they did let Beltran play last September. I hope he takes all the time he needs. Pardon me for waiting to see it before I believe it.

What makes this situation entirely unappealing is Manuel’s (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Omar Minaya’s) roster management of late. I have no doubt that if the medical staff gave Bay a green light, Omar would throw him out there (and bat him clean-up, to boot). It was just a few weeks ago when we were told Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada would be receiving increased playing time. That turned out to be a pipe dream: not only has Tejada been replaced by Luis Castillo at second, but Mike Hessman has seen an increase in playing time at the expense of Ike Davis and Rod Barajas has returned, sending Josh Thole to the bench and Martinez back to Buffalo.

Why? Because Manuel is desperately trying to save his job and, in doing so, he’s advanced the near-ludicrous notion that the Mets are still in contention for a post-season berth. 11 games behind the Braves, 8.5 games behind the Giants, only 41 games left to play, and our lame-duck manager is harboring dreams of reaching the playoffs. And management (and ownership) is allowing it or, even worse, encouraging it. Absolutely ridiculous, yet that’s what we’re left to deal with for the short-term future.

Losing Jason Bay for the rest of the season is disappointing. What’s absolutely crushing is watching near-useless veterans receive the bulk of the playing time in a vain attempt finish in the playoffs. While I applaud this implementation of the Prevention and Recovery mantra, it makes me wonder: how did the Mets get this one instance right while in the midst of making so many other fundamentally bad decisions?

Cliches are worthless, but I keep circling back to an old standard: “It is what it is”. The Mets will continue to spin their wheels, I’ll continue to watch (as will you), and the organizational inertia will continue to mire the Mets in mediocrity. I hope Jason Bay gets well and has a monster season next year, yet I seriously doubt it will change much.

———-

Update: I really should edit my posts better before publishing them. Upon re-reading this post, I realized I failed to make one key point: Jason Bay has done nothing wrong here. His effort on the field lead directly to his concussion: he ran face first into a fence to make a catch. Sure, I think we would all like to see more production than “6 home runs, 47 RBI”. Heck, Jason Bay probably wouldn’t argue that point. But he gave a consistent, honest effort in each game he played and you can’t ask for anything more than that. Maybe the numbers weren’t there, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.

My issue is with how the Mets have approached the past 20 or so games since he’s been injured, and how they appear to be approaching the rest of the season. The announcement that Bay is likely done for the season triggered my frustration with the Mets’ (read: Jerry Manuel’s) insistence that they are still fighting for a playoff-berth. At this point that’s utter nonsense, and it set me off. Allow me to summarize:

1. Bay’s injury is unfortunate
2. The Mets appear to be handling it correctly, however;
3. They are handling just about every other roster/lineup decision incorrectly.

Apologies for any confusion, and let’s all hope Bay returns to full health as soon as possible.

Posted in Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Jerry Manuel, Luis Castillo, Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another Domino Falls

Posted by JD on June 21, 2010

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Jenrry Mejia was finally sent down to Binghamton to resume his rightful career path as a starting pitcher (Bobby Parnell will take his place in the bullpen on Tuesday). He logged 26 2/3 innings in the Mets bullpen over 29 games, including a scoreless inning (with one strikeout) in yesterday’s game against the Yankees. Even though he had a 122 ERA+ and accrued 0.3 WAR during his time in Flushing this is undoubtedly the right move: starting pitchers are more valuable than relievers, and the Mets should take the time to figure out whether Mejia has what it takes to be a successful major league starter. Kudos to Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel for finally doing the right thing.

The roster continues to evolve, and in a good way. Ne’er-do-wells Sean Green, Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, GMJ, John Maine, and Oliver Perez have either been consigned to the Disabled List or released and the Mejia demotion fits in this trend. He wasn’t exactly a liability in the bullpen but the franchise is far better served by allowing him to hone his craft as a starter in the minors instead of eating low-leverage innings in the Mets’ bullpen. We still have to deal with Alex Cora’s steady march toward a vesting option and the DL assignments are a ticking time-bomb (acutely highlighted by Maine’s recent rehab starts), but lately Minaya has been making all the right moves.

I’ll be honest: I feel weird writing that. However, the standings have forced my hand: it’s June 21 and the Mets are 2.5 games out of first place with 95 games to go, and I suppose it proves the cliche that “late” really is better than “never”. We’ll never know how much better off they would be if Ike Davis, R.A. Dickey, Chris Carter or Jesus Feliciano had been on the roster from day one (I suspect they’d have at least one more win, if not two or three), but in the immortal words of former Jets coach Herm Edwards, we can build on this.

What’s done is done. Cora aside, the Mets’ roster is about as about as optimized as it can be at this point. The next step is acquiring a starting pitcher at a reasonable price. If Minaya can do that without stripping the farm system the Mets should at least be able to contend for the Wild Card, which is better than I expected back in February.

***

But I digress…let’s get back to Mejia. The Eastern league plays 140 games in a season and Binghamton has already played 67 games. With 73 games left to play, I figure that Mejia can get 14 starts. If he averages seven innings in each he’ll get approximately 98 innings of work, which would leave him with a season total of 126 innings. That’s a big jump from last season’s total of 94 2/3 innings pitched. There’s some doubt as to whether the Verducci Effect is a reliable predictor of pitcher injuries, but a thirty-plus inning increase should be enough for one year. In other words, hopefully the Mets don’t call up Mejia for bullpen duty when the roster expands in September. The limited benefit would far exceed the possible risk.

***

One final tangent: Mejia will make his first start on “Salute to Boy Band” Night. The sheer awesomeness of the moment is unmeasurable. That is all.

Posted in Ike Davis, Jerry Manuel, Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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