Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Trust Issues

Posted by JD on May 21, 2010

After criticizing Jerry Manuel for so long on so many areas (lineup optimization, over-working mediocre relievers, keeping Jenrry Mejia on the major league roster, etc.), I was a little surprised that I agreed so strongly with him when he pulled John Maine after facing just one batter last night.

It’s not that I dislike Manuel. Far from it: he seems to be an engaging guy and even though I’ve strongly disagreed with him, I don’t question his non-baseball intelligence. It’s just that I’ve disagreed with so many of his moves this year, some of which backfired so badly (Mike Jacobs as clean-up hitter?) that they obscured the fact that he does have strengths as a manager. One of his strongest points is his ability to connect to his players, to make them want to play for him. In the big picture having the respect of the players matters far, far less than winning. But it does count for something, and last night we watched John Maine abuse it.

I’m all for players fighting to stay in the lineup, playing through injury to help the team. But the key is they have to actually help the team. When a Carlos Beltran plays with an injury, we know he’ll still produce enough to outweigh his decreased range. When a Johan Santana takes the mound with an injured arm, we know he has enough savvy and experience to maximize the pitches he can throw long enough to keep the team in the game. The only thing we know about John Maine is that for the previous two seasons he’s either been to seriously injured to pitch or too inconsistent to be counted on when healthy. He’s gotten off to a terrible start in 2010: his velocity is down and he’s struggled with his control. In short, he’s shown us nothing to indicate that he has the ability to battle through injury to help the team.

Now, I’m still unclear as to whether this was injury-related or a mechanical issue. Regardless, Maine should have told Manuel or Dan Warthen that he was having issues prior to taking the mound: at least they would have been able to plan around it (they probably would have started Valdes and mixed and matched relievers anyway). Instead, Maine took it on himself to force the issue, and it’s not a stretch to say it could have had disasterous results.

The offence, which has struggled mightly, loaded the bases for David Wright, himself dealing with issues at the plate. It felt as if a weight was lifted from their collective shoulders when he delivered an opposite-field double to clear the bases. Could you imagine what that clubhouse would have felt like had Maine given it all back in the bottom of the inning? To his credit, Manuel recognized it immediately and didn’t hesitate to yank Maine out of there. Maine displayed the immaturity of an eight year old argue with Manuel and Warthen on the mound, and Jerry (again, to his credit) was having none of it. When Maine tried to engage Manuel in the dugout, Jerry tore into him.

That’s something that I’d never seen before. No matter how displeased he’s been with a player, Manuel usually handles that kind of thing behind closed doors (another reason why a lot of players trust him). Last night, Jerry couldn’t conceal his disgust for Maine and when Maine made the mistake of approaching him in the dugout, Manuel dressed him down in front of the SNY cameras.

Maybe you’ll disagree with me. Maybe you feel that Manuel handled the situation poorly, that he (or Warthen) should have recognized that Maine didn’t have it in warmups, or that he shouldn’t have treated Maine as he did. That’s fine. But what I saw was a manager who trusted his player to do the right thing, then acted with urgency to correct the situation when it became obvious that the player wouldn’t. I fully expect to go back to criticizing Manuel’s decisions again (heck, it happened a couple of times last night), but I thought pulling Maine was the right move at the right time, and I was impressed with how Manuel handled it.

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2 Responses to “Trust Issues”

  1. Hi, I generally agree with you that Maine made a stupid mistake confronting his manager in the dugout, and he deserved what he got. But I also have to think that Manuel / Warthen must have suspected before-hand that Maine probably wasn’t ready to be effective. I read that, while warming up before the game, Maine’s velocity was around 83 MPH. In other words, batting practice fastballs. In my opinion, Manuel didn’t put his pitcher in a situation to succeed, but,instead, set him up for failure. In other words, he was part of creating a situation that, once again, blew up in his face.
    Manuel simply has to go. If the Mets lose 2 of 3, or get swept, by the Yanks this weekend, I think he could be gone by this time next week.
    I agree with you that I don’t think Manuel is a bad guy, but he’s no longer the right guy for this particular job.
    Interesting read, Bill

  2. JD said

    First, let me say that I agree with you: it’s time for Manuel to go. We’ve seen enough to know that he’s not going to make it work for the Mets.
    As for Maine, I see your point about not starting him in the first place (I didn’t know that his warm up velocity was so low). Now I’m wondering why Manuel didn’t know that: did Warthen not communicate it to him? It’s baffling, as so many of Manuel’s moves have been to me this year.

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