September 19, 2007

Willie & The Bronx Zoo

How many of you watched the mini-series "The Bronx Is Burning" recently on ESPN? If you did, or if you lived through it like us, you'd remember that in game 3 of the AL Playoff series versus the Royals, the Yankees were getting clobbered and it looked like the game was about to get out of reach. What happened? Sparky Lyle, one of the games' top relievers of all-time, was brought into the game in the third inning. That's right - I said the THIRD INNING!!!! Who was the second baseman at the time for the Yankees? Yep - our own Willie Randolph! And yet, he simply stated that he felt Maine "looked like he had good stuff" while giving up all those runs yesterday - WHERE is the disconnect??? Jonathan brought this analogy to my attention this afternoon, as well as the following questions: Where is it written that Aaron Heilman can't come in for the fourth inning? Does it say somewhere that Phil Humber cannot pitch an inning or two? Is it inscribed in a book that Willie MUST leave his starters in for at least five innings before being allowed to pull them? Because that is EXACTLY what it feels like. Willie is managing as if it's May and he's still trying to build confidence in his team, instead of pulling out all of the stops to win some games NOW before it's too late! This is what, I believe, is driving most of us crazy as now, when it's needed most, his ability to spark, cajole and coerce his team into performing has left him and subsequently left us not just confused, but resentful, doubtful and outright scared (on top of angry) that after all we've been through this season, on the heals of losing to the Cards last year, we are about to have the entire rug, carpet, floor and foundation pulled out from under us! If that happens, how can we be comfortable with the players we have and the structure we have in place? Yes, the manager doesn't hit or field or pitch, but he is the one who aligns those pieces in order to get the most out of his hitters, fielders, and pitchers, and, in this case, Willie has come up sorely lacking.

I am watching games these days just like I watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or like I used to watch "Seinfeld" in its heyday - with one hand over my eyes, fingers slightly apart so that I can peak out but cover my eyes in a moments' notice. It worked with those shows, because they were comedies; it's not working for me while watching these games, as they are starting to become tragic!

To be fair, we've been critical of Willie since his tenure with us began, as his boneheaded moves have always stupified us. How can someone so intelligent, who was such a great player, and sat at the feet of two of the best managers of the past 50 years, Billy Martin and Joe Torre, continually manage as though he was a novice to the game?! The going is far rougher for his team right now, and unfortunately he is not stepping up his game to match the play-off style of ball necessary at this time of the year. He seems to have lost control of his players, and it makes us wonder about what the real issues were between Willie and PLD and Willie and Franco, and who was fighting with whom. Willie's moves have almost put out the fires of David Wright and PLD, which is nearly impossible. That, alone, says to me that he has lost control of this team and as a result, if they don't make it to the World Series, his job status MUST be revisited at that time.

I have not heard anything that leads me to believe anything will happen differently today, or the rest of the week, from Willie's standpoint. Writers like Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Bob Klapisch are just about ready to throw the towel in on behalf of this team...I PRAY that, somehow, we can come out of this tailspin, like, TODAY, and that this season won't be lost to us!

What's worse- Atlanta is playing well again and could, possibly, even surpass us and/or the Phillies the way things are going, and that would TRULY be unacceptable!!

Oh- by the way - all that BS about Brian Lawrence being scheduled for his turn - he was waived today to make room for Dave Williams. More brilliance, huh?

Here are some samples of what some of the most respected baseball writers have to say about the Mets and Willie:

Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports):
Here's the reality:

After leading the Phillies by seven games with 17 to play, the Mets' cushion is down to 1 ½ games with 12 to play. Randolph addressed the team before Tuesday's game. The players held their own meeting. But for the second straight night, the Mets blew a four-run lead to the Nats, making it five straight losses and six in their past seven games.

Even if the Mets hold on to win the NL East title — and they certainly should, considering that the Phillies are 14th in the league in ERA — they now are one game behind the Diamondbacks in the race for the league's top overall record and home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

Pathetic.

The Mets are the most talented team in the NL. If they don't reach the World Series this season, it not only will be fair to ask if Randolph is the right manager, but also if general manager Omar Minaya assembled the right mix of players.

Randolph, presently channeling Gene Mauch, will be best judged by the end result, but his in-game strategy is becoming a daily issue.

The questions, though, go beyond management.

The Mets are more style than substance. Rather than display gritty resolve — the DNA of any championship team — they are the baseball equivalent of a pretty face.

Strong stuff, Ken...and sadly, just about right on, so sad to say. Just a pretty face...not so good-looking right now, huh?

Buster Olney (ESPN.com):

Willie Randolph's expression never changed Tuesday night, not when the Nationals cut the Mets' lead to 5-2, not when Washington began rallying again after the Mets added a couple of runs, not when John Maine hung a slider and Ronnie Belliard tomahawked it disdainfully, as if the pitch was not worthy of a big league pennant race. Randolph's stoic outward demeanor held, as the Mets went from four up over the Nats to losing, and by the time the Phillies finished rallying in St. Louis, again -- the Phillies seem to have reinvented the concept of the comeback -- the Mets' lead, once seven games, was down to 1½ games.

Even before the game, there were signs of trouble. The Mets' players had pushed for a team meeting,
under the guise of a fantasy football league meeting, as Marty Noble writes. And after they talked, they went out and had one of their worst losses of the year, with Randolph looking on, his face void of emotion. As Jack Curry writes, there is increased discussion about Randolph's dugout personality: He insists that he can be an in-your-face guy, when necessary, although his players don't see him as confrontational.

If the Mets don't make the playoffs and join the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers in New York lore for their collapse, Randolph's demeanor will be a focal point. He will be blamed, and some of those who will privately blame him will be players in his clubhouse; it is not hard to tap into that discontent when you talk to those around the team.
To be fair, Olney went on to defend Willie a bit, saying he's the same manager from last year and that players such as Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado not playing up to par are more responsible for the Mets' swoon than Randolph is. While this may be true, it still doesn't take Willie off the hook for bad game management skills.

Jon Heyman (SI.com)
A funny thing happened to the Mets and Red Sox on their way to the World Series...

They turned into each other. And right now, that's not a good thing to be.

Both teams once had a huge division lead. Now it's a puny 2 1/2 for the Red Sox, and an even shakier 1 1/2 games for the Mets.

Neither can beat the team that's chasing them. The Red Sox have dropped eight of their past 10 to the rival Yankees, including one game that was so far in the bank that it was already earning interest. The Mets have lost eight straight to the Phillies.

Both teams are missing a power bat in the lineup. The Mets' Carlos Delgado is out with strained hip flexor. Manny Ramirez is out with who knows what? Oh yeah, that's right, it's a strained left oblique (and as we all know, Manny can certainly be oblique).

Both bullpens are a mess lately. They're trouble right up until they get into the ninth inning, and then they're all right. The Red Sox's Eric Gagne, who blew another game on Tuesday night, hasn't hit his target in weeks (unless you count Mariano Rivera's pinkie). Guillermo Mota hasn't been the same since he got off the juice (hmmm, wonder why?).

Their circumstances are eerily similar, except for one thing ... the Red Sox usually can catch the ball.

Oh yeah, there's one more thing. The Red Sox can breathe much easier since there's almost no way they can blow their playoff spot, not with the Tigers seven games behind them in the wild-card chase. The Mets, meanwhile, are in a dead heat with the Padres, the NL wild-card leader. Yes, there's the real difference. The noose is a heckuva lot tighter on the Mets right now.

There's one other difference, Jon - the Sox are letting the Yankees too far back into the race! For that, I won't be able to forgive them easily.

CONTEST
One last thought - do any of our readers actually really like the job that Willie is doing with this team? Please let us know, and why, and I'll publish the best response in my next column!

Let's Go Mets!!! (PLEASE!!!!)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

great post and very insightful

praying said...

wilie ahs done nothing short of rolling the dice with the bullpen and he needs to be called out on this dibacle of a job he has been doing

Seth said...

its the fire...he is lacks the fire we need

Brian said...

i jus cant stand to look at him at this moment

Anonymous said...

willie needs to be evaluated if this team chockes the way they seem to be doing