With One Month in the Books, Is Manuel the Right Man for the Job?

April 30, 2009

Mets manager Jerry Manuel was politely asked by a popular New York beat writer during a recent post-game press conference whether he thought the reporter’s minor criticisms of Daniel Murphy were perhaps, “piling it on.” The reporter was none other than Marty Noble and without delay, Manuel quickly responded with, “Yeah, Marty, I think you’re piling it on. I think you’re piling it on, a bit.”

For most of us, when the five o’clock bell rings it’s time to log-off our computers at work and head home. However, for a select few, thirty to be exact, when the final strike is called it just means there’s more work to be done. It’s no secret that New York demands more from its employees and this especially holds true for its sports figures as well. Sure, we’ve all had to endure a constructive conversation with our superior every now and then. Heck, some corporations make it mandatory. With that, let me ask you this: how would you feel if after completing each day’s work, you had to explain or even, in some cases, defend your decisions? For Manuel, this type of evaluation is par for the course. But lately, it seems that it very well may be taking its toll on the Mets skipper. You could even make the summation that Manuel might actually be looking forward to this next road trip so as to limit his participation in these customary post-game interventions.

After a tough 7-4 loss on Tuesday night in which the Mets bullpen was accused of wear and tear, reliever Sean Green allowed the Marlins to tie up the score and eventually take the lead for good. However, if Manuel would had just yanked the overworked Green and handed the ball over to the lefty, Pedro Feliciano, the Mets might have averted disaster. He was more than ready to pitch to the Marlins left-handed hitting catcher, John Baker, who Green walked to set up Jorge Cantu’s three-run bomb. Manuel’s defense: he felt the offense rolled over and played dead after Florida took the lead in the seventh. No mention of the fact that he kept Green in too long even after it was obvious that his arm had seen enough.

An even more recent case in point took place at the very last play of yesterday’s 4-3 Mets loss. In the bottom half of the ninth inning, the Mets had bases loaded with their catcher, Ramon Castro, due up. Castro had already produced two hits in the game. What does Manuel decide to do? He has Omir Santos, who was still warming up a pitcher in the Mets bullpen, hurry into the dugout to pinch hit for Castro. Result: three Mets stranded on-base and a second consecutive disappointing defeat to the first-place Marlins. Jerry’s defense: “I felt Santos had a shorter stroke which would prove beneficial against the hard-throwing Matt Lindstrom.”

Maybe Manuel and the Mets are due for a vacation, a very long and anxiety-free escapade where they can recite common clichés until the cows come home. But for the educated and long-standing Mets fan, not even their smooth-talking manager can pull the wool over our eyes.

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