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Heading To Tonight's Game

Mike SteffanosThursday, August 23, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

I will be leaving in a short while to make the trip into NYC, watching tonight's game live and in person with Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing. I'll have to keep my recap on last night's game brief.

Padres 7 - Mets 5
Played Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I understand that the Mets feel they can receive dependable, if unspectacular, starts from the veteran Brian Lawrence in that fifth starter's role. In fairness, he didn't receive the best defensive support last night. Still, after starting out with respectable starts against the Brewers and Marlins, he has allowed 4 earned runs in 5 innings to both the Pirates and Padres -- two teams that are hardly elite offenses. He's also issued 4 walks in both of those starts. He's made a career of giving up a lot of hits but being stingy with bases on balls, but he has issued 11 walks in his last 16 innings of work.

I know that, barring some physical problem, Pedro will replace Lawrence fairly soon. Still, I can't help but wonder if I wouldn't rather see Pelfrey or perhaps Phil Humber get a start or two and a little experience for the future. Lawrence's numbers are not appreciably better than Pelfrey's (Lawrence: 5.57 ERA, 1.81 WHIP -- Pelfrey 5.92 ERA, 1.66 WHIP). Pelfrey's numbers in July (18.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) are much better than Lawrence's. Again, I know we're probably only talking about a couple of starts.

Brian Lawrence (1-1)
Season (4 Games)21131327141125.571.811-3

The Mets are going to have to make a decision on Guillermo Mota soon. There was a point when he looked like he might be turning it around. He can still look really dominant at times, as he did through 7 outs last night. As soon as he gets a runner on base, however, he seems to lose all his confidence in his stuff and overthrow. You just can't trust him, and I don't see how that would change.

I'm more sanguine about the bullpen than most. I think that if they get hot at the right time they are good enough to get the club through the playoffs. The Cardinals bullpen was abysmal last year, but look what they did in October. There are issues that need to be addressed, however, and Mota's ineffectiveness and the reluctance to pitch Sele in all but lost causes are two of them.

As much as last night sucked, it was nice to see the Mets fight back again. Even in defeat, they are looking better than they did in most of June and July.

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (8)

Mike - Must have been fun to be there, big "L" notwithstanding.

I'm only slightly perturbed by the fact the Pods took the season series 4-2. You don't want to give any potential playoff opponent the idea that they have your number.

That said, these Mets are finally giving me the sense that they're not destined to lose the game just because they're currently losing the game. There's no such thing as a good loss in late August, but this wan't a particularly bad one in the grand scheme of things.

Man, I'm getting soft in my old age.

Nostra - I agree to a point. It would be nice if they start winning series at home, though.

the strange thing about the Mets of late is that it's not the middle relief that's killing them- it's Wagner.

Two blown saves that have killed Mets winning streaks and potential wins at Shea. And he's been hittable this month, too. Either he's just getting unlucky or he's tired. Hopefully he'll get things worked out for the stretch run.

Mota really needs to be handled already. Willie has a tendency to wait until the ABSOLUTELY last moment to make any sort of meaningful personell changes, and usually is forced to by Omar. The good news is that Schoeneweis looks to be alot better than in the past, and Feliciano, Sosa, and Heilman are good. Once Wags gets back into form (and he will), the Mets should consider thrownig Mota away and bringing back Joe Smith or Willie Collazo.

The good news for the postseason (if the Mets make it) is that the addition of Pedro will mean that they'll have a glut of pitchers to work with for the 'pen. Expect Sele to be left off the postseason roster, and either El Duque or Pedro become the long-arm in the 'pen.

Jason - I'm curious when you say something like this: Willie has a tendency to wait until the ABSOLUTELY last moment to make any sort of meaningful personnel changes, and usually is forced to by Omar.

Do you have inside information on this, or are you frustrated with Willie's management style and just assume that this stuff happens?

For what it's worth, I think decisions like the one on Mota are collaborative between Willie, Omar, Rick Peterson and probably others in the front office. On one hand, you assume that Willie has the power to assert his will in these matters for a certain amount of time, yet eventually is "forced" to make a change. I don't believe that's how it works.

Willie is what he is as a manager. He believes in supporting his players, which is something I always appreciated when I played sports. On the other hand, I agree to a point that he can do that to a fault, but managers (and GMs) by definition see things more big picture than fans.

The problem with Mota is that the depth they tried to build for the bullpen coming into the year has not panned out due to injury, ineffectiveness and some bad personnel decisions. I think they (and I believe that includes Omar) still harbor some hope that Mota can at least be a decent sixth inning option. I think, if that's the case, they should put Mota in Aaron Sele's mop-up/long man role and replace Sele with Joe Smith or Adkins. With all of the other bullpen problems, and the recent history of 5 and 6 inning outings by the starters, I just don't see how they could afford to have Sele tie up a spot on the club when they obviously have no faith to ever pitch him in close games.

As to the idea that Willie is being too long-suffering with Mota, I agree that it's mostly a lack of options at this point. Though I still would like to see Pelfrey tried in that role.

I've been reading a great bio of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet recently. This conversation reminds me of an exchange Lincoln had with some senator, who demanded that Lincon replace McClellan (the Civil War, you know). It went like so:

L: -and replace him with who?

Senator: With anybody!

L: That is my problem. I can't replace him with anybody. I have to replace him with somebody.

dd - You're talking to a guy who spent a vacation last year at Antietam and Gettysburg. I know the quote you're talking about. It's amazing how many fans want to see Heilman traded now, without any thought of who's going to take his place.

Mike, I mean that to be lineup changes, who does/doesn't come out of the bullpen, who comes in as defensive replacements, who are the regular everyday position players, who gets demoted, who gets called up, etc.

Only on the last two does Omar potentially make a greater impact than Willie.

Let's put it this way:
1. Starts season by leaving a hot hitting Milledge on the bench, thereby cooling him off and wasting a bench spot. Willie should have started him or kept him in the minors rather than waste him.

2. It took Willie (and possibly Omar) far too long to realize that Franco was a step slower than he was last year. His fielding was poor, his hitting was worse, and they kept using him. He should have been gone far earlier than he was, and when they DID let him go, the team started to hit better and rebound from their injury laden doldrums. That I could blame Willie and Omar for, equally at least.

3. Hi, my name is Joe Smith. I know Willie didn't have many pen options available to him early on (especially with Schoeneweis sucking), but it was obvious then and even more now that he was overusing Smith, a rookie that was just out of college. Granted Smith has filthy stuff but I'd love to see him be around long term and not get blown out after 3 years of work.

4. The Valentin/Easley/Gotay boondoggle at second. The Stache is easily the best fielder of the three (when healthy) but he's been on the DL mostly. That being said, Willie stuck with Easley far too long out there, and probably cost the Mets a few games with his limited range and weak everyday bat. He's a bench player for a reason. The Mets should have gone to task with Gotay FAR earlier. Thankfully Omar traded for Castillo, who's clearly the best 2B that the Mets have had in the past 3 years (sorry stache).

5. The overuse of Mota and the underuse of Sele. I was hoping that Mota would be good, and for a while he did have something there, but right now he's just toast and his confidence is shot. And yet Willie keeps putting him out there when it should be either Sele or Schoene in the game. That's cost the Mets a few games (as well as Glavine's first shot at #300 and his first shot at #301, and almost cost him his acutal #300 game). If anything, Mota's the reason why the Mets pen is struggling of late- and it's because Willie overuses him. On a side note, Schoene looks great all of a sudden. I'm well aware of the potential that it's a mirage but his stance on the mound changed and he physically looks in better shape- and I think his teammates know it. Omar comes into play only when the Mets could have traded (thankfully not bet the farm for Cordero) for a reliever, or bring up Collazo, Adkins, Schmoll, or Smith.

6. The overuse of Shawn Green in the OF, and the waffling for weeks on using Milledge. I don't really have a problem with Green's fielding (no arm though), but his bat is weak, and has been since the first two weeks of the season. Plus, Willie kept Green out there while Milledge was hot, and even went so far as to put other guys in the OF other than Milledge.

7. The weird lineup shuffles, especially moving Lo Duca out of the #2 hole. I know why he did it, to lengthen the lineup, but that didn't work because all Lo Duca does in the lower order is hit ground balls into double plays. Lo Duca's resume really has little that says that he's an RBI guy who can hit for power (he did it once in a fluke season) and the only benefit you get from him in the lower order is that he'll work pitcher's counts and frustrate them.

8. Willie also took too long to start reprimanding the team for their offensive sluggishness earlier in the season. He's like Joe Torre without the Yankees bloated payroll. Torre can afford to sit back and wait for things to iron themselves out, Willie can't. He turned things around by benching Reyes twice in one week for dogging it (admittedly on brainfart moments), and sending the team a message. Yet he should have done it earlier, and he still needs to get the Mets to wake up at Shea, where they've been mediocre all year long. There's a part of me that wants to punch the Devil Rays for having a giant hissy fit (like they always do for trades) over Lou Pinella. Offensive doldrum with Lou as manager? Watch him eat you alive. Need someone to bitch out umpires for lazy calling? Watch Lou go to task for his players and get thrown out. Need someone to tell his veterans they suck? Watch Lou be Lou. Sigh.

None of this is to say that Willie's a bad manager. He's still learning, and he does alot of good things (btw, I think that getting Marlon Anderson was a joint Willie/Omar move that was brilliant) to go along with the bad. He's had to juggle the lineup alot with injuries and greater hot/cold streaks out of Delgado than John Starks' 3-point shooting ever was. He's had to work with a bullpen that's not as good as last year's. He's also had to hold Maine, Sosa, and Perez' hands while pitching. He's doing a great job overseeing the maturation of Reyes and Wright, as well as the continued dominance of Beltran (boy those fans upset about his contract in 2005 are sorry now). He has the potential to become a great manager, if he keeps at it. But right now he's still learning, and that's part of the problem.

Jason - I don't think there ever was a manager I totally agreed with, and I agree with some of what you say. My take is that I live with a manager's strengths and weaknesses as long as I think he is doing a pretty good job. We've all been extremely frustrated with this team at times this year, and I think Willie has been, too. It's been an interesting season.

By the way, you should think about doing a blog. I would read you, even though we don't agree on everything.

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