I’m not a “fire the manager” kind of guy. The manager is generally blameless when a team stops hitting or pitching. But sometimes a manager just has to go. The uninspiring Art Howe earned his dismissal. Willie Randolph should have been fired following the 2007 season — someone had to pay for the epic late-season collapse, and because no one did, the hangover lasted into 2008 until he was finally fired midway through the season. And now it should be Jerry Manuel’s turn to be shown the door.
Sure, Manuel is a nice guy and he gives great quotes and the players seem to like him. And no one is blaming him for the ineptitude of the Mets offense on that dismal 2-9 West coast swing. He’s just not a good manager, and the lack of hitting just magnifies that.
Manuel often makes decisions that can only be described as baffling. For example, on Saturday, in the 12th with the game on the line and runners on second and third with one out, Manuel brings in… Oliver Perez? Yes, that Oliver Perez. Oh, and Frankie Rodriguez was sitting in the bullpen waiting for the call. If there was a situation where a game needed saving, this was it. Rodriguez has had his problems lately, but whom would you rather have on the mound in that situation?
Manuel wanted Perez. With human walk-off Andre Ethier next up, it made sense to walk him and load the bases. However, Manuel decided to pitch to Ethier. Fortunately he fouled out, but still, I thought it was a mistake to pitch to him. Rafael Furcal was then intentionally walked (again, I would have rather pitched to him than Ethier), and Jamey Carroll grounded out to get Perez miraculously out of the inning.
Okay, so Perez somehow got the job done, so does Manuel just shake his hand and rest on that laurel? No, he brings him out for the next inning (did I mention K-Rod was sitting in the bullpen?), and Perez promptly, and predictably gave up a game winning home run to James Loney.
Maybe Manuel was thinking he had another 20-inning game on his hands, and with the bullpen empty (except for his closer) he wanted to leave Perez in there to pitch several innings and avoid using a starter. Perhaps Manuel shouldn’t have used three pitchers in the eighth, but that’s besides the point. Anyway, he should have known Perez is damaged goods, that he cannot depend on him for anything. Perez got him out of one jam — Manuel should have been happy with that. Instead, Manuel (and Perez) cost the Mets the game.
That was just the most recent example of Manuel’s strategic shortcomings. He also insists on sacrifice bunting whenever the occasion arises. Now, admittedly I am a fierce opponent of sacrificing in most situations, so I am critical of that strategy in general. But Manuel consistently calls for bunts early in games when they are definitely not necessary. And I can’t for the life of me understand why he continues to bunt with a runner on second base and no outs. I see what he’s going for — move a runner to third so he can score on an out. But all that does is take your team out of a potentially big inning.
A manager can only have so much effect on what happens on the field. The rare good strategist, like a Bobby Valentine or a Tony LaRussa, can actually win games with their moves. But a bad strategist, like Manuel in my opinion, can actually cost his team games. And that’s just what Manuel is doing. It’s time for him to go. As far as a replacement, some guy named Valentine is available…