It is amazing how a guy who was once welcomed to New York with a headline of "Clueless Joe" on the back pages is now going to be a Hall of Fame manager. Of course, an argument could still be made that he is in fact clueless, but for the most part, he is held in very high regard.
The Mets hired Willie Randolph to manage their team last season and a large part was due to the fact that he was involved with the Yankee organization and was the bench coach for Joe Torre. Despite the fact that the first Torre disciple Lee Mazzilli was widely considered to be overmatched as a manager, the Mets rolled the dice with Willie who had even less experience on the bench.
He proved to be a poor strategist and made a lot of mistakes, but they were chalked up to rookie mistakes. I'm of the mind that you hire guys for your managerial spot who actually have managed, but the Mets liked Willie and still do. This year, Willie has not been nearly as bad. However, the team has been vastly improved and with the starting lineup etched in stone and the best bullpen in the National League, it's been hard for Willie to make errors.
Despite a seemingly mistake proof team, Willie has still failed to adjust to the National League style of play. Last year he mishandled the bullpen, the bench, and strategic moves. He would have made a fine American manager where the bench and small ball are not quite as important, but so far this year, he has not learned the nuances of the sacrifice bunt, the hit-and-run, and the use of his bench has just been egregious.
No matter the situation, Jose Valentin is the first guy off the bench. These last few games withstanding, Valentin had been horrible. He has struck out 36% of the time when he has come up to pinch hit and that is not exactly a good trait for a pinch hitter. I understand that Chavez and Woodward are being kept around since they are ideally to be used for double switches, but I'm not one for keeping your guns in the holster if you have a good chance to go for the win at the moment. It is unthinkable that Chris Woodward has three pinch hits in nearly forty games. You can like Valentin, but why not get everyone work? If Woodward does not start, he does not play.
As for the bullpen, despite it being extremely hard to mess up when everyone is pitching well, you can still find complaints. Misery Loves Company's Whitney had something to say about it the other day.
His use of Wagner only in pure closer situations has garnered some abuse, but first keeping Sanchez – a guy who thrives on work – on the pine for four or five nights, then failing to note his hideous struggle and give him a quick mercy-yank (Rob received more than one of in college) just looked inept. Everyone in the park knew Duaner wasn’t even close to his normal lights-out well before he got lit up.
Willie has without a doubt been better this year thanks to Omar. It is not an easy job to keep your bullpen fresh while getting everyone regular work on the mound, trying to manufacture runs, and maximizing the potential of guys who are not good enough to start in the bigs, but that is what separates good managers from bad ones and good ones from great ones. This year’s divisional and playoff race is not going to be a runaway affair for Mets and every game counts. While I understand managers make mistakes, good managers are able to keep them to a minimum. Yes, he has been better, but still has ways to go before he proves to be a good National League manager.
"I didn't hit anything square tonight," Floyd said. "It's frustrating, not just because I didn't get any hits, but because we had the chance to win the game."
Willie took a gamble and played for the tie on the road, which is against the book, by bunting Reyes over to third with no outs. It may have not been what everyone does, but I do get the move. With Mulder just rolling over the Mets and in his last inning, Randolph was trying to make it a battle of the bullpens and the Mets would have had the clear advantage. It did not quite work out the way he planned with a sac fly, but the Mets had two shots with the bases loaded to take the lead. With David Wright up at the plate, I felt like there was a chance. After he struck out, I felt like there was no chance.
"I'm not going to platoon Cliff," Randolph barked. "If he struck out four times [Tuesday] that would be different."
I wrote the other day that Floyd should sit against all lefties, and he should. In a game like last night where one run was so huge, you cannot afford to have a black hole in the lineup. Floyd should also be dropped in the order in favor of Nady and he should at least be dropped if he is starting against a lefty. Nady has left a lot to be desired with runners in scoring position, but I would rather roll the dice with him. He at least does not look lost.
"I don't want to have pressure. My other two starts it was one pitch here, one pitch there, and a couple of tough calls. I just want to stay away from the umpires. Just let them call whatever they want, because I'm not going to win that battle."