Sunday, June 05, 2005

Look Who's Not No. 1!

With a sweep of the doubleheader today, the Mets would have been in a tie with the Washington Nationals for first place. Instead, they will try to avoid fourth place as the Giants held on to defeat the Mets 6-3 in game 1 of the DH.

You can lay blame in many places. You can blame Kaz Ishii, who's walks have been down (only two today), but when he's not on, you get games like today. There were ten hits in 6 and 1/3 innings, and most of his outs were hit hard as well. He still should have gotten out of the sixth inning with the game tied at 1-1, but...

You could also blame Carlos Beltran, who heard the boos again during the first game. Ray Durham hit a fly ball to what Mike Cameron has called the most difficult center field in the game...Shea Stadium. The wind and sun wrecked havoc with the ball, and Beltran looked like the town drunk trying to field it. In fairness, the Mets don't play a lot of 4PM afternoon games, and I think the sun had more to do with it than you think. (Beltran returned to normal in the first inning of the second game, robbing Michael Tucker of a dinger while on the dead run.) Earlier in the inning, Jose Reyes looked awkward fielding a line drive which quickly went from the shadows to the sun.

You could blame Kaz Matsui, certainly. Kaz came up as a pinch hitter (which should have been David Wright's spot, who was removed in a double switch, but more on that later) in the 8th with the bases loaded, and after working the count from 0-2 to 3-2, struck out on a weak swing at a pitch which should have been ball 4 by Scott Eyre. What made the K worse was Doug Mientkiewicz doubling off Eyre to lead off the ninth. Assuming Eyre's pitch sequence would have been the same in the 8th with the bases loaded as it was with Mientkiewicz leading off the ninth, the double would have brought the Mets to within 6-5, and they probably win the game.

But I blame Willie Randolph. Now I don't get on Randolph at all (nor should I because he doesn't deserve it, and I haven't really addressed the fact that Piazza continues to bat in an important roster spot even though he's been reduced to a seeing-eye singles hitter, while David Wright continues to languish at 7th in the order. But today, Randolph's loyalty to Piazza killed them. And every Mets blogger who says that Piazza should be dropped in the order for David Wright is absolutely correct.

I realize that double switches are dictated by the game situation, and that there will be days that David Wright will be pulled from a game for a double switch no matter where he bats. But if Wright was batting 5th today, as he should bat every game, then he would have been up in the ninth as the tying run, and there would have been some hope. As it was, Piazza ended the game in the ninth with a broken bat tapper to third. It's time for Willie Randolph to realize that in general, Mike Piazza doesn't scare anybody anymore, and he should not be batting 5th.

Consider this: Gary Carter came off a fairly productive season in 1986, but the next season he struggled. And at 33 years old in 1987, he spent over half his at bats in the 6th hole rather than his customary cleanup spot. There was no loyalty for past achievements and a hall of fame career...he was dropped in the order for the good of the team. There should be no such loyalty for Piazza either, who is making it painfully obvious with each at bat that he is a shell of his former self at 36, three years older than when Carter started his decline. Each time Mike Piazza bats fifth is an admission that the inmates still run a piece of the asylum, and also telling that there is a fear of losing Piazza's little remaining love for the game (if what Buster Olney says is indeed true).

As I write this, with Mike Piazza sitting out game two of the doubleheader, David Wright has just given the Mets a 2-0 lead...batting 5th.

Something to think about.

No comments: