Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What Have You Learned? Jerry Manuel

What Have You Learned is our very special off-season series that will outline what you've learned, what I've learned, and hopefully what the 2009 Mets have learned about themselves, others, and 2010. Today, we put on our gangsta colored glasses and take a look at our manager, Snoop Manuel.
"You play to win the game" -Herman Edwards
"Oh crap, we're 25 games out, maybe I should manage to win." -Snoop Manuel, in not so many words
It surprises me when I go back and look at the game logs of guys like Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy, and see that Church really didn't have as many games off in the early part of the season as it seemed, and that Murphy, who seemed to have a spot on the bench way too often in favor of Fernando Tatis, led the 2009 Mets in games played with 155 (a feat that should be worthy of some special award akin to a purple heart ... maybe a Golden Needle or something.)

Somehow, Jerry Manuel did it with smoke and mirrors ... that's it. But not the same smoke and mirrors that the Cardinals surely thought Davey Johnson used to win in '86. No, Snoop had to go to his smoke and mirrors after everyone got hurt, and had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

It's the only way I could explain it. The stats say otherwise, but what my eyes saw and what my ears heard told me that Snoop Manuel isn't the man for this job. You probably could have figured it out from the angry tone I had been taking near the end of the season, but I've been convinced that Manuel isn't the man to lead this team to the next decade. And it has nothing to do with the impatience that us New York fans are accused of.

Any manager that treats spring training like the end of the world (the 80-pitch drill), April-August like spring training (too worried about getting guys like Gary Sheffield at-bats when the full complement was healthy, pitching guys out of the pen for seven days straight and then letting them rot for weeks), and treats a meaningless September like the World Series (for example, putting Frankie in a game down by a run in the ninth, then bringing him back for a save the next night which he promptly blew in nuclear fashion) is not the gangsta for this job. And I'm done with the injury excuse. Too many games were being lost in ways where the injuries were a non-factor.

While I'm worried about throwing away 2010 before 2009 is over, our friends at Mets Today point out that it was the same deal last year, meaning that while we didn't know it, 2009 was thrown away before 2008 was over.
"He (Manuel) emphasized the need for his players to practice the skills that produce victories not necessarily those that 'help you statistically'". -10/4/2008
How'd that work out for you there, Snoop? Did the team fall short of those expectations? Or could it have been a failure of epic proportions? Probably closer to the latter, don't ya think? Obviously, Snoop has learned absolutely nothing.

If it was just the ineptitude, I'd be more willing to lean on the injuries as a crutch. But when you have a manager that never seemed to be on the same page with his players (Snoop: "Oh, Jose had a good run today." ... Jose: "I ran? When?"), and threw them under the bus (or the tractor) at every opportunity, when does it get old? It got old with Willie Randolph ... and upon further review, how much of the rift between Randolph and his roster was caused by Tony Bernazard sneaking around the clubhouse undercutting him at every turn? When does this get old? The next time he blames Oliver Perez's 58 walks in 19 innings on bad defense? Or maybe when he blames David Wright's next slump on not getting enough sleep?

Let me segue from that to a cautionary tale, if I may: If Manuel actually came out and said that David Wright wasn't getting enough sleep, and Wright said that was ridiculous, might I say you'd rip Manuel a new one? Might I say ... rightly so? But this actually happened before. Which manager was the culprit of this?

The same manager everyone seems to want back to right this ship: Bobby Valentine.

Listen, I love Bobby V. Loved him ever since he told me he liked my banner on Banner Day 1984, when he was just nodding at everyone else (dammit, if he was one of the judges, I would have won for sure). But know that with Bobby Valentine comes these kind of motivational tactics that wouldn't fly with star players ... it didn't fly back when it was Todd Hundley, and it certainly wouldn't fly now. For Bobby Valentine to come here and make it work, it might take breaking up some core, and that will frighten some of you ... because Valentine is someone who is at his best when he's doing more with less. You can't have it both ways. Valentine would be a great option to have back here, but let's not forget his flaws too.

Someone else who does more with less is Tony La Russa. That's right, The Genius. And it seems that the genius might be available soon along with the pitching coach that turned Joel Pineiro and Kyle Lohse into valuable members of society let alone halfway decent pitchers. Now ... put yourself in the owners' shoes. You've basically ensured that Snoop is coming back next season, but Tony La Russa might be available. Now what? Do you let him go to the Reds and work for Walt Jocketty because you've made a commitment to Snoop? Or do you make yourselves look like the ones who went back on a promise to bring in La Russa? After all, it's not like playing the fool is a new role.

So barring a change of heart by ownership (good luck), what must Snoop learn in 2010? Learn that games in September are only important to win when you have a chance to win. That you only break the glass that contains Fernando Tatis only in case of emergency. And that spring training is in March, not May. And that bad defense doesn't cause Oliver Perez to walk home an entire ballpark. It's the other way around.

And keep your head on a swivel. You never know who's gaining on you.


Unknown said...

He needs to get over his stupid defensiveness about "statistical numbers" long enough to understand that bunting every goddamn inning is really hurting our chances (in the statistical number sense) of getting runs across.

mikeyrad said...

My problem with Manuel lies in the Mets repeated poor execution of fundamentals. Either Jerry didn't care enough to do anything about it, the team simply stopped listening to him, or a combination of the above.

Ceetar said...

The guy is a flat out disaster. Valentine, and all managers have issues, but they all look like God compared to what we have.

Don't fall into the games played trap with Murphy. Manuel often used him as a pinch hitter (And way too often against a lefty when that was why he sat him in the first place. Meanwhile, Tatis made _every_ start against Left-handed pitching. EVERY SINGLE ONE) Murphy got 3.27 AB per game, compared to Francoeur's, who was actually an everyday player, 3.77.

I'm of the belief that this use of Murphy is why he struggled, and why we're not sure on him for next year. He's a guy that pushes himself too hard, and when you only give him one AB, or he knows he could sit at any moment for Tatis, he presses even harder. This is where Manuel fails as a leader. Nevermind having Murphy take infield practice at first base while he's still trying to learn left field.

Or this: Wise or not, the Mets went into 2009 committed to Murphy being a regular part of the team. Then Manuel started platooning Murphy in LF with Sheffield and Tatis and whoever, when what he needed was repetition to learn. Then he decided to put him at 1B. At this time, Delgado was supposedly coming back in mid-august. Whether or not that was realistic or not, Manuel was approaching the Murphy situation in a way that would've had him learning LF in September if Delgado came back. (More likely he was hoping Sheffield and Tatis would play LF and Murphy would sit) Why? Sure, Murphy looked like a disaster at times in early May, but what would've happened if Murphy was hitting .320 with 22 HR come September first, and Delgado showed up and started hitting?

MetsLv31 said...

"...and that Murphy, who seemed to have a spot on the bench way too often in favor of Fernando Tatis, led the 2009 Mets in games played with 155..."

This is more of Manuel's smoke and mirrors. Murphy started in 124 games and spend some time in the field in 128. So ~30 of those 155 games he played in were merely pinch hitting appearences. The stats also can't show that when he was putting a streak together and getting hot he'd sit for a couple games. Fire Jerry.

Ceetar said...

I wish I could find a link, but I distinctly recall Manuel saying that Murphy was the type of player that does best when playing everyday, while he was platooning him.

Another thing. Because it was a platoon, Murphy didn't get a lot of AB against Lefties, despite having good splits in his limited AB prior to that. After he spend those 4-6 weeks platooning and not seeing left-handed pitching, was it really any surprise that he started struggling against it?

I believe Manuel made a similar playing time mistake with Castillo in 2008 as he returned from his injury.

Hazeleyes said...

We are stuck with him. Because the brainfreeze, I mean, braintrust, of this organization feel like they can't go back on their commitment to him. But if LaRussa becomes available they would be crazy not to pursue him.

Manuel has no clue about this team. Personally I think his success in Chicago was a fluke. He is full of baloney and it shows every time he opens his mouth. The players can't believe him, I know we the fans don't.

BK said...

i love your blog!