Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Saturday, October 30, 2004
  A glimmer of hope?

So, somewhat in spite of themselves, the Mets may still have the opportunity to make a smart move in choosing their next manager. The talk of Bobby Valentine returning seems to have died down as far as I can tell, but another opportunity to hire a manger with a proven record of success could possibly present itself in the person of Jim Leyland. And based on the information at my disposal, I have to say that of the potential managers the Mets have interviewed or may soon interview, Leyland seems like the obvious choice.

I don't have anything against apparent front-runner Willie Randolph, necessarily. The main knock on him the last time around was apparently that he showed up unprepared and gave a terrible interview. Of course, the Mets also judged Art Howe to have given a terrific interview that led them to the conclusion that he could do this job, so perhaps we should take their qualitative assessments with a grain of salt. Regardless, Randolph seems to have really impressed the Mets' brass this time around.

I don't have any reason to believe that Randolph would be a bad manager, but nor do I have much evidence to suggest the opposite. The fact that he's strongly identified as a Yankee shouldn't be a disqualifying factor, but the fact that he's been around that successful franchise recently shouldn't be taken as some kind of guarantee that he knows what he's doing, either. After all, Howe was the manager of a successful team before he made it to the Mets, and it turned out he didn't know a whole hell of a lot about managing successfully. Randolph seems like a perfectly reasonable person to consider in the absence of a more obviously qualified alternative.

The same can be said of Rudy Jaramillo, about whom I know even less. He could be the next managing genius or the next Art Howe. There's really know way of knowing at this point, at least with the information I've got. Trying to draw conclusions about his managerial prowess based on the nature and success of the Rangers' offense during his time as hitting coach is probably foolish. It would take quite a lot of evidence before the results start saying more about the coach than they do about the players. I have no real reason to love or hate Jaramillo as a managerial candidate, and would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt were he hired.

But as long as the list of candidates still includes Leyland, he's got to be atop it. He's got a lengthy resume including multiple division championship, a World Series ring and success with more than one organization. From what I understand he has a reputation as a good tactical manager as well. The Mets have often been faulted, and rightly, for their infatuation with veterans in favor of more unknown quantities. But in this case, it might be best for the long-term health of the franchise if the manager not only knows how to do his job, but also has enough of a presence to be able to sway the front office from doing some of the myriad stupid things that will no doubt cross their minds. Art Howe might not have been capable of doing anything about it when the higher-ups starting contradict their own professed plan for the future and ruining the franchise, but someone like Leyland, who's more manager than hood ornament, could perhaps make a difference in this regard. Someone like Randolph or Jaramillo could perhaps be even more strong-willed and willing to offer their input on personnel decisions, but Leyland seems more likely to actually get through to Minaya and the Wilpons if he chose to question their wisdom.

Leyland might be a long shot, like Vladimir Guerrero before him, to wind up with the Mets. But one of these days, the Mets are going to have to actually get the best guy available instead of settling for what's left. Trying to spend your way to a championship doesn't work if you constantly settle for second best. I may not agree with the front office's plan for this team, but if they're going to do it, they had better do it right. The rise and fall of Art Howe may have been a lesson in how overrated the position of manager can be. The right or wrong manager clearly wasn't the different between the Oakland Athletics of 2000-2002 and the New York Mets of 2003-2004. But getting the right man for the job would still be a step in the right direction, even as nothing more than an encouraging sign that Omar Minaya might know what he's doing. Willie Randolph or Rudy Jaramillo could turn out to be a great manager and there's not necessarily a reason to panic if even of them is hired. But as long as Jim Leyland it available and interested, the Mets need to be doing whatever they can to get him. This offseason could be a turning point for the Mets or it could quickly turn into a disaster. Hopefully Minaya will at least get it started on the right foot.
Monday, October 25, 2004
  Apropos of nothing

In Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups, he makes reference to Shoeless Joe Jackson's "1920 admission that he'd given the Reds several runs with sloppy defense in left field," in the 1919 World Series. Can anyone point out to me any evidence that Jackson admitted any such thing? I ask having already performed a relatively exhaustive Google search on the subject which yielded nothing. Jackson's grand jury testimony, for instance, shows him arguing exactly the opposite point of view. If anyone happens to know what Neyer was talking about, I'd be very interested to know about it.

Rest assured that this is not any kind of preface to me writing anything in advocacy of Joe Jackson's Hall Of Fame candicacy or in the other direction either. Also rest assured that I'll write something about baseball that has happened in this century before too long. I hear the Mets might have themselves a manager soon.
Monday, October 11, 2004
  Robin Ventura retires

Two days after his Los Angeles Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs, the author of one of the great playoff moments in New York Mets history has decided to call it quits. Ventura played three seasons with the Mets and hit .301/.379/.529 in his first year, 1999, before his numbers fell back to an area more in line with his last couple of years in Chicago. But of course he'll always be fondly remembered for the grand slam that became a single that ended the fifth game of the '99 NLCS, giving the Mets some hope of staging a miraculous comeback against the Braves before it all came crashing down in most embarrassing fashion in game six. Ventura had a fine sixteen-year career, hitting .267/.362/.444 and winning six Gold Gloves at third base. He will be missed.

The Dodgers' ouster from the postseason also leaves only Roger CedeƱo, Jason Isringhausen, John Olerud and Tony Clark as former Mets with spots locked up in their respective LCS, with Paul Byrd, Mike Hampton and John Thomson battling Dan Wheeler, Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Kent for the final spot. I'm at a loss as to who to root for in that particular area. Um...go Wheeler? Funny how my pick to win it all is the one team still alive without a former Met among them. If I'm forgetting anyone, feel free to point it out and call me an idiot.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
  Time to talk about teams other than the Mets

Well, it's October, and you know what that means. Yes, it's time for ESPN to begin inundating us with non-stop stories about Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. But in between all of that, you might happen to notice that the most wonderful time of the year is upon is. That's right, playoff baseball. And while this is a Mets blog and thus I really have no business commenting on the playoffs, I figure I might as well throw out my predictions anyway.

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles

Offensively, there's no comparison. The Cardinals' league-best offense can start Mike Matheny and Tony Womack every day and still blow the Dodgers' bats out of the water. A lot has been made of the Cardinals' mediocre starting pitching, but the fact is that the team allowed fewer runs than anyone in the league. And it's not the Dodgers' staff is going to scare anyone. Odalis Perez vs. Woody Williams in game one may be a mismatch, but after that LA starts sending out the Jeff Weavers and Jose Limas of the world and things don't look so one-sided.

Cardinals in four.

Anaheim vs. Boston

With Oakland's unfortunate ouster from the postseason picture, the Red Sox are left as the only team I really have to root for, however little Boston fans might welcome the support of a Mets fan. Fortunately for me, they may also be the best team left. Boston outscored the rest of the league by fifty runs while also allowing fewer runs than all but three teams. Of course, one of those teams was the Angels, but they still don't seem to have the starting pitching to match up with Boston. Kelvim Escobar, by far their best starter this year, doesn't go until game three, at which point they may already have been dug a deep hole by Boston's twin aces. Pedro Martinez has been shaky lately and can always be something of a question mark, but if he can bounce back with a decent start, Boston shouldn't have too much trouble with this series. And even if he can't, they should have enough bats to cover his back.

Red Sox in four.

New York vs. Minnesota

Will Johan Santana be enough to shut down the mighty Yankee lineup while the Twins offense takes advantage of the most questionable starting rotation Joe Torre's put forth in years? Well, he's unlikely to start more than two games, and the Twins, like everyone else, need to win three to advance. So probably not. Brad Radke's had a pretty fine year himself and the Twins have some nice arms in the bullpen, but I still can't see them holding down the Yankee bats long enough to take this series.

Yankees in five.

Atlanta vs. Houston

The Team That Wouldn't Die vs. Roger Clemens and the Astros. Met nemeses abound and it's hard to get excited about either potential outcome. I'm still having trouble fathoming that the Braves won the division on the strength of their pitching and the three guys they're sending out to start playoff games are Jaret Wright, John Thomson and Mike Hampton. Leo Mazzone might be a miracle worker and a hall of famer, but I still like Clemens and Oswalt in these matchups.

Astros in five.

New York vs. Boston

Again. This isn't the first time it's looked to me like the Red Sox had the better team, of course. And they haven't gotten it done yet, of course. Last years circus/series may have shown that trying to predict a series between these team is a fool's errand, but I really don't think the Yankees match up well this time. Anything can happen in seven games and invariably does when these teams are involved. But the Yankee pitching is going to have to step up more than it has all season to get the job done here. This really feels like "the year" to me.

Red Sox in seven.

St. Louis vs. Houston

Houston was my pick to win this division before the year started. They've got those starting pitchers. They've got a pretty fine lineup. And they're the hottest team in baseball. But until something proves otherwise, I think the Cardinals are for real and that thirteen game gap between these teams during the regular season didn't happen by accident. The Astros did win ten out of eighteen in the regular season, but I still think Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen and friends will be too much for them in the end.

Cardinals in six.

Boston vs. St. Louis

I actually had to look up who won this year's All-Star Game to remember who has homefield advantage here. Turns out it was the American League. So, thanks in part to the efforts of the game's MVP Alfonso Soriano, Fenway hosts as many as four of these games. This deep into the postseason I'm doing as much guessing as anything, with a little hoping mixed in as well, probably. But in the battle of two high-powered offenses, I give the edge to the team with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez on the mound for four games.

Boston in seven, because you know it won't come easy.
Disseminating descriptions and accounts of New York Mets games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball or the New York Mets since 2003.

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