Jerry Manuel is the worst manager in Major League Baseball.
Technically speaking, that statement is an opinion. Trust me, however, that by the end of this article you will accept it as fact.
Here's the scenario: the Mets are tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 11th inning against the upstart San Diego Padres. Manuel has already used LHP Johan Santana, LHP Pedro Feliciano, RHP Elmer Dessens, and RHP Francisco Rodriguez.
The following hurlers are remaining in Manuel's bullpen: RHP Jenrry Mejia, RHP Fernando Nieve, RHP Ryota Igarashi, and LHP Raul Valdes. Three of the four appeared in game one of the Mets' series against the Padres, a game in which the Mets surrendered 18 runs.
In that blowout, Igarashi and Valdes combined for 0.1 innings of work, 5 walks, and 10 earned runs.
Yup...ten earned runs and only one out.
Valdes' line for that game: 0.0 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 3 BB. That's right, he didn't record a single out. The 32-year old journeyman lefty is a soft-tosser with a fastball that averages around 85 MPH.
This is his first year in the big leagues, despite four seasons of minor league ball and an impressive 4.87 career ERA.
What a joke.
Back to the game at hand, left-handed hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. is due up for the Padres. Valdes was warming during the 10th inning, and not surprisingly, Manuel called upon him to begin the 11th.
This was the "by the book" decision, which is the only type of decision Manuel knows how to make. He doesn't care that Valdes couldn't find the plate in the first game against the Padres, or that his fastball is high school level, or that his curveball hangs like a ripped jersey in a locker.
All he knows is that it's lefty on lefty. Doesn't care who the batter or the pitcher is; it's just lefty on lefty.
This is the same manager who batted 1B Mike Jacobs cleanup on opening day (.253 lifetime hitter, 132 Ks in 2009) because he had to stagger the lineup lefty-righty-lefty-righty all the way through. He batted his biggest free agent, LF Jason Bay (36 HR, 119 RBI in '09), behind a scrapheap player simply because that player was a left-handed hitter.
(Jacobs, as you may know, was demoted not too far into the regular season because, well, he can't hit a lick.)
Back to the game, I would have gone with Mejia or Nieve. Both are right-handed pitchers, but both have excellent stuff. Both have the ability to overpower a weak hitter like Gwynn Jr. (.184 BA), and both are Major League pitchers, as opposed to Valdes who would probably be decent in a metal bat, middle school division -- anywhere else, he's a reject.
I'll be fair though, and I'll grant Manuel the by-the-book move. Fine, he wants to bring in the lefty to face the lefty; it's not the end of the world.
Of course, Gwynn promptly doubled down the left field line on a hanging, little league curveball. Needless to say, I wasn't surprised.
With SP Jon Garland up there to bunt as a pinch hitter, Manuel left Valdes in to attempt the Wheel Play with no outs. The attempt was successful when Valdes fielded the bunt and set up a tag play for David Wright at third.
It was one out with a runner on first, and a dreadful situation had improved. I was a bit relieved because I knew Jerry Hairston Jr. and David Eckstein were coming up...two right-handed hitters. Valdes' day was done, and thankfully so.
But wait, Manuel didn't have Nieve or Mejia warming up to start the inning. Only Valdes warmed while the Mets batted in the bottom of the 10th. With a lefty, a pinch hitter, and two righties due up, Manuel didn't warm a single right-handed pitcher.
Mejia, Nieve, Igarashi -- all righties.
All I can say is, QUESTION MARK. Yes, in all capitals.
As Mejia attempts to warm up quickly, Manuel doesn't call timeout to stall. He doesn't tell catcher Henry Blanco to go out there and talk to Valdes. He doesn't seem to remember that Mejia is warming up and two righties are coming up back to back.
As Mejia continues to warm, Valdes stays in to face Hairston.
Hairston rips a single to left field. It's first and second with one out.
Hairston saw a few pitches against Valdes, which gave Mejia a little extra time to get loose. With Eckstein hustling to the plate, I waited for Blanco to visit Valdes on the hill. I knew Blanco would go out to chat, and then Manuel would bring in Mejia to face the pesky Eckstein.
I knew that would happen, but of course it didn't.
Manuel decided to leave Valdes in to face Eckstein.
Valdes, sweating through his uniform and sporting the facial expression of an 11-year old girl at Nightmare on Elm Street , proceeded to drill Eckstein with a pitch.
Bases loaded. At that point, I could see why Manuel wanted to leave Valdes in the game. It all became very clear to me...
He wanted his own team to lose. That's the obvious explanation because there's no other possible, logical reasoning. Either Jerry Manuel is the biggest idiot in the universe or he wanted the Mets to lose.
Now, finally, with the Padres' best hitter due up (Adrian Gonzalez), I figured he'd bring in Mejia because he's a groundball pitcher. Mejia features a blazing 95-to-97 MPH cutter that he uses to break bats and control opposing hitters. He was the perfect man for the do-or-die situation.
Alas, Manuel sticks with Valdes.
I mean, why not? The guy had already proven his value by surrendering four earned runs without recording an out earlier in the week, and he pitched so well, allowing a double to Gwynn, single to Hairston, and HBP to Eckstein.
He had to stick with Valdes, right?
It was the only decision he could make that would guarantee a Mets loss. He had to do it.
Of course, in not-so-dramatic fashion, Gonzalez crushed a walk-off grand slam off Valdes.
Manuel stuck with Valdes not once...not twice...not thrice...but FOUR times, before he finally blew the game for the Mets.
Final score: Padres 5, Mets 1.
This is life as a Mets fan. If you hate Jerry Manuel, join my Facebook group .
(John Frascella is the author of Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land, the first and only book centered on Boston's GM Theo Epstein. Check it out on Amazon or follow John's Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)
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