When Will Jerry Manuel (and Most Other Managers) Ever Learn?

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IMay 12, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 11:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets pitches against the Atlanta Braves on May 11, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It has been said that the definition of stupid is doing the same wrong thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome.

As cruel as it might sound, I believe the industry of baseball is stuck in this proverb. Continuing to use the same failed pitching mistakes continues to only lead a team into more and more losses. 

I believe New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel is a stupid person.

He obviously does not read my Bleacher Report articles.

Why else then to explain why he continues to pull the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, out early in games? Can you honestly believe that was the correct move Monday night against the Atlanta Braves? Does Manuel himself honestly believe pulling Santana IN THE 7TH INNING of a game against one of your rivals was the correct move?

Be serious. When Manuel walked to the mound, one of the ESPN announcers asked if Manuel was going for the hook or going just to talk to Santana, when the other one said, "he's going for the hook. Manuel doesn't want Escobar (Braves SS) with his two hits already to face Santana again." Plus, I was reminded, Santana was already at 108 pitches.

The announcer was correct in his assumption, but both he and Manuel were dead wrong with the move.

Even if it was Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby or Albert Pujols coming up, I WANT MY BEST PITCHER TO FACE THEM in that situation, no matter how many pitches he has thrown.

That dreaded pitch count hook is at it again. And it was the 7th inning, you know...the inning most managers feel their effective starting pitcher must be removed from the game.

Just yesterday on Mother's Day, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he pulled his starting pitcher, Nick Blackburn, after seven innings and 99 pitches. All Blackburn's had done to that point was allow ZERO runs on five hits, with one walk and six strikeouts.

In layman's terms, Blackburn was on virtual cruise control, mowing down the Seattle Mariners lineup and winning the game 2-0. Then Gardenhire tried to be a manager and make a move for the sake of making a move.

With all due respect, Gardenhire is a good manager as his players like him, he gets the most of a "small market" payroll team and has won four AL Central division titles and almost a fifth one last season, losing to the Chicago White Sox in Game 163--essentially a one game playoff. 

But Gardenhire is like most managers who feel that they must use their bullpen at the 7th inning/100 pitch count limit. And all that is going to do is cost a team victories.

And Gardenhire cost his team many wins last year, when he kept going to relief pitcher Matt Guerrier to put more gas on the fires that were erupting (or so Gardenhire thought were erupting). Guerrier lost nine games in relief, and blew four leads during the 2008 season. And you thought the Mets bullpen was bad last year?

Maybe it was the July 8th game versus the Red Sox, another Nick Blackburn game (only 85 pitches this time) which the bullpen blew, specifically Guerrier, which cost them the division title.

And it is not just Manuel and Gardenhire, but MLB in general. This entire notion that a middling relief pitcher, who isn't good enough to be a starting pitcher and is not good enough to close games, is better than one of your starting pitchers when a game is tight is ridiculous. You can see this trend as middle relievers continue to get more win/loss decisions.

Can we have more games like this one, where two ace pitchers go toe to toe for the entire game? I know it is easier in the American League because of the DH, but no way the Royals manager was ever going to pull Grienke.

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In 2008, Manuel pulled Santana early in four games which the Mets either held the lead or was tied but eventually lost, including two heart breakers to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 4th and July 22nd.

Not until I wrote a piece last year did much talk center on letting Santana go longer in games because he is the teams best pitcher, not Pedro Feliciano, not Brian Stokes, not Scott Schoenenweis or Duaner Sanchez (both from last season), and not even the newly anointed Bobby Parnell are better than Johan Santana in that spot.
If you are talking pitch counts, and that Santana needs to be preserved for an August/September stretch run, there won't be a late stretch run if Manuel continues to micro-manage the Johan Santana pitched Mets games.

During those two Phillies games last July, Santana had thrown 95 and 105 pitches, respectively. As a reminder, the Mets lost the National League East by three games last season to those same Phillies, but were out of the National League Wild Card by a single game.

Leaving Santana in those four games when he was pulled would have likely returned three victories for the Mets.

If I am Manuel, I don't care if Santana is at 95, 105, 115 or 135 pitches on a specific night. If Santana is still dealing and getting guys out, he is the man to be in the game. Not the aforementioned middle relievers.   

And do not pinch hit for him late either when there is no one on base or two outs in an inning. Having Santana on the mound is more important than gambling on getting a late insurance run.

Despite some recent successes, the Mets rotation is far from elite. The Mets need to win every game that Santana pitches, and that means letting your ace pitch very deep into games, if not a complete game every time out.

Then you can use the bullpen to try and bail out John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, Livan Hernandez and new rotation member, Jonathan Niese—cause you know Manuel, for a variety of reasons, is not going to be allowed those guys to go the distance.

Manuel needs to stop becoming more stupid - because if you have ever heard the comedian Ron White—"You can fix almost anything, but you can't fix stupid."

BLOWN GAME UPDATE: Here is the latest (5/12/09) from the "I needed to pull my starter after seven innings because he was approaching 100 pitches" routine. No way you pull Jered Weaver there Mike Scioscia, not after he had thrown his first complete game of his career during his prior start. Can't you see Mike that Weaver is on a roll? Let him continue to throw!

You can not lose at home to Boston on their first game of a West Coast road trip by pulling your starter when he is mowing down the opposition. You are doing the opposition a favor by bringing in another pitcher.