Two Brief Bits

June 18, 2008

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Street Reporter

Two Brief Bits

My attention is divided today, between the two coasts, and between moves major and minor.

Beginning in the East and the earlier time zone is appropriate to the biggest story: the firing of Willie Randolph. Say what you will about Willie, he’s been a classy guy in both New York teams (he earlier served as a Yankees’ bench coach) and deserved better. That Minaya reportedly declined to fire him on Father’s Day, only to axe Randolph in the middle of the night on Monday, replaces a reprehensible act with a cowardly one.

Randolph has been dangled like a pinata since May 1 or so, and the way his status was reportedly series-to-series has been utterly unfair. The baseball season is a long one, and the best of teams will lose a series now and again. To expect Willie and the Mets to go undefeated, in games or series, until management (or Minaya) felt better about him was unrealistic and unfair. To compound this with a late-night assassin-style execution of a guy whose worst trait seems to be an inability to light a fire under a team of well-paid professionals who should need no such motivation, is simply insulting.

This is not to say that Willie needed to stay; often times, it is the manager who takes the heat for his players’ lack of performance. The historic collapse of 2007, followed by their lackluster beginning to this season, meant a change was necessary. Although it might have been better to shed such overpaid guys as Carlos Delgado, or to turn back the clock to Minaya’s too-generous signing of the already-declining Delgado, organizations typically start firing at the top.

One of the issues, of course, is whether interim manager Jerry Manuel is up to the task. A very successful manager with the Chicago White Sox, Manuel was replaced by the outspoken Ozzie Guillen, in a change of personality that seems deliberate. Under Manuel, however, the White Sox seemed lackluster, perennial second-placers that only once managed to break through the glass ceiling atop the division, in 2000, only to be swept by the Mariners. If the Mets need to have a fire lit under them, Manuel seems like an unlikely source.

And, of course, if he has Minaya and the Mets’ backstabbing lack of support to look forward to, even the best efforts of Manuel may be met with a similar fate as Willie’s. Good luck as the ringmaster of this multi-ring circus, Jerry—you’re gonna need it.

The other story is out here on the West Coast, where the Ms returned their best defensive outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, to right field, ending their experiment to let him roam the greener pastures of center. Purportedly, this is to “see him get the zest, the smile and everything going,” according to manager John McLaren, who also said he was just trying it.

Ichiro has been excellent on defense, with only one error and superior range and fielding percentage, but his offense has suffered, perhaps because more is required of him in the field. His .293/.353/.381 stat line on the season are all career lows  for him, so the thought is presumably to sacrifice his defense for increased offense. It will be a sacrifice, albeit not an enormous one. In the Mariners games I’ve seen, Ichiro has been dependable, but has had problems with balls hit into the gap, and McLaren may be ensuring that Ichiro does not end his season by laying out for one of those gappers.

Without Ichiro, Jeremy Reed and Willie Bloomquist will fill in at center, although neither is adequate defensively. The move was made in part because the Ms sent down struggling right fielder Wladimir Balentien, whose .196/.265/.346 line, with 35 K against only 10 walks in 107 ABs wasn’t helping the offense any.

Perhaps there might also be a trade for a centerfielder on the horizon, or at least a recognition that the Mariners need to look to next season. Had they kept Adam Jones or even Shin-Soo Choo, they would have had other OF answers for the present, but that’s just another Bavasi wound that must heal.

In related look-to-the future news, the Everett Herald reported today that the Ms may drop Richie Sexson entirely, dropping yet another millstone from around Seattle’s neck. Let someone else feel the breeze from Sexson’s mighty strikeout swipes at the ball. Jeff Clement was called up again, after scorching AAA after his return, and he’s been taking throws at first. He’ll certainly do some DHing, and will spell Kenji Johjima behind the dish during the Ms upcoming NL swing, but even a converted catcher has more of a future than The Big Not-So-Sexy.

Look for more housecleaning moves to come in the wake of getting rid of the biggest dust bunny of them all, Bill Bavasi.

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  1. Willie Randolph deserved a much better fate than to be thrown under the bus by Omar Minaya.   What a gutless coward.  


    Jeff WilsonJeff Wilson on Wednesday, 18 June 2008, 23:28 PDT # |

  2. Couldn't agree more--there are good ways and bad ways to fire someone, and this is clearly an example of the latter.

    Wonder how long Minaya has with the Mets; Randolph should be glad to get out of that freakshow of an organization.

    Street ReporterStreet Reporter on Thursday, 19 June 2008, 00:08 PDT # |

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