Productive Gangsta Outs>Hits

Marty Noble brings out all of our favorite cliches, just in time for the spring!

Among the defeats the Mets endured during their September slide last season was one that particularly distressed their manager, because he was certain that it could have been averted had his hitters not adhered to their routine practices.

Practice bad or a typo? I guess we'll find out.

That night, Jerry Manuel would have paid a princely sum for a swing that perhaps would have produced a foul ball to extend a critical at-bat.

If he would have paid that much for a non-guranteed foul ball, think what he would shell out for a walk or even a double. If they ever hope to hit another homer, they'll need the bailout money.

For want of a small-ball component -- more contentious at-bats, a properly placed ground ball -- the Mets lost that night, prompting Manuel to lament during the postmortems: "There are things we can do to win games that we don't always try. ... There's more than one way to skin a cat."

What game is he referring to? Was there really a game last season that  a groundout would have won?

And what are the ways to win a game the Mets haven't tried? Throwing the spitball, taking steroids, and giving Castro the steal signal come to mind. Or maybe he means it literally.

"I told that cat next time he tries an hit a homer, Ima skin him right there on the field. With my blade. My gangsta blade."

Big swings, base-path thievery and anything else that might gain statistical favor in a salary-arbitration hearing will be acceptable, of course, but only at the appropriate instances

"Guys, I want you to go out there and try to lose as much money as possible."

"Does that mean I can moon the ump?"

"Shut up, Green."

Whenever necessary, they will go outside the box score.

Beyond the Box Score? Guess not...

"More Mark Lemke than Mark McGwire" was the phrase that former Met Lenny Harris once used to describe the difference in how the game can be played at critical moments.

Manuel advocates the former.

Mark Lemke Career OPS+: 71

Mark McGwire: 162

To Lemke's credit, his Baseball Reference page sports this tribute:

As Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night, "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some acheive greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Mark Lemke had all three.

...but I digress...

"You can have that kind of effort every day," he said last year when told of Harris' 10-year-old comparative. "That kind of play doesn't slump."

It's true: if you always suck, how can you slump. Brilliant.

And consider it his way of underscoring the skin-the-cat credo that he situated himself on the outfield lawn during intrasquad games so he could be a Jiminy Cricket for his shortstop, and that he assigned some of the team's most successful and highest-profile position players unfamiliar addresses in the batting orders.

Seriously, can you imagine Jiminy Cricket running at Reyes with a knife every time he makes an error? Can someone please photoshop Manuel's head onto Jiminy Cricket and put a knife in his hand. Maybe make it an inspirational poster that says "Winning" at the bottom.

And the Mets are listening, even accepting it.

"Why not?" David Wright said after his exposure to the 80-in-six torture. "It's not like we've been real successful doing it a different way."

"Alright, Johan, Francisco is going to pitch the first eight innings and you'll pitch the ninth today."

"Why?"

"Last time it went the other way, K-Rod blew the save."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"And you have to throw right-handed."

"OK."

The Mets are ripe for Manuel. Even though he was involved in the two unrewarding Septembers, the players recognize that the fault lies with them, not the men who make trades, decide when to hit and run, and whether to wave a runner home.

Marlon Anderson wouldn't have sucked so much last year if Omar hadn't traded for him and made him the contingency plan for Alou.

Moreover, they are being exposed to an all-for-one approach some five months after the Rays' "9=8" credo brought a less-proven team to the World Series.

Omar: "What makes these Rays so good. Their bullpen? Incredible fielding?"

"No sir, their manager has a credo. It's in all the papers."

"What's a credo?"

"The French word for bunt, if I'm not mistaken."

"Of course...get Jerry on the phone."

"We know what Tampa Bay did," Jose Reyes said. "They were a good team. We are a good team."

Oliver Perez saw what CC Sabathia did. Oliver Perez is a pitcher. CC Sabathia is a-holy crap, be right back.

Although it may seem childish, that's the only comparison between these two teams that makes any sense.

Who will pitch late innings for the Mets this year -- J.J. Putz and Frankie Rodriguez -- has changed, but little else, in terms of personnel, is different.

Those two pitchers? Oh yeah, no biggie. Besides that eleven-player trade, Minaya made almost no trades. Now let's talk about making more outs.

Manuel intends to celebrate small-ball successes. When Nick Evans advanced a runner with a right-side groundout on Wednesday in the first exhibition game, against the Orioles, the manager lauded his contribution and made no mention of the base hits that Evans had produced in his three other at-bats.

Keep this man away from Fernando Martinez. Seriously, fly F-Mart to the baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and tell him to hit homers. If I was Omar Minaya, I'd give him all the crappy prospects to Manuel for a bunting drill, then when he's not looking, get the rest on a raft to Cuba.

"It's a good way to play," Minaya said. "I think more teams will take that approach now. And most teams don't have the level of talent we have. "If we use the right approach with our talent, we should have a very good year."

good players+bad idea>bad players+bad idea?

I give up.

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