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An Open Letter To Willie Randolph

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Dear Willie,

I write to you not only as a Met fan, but as a friend. You've been around the game for a long time and you have seen a lot of things. You have won World Series championships as a player and as a coach. You can stand with your arms crossed on the dugout stairs like nobody's business, and you have a pornstar mustache that would make Keith Hernandez swoon with envy.

Despite all of those things, it pains me to no end to watch you single-handedly cripple this team's chances of winning on a seemingly daily basis. Your lineup construction, double-switches, and bullpen mis-management make Joe Torre look like Branch Rickey. The fact that the team was hovering in contention and around .500 for nigh 70 games is truly a testament to their resiliancy in the face of insurmountable odds.

Let me ask you something Willie: Who is the best hitter on the Yankees? A-Rod? Maybe it's Sheffield. Maybe even Jetes. Let me ask you another question: Where do those guys bat in the lineup? Top four or five spots, right? Okay, new question: Who is the best hitter on the Mets? Ah ah, not so fast. I don't mean in 1999, so don't go saying Mike Piazza. Your best hitter is David Wright. Now nod your head in agreement. Good Willie. So, if we've established that Wright is your best hitter, why do you insist on limiting his at-bats by batting him seventh almost every game, while giving Jose Reyes and his sub-.290 on-base percentage more at-bats than anyone?

I know you've been around the game longer than I have, but here's a quick crash course in lineup construction: you want your best hitters getting the most at-bats, specifically with runners on base, and you want your worst hitters getting the fewest number of at-bats. Confused? I'll let you mull that one over for a little while.

Moving on. I know you've been in the American League for a while, so you may not fully understand the intricacies of the double-switch. Admittedly, it is more of a National League convention, but here goes with the explanation. The point of a double-switch is to put your team in a better position to win. Your team's likelihood of winning after you make a double-switch should be better than it was before you made the switch. With that in mind, explain to me why you would double-switch David Wright, who earlier in this letter we established as the best hitter on the team, out of the game in favor of Chris Woodward, not mentioned anywhere in this letter, but who we know sports a career batting line of .252/.304/.399? If you're playing Willieball, it makes perfect sense!

Let's say that swapping Wright for Woodward is worth -5 on some arbitrary scale. Let's also say that prolonging the amount of time before your pitcher bats again is worth a generous +2 on that same scale. Add up the two operands and we arrive at -3, or a net loss of three. We are now worse off than before double-switching. Hooray!

And now we come to the part about bullpen management, or as it's known in Willieball, determining the best reliever to call on in a given situation and then bringing in anyone but that reliever, oftentimes calling on the worst pitcher available. Case in point was last night's game in Seattle. The Mets were coming off of an inning in which they rallied to score four times (!) to pull within one run of the Mariners. Aaron Heilman, a starting pitcher accustomed to throwing 90 pitches or more in an outing, had thrown 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four. It seemed to be a no-brainer that Heilman would go back out for the sixth inning, and possibly the seventh or more. Much to my dismay, Willieball dictated that Heilman should come out of the game, a close game, only to be replaced by the aforementioned "worst pitcher available" Mike DeJean. DeJean allowed four runners to reach base, all of whom would eventually score, and the previously-close game was put out of reach.

In conclusion, it's not that I don't like you, Willie. You seem like a nice, confident guy, who just happens to make a lot of managerial mistakes. You have a God-given knack for knowing exactly what to do in any given situation and then instinctively doing the exact opposite. Great teams are often able to overcome managerial shortcomings such as the ones you have consistently displayed in the first 69 games of the season, but average teams who struggle to score runs are doomed to suffocating failure when they are constantly held back by those same bush league mistakes. It's not all bad though, Willie. It's not like you make these horrendous errors in judgement every day; you only make them on game days.

Best,

Eric Simon

(Reprinted with permission from http://www.metsgeek.com)