It's very easy to sit back on my couch and criticize a manager's actions, especially when the criticism is completely warranted. We all do it. If we're lucky, our team is good enough to:
a) Require few tactical managerial decisions, and
b) Overcome the rare managerial gaffe
I was often critical of Willie Randolph's in-game decision-making in 2005, his first year as a big league manager. I have been far more lenient with him in subsequent years, partially because the surge in talent since then has meant fewer significant decisions to make. Even in cases where Randolph might have made the wrong decision, perhaps playing against the percentages, the Mets were usually good enough to succeed despite not being in the best position to do so.
If we think back to 2005, Randolph's biggest problem was bullpen management. He didn't seem to fully understand how to best utilize the bullets that he had, and was often burned when he made the wrong decision. Admittedly, deciding which retread -- Danny Graves, Shingo Takatsu, etc. -- should be called on to give up some runs in a high leverage situation couldn't have been an easy or pleasant experience. I know that I didn't enjoy watching it, so I can only imagine the degree of cringe that Randolph had to endure.
All of this brings us back to last night's game. Scott Schoeneweis, who prior to the Milwaukee series had a misleading 1.29 ERA despite ten walks and just six strikeouts in fourteen innings, was brought in to pitch the sixth inning. Shawn Green's fifth-inning homerun got the Mets on the board and pulled them to within two runs at 3-1. Show got Cesar Izturis to ground out to second, but then allowed a single to Carlos Zambrano, walked Ryan Therior, and gave up another single to Cliff Floyd to load the bases. Awesome.
So the bases are loaded with just one down, and the Cubs' two best hitters, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, are due up. Not only are they both excellent batsmen, but they both swing from the right side of the plate. Shoeneweis, a lefty, has been far more successful against left-handed batters than right-handed ones this year, and throughout his career.
OPS OPS vs LHB vs RHB ----------------------- 2007 .393 .890 Career .600 .823And just for fun, Soriano's and Ramirez's career platoon splits:
OPS OPS vs LHP vs RHP ------------------------ Soriano .873 .825 Ramirez .878 .813Not terrible dramatic, though both players hit lefties a little better than righties. Even if you've been in cave on Mars with your eyes closed and your hands over your ears since last night I think you can figure out where I'm going with this. Show was left in the game and got Soriano to magically pop out to Endy Chavez in left field. One bullet dodged, Randolph stuck with Show and we all paid the price as Ramirez prompt deposited a pitch deep into the left-field stands for grand salami, putting a once-surmountable 3-1 deficit into an overwhelming 7-1 one.
I think maybe Randolph just doesn't know what to do with Schoeneweis. Without openly questioning Omar Minaya, it's still a mystery to me why he felt it necessary to lock up Show for three years. The Mets already have a terrific LOOGY in Pedro Feliciano, who has actually been far better against righties than Schoeneweis. But, if Feliciano is the late-inning situational lefty, what is Show? If you guessed "a mediocre pitcher", you get a gold star, but that still doesn't answer the question of "how should he be used".
At this point, it looks like Feliciano should be the seventh inning guy, Aaron Heilman the eighth inning guy, and the rest of the bullpen used according to their individual strengths. Schoeneweis likes to walk batters and get beaten around by righties, so maybe he should be primarily used against free-swinging lefties? Well, considering he walked Daryle Ward immediately following Ramirez's homerun, maybe not.