Saturday, June 05, 2004

If the Mets are Serious About This Year, They Should Fire Art Howe Now 

Thank you for today's loss Art Howe. I usually don’t like to comment on games I was not able to actually watch (did I mention that MLB Extra Innings Sucks), but if people pay to read this clown, this joker, and this pie hole flapper talk out of their collective asses about the Mets, then, since you all get my fine writing and analysis for free, I can too.

First, the point I made earlier about Mike Piazza’s lack of protection was magnified in today’s game, as Mike jacked another two home runs but, unsurprisingly, they came with no one on base. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 10 solo home runs of his total 12 dingers. If just one of those two home runs today came with someone on base the outcome would be different. However, the outcome would also be different if the Mets had a manager in the dugout who doesn’t get rattled and thrown off his game when a big metal bird flies overhead at Shea (they’re called jets Art).

Howe, according to my in depth calculations (which means I guesstimated), has single handedly cost the Mets at least five games. Earlier in the week Mets play-by-play man Ted Robinson wrote an article for MSG.com in which he proclaimed that Art Howe should be credited with the Mets recent resurgence. While I respect the fact that Robinson stuck his nose out and is not simply jumping on the trash Art Howe bandwagon (and whose play-by-play I enjoy), but even he, who is just about the only commentator I have seen come out in defense of Howe, can only muster up the following pathetic support for his premise: “I can’t make sense of this [the Mets success thus far], so it leads me to one inescapable conclusion: Art Howe is doing a terrific job.”

Sorry Ted, but that kind of logic might fly at MSG, or perhaps at the French Open, but it doesn’t fly at The Shea Hot Corner. To simply cite two occurrences – the Mets decent record and the fact that Art Howe is the manager – and reach the “inescapable conclusion” that one occurrence has caused the other, is comical at best. The fact is, the Mets success so far this year has occurred in spit of Art Howe, not because of him. I realize sometimes “real” sports journalists (i.e. not me) are put in quandary where criticizing players, managers or the organization is counter productive to their goals of obtaining critical access to those same parties, but c’mon! New York Fans, well, NY Mets fans, tend to be a pretty intelligent brand of baseball fan and we deserve better than that. Art Howe is a terrible manager and instead of wasting ink, or in this case bandwidth, on an unsupported ass kissing puff piece, Robinson should call him out.

Today’s game was a perfect example of what we fans have to endure. The Mets scored three runs in the sixth inning to go up 5 to 2. Howe inserts right handed pitcher Ricky Bottalico to pitch the seventh for Matt Ginter, who, by the way, had another strong outing. After an out and two singles, and of course the obligatory error thrown in (no pun intended) for good measure, Bottalico was confronted with runners on the corners with one out. Jack McKeon sends out Lenny Harris to face Bottalico. Sweet! Harris, despite being a left handed bat off the bench, has only hit .219 the last two years against righties with a meager 5 extra base hits. But no, Howe has to blindly follow the lefty/righty formula and bring in Mike Stanton.

Howe had to know, however, that Harris does not face lefties (only 1 AB against a lefty this year) and would be himself pinch hit for. McKeon had several righty options to counter Stanton: Damion Easley, a career .263 hitter off lefties (better than his numbers against righties); Mike Mordecai with a career .270 AVG versus lefties (career .236 against righties); or switch hitting Abraham Nunez who McKeon describes has his HR bat off the bench due, in part, to his 10 spring training bombs. So Howe was basically confronted with matching up Bottalico against Harris and his .219 AVG against righties the last two years with no power, or Mike Stanton versus Easley (.263 vs. lefties); Mordecai (.270 vs. lefties); or Nunez (McKeon's "longball guy").

Better yet, if Howe felt Bottalico didn’t have it today, he could have inserted the forgotten man Orber Moreno. Moreno is just flat out nasty and would work well in this situation since, despite being right handed, has actually pitched better against lefties this year. Moreno has a 2.79 ERA against lefties and has held them to only a .211 AVG. Not to mention that while in Miami last weekend to attend the Mets-Marlins games, I met Moreno’s wife in the stands and had the opportunity to chat a bit with her. She was really nice, which is even more reason to put in Moreno damn it! Since Moreno has a critical flaw - he's under the age of 30 - Howe went with Stanton who, despite sucking, provides the essential "veteran leadership" this team needs. No surprise to just about anyone with a brain, McKeon countered with Easley; Swat; HR; Game tied.

Howe wasn’t done sabotaging the Mets victory though. In the 8th inning Howe sends in David “Stormy” Weathers, who lets up a single to Mike Lowell but induces Miguel Cabrera to ground into a double play. That should have been the end of Weather’s night, since Hee Seop Choi was due up to bat. Choi murders right handed pitching (10 HRs) but is virtually helpless against lefties (.182 AVG, 1 HR). With John Franco watering his tomato plants from the lifeguard chair in the bull pen, who has only pitched 2 innings in the last 5 days, there’s no excuse for not bringing in the lefty to face Choi. If Howe inserts Franco and McKeon pinch hits with Mordecai or Nunez, so be it. I’d rather be beat by one of them then to allow Choi to face the righty in that situation. Instead Howe sticks with Weathers who gives up a single to Choi, walks Jeff Conine, then gives up the go ahead RBI single to Alex Gonzalez.

The Art Howe incompetence was not over yet though folks. Dan Wheeler is in the game in the 9th. With two outs and Luis Castillo on third base, i.e. with first base wide open, Howe elects to allow the rookie to pitch to Lowell who promptly doubled in Castillo to provide what would become the game winning hit. Both Lowell and Cabrera, who was on deck, are scary hitters. But since your team is already down a run, am I the only one who thinks it's a no brainer to put Lowell on, create a force at 2nd base, and take your chances with Cabrera?

Once again, Howe got out-managed and the Mets’ record suffered as a result. What makes this managerial meltdown even worse is that Howe was quick to deflect any criticism that might have come his way and hung his bullpen out to dry after the game and even tried to reinforce his bone headed moves in the press:
The bullpen can't do it every day. They've been outstanding all season long. They just had one of those days. We had the right people out there. They just found some holes.
Actually, no, not so much Art. You did not have the right people out there and the only hole out at Shea today was the vast, dark, empty space between your ears. If the Mets are serious about making a run of it this year, Wilpon and Duquette need to step back and realize that before any trades or significant moves are made, a manager has to be put in place that does not consistently put the team in a position to lose close games. In other words, if this is a rebuilding year, sure, keep Howe. He's warm and fuzzy and I'm sure the kids like him. If, however, the Mets are going to get over the hump so that they are playing those coveted "meaningful games in September," Art Howe is not the man to get them there.
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