A hodgepodge: work is murder today and I’m typing this between bites of a chicken salad sandwich.  I think I’d be typing while eating a chicken salad sandwich even if I made money doing this–in fact, odds are sky-high that I would–but I’d also be hustling to get new information, too: do interviews, crunch stats.  As it stands, all you’ll get from me right now is snark.  Hastily drafted snark.

This from ESPN, on a game between the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals, which caught my eye because the writer employs the term “The Catch,” which is taken, thank you very much:

And at the very least, already taken, already.

In short, Clint Barmes caught a ball, or he didn’t.  But this is what Ryan Spilborghs had to say:

“It was a good play, that’s all it was,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter because the play’s over.”

But did he see the ball hit the ground?

“It’s more fun not to say whether I did or I didn’t,” Spilborghs retorted.

No, jerk-weed, it’s not.  I absolutely guarantee you that if Skip Schumaker hoses you like that to cost you a game, with the Rockies fighting for their playoff lives, you’re screaming bloody murder.  If you’re telling the press that it’s fun not to say whether it did or didn’t, then you’re getting a minor thrill out of an obfuscation of the game.  Not classy. 

Barmes’s language implies he’s trying to be honest without casting doubt on his team’s standing.  What last came out of your mouth doesn’t help him do that.  In fact, it makes me think you’re in need of a Cubs fan beer shower.

There: I’ve gone from Endy Chavez to Clint Barmes to Ryan Spilborghs to Shane Victorino in one sitting.  Checkmate.

I sound irritated not just because I’ve been concatenating in Excel like a fiend all morning, but because I see the writing on the off-season wall and it makes me wish I could unilaterally define blog topics.  I’d be a lot more specific than all this business today about Jerry Manuel.

We can only define Jerry Manuel’s job performance based on the available data, and I don’t even have a full idea of what that data set is, really. 

  1. Is there some organization keeping track of when he gives Luis Castillo the bunt sign and when he doesn’t?  When he asks for a hit-and-run?  These are actual–not rhetorical–questions.  If there is indeed a database for it, send the link over to omniality [at] gmail [dot] com.
  2. You can look at the starting line-ups day in and day out.  Ryan Church was MIA until he was gone.  Nick Evans has always been MIA.  Reasons for this are inscrutable, as given.
  3. Management of starters, relievers, and pinch-hitters during games has left little to be desired with me.  At this point, I’m quite accurately prognosticating various levels of defeat as his decisions are made, and at the hands of those decisions.  I don’t work in baseball.  I’m not psychic.  I should not be able to do that.
  4. Additionally, communication is atrocious on injury.  This is not solely Mr. Manuel’s province; I’ve been yelling about this on and off since I started this bad boy.  The injuries are not the issue; telling people what the hell’s going on is the issue.  But he shares the blame for the communication snafus by adding to the noise instead of displaying that he’s trying to get to the bottom of it.  Honestly, now: your star shortstop was danced about for months.  That makes you look like a man out of touch, not one who plays things close to the vest.

I can take reasons 3 and 4 and make a case for letting him go.  But I’m not a fan of reasoning that’s not air-tight (as much as the writing on this blog may point to the converse being true), and much like one can say, “You can’t fire Jerry Manuel after a year of a decimated line-up,” one can also say, “You can’t fire Jerry Manuel because Daniel Murphy can’t execute a hit-and-run, or because Sean Green is all thumbs.”  Quite true.

I’m of a mind, therefore, to not bother with the question at all, as I have no control over whether or not the man is retained, and my reasons for wanting him shipped off seem to boil down to “I can tell you how your Sophie’s Choice will blow up in your face, and why can’t you shoot straight with me about the guys who’ve left you with that choice to begin with?”

But everyone is bothering with the question, so let’s speak to it reasonably.  I believe “should he stay or should he go?” is short-sighted.  But IF he stays or if he goes, what could he do better?  I suggest that question.

I get the similarity, suggesting that the man who seeks teachable moments in defeat seek his own teachable moments, but that doesn’t make the need any less dire.  He can absolutely demand a reasonable communications strategy from all parties with a hand in his players’ availability, or else decry its lack.  Done right, that’s a guy I can get behind. 

He can work on avoiding the maze of “this situation” and “that player” and “in this instance” he gets into when speaking about awful in-game decisions.  That won’t stop the awful in-game decisions, necessarily; yet still I find that when I voice an error, I’m less likely to commit it later.

I don’t know what he can do about fan pressure to give a player a start besides starting him, or telling us all to shut the hell up.  I’m fine with either.

And maybe send someone in there to keep track of when he’s giving the green light to steal a base.  Put that guy in the room with a sabermetrician and make some magic.  I’m absolutely convinced a sabermetrician could shadow me for a week and tell me how best to lose five pounds, get two hours more sleep per night, and avoid screaming children on the subway (these are not necessarily mutually exclusive goals, or an admixture of ends and means).  In short, they’re sorcerers, and that’s awesome.  One of my goals this season is to fully comprehend PECOTA, or die trying.

Working smarter and working harder should be his goal; even without quantitative analysis we can say there’s room for improvement.  But our job, as fans of the Mets and fans of the game, should be to ask smart questions as often as possible.  We shouldn’t lose our passion, but we should make that passion useful.

We describe ourselves often as some of the game’s smartest fans.  But if we enter this off-season asking the same tired things of the same old people, or clamoring for change for the sole reason that novelty will trick us into firm belief of our team’s ability, then we’re merely loud and opinionated.

Game’s started.  Let’s go Mets.

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