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I just finished watching the Mets’ first encounter with the Giants and the omnipotent Barry Bonds. And what a disaster it was for our Metropolitans. I love Willie Randolph, I really do- great guy, warm heart and very organized. However, as a tactician his record is open for debate. Tonight was a dreadful game for any Flushing fan to watch. Yeah, I know about giving young managers free passes and I know many Mets’ apologists will argue that most every manager in the NL treats Barry Bonds the same way- WALK him. But, I’m a Met fan and I expect our manager to be just a little bit better than the rest. Basically, Bonds was 0 for 1 with 3 walks, but any box score junkie would miss the whole story unless he watched tonight’s game.
Moises Alou might have had a home run and 5 RBIs, but it was Willie’s fear of Bonds that led to those five runs. From the beginning, Tom Glavine wanted little to do with Mr. Barry, even though for most of the night Bonds looked off balance on the junk that Tommy G did dare to throw his way. With two outs and one on in the first, Glavine nibbled his way to a 3-0 count before intentionally passing Bonds to first. The next batter, Moises Alou promptly deposited a shot over the left field wall and the Mets were already down by three.
In the fourth, Glavine threw junk curve after junk change after junk curve never topping 80 mph on the gun, and the strategy paid off as Bonds grounded weakly to first. Great! Glavine showed he could indeed take advantage of a hobbling Bonds- just keep throwing him junk. The Mets scratched for two in the sixth and we had a ballgame again, 3-2. Then came the deciding 7th.
lurking and Lance Niekro on deck, it was imperative that Tommy go right at Omar Vizquel to get a second out. This is where Willie started to mismanage. Glavine, who was clearly losing his control back in the sixth, nibbled to no avail, issuing his fifth walk and sending Vizquel to first. Finally, Randolph got Aaron Heilman up in the pen as Lance Niekro stepped to the plate. Glavine quickly fell behind Niekro 3-1. The fear of Bonds was approaching with the prospects of the bases being loaded, so Glavine tossed a meatball changeup right over the heart of the plate that Niekro swatted easily into right center scoring Ellison and sending Vizquel to third, 4-2.
What to do? Bonds walked casually to the plate. Randolph waited a moment and then made the call. Heilman came trotting in from the pen. "O’k", I thought, "gutsy move, Glavine’s clearly done, maybe Heilman can get Barry to try to pull one of his tailing fastballs that gives most lefties fits." This is where Willie acted like every other overly neurotic manager in the NL and decided to have Heilman intentionally walk Barry to load the bases- just what Heilman and every Mets’ fan needed, no room for error and the hot-as-heck Moises Alou coming to the plate. I was livid, doesn’t anyone have any guts anymore? I mean as great as Barry has been in his career, he’s only hitting .222 for godsake! Just the other night
I watched Aaron "very average" Cook get Barry to tap one back to the mound in a very similar situation and that was in Colorado. Certainly this Aaron would be even harder for Bonds to handle? But NO!!!! Managers rather have Barry beat them with a .526 OBP than with a home run. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a .222 hitter with an OBP over .500— this is insanity! This is even crazier than AL managers playing the Giambi shift (six players on the right side of the diamond). Make the guy beat you! I don’t care if he’s Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth. By constantly refusing to pitch to Barry, Randolph in essence told his entire team that he is Willie Nilly and so should they be. The psychological effect of this fear based thinking was devastating. Not only did Willie zap Heilman of confidence, but now Heilman had to face the Giants’ hottest hitter with the bases loaded and he was barely warmed up. Plus, he had lost the advantage of facing a lefty hitter (who he is clearly more effective against) and in the process supplied Alou with extra motivation. Need I say it, but Moises rifled a shot to center scoring two and icing the ballgame, 6-2.
In a way I’m glad Alou succeeded, because maybe Willie will pitch to Bonds next time. Even at his best, he still only hits a home run every 12 or 13 at bats. I’ll take those odds any day over the ones Heilman was given in this situation. No, I give Heilman a pass on this one, this loss is all on the Mets’ manager. I love ya Willie, I believe in you, but I got to call it like I see it. So, if you’re looking at the box score today and you think the Mets lost because of Alou, realize that the fear of Bonds had just as much to do with it. If this was hockey, I’d give big bad Barry 5 assists.
Carl the Cabbie