Jerry Manuel had the interim removed from his title and become the manager of the Mets.  I am ambivalent about this move.  There’s no denying that the club played better under Manuel than it did under Willie Randolph but if that was the only criteria for being manager than I would have liked to have been considered.  There’s no way with the talent assembled that the Mets should have been a game under .500 nearly halfway through the season like they were with Randolph.

The players like Manuel so why don’t I have greater love for him?  Let’s go down and examine some of his strengths and weaknesses.

By far, the biggest improvement with Manuel was his willingness to trust younger players in key roles.  Do you think there’s any chance that Randolph would have given key playing time to either Nick Evans or Daniel Murphy?  They would have been glued to the bench, with Randolph checking flight schedules to see the earliest opportunity he had to send them back to Binghamton or New Orleans.

I’m not sure who deserves the credit, but the starting pitchers (save Oliver Perez in his last two starts) pitched deeper into games under Manuel’s regime.  Perhaps that was the influence of pitching coach Dan Warthen.  Manuel may not deserve 100 percent of the credit for this but clearly he deserves some.

My main worry with Manuel is handling the bullpen.  He did a better job than Randolph, but really that’s damning with faint praise.  It’s a form of poetic justice that the losing pitcher in the final game of the season with the playoffs in the balance was Scott Schoeneweis.

I have nothing against Scott Schoeneweis.  He’s a very useful pitcher if deployed in the correct role.  He’s a lefty specialist who should not be allowed to face a right-handed batter in a key spot ever.  And call me crazy but a tie game in the eighth inning in a game where you have to win to advance qualifies as a key spot in my book.

Here are the final 2008 splits for Schoeneweis:

vs LHB – .178/.243/.277 in 113 PA

vs RHB – .333/.423/.532 in 130 PA

Was it not insane letting him face a righty batter in a key situation in the biggest game of the year?  Is that not a huge negative for Manuel and his in-game tactics that he allowed that to happen with the season on the line?

Manuel brought in Schoeneweis to start the top of the eighth inning as Mike Jacobs was due to lead off.  Jacobs was 0-for-3 in the game and had a .218 batting average versus lefties.  Did it not occur to Manuel that they would pinch-hit a righty for him in that spot?  Or did he simply think that Schoeneweis could handle whichever pinch-hitter the Marlins put up?  Either way looks bad for tactics in a must-win game.

Let’s see a breakdown of the runs that Schoeneweis allowed this year and how many of them were due to righty batters.

4/8 – gave up singles to righties Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, both of whom scored.

4/19 – HR to lefty Chase Utley

5/21 – hit righty Chipper Jones with pitch who later came around to score.

6/3 – walked righties Holm and Lewis and gave up HR to righty Travis Denker

6/4 – walked righties Hairston and Kouzmanoff, lefty Giles and hit lefty McAnulty.

6/15 – gave up HR to righty Milton Bradley

6/27 – gave up HR to lefty Cano, walked righties Molina and Betemit who scored.

7/28 – gave up singles to righties Helms, Ross and Baker who each scored.

8/2 – righty Kaz Matsui homered

8/7 – gave up HR to lefty Jody Gerut

8/26 – faced five righty batters and four reached base.  Victorino triple, Coste RBI single

9/13 – lefty Casey Kotchman singled and later scored

9/21 – righty Omar Infante doubled, lefty Kotchman RBI single and later scored

9/28 – righty Helms homered

Schoeneweis was charged with 23 runs scored in 2008 and 16 of those were thanks to righty batters.  We can live with home runs to lefties Chase Utley and Jody Gerut.  Sometimes pitchers get beat.  But the amount of time righties beat Schoeneweis is simply unacceptable.

The 7/28 game was an exact replica of the final game of the season.  Schoeneweis was brought in with the lefty Jacobs due to bat first and the Marlins pinch-hit Helms.  Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  Only this time it was by a factor of four.

The temptation to use Schoeneweis is obviously too great for us to ignore.  Since the Mets brought back Manuel, let’s make sure they trade or cut Schoeneweis.  Because I don’t ever want to see him on the mound versus a righty batter in a key situation ever again and neither should you.

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