There’s been some talk lately on the sports radio stations about Jerry Manuel’s management decisions regarding benching a red-hot Ryan Church in favor of playing Gary Sheffield and not having Fernando Tatis lay down a bunt with two on and no outs in Sunday’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
I agree that Manuel should’ve had Tatis bunt in that situation, but even then I’m sure the Mets would’ve found a way not to score those two base runners. Clutch hitting, for the most part, is still a nagging problem. I posted a poll yesterday asking if you were the manager, what would you focus on? One of the answers was hitting in big situations.
A commenter responded with how does a manager teach that? Well, maybe it’s not a management technique that can address that issue; maybe it’s a question of team leadership. It’s one person stepping up to the plate, literally and figuratively.
Some say the face of the team is David Wright and that he is kind of a de facto team leader. But other than a clutch hit earlier in the season, he really hasn’t been able to get the big hit. His batting average is above .300, but a lot of those hits come with nobody on base or when the Mets are already leading.
So, who can be the leader of this team? Is there anyone on the roster who can be a leader, or do the Mets have to go outside of the organization to find someone?
Getting back to benching Church, I think Manuel should’ve kept riding the hot hand. Sure, Sheffield hit his 500th home run and that was wonderful, but since then, he’s gone 1 for 6. Not only has Sheffield been cold at the plate, he replaced two of the hottest hitters on the team in two consecutive games: Church and Daniel Murphy, who has a six-game hitting streak and went 3-for-5 in his last outing.
It was ludicrous of Manuel to do that. I don’t care if instead of Sheffield it was Albert Puljos. Did he really think Murphy needed the rest? Wait until you’re on a winning streak, then you can rest your regulars. Other than Sheffield’s home run, he has shown nothing to warrant his starting over Murphy and Church.
So, is it still too early to question Manuel’s judgment? My answer is no. That’s what being a fan is all about. You celebrate when you’re winning and criticize when you’re not. Right now, I’m criticizing.