As we stand, Junior is (still) on the verge of 600, Inge is getting playing time because of Carlos Guillen's hemorrhoids, Randolph picked a good time to hand the ball to Johan Santana, the Padres are on a winning streak (two!) heading into Wednesday and I am getting out of the way.
So, your take, followed by my pithy, dismissive banter:
WILLIE RANDOLPH (Randolph's Metropolitan crisis)
Look this is real simple, excuse mongering aside. Leadership, like speed, is an attribute/quality that cannot be taught. You have it or you don't. Randolph doesn't. When the camera pans the dugout, you see the visage of a man radiating fear and insecurity and the players sense it. Machiavelli asked "Is it better the ruler be loved or feared?" We know the answer. Randolph needs/wants to be liked; a fatal flaw in any leader. Hence he is neither loved nor feared. Failure should have serious consequences, yet no one paid for last year's collapse. Tells you everything you need to know about Randolph's judgment and temperament. He was a bad hire from Day 1. Get rid of him today!
Yet, Tom, would the end justify the means?
Assuming Willie gets canned (which I think now is inevitable), who takes over? Manuel or Oberkfell are not long-term solutions.
Staten Island, N.Y.
I'm not sure there are any great candidates, James, which may be among the reasons Randolph is still in the dugout. I think it's fair to conclude that Gary Carter is out. Lee Mazzilli had very poor results in Baltimore. Bobby Valentine is happy and wealthy in Japan. Omar Minaya probably would steer clear of the likes of Larry Bowa and Jim Fregosi. That, for the moment, appears to leave Jerry Manuel.
Has anyone ever considered the idea that the Mets just aren't that good? That maybe their expectations exceed their capability? Carlos Delgado is not going to hit like the Delgado of years past. That's called age. Neither will Moises Alou (if he can stay healthy long enough). Beltran is a career .280 hitter who has averaged around 30 home runs, but people expect him to go beyond that, considering the money he is making. Jose Reyes and David Wright are solid young players that are just that … young. Plus, they all strike out a ton. Furthermore, their pitching staff is not that great. Pedro, who hasn't been the Pedro we have come to know in about three years, is not going to make it a WHOLE lot better, only a little bit. I guess what I'm saying is this: Those names look a whole lot better on paper.
I'm sure Randolph is beginning to suspect this to be true.
Tim, I've been a Met fan for more than 30 years and I, for one, am appalled at the attitude of my fellow fans. It's not Willie's fault. To me, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Omar Minaya, who decided that he trusts brittle veterans like Moises Alou or washed-up ones like Carlos Delgado. What else should we expect from the oldest team in the league? I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I would be willing to take my lumps for a season or two to get younger. Willie can only work with what he's got.
White Plains, N.Y.
Younger has moved on to Minnesota.
Tim, your analysis today of the Mets/ Randolph conundrum was very thorough. However, what I have not heard you or any other writer suggest is that a major reason for the Mets' collapse late season 2007 and current lack of production in 2008 can be traced to Randolph's failure to "manage" Jose Reyes, their most important table-setter. While the truism is accurate that "jockeys do not carry their horses over the finish line," Randolph clearly allowed Reyes to compound his late-season offensive woes by not directing him to bunt more often, play more small ball, and do the little things like being more discretionary in your swing selection as a leadoff hitter that a manager with major league experience should recognize. Simply inexcusable, and horrific for me as a Mets and baseball fan. That was inexcusable in 2007, and continues today.
An even bigger problem: Mets starters and relievers had their ERAs rise by about three-quarters of a run in May.
Regarding Willie's comments: Do you remember last year when Rickey Henderson was hired as a coach for the Mets? Many people calling into the talk shows commented about how Reyes' decline was consistent with Rickey's hiring. Everyone is also quick to blame Willie for the Mets' lack of hitting. I find it ironic, in light of Willie's comments concerning race, that hardly anyone has been critical of Howard Johnson. Isn't it strange that since his hiring as HITTING coach (on the same day as Henderson) the Mets stopped hitting? Why is it that HoJo is getting such a free pass? The decline in hitting is directly tied to HoJo's arrival. Why is no one calling for HoJo's head? I think he's the one who should go, along with Rick Peterson. Willie should never have apologized for his comments on race.
The good news is, by the time Rickey left, they all were better card players.
Willie Randolph should have been fired after last season. He has let the nuts run the nuthouse for too long. But, having said that, he did not put this team together. People above him are either incompetent or blind. Pedro is either done (or) soon to be done. He's been injury prone for a few years now. Glavine was old, Atlanta can have him. Reyes is either overrated or needs a stronger manager to wake him up. He's been underachieving for almost a year now. The rest of the roster, except for Wright, is not that good. And that includes Beltran. His career numbers don't justify his contract. Rode the playoffs and one season for all it was worth.
And to think I picked the Mets to win the NL East.
BRANDON INGE (Inge becomes a backseat driver)
I have been a big fan for many years, and you finally wrote an article on my favorite player. Brandon Inge is a throwback player to the days when I was proud to be an MLB fan. Thank you for writing about a player that actually deserves ink.
There are qualities Inge brings to a team that shouldn't be overlooked. Those qualities, however, are probably better suited for the National League.
You'd think the Tigers would've learned something from watching how unsuccessful the Yankees have been at having "the best lineup in baseball" but not enough pitching. I was worried when they made the Jurrjens-for-Renteria trade. That one could be another Doyle Alexander-for-Smoltz trade. Maybe. Jurrjens has a better idea of how to "pitch" than any of the Tigers' starters except Rogers. Then the Andrew Miller/Maybin trade for Cabrera and Willis. Willis' numbers have gone down (or up, but definitely the wrong direction) since his one good year in 2005. You don't give up pitching and defense (taking one of the best third basemen in the AL out of the lineup) for more hitting when you already have enough hitting. I said after the trades they'd have a hard time making the playoffs (I got laughed at), and now I'm pretty sure they won't. When did the ideas that good pitching always stops good hitting, and pitching and defense win championships become ignored?
Farmington Hills, Mich.
I'm still trying to sort through the Willis contract extension myself. I'd have waited to see if Willis were trending into Mark Hendrickson – damn, that doesn't work anymore, does it? – injured, or both.
Yeah, I can't feel too bad about a guy that gets to play baseball for three-quarters of the season for millions of dollars.
Sit across from Inge and understand that he wants to play, regardless of the money. You might be surprised to know how rare that is.
A career .240 hitter that doesn't even put the ball in play 25 percent of the time, below average legs and glove, he is fortunate he's still got a job. If he could not play a few positions, he'd be released and probably not picked up. Still living on the so-so success of 2006. Leyland is sometimes too loyal, to a fault.
First, he has a good glove. Second, Inge would start at third base today in San Francisco, Baltimore, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, at least.
KEN GRIFFEY JR. (Griffey and the silent 600)
The Griffey apathy has nothing to do with steroids. Sure, in the early '90s everyone loved Junior and wanted to see him break every record in the book. But year after year after year of injury has just worn us out. Eventually we all got tired of getting our hopes up that maybe this would be the season we got to see the real Griffey again. Now as he stumbles in around 600 near the end of his career, it's just depressing to think about how he should have been here five years ago. The fans just can't be expected to get excited about a career that didn't reach its potential and always seemed to let us down.
I don't know, Steve. When these big milestone numbers come along, aren't many players in some stumble phase or another? Of the 27 players with 3,000 hits, six (except Roberto Clemente, who died after batting .312 in 1972 and certainly had plenty of game left) didn't get another 70 hits. Seven of 23 300-game winners didn't win another 15 games.
Just a comment on the lack of hype on 600 for Junior – ultimately, it is a disappointment. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but imagine if, over the next six seasons, A-Rod suffers a spate of injuries, and finally limps to 600 just before he retires. Do you think there will be a huge celebration? Seeing 600 for Junior is bittersweet. I am glad he made it, but still am left with the feeling that there could/should have been so much more.
I get that. But, despite missing 105 games over the past three seasons, Griffey hit 35, 27 and 30 home runs. True, his average and slugging percentages were way down in two of those seasons and are again in this one, but the home-run numbers are hardly a limp, unless one is measured against one's era, or against one's prime. This, typically, is how careers go.
Hi Tim, I enjoyed your article about Ken Griffey, Jr. and his chase for 600 today, but I think there are four factors which are much bigger: 1. He has played his entire career in small-market cities, including the last decade for a perpetual non-contender. 2. After an amazing start to his career, followed by years of chronic injuries, there was the perception that he never lived up to his potential. Personally, I am quite frankly amazed that he has lasted this long and surpassed 500 homers, never mind 600. 3. After McGwire's, Sosa's and Bonds' single-season record chases, and then Bonds' career record chase, I think there is a certain amount of record-chase fatigue. As one of your interviewees said, "600 is the new 500." 4. Reds fans are fair-weather fans (I lived in Cincy from '95-'97). I hope people, especially Cincinnatians, wake up and celebrate Junior's accomplishment.
I spent a season (1997) in Cincinnati and I believe the people there will respond when 600 comes. That's a baseball city dying to get out.
Per your Griffey column: Head out to Seattle and ask around. Most of us here will rejoice in his accomplishment. We may not turn over cars and set them on fire, but we will be very happy for Junior and hope that he continues to enjoy a game he plays so well.
Really now, what's a celebration without a smoldering Prius?
Just read your column about Ken Griffey. His accomplishments will not cause much of a ripple because he does not play for the Yankees, Mets or Red Sox. If a person started following Major League Baseball today by following coverage in the media, he or she would think those three teams are the big leagues and the others are down somewhere between Class A and AA. Derek Jeter picks his nose and David Ortiz sneezes and it's headline news for two days. Meanwhile, the Griffeys can hit 600 homers and don't stand a chance for any lasting notoriety. Same goes for Lance Berkman, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn, Chase Utley and a whole host of superstars who play west of the Hudson River.
I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with those gentlemen.
In regards to "Griffey and the Silent 600," you really downplay the reasons that people are disinterested in Junior. While Junior was one of the most naturally gifted baseball players ever, he has also underachieved in its most important areas. While his numbers still shine without performance-enhancing drugs, you can say Junior is just a Rafael Palmeiro with integrity (and 30 more home runs). In terms of the playoffs, Junior hasn't been relevant since he left Seattle – almost a decade ago. Furthermore, his trade demand from Seattle was also one of the ugliest and egomaniacal departures by any athlete. Even after the trade, Junior has not significantly improved the Reds' overall fortunes. While injuries were a factor, Junior's offseason regiment did not help as he was notoriously one of the least hardworking players in the offseason. Cincinnati fans booed him for years as he did not live up to the status of the "star franchise player." I love Junior, too; but you left out a ton.
So, does this mean the car burning is out?
Tim, I think you are getting a head of yourself. If Junior is on 599 and the Reds are barely selling tickets then you have a point. But the guy is hitting a crummy .250 and taking nearly a month already to get from 596 to 597. And with gas at almost $4.00/gallon who wants to drive to the ballpark and see a last-place loser of a club like the Reds? Junior is one of the best ever, but no one is going to get excited for 600 until he's at 599. Heck, at this rate he's more likely to get hurt again than hit a home run.
Which, I believe, would be his 600th trip to the DL, also a milestone worth noting.
Well let's see … he was supposed to hit 600 and a lot more, right? This spoiled little brat that was said to have so much talent didn't live up to the hype. Now that the juicers have tainted the home run for good, 600 really means nothing.
The hype of 13 All-Star games, 10 Gold Gloves, five top-ten MVPs, four AL home-run titles, and a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame career? Or zero World Series at-bats?
Griffey is just waiting to hit his 600th homer until he is back in Seattle. If he does hit it here, people in China will hear response.
And if Junior can pitch, it'd be a great trade.
TAMPA BAY (Beaming Rays take hold of first)
Why don't you tell people about the worst World Series that could ever happen – subway series in Florida? I know it's early in the season but just imagine the worst television coverage and the worst attendance would be a Rays and Marlins World Series. I can see it now: Tampa and Miami in a World Series and no one would be there to watch. A blacked-out World Series.
There are, uh, subways in Florida? The Alligator Alley Series? The Sunshine Series? The Snowbunny Series? Ideas?
They're on a roll for sure but remember Washington was 50-25 under F. Robbie their first year. Not saying they're going to Niagara Falls but they may finally reach the elusive .500 level for their first time. It's amazing they did it without their ace centerfielder.
Yes, from 50-31 to 81-81 in 2005. The difference is in the starting rotations.
Indians, mediocre? Check the starting pitchers' ERA, 3.16 going into today, that's No. 1 in the AL.
Yes, Indians, mediocre.
KEVIN TOWERS (Padres' woes ignites Towers inferno)
I live in San Diego. And I will tell you this, it's really bad out here. Everyone has lost their faith. I mean we're 0-23 when trailing in the 7th or later! Nobody feels we can win with this team. If we're down by more than two runs I don't even watch the rest of the game. We have zero chance of winning at that point and it looks like the players feel the same way, which is depressing.
But, dude, you live in America's Finest City. That's something, right?
Arrogant GM, who gives an "America's finest city" rat's butt.
The first thing the Padres ought to do is shorten the fence at Petco!
But then all the players would escape.
The Padres have lived and are now dying by the sword. They built a park for pitchers and have not aggressively sought good hitting. They got lucky with Milton Bradley last year then don't sign him? Chase Headley has a fantastic spring and they send him down to Portland? People say Towers is a baseball genius. I say he is part of the problem in San Diego. We voted for a new building that was supposed to generate more money to improve the team. They are still cheap and rank in the lowest payroll totals. Why should Boston/New York even have to pay a luxury tax if the teams who receive the money just put it in their pockets and don't use it to produce a winning team? We love Trevor Hoffman but he would never have put up such big numbers if the Padres could score more than one run a game. When does football season start?
Hank Steinbrenner, ladies and gentlemen …
Thanks for the reporting. I'd like to say, though, that you missed the boat a little bit. Towers is more responsible for the mess the Padres are in than are the players. He and Sandy Alderson have put together a shame of a team – retreads, retirees, and the injured – rather than going out and getting actual major-league capable players. For Towers to act indignant is like Bill Clinton feigning virginity.
I did not have contract negotiations with that center fielder.