Wednesday, April 18, 2007

God Bless You, Charlie Manuel

The Mets finally got back there on the field and administered a one-game sweep of the Phils. So convincing and demoralizing was it that Charlie Manuel threatened to fight a Philly radio host.

Turns out ol' Red Devil has some fight in him, more than his team does at this point, seeing as how they went 0-13 with runners in scoring position.

Personally I don't think there's anything wrong with the Phils that a decent middle reliever won't solve, and one of those guys will either emerge or he won't. Why they didn't deal Leiber in the offseason for a good arm they could take a chance on—their version of Bannister-for-Burgos—is beyond me. I assume they tried and the deal wasn't there, but I don't know.

For the Mets, Tom Glavine battled all night to get a feel for his pitches. One of the announcers—I think it was Gary Cohen—expressed surprise that they didn't readjust the rotation to give Glavine a start in Florida instead, given his history of circulation problems and need for a lot of feel in his fingertips to get his pitches over where he wants them. That made some sense to me, but I think a big part of being the ace is being the guy to take the ball on nights like last night. And in the absence of one of those fireballing power guys in the rotation, the guy who needs no such dainty "feel" on his pitches and could fire 96 MPH fastballs unscathed through a tornado, who else would the Mets give last night's start to? Nah, let the old pro handle it and battle through.

I've really—however slowly—gained an appreciation for watching Glavine work. I think most of us greeted him with apprehension, even a little muted hostility, when he came over from the dark side. Like he might just be coming over to spy or sabotage from within. Most of his early results, especially against his former employers, only served to strengthen those feelings. He was never quite the epitome of the Annoying Robot Braves—that was always Maddux, of course—but he was right behind. The Vice Epitome. It took quite a while to even trust Glavine, let alone admire his work. And I'm sure there are plenty of Mets fans who haven't even reached the trust level yet.

Besides the ex-Brave factor and the poor start, Glavine actually has quite a bit more working against him when it comes to winning over your average Joey from Bayside and Vinnie from the Car Phone. He's blandly workmanlike on the mound and aloof off it, the polar opposite to the hyper-charismatic fan favorite Pedro. He hails from Massachusetts and has a whiff of the patrician New Englander about him. He's into hockey. There's something staunch and humorless about his Union-hood: when a sideline reporter breezily asked him, during the NHL strike, whether he'd like to go be a replacement player, he actually bristled at the obviously sore subject. Put simply, he's a serious man doing his job. Jose Reyes he ain't. Contrarian that I am, these are all the reasons I've come over the pro-Glavine camp so strongly (sometimes I think I'm the charter and only member of the pro-Glavine camp). I love the Mets, but I also love the anti-Met precisely because he's the anti-Met. I don't expect any of this to make any sense.

Glavine has jumped out to at 3-1 start and started quickly closing the gap to his 300th win, despite cold conditions and resulting walks. And I've started to enjoy watching him come back doggedly with changeup after changeup, bearing down until he gets the out he needs. It won't ever be as fun as watching, say, El Duque spin a start out of the well of his creative genius, inventing pitches, following whims, tossing in the occasional eephus, conducting a one-man orhecstra. It's something, though, seeing Glaving go about his business. Last night he got out of two-on, no-out situations in the fifth and sixth innings before the Mets had broken open their lead, in the fifth striking Utley and Howard out back to back. Maybe he was never a robot after all.


UPDATE: Word this afternoon that the Phillies have made the bewildering move of sending ace Brett Myers to the pen to set up Flash Gordon. He'll be replaced in the rotation by Jon Leiber.'s Jayson Stark calls it a desperation move (Insider req'd), and I have to agree. Quoth Stark:

The Phillies' Plan A last winter was for Myers to morph into Curt Schilling Jr. at the top of the rotation, and for Garcia to replace Jon Lieber in the rotation, and for Lieber then to get dealt for some reliable bullpen monster who could close when necessary.

But that plan derailed when the Phillies couldn't find a match for Lieber. And now the whole team has derailed, in part because its bullpen has had that train-wreck look since Day 1 of spring training.

I guess poor old Charlie Manuel really has gone batty.

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