Few Clouds 42° Good Evening
Few Clouds 42° Good Evening

Jerry Manuel, Jon Niese, David Wright, Mariano Rivera, the Red Sox, the Reds and the Dodgers

I have countless regrets in my life, but none of them involve a Spadafore-style blog entry. So let's kick off our Monday with some news and views.

News: The Mets lost again, and Jerry Manuel's job security is once again an issue.

Views: It should be an issue, but only partly because of the actual results. Whenever a team loses, and a manager in the crosshairs, we like to talk about a team "giving up" on its skipper, or what have you.

The Mets have lost five straight now, and six of seven. But are they really playing like a team that's "giving up"? Not in my mind. To the contrary, they've played their way back into games, particularly the past two days. It's their talent that's undermining them. And Manuel, once again, is doing a poor job of maximizing the talent he does have.

I'd be less concerned about the actual result, in other words, and more concerned that Manuel still seems to view Fernando Nieve as a valuable reliever, after running him into the ground. And of course, Nieve was never that good in the first place.

One thing to keep in mind with Manuel: Upper management really likes him. It'll be looking for reasons to keep him. Which is the exact opposite of what went down two years ago with Willie Randolph.

NewsJon Niese aggravated his right hamstring injury.

Views: Once again, we'll see how serious the Mets are at their new "Prevention and Recovery" philosophy. There's simply no way Niese should start Friday night against the Yankees, at the least. So far, the Mets have done well in this area. They exhibited proper caution when Jose Reyes dealt with his thyroid condition in spring training.

Of course, with Oliver Perez now out of the rotation, the Mets have two spots to fill. I'd give R.A. Dickey a shot on Wednesday to replace Perez. Dickey is pitching well at Triple-A Buffalo, and most of the Washington lineup will be unfamiliar with his knuckleball.

David Waldstein mentions that Raul Valdes (scroll down) could start Wednesday. Valdes has pitched well in his limited action this season. I'd still go with Dickey, since the Mets appear to have room on their 40-man roster, anyway.

News: David Wright had another rough day, striking out twice and committing an error at third base. He now has 51 strikeouts in 133 at-bats (and 165 plate appearances).

Views: I get it. I really do. The strikeouts are alarming. The streakiness is alarming. You see those highlights where he flinches at pitches, and you wonder if last year's Matt Cain HBP is still in his head. The defense has never been that great in the first place.

But Mets fans of the world, let's focus here. Wright has a .400 OBP and .534 SLG, and if the season ended today, that .934 OPS would mark his best since 2007. And his OPS+ (incorporating ballpark factors) would probably be better, since Citi Field is so tough on hitters.

For all of your concerns about Wright, tell me a Met - player, manager, coach, general manager, owner and anything in between - who is performing better at his or her job right now than Wright. Anyone.

Maybe you can name one person. Maybe two. Not too many more than that, though.

--Daniel Murphy visited the Mets.

News: The Yankees finally lost to the Twins in New York, with Mariano Rivera giving up the lead in spectacular fashion.

Views: I was sitting in section 406 with my son's Little League team, the Blue Jays. Jason Kubel's grand slam landed three levels below us. Even the Yankees can't get away with charging more than $11 a head for where we were.

Anywho, as the Twins rounded the bases, I turned to my son, 6, and said, "The last time Mariano Rivera gave up a grand slam, you weren't even born yet."

As Tyler Kepner noted, Jim Thome was on the winning side yesterday, and with the Indians eight years ago.

Concerned about Rivera? Good Lord, if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it's Rivera. Besides, he figures to get some work this coming week.

As Jim Baumbach noted, Derek Jeter said the upcoming week should be "fun." You know he woudln't be saying that if the Yankees were, say, 19-19 (like the Red Sox) rather than 24-13.

Jeter is in a slump, by the by. Kimberley Martin also wrote a good story on tonight's starter Phil Hughes.

--Javier Vazquez might be needed to pitch long relief these coming four days, which would then take him out of the mix for Friday's start at Citi Field. I understand the mechanics of what's going on, with Sergio Mitre out of the long relief mix after starting yesterday.

But still: The Yankees shouldn't get too cute with Vazquez. He did pitch well his last time in Detroit, after all. And at some point, common sense dictates, someone from the mix of Hughes, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte will hit a rough patch, performance- or health-wise, at which point it will become more important to have a fully functioning Vazquez.

News: The Red Sox lost a series in Detroit and, as mentioned earlier, are back at .500.

Views: The longer this goes on, naturally, the longer you start to wonder. The Red Sox's salvation, their stabilizer, was supposed to be their starting pitching. But yesterday, in a getaway rubber game, John Lackeky got unnerved by some of home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale's calls, according to Red Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione (with whom I appeared with Joe's son, Duke, on "Sports Extra" last night).

Everyone's entitled to a bad game. But Lackey has a 4.86 ERA, with a nearly matching 4.84 xFIP. Their starters have combined for a 5.00 ERA. They just don't have the offense, even when fully healthy, to overcome that.

News: The Reds defeated the Cardinals, and now occupy first place in the NL Central.

Views: Eh. They're not exciting me too much. All of those late-inning victories portend some future late-inning losses. It's what happens when you play that many close games. If you look at their team stats, you can see that they are below the league average on both offense and pitching.

I'm labeling them pretenders, until further notice.

News: The surging Dodgers swept past the NL West-leading Padres, in San Diego, and have now won seven straight.

Views: They still possess major questions about the depth of their starting rotation, and the McCourts' divorce would appear to make it unlikely that a midseason payroll boost is coming in the form of another pitcher. Nevertheless, this team hits. And if the front three of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda can pitch up to their ceilings/track records, then this Dodgers team should be able to hang in there.

--Interesting comments here by Carlos Delgado, about his uncertain future. I found these,  believe it or not, on Twitter.

--Speaking of Twitter, Nick Migliore properly called me out on there yesterday, after I mentioned in yesterday's blog post that Jon Garland had a 199 ERA+. Migliore took the time that I didn't, to point out that Garland's xFIP was 4.76. So in other words, Garland is the pitcher he usually is.

(But still, for a few extra million bucks, he'd look pretty good in the Mets' rotation right now, woudln't he?)

--I'll be at the Stadium tonight, kicking off this busy week, and will check in from there.



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