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Knowing when to say when on Jerry Manuel

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, "How much time does Jerry Manuel have this season?"....I'd probably have about 15 dollars.

I usually offered an answer along this theme: It depends on what the season looks like, what it feels like, what it - figuratively - smells like.

(That previous sentence for some reason reminds me of my 12th grade calculus teacher Mr. Travis, who used to draw some figure on the blackboard and state, "This is not a parabola. It doesn't act like a parabola. It doesn't talk like a parabola. If you kick it, it doesn't bleed like a parabola!")

Anywho, after yesterday's loss, the Mets' season isn't smelling good, is it? And as David Lennon wrote, Manuel put himself in the crosshairs by falling on his sword. Joel Sherman, in a similar vein, wrote it was unacceptable for the Mets to speak of being "unprepared" in game six.

If it's not yet time to fire Manuel, we've certainly made steps toward that direction in just one week of action. To lose the rubber game against the lowly Nationals yesterday, with Johan Santana going against Livan Hernandez and a potentially killer road trip to Colorado and St. Louis now looming? Oh, boy. To do so with Manuel saying his players were "unprepared"? That's a cry for help.

In my general exchanges with fans - be it e-mails, Twitter or the occasional unannounced visitor to my home - there's a general sympathy extended toward Manuel. He's not the one picking the players, it's correctly pointed out. He isn't the one who passed on a reasonable starting pitchers' market in free agency this past offseason.

All true, and we know that the Mets' ownership and general manager have to be among the most loathed by its own fan base in all of professional sports.

But that doesn't give Manuel a free ride. Why he's playing Gary Matthews Jr. so much is a mystery, and to hit Mike Jacobs cleanup for even one day is unfathomable. And why is it that the guys were unprepared yesterday - again, in the rubber game, with their ace going and with an imposing road game looming?

And, of course, pragmatic issues always play a factor here. Manuel is in the last year of his deal. Omar Minaya has two more years after this year.

This ain't over, as the baby from Bronson, Mo. said in this episode of "The Simpsons." It's difficult to envision the Mets going, say, 4-2 this week, but we've seen wackier things happen.

If the Mets fire Manuel shortly, I don't think they'll get the sort of bounce they did when they replaced Willie Randolph with Manuel two seasons ago. That was, perversely, a tribute to how much pretty much everyone, up and down in the organization, disliked Randolph. Manuel hasn't drawn such enmity.

However, if they replace Manuel with, say, scout Bob Melvin - that way, they could say they replaced one former Manager of the Year with another - then the Mets would give themselves a better chance to win every day. Today, if someone asks me how much time Manuel has left, my answer would be, "Not much."

--Even the Mets' bench-clearing brouhahas are sort of lame.

--I agree with Sherman: Jenrry Mejia belongs in the minors.

--It's just one week, for the thousandth time, but the Rays have to feel at least mildly discouraged after the Yankees knocked them around for a second straight day. If you're a Yankees fan, you have very little over which to complain at the moment. To open the season going 4-2 through Boston and Tampa, it doesn't get much better.

--Joe Girardi continued to defend and explain his controversial, hypothetical not-actually-a-decision to lift CC Sabathia with a no-hitter on Saturday. Goodness to mercy, what is it about pitch counts and innings counts that gets people riled up?

(That's a rhetorical question, Islander505. No need to actually answer. I'm just being dramatic for drama's sake.)

--In light of Joe West's comments from last week (scroll down two items), Joe Posnanski's research confirms that the Yankees and Red Sox do take longer to play their games. I still say, big whoop.

--Barry Bonds said he's proud of Mark McGwire for his confession. The funniest part is, we read in "Game of Shadows" that Bonds' jealousy of McGwire prompted him to start taking illegal PEDs. I hope Bonds makes the Hall of Fame, just so we can hear his induction speech. It would be a memorable one.

--Both Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman recorded encouraging professional debuts. It seems like only a health issue will prevent Strasburg joining the Nats on about June 1. Chapman's path to the big leagues isn't as clear.

--Target Field opens today, and I am curious to see whether the Twins - whose identity was so tied into the Metrodome - experience any transition pains. It obviously helps that they have a more talented team now, with a higher payroll. Part of their Metrodome vibe was tied into their being a low-payroll underdog, and having to use the field's quirks to get whatever edge they could.

--Just for some perspective, when you look at the standings, here are last year's standings (scroll to the bottom) after one measly week. Of the eight "playoff" teams at that juncture, just one - St. Louis - actually made the playoffs.

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: Greetings from Yankee Stadium! Not much going on today, and I'm working on a feature story that the boss (no, not that boss) wants to see, so I'll just contribute a dreaded self-promotion: For those of you who live in the five boroughs (or, apparently, selected other parts of the tri-State area), I'll be on NY1's "The Last Word" tonight at 11:30.

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