Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Weakest Link

Game 44 - Mets

Braves 11, Mets 4
Record: 22-22

In other sports, momentum during a game is palpable and obvious, and what happens early in the contest can alter the course of a contest irreovocably at times. Football games feature chunks of unanswered points and game-changing, tone-setting plays in the first ten minutes. Basketball has runs (keep it clean, TJ) in seemingly every quarter, spurts (keep it clean, TJ) of momentum that shape the outcome. But you didn't come here to read about those other sports (or TJ's juvenilia). You came here to read about the thinking man's game.

Baseball's a different animal, to be sure. With a pace much slower and play more methodical and deliberate, setting the tone in the early going with a single event is rarer. Rallies are most often confined 'twixt the 0 and 3 in the OUTS box of a single frame. Beyond the sage wisdom of "momentum's only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher," it's usually only as good as the next batter.

To put it into a single thought, the notion that one bad play early on could sully and taint (TJ, honestly!) an entire ballgame is improbable. 27 outs for each side over three hours and fourteen minutes should never be decided by one medium-to-slow grounder to second base in the third inning.

But it was. I saw it happen.

Bottom of the third, speedster Mark Teixeira hit a two-out groundball to Luis Castillo, he of the six-two-five salary and the OPS to match. Luis gloved it as the zippy Teixeira flashed down the line. Then he bobbled it a bit and just missed nabbing the lightning-quick Texieira at first. No out recorded, no error recorded, no inning recorded. Three runs later, 3-1 Braves, and there it went.

Over the course of the next six frames, the Mets' game disintegrated like my conversational skills over the last few hours of last Saturday night. And just as the missus indicated that there needs to be some serious changes in my game plan for future consumption, many are starting to wonder what sort of changes to the Mets' game plan -- or game planners -- need to take place.

I consider myself neither a rampant Willie Randolph-basher nor a Willie apologist. And the over-arching questions about how influential a baseball manager is, whether poor play by uber-millionaires is the fault of the guy making the lineup card, and whether the GM's more at fault here still remain. All I know is that it looked for all the world like the fellas in the gray road uni's started packing up their gear in the bottom of the 3rd last night, and that will always, always, always get the natives restless.

Welcome to the crosshairs, Willie. I gotta tell, you though -- your explanations are starting to sound even lamer than mine.

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