I was alerted of the news that the Mets fired their manager Willie Randolph when my phone vibrated at 6 am that morning. A friend of mine who will remain nameless (since I still hold that he has no life for texting me at 6 am) texted me to tell me that the Mets fired Willie Randolph Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto. Naturally the first thing that popped into my head was “who the fuck is Tom Nieto?” My next question was why my friend couldn’t wait till 9 or even 10:00 to share the news rather then wake me up at 6. But anyway I’m not here to sit and right a whole long post blasting the Mets for firing Willie Randolph. I’m not really going to write a long thing with my opinion on the matter. I will just say this, I think Willie got fired for the wrong reasons and was having blame unfairly put on him. He did his job the past week and the bullpen blew it for him. However I do think that Willie has clearly lost the ability to inspire this team, and that shows with the team’s abysmal record since June of last season.
I’ve had an argument with a certain bezzy monster who wrote out his long opinion on this move which can be read here http://bezzymonster.blogspot.com/
So the focus of this is to just write out my side of the argument, the argument had nothing to do with Willie Randolph (I happen to agree with everything he said about Willie as well as first base coach Tom Nieto) but rather had to do with pitching coach Rick Peterson. While my friend Mr. Bezerman believes it’s a travesty for Rick Peterson to be let go is it possible he lost his touch? I will not argue that he is a good pitching coach, the Mets have had the 4th best era while he’s been here and that’s been great but isn’t it possible he’s lost his touch. He came over with a very nice pedigree having worked with the “Big 3” in Oakland (Zito, Mulder, and Hudson). But early on in his Mets career he was the backbone to what would become the worst trade in Mets history, ultimately costing the GM his job and making the Mets the butt of all Scott Kazmir jokes for quite some time. Peterson took a look at Devil Rays pitcher Victor Zambrano and said “I could fix him in 10 minutes,” causing the Mets to trade #1 prospect Scott Kazmir to Tampa for Zambrano. Well Zambrano looked like he was making a good improvement in his last two starts with the Mets before getting injured (including his last start with a great line of 1.1 IP 4k’s, then walking off the field) but those last two starts came after a year and a half of constant walks and inconsistency. Meanwhile Kazmir has been growing into a top pitcher in Tampa; in fact writing on the subject is getting me mad that I’m just going to stop. He also was able to work with Tom Glavine and completely change the way Glavine pitched, enabling Glavine to add on about 3 years to his career and it enabled him to win 300 games. However this also enabled Glavine to become our “ace” which led to him being on the mound for that final game against Florida last year…again another sore spot that I’ll just stop. During his tenure with the Mets he has worked wonders with some pitchers, namely Oliver Perez and John Maine, there’s no argument as to what he did with them in the past, but there is one to say that he just doesn’t have it anymore.
Again my argument here is simple, its not that Peterson wasn’t great, but rather it was time for him to go. He worked very closely with John Maine during the 2006 season and worked very closely with Perez once the Mets traded for him. He worked with them well enough that they were trusted with the ball in games 6 and 7 respectively of the NLCS that season, and both pitchers turned in masterful performances. Perez has had a nasty slider his whole career but has been plagued with inconsistency; however Peterson worked very close with Perez last season on keeping his mechanics the same way and Perez responded by winning 15 games, no doubt from Peterson’s help. But here’s the question, what has happened this year? All of a sudden Perez’s inconsistency is back and he randomly decides to improvise on his own, often leading him into trouble. As Mets announcers talk about how that’s something Rick Peterson does NOT want to see I must ask why is Ollie doing this and why can’t Rick get him to stop? Perez’s mechanics and arm angles have been all over the place this year, shouldn’t Peterson have taken him right from spring training and picked up right where they left off last year. When watching Perez pitches this year it’s as if his tremendous year last year never happened.
Maine this season hasn’t regressed as badly this season, as Perez has, but he hasn’t been the John Maine of 2007. Is that Peterson’s fault, I don’t know but he clearly hasn’t been able to help him as much this year. Another alarming stat is newcomer Johan Santana has arrived to the Mets and began his first year with Peterson. The Johan of 2008 however has served up an alarming rate of Home Runs to opposing hitters, again can’t blame it on Peterson, but a pitching coach is supposed to help figure these problems out and get rid of them and that hasn’t seemed to happen. People also like to bring up that he did a great job with reliever Aaron Heilman while with the Mets. I have no evidence that he did anything great with Heilman, all I could say is let’s just look at how the guy who is supposed to be our 7th or 8th inning guy is walking around with a 5.45 era and whenever he comes into a game I could confidently shut the game off knowing he’ll blow the lead. Now yes the Mets starting pitching has had a tremendous era, especially recently where they have been very good, even Mike Pelfrey who might have actually found his game has been lights out. But a pitching coach is not only in charge of the starters but also the relievers, and the Mets bullpen lately has been DREADFUL. It looks almost as if Peterson has never paid any attention to them. The bottom line is, when you get gems out of Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana on back to back days, Pelfrey pitching into the 9th and then handing the ball off to his closer who blows the save, and then blows another one the next day. The Mets got the ball to their closer with a lead in the 9th inning two days in a row and he didn’t come through. Before that, the bullpen had been horrendous in San Diego and have continued to struggle in Anaheim (or Los Angeles as the Angels like to be called), but getting the ball to the closer in the 9th inning is what a manager is supposed to do. If the bullpen not coming through cost the manager his job, then the pitching coach deserves to be fired also. I’m not saying Peterson isn’t a good coach and I’m not saying that I don’t think the Mets will miss him, but this year it just strikes me as that something just wasn’t there, and it was time for him to move on.