K-Rod’s Assault On His Father-in-Law Could Probably Have Been Avoided If Jerry Manuel Understood High-Leverage Relief Situations

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08/12/2010 1:28 PM |

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The 2010 New York Mets season has not lacked for the abject pathos we’ve come to expect from the Amazins; still, having your overpaid closer arrested for beating on his own father-in-law outside the home clubhouse, as happened last night after a 6-2 loss, is something altogether new and unexpected (Francisco Rodriguez now faces a third-degree assault charge).

K-Rod’s flareup—along with many wrenching blown leads—could probably have been avoided, if only Mets manager Jerry Manuel had any idea how to use his bullpen.

Last night, the Mets led the Rockies 2-1 in the top of the 8th; Hisanori Takahashi got two outs but then surrendered a hit and a walk. With the game on the line, Manuel turned not to his to $12 million relief ace, but to Manny Acosta, who gave up Melvin Mora’s game-breaking grand slam and another run after, without recording an out. Rodriguez never got into the game, and was angry afterwards, refusing to talk to reporters. The Post has him saying, “Did I [bleeping] pitch? Why should I talk to you guys?” This was shortly before the fight with his father-in-law.

Last night’s bullpen mismanagement was typical of Manuel this season: last week, ESPN The Magazine pointed out that the Mets, though a .500 team, are third-worst in the majors in one-run games, and noted Manuel’s tendency to use his closer Rodriguez almost exclusively in save situations (like, say, getting three outs with a three-run lead), and leaving him in the bullpen during actual high-leverage situations—like two on and two out in the 8th, with the team clinging to a one-run lead. Manuel’s hardly the only person in baseball so impressed by the save statistic that he regularly saves his best relief pitcher for 9th inning leads the rest of the bullpen can’t hold—but it’s stupid, rigid thinking, and it loses ballgames. And then sometimes your overpaid closer gets arrested for beating up his father-in-law.