(Long Island, NY) Monday morning quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. It’s easy to critique a move or non-move when the game is over. But Mets manager Willie Randolph may have been the only person in the ballpark that felt closer Billy Wagner was not going to blow the game.
The Subway Series sometimes takes on a life of its own. But after a stirring comeback on Friday night (and beating the Yankees great closer, Mariano Rivera), the Mets were three outs away from shutting out the Bronx Bombers and taking the first two games.
A four run lead usually means your closer gets to take this one in from the bullpen and rest up, especially since he pitched the previous evening. But to the surprise of many, Randolph called on Wagner to begin the ninth inning.
As Wagner imploded with every batter that reached base, it was apparent that it was not his day. Forcing in a run with a bases loaded walk was bad enough. But when he forced another on the next pitch when he hit Bernie Williams, only then did Randolph give him the hook.
Of course, the Yankees then tied the game to force extra innings. And they eventually won the game in the 11th inning when Andy Phillips drove in Miguel Cairo from third base with a base hit.
But the puzzling thing was that Randolph didn’t even have someone warming up in the Mets bullpen in that fateful ninth inning before it was too late. When Wagner started struggling, that was a signal that most managers would have sensed to get an arm loose. But Randolph stuck with him at least two batters too long.
Should Wagner have been in there in the first place? Probably not because if he is needed in the Sunday game, that would be three consecutive days pitched. Especially after throwing 30 pitches on Saturday, we probably won’t see Wagner on Sunday if it would have been his spot or not. Possibly a blessing in disguise the way he has been throwing.
Wagner should not get a pass here because of a questionable managerial decision to put him in a game. There is no excuse for the way he pitched today. But Randolph should be thrown under that same proverbial bus. In 2005, his bad decisions were called ‘rookie mistakes.’ He doesn’t have that luxury this season.