the sports section

Plunking Toward Postseason

Willie Randolph

That’s Mets manager Willie Randolph. Though, if you don’t recognize him from this picture, you’ll probably have no idea what this post is talking about.Photo: Getty Images

Baseball in New York has now descended into the energetic predictability of mid-career Oasis. (Which ain’t all that bad. The Gallagher brothers nearly sold out Madison Square Garden last time around and, after a few vodka cranberries and an Excedrin Migraine with extra caffeine, they sounded damn good.) There’s possibility of another Yankees-Sox matchup to which noted philosopher king Derrick Coleman would say, “Whoopty damn do.” Then there’s the lure of another Subway Series. Seriously, who is really rooting for twelve days of Mike and the Mad Dog frothing over Torre versus Randolph or reprising their asinine argument of whether Billy Wagner is entitled to use “Enter Sandman” as his entry song? I’d rather have my molars removed without anesthesia. Or watch Dane Cook shout inane baseball promos for Fox. Oh crap, that last thing really happened.

Alas, they are going to play the games so let’s find a few plot points: With the Mets, the Minaya-Randolph Administration’s legacy hangs in the balance. Like in 2006, the Mets, barring a last-week swoon, enter the playoffs with an ancient rotation possibly featuring a surgically repaired Pedro, a decrepit El Duque, and 300-game winner/grumpy uncle Tom Glavine. If they wilt in the October cold, that’s on Minaya whose feel-good bio has scored him the easiest pass in modern New York sports history.

Randolph’s managing is also slipping close to its sell-by date. Some Mets fans have been grumbling about Randolph’s decision-making since last year’s NLCS game seven when he let a gimpy Cliff Floyd bat and swing away in the bottom of the ninth. However, in-game strategizing might be the least of the manager’s problems; his team has been playing fundamentally unsound baseball most of the season with runners trying to go to third on routine groundouts to the shortstop, Jose Reyes lollygagging his way to first, and — my favorite — David Wright making the last out of a game by getting thrown out trying to go to second on a pass ball with his team trailing by four runs. Unless the Mets — particularly Reyes — keep their eye on the road, this could be a quick postseason exit (think flipping off the exit-ramp quick). If the Mets flame out, particularly after the promise of 2006 season and the Prague Spring of the first half of 2007, it’s not impossible that Randolph could find himself scapegoated all the way out of a job.

In the Bronx, it’s new verse, same as the first. This is likely Joe Torre’s final year, and if the team advances or wins it all, look for 587 shots of a teary-eyed Torre waving good-bye. Much of that happy ending rests in Torre’s own hands. Longtime Yankee watchers have been mentally counting off in their heads the number of days until Torre violated the sacrosanct “Joba rules” with Joba Chamberlain, his new bullpen savior. They have not been disappointed. Okay, we’re not going to bring him into the middle of an inning — okay, check, did that. We’re not going to pitch him in back-to-back games — check, cross that off the list, too. I hate to be a doom and gloomer (actually, that’s a lie), but the possibility of Chamberlain’s season ending in tears — a tired arm, a grand slam given up — seems as likely as Jason Giambi coating his hair with an entire tube of K-Y. Part of it isn’t Torre’s fault: Mariano Rivera has been looking frighteningly hittable, and Kyle Farnsworth has looked frighteningly insane. However with a rotation that rivals the Mets in a race to 55 and over community eligibility, the Yanks’ pitching looks thin. It’s a comb-over that no amount of Joba magic and a one through nine killing machine of an offense can overcome.

Oh yeah, there’s some melodrama about A-Rod overcoming playoff demons and deciding whether he wants to make $30 million next year, but you can read about that elsewhere on this fine Website. Either way, October should bring some closure to the A-Rod drama.

I think I speak for 8 million New Yorkers when I say it’s about fucking time. —Stephen Rodrick

Plunking Toward Postseason