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Nice job, Bobby V

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Posted: Thursday October 14, 1999 10:07 AM

By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated

ATLANTA -- Bobby Valentine is not a smart man. I can say this after officially witnessing the worst bit of managerial ineptitude in baseball history. Wednesday night, the Mets were tied with Atlanta, 2-2, in the bottom of the sixth. Kenny Rogers, New York's tricky lefty, had run out of tricks. He had already allowed Brian Jordan's two-run homer to the rightfield foul pole, and now, one batter later, Andruw Jones singled. This was the Rogers we all know -- strong starter, weak finisher, mental stool sample. In the bullpen, Turk Wendell was loose and ready. Up to the plate stepped Atlanta catcher Eddie Perez.

Now, stop -- here is what we know:

  • Rogers is lefthanded, Perez is righthanded.
  • Righthanded batters hit lefthanded pitchers.
  • Wendell throws righthanded.
  • Perez is horrible against righties, mediocre against lefties.
  • Rogers was not one of the first three batters scheduled for the top of the seventh.
  • Valentine has told every pope, pretzel man and police officer that he is the king of all strategists.

    So, as the world has learned, Bobby V screwed up. He left Rogers on the hill. Rogers left the ball over the plate. Perez left the yard -- a thunderous shot to left. Atlanta took a 4-2 lead. The Braves won, 4-3.

    "I was very surprised they left Rogers in," Perez would later say. "When Andruw got his hit, I thought they would go out to the mound. I was ready to go back to the circle and watch the new pitcher warm up. Anyway, I was happy. I wanted to face [Rogers]."

    Perez is a very good defensive catcher, with the offensive skills of grilled flounder. He is a career .259 hitter. He had seven homers in 309 at bats. Rule A: You do not throw him flat fastballs. Rule B: You don't leave a fatigued lefthander in when your bullpen is the best in the National League.

    Unless you write for New York's Daily News or Post, dogging managers isn't fun. It's just too easy, like swatting flies or stealing an old lady's purse. But this is not a simple dogging. Valentine is a self-created celebrity manager who craves the limelight. He believes he is the smartest skipper in baseball, despite a previously playoff-less career and a yachtload of iffy moves. Before this series began, he backhandedly complimented Bobby Cox's '99 performance, noting Cox actually "had to manage."

    Wednesday night, Bobby V had to manage. Nice job.

    Jeff Pearlman is a Sports Illustrated staff writer.

    The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.

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