Mets Manager Manuel Must Santana On Short Rest
The Mets enter play on Friday night in a flat-footed tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League Wild Card playoff berth (which goes to the best team in the NL that does not win their division) and a game back of the NL East rival Phillies. The Brewers are playing the Chicago Cubs this weekend while, the Phils are fighting the lowly Nats and the Metsies are taking on the ballclub from Florida that witnessed the 2007 death throes.
No matter what happens in tonight's game between the Mets and Marlins at Shea, Jerry Manuel must start ace pitcher Johan Santana on short rest in the game on Saturday. He has to. It's a must. This is a dealbreaker for me with Manuel. If he throws out one of the no-name, never-was or not-yet starters that has spot-started for the club this season then he is most definitely not a gangster, as he professes to be. And, I wouldn't want him to be my club's skipper next season.
The Must-Start Johan Scenarios
If the Mets lose and the Brewers both win then you HAVE to throw Santana because if you wait until he is fully rested you might end up with a gem on Sunday that means absolutely nothing. If the Mets wake up trailing the Brewers on Saturday morning then that game IS the season. It is the game that keeps them alive to fight on Sunday. If Brandon Knight or Nelson Figueroa gets bombed in that spot then yours truly could start in the regular-season finale.
If the Mets lose and the Brewers lose then you also HAVE to send Johan to the hill on Saturday because you must make an effort to grab the Wild Card lead going into the season's final day. They can't let the Brewers be the ones to break the tie (with a Saturday win and Mets loss) because that put's Johan in a spot where all he can do is force a playoff game on Monday with a win of his own on Sunday. You need to be aggressive and throw your ace on the day you can win the Wild Card rather than on the day when the best you can do force a tie. If the Mets and Brewers both lose tonight then you can't start a wish-and-prayer guy tomorrow and squander a chance to be in the driver's seat when everyone puts on their Sunday finest for the last regular season game at Shea.
The Mostly-Must-Start Johan Scenario
If the Mets win and the Brewers (and Phillies) lose then you really, really should start Johan to try to take control going into Sunday. You want to put the pressure on the other two clubs. You want to try to lock up the Wild Card on Saturday so that we can all enjoy the festivities scheduled for Sunday.
Jerry Manuel famously announced the press corps and the Metropolitans that he was a "gangster" shortly after taking over the managerial reins from the gracelessly deposed Willie Randolph. Well, if Jerry is really a gangster than now is the time to show it. Gangsters don't wait and hope and pamper and let something they covet come to them. Gangsters go out and take what they want. In other words, gangsters start Johan Santana on Saturday. No matter what. Because gangsters want to be in the playoffs and are smart enough to know that Johan is the only guy who can take the race. Well, him and CC Sabathia.
And, this is why Charles Oakley would start Johan on Saturday.