In his heartfelt and evocative eulogy for the legendary Tigers radio announcer Ernie Harwell, Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated closed by remembering that Harwell went to the ballpark "with the expectation that he would see something he had never seen before. And day after day, he saw that something."
Ernie Harwell would have loved Wednesday's Mets-Reds game because, even with more than 50 years in service to the game, there's a good chance that Harwell never saw a manager do what Jerry Manuel did with his lineup.
In the seventh inning of a game that the Mets were losing by a run, Manuel chose to lift Jason Bay from the game in a double switch rather than keep him around for a key at-bat in a game that might be tied in the ninth or extra innings. The player he kept in the game was Gary Matthews Jr., whose hitting statistics are usually mistaken for a pitcher's.
Then, when the game was tied in the 10th inning, Manuel pulled another double switch and removed David Wright from the game so that Fernando Tatis could remain in the lineup and play third base. In extra innings of a tie game with a team that hasn't exactly set the world on fire with their offense, Manuel chose to remove the heart of his lineup in favor of two guys who don't hit at all.
What kind of man makes moves like that?
A man who isn't all that sure he wants to win the game, for one. Manuel put Pedro Feliciano into the game in the bottom of the 10th and, wonder of wonders, a guy pitching in his fourth straight game gave up a home run to the first hitter to face him. Feliciano may not have as much work under his belt as Fernando Nieve, but someone should probably remind Jerry that there are other options before arms start falling off of bodies in Queens.
There's another option than just nihilism for Manuel's decisions. Perhaps, in a move inspired by George Costanza, Manuel is trying to act as crazy as possible in hopes of getting fired by the Yankees. We'll know for sure if he streaks Citi Field in a bodysuit on Friday night, but yanking your best players from games and killing your best relievers certainly isn't the work of a man steadfastly fighting to keep his job.
The bad news for Manuel is that George wasn't able to get himself canned despite a Herculean effort. The last two years make it clear leaving the Mets is just as difficult even though simply using Costanza as a blueprint for life passes for cause in most American companies.