Jerry Manuel should be very happy that their are seats with obstructed views at Citi Field. He should be thrilled that Doc Gooden slapped his John Hancock on a chunk of wall, and that the Mets decided to paint the outfield walls black. All of those things dominated discussion of the first week of games at Citi Field, which made it easier to miss the strange things Manuel was doing in the dugout.
Most notable was his decision to sit Luis Castillo and Ryan Church on Sunday against the Brewers. Castillo and Church have been the two hottest players in the lineup, and there simply wasn't any reason for either one of them to see the bench. Church, in particular, should always be in the lineup against mediocre righties like Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee's starter, and there was an off day on Monday in place to give each of them a day of rest.
Choosing Gary Sheffield over Church was a bad choice on Sunday and it was a bad choice on Wednesday, but its more troubling because of what it may represent for the coming season. If Sheffield's here, you need to get him at-bats, but they should never come at the expense of Church or Daniel Murphy. If one or the other is slumping, or if a tough lefty is in the lineup, then go ahead and make the move, but if you wanted a real time-share in the corners you should have gotten someone better than Sheffield to plug into the lineup.
The Castillo move was just as puzzling, and helped the Mets lose the game. Castillo has outperformed everyone's meager expectations of him thus far, and playing Fernando Tatis gave the Mets no benefit offensively or defensively. That was proven when Manuel chose not to bunt with Tatis with two on and none out in the seventh inning of a game they were trailing 3-2. Not bunting is fine, but not when you've chosen to go with a worse offensive player than Castillo, who is also a better bunter.
In-game decisions not working can be forgiven, though. What can't be forgiven is making choices that hinder your team's chances from the opening pitch. Attention was diverted last week, but Manuel will be front and center starting on Tuesday night.