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Willie Cracks The Whip

I was a little disappointed when Willie Randolph was hired to manage the Mets.

I figured we should have just got the good deed done already and traded the entire team for Derek Jeter and his intangibles.

Hiring a man who, to our knowledge, bleeds pinstripes seemed like heresy at the time.

And Willie's first year didn't really do all that much to allay my concerns. David Wright started the season hitting seventh, while Gerald Williams wound up with a ton of playing time.

The worst part, undoubtedly, was all those bad pitching decisions. The decision to use Hernandez every single day was bad. Using Takatsu against Cabrera was worse. And sending Looper out to blow the game again in the tenth at Turner Field was disgusting and unbearable.

But this team, these marvelous 2006 Mets, is managed by a new and improved Willie Randolph. He seems to have a better feel for his players this year. He seems to have a better feel for the bullpen as well, keeping top-notch relievers like Darren Oliver and Pedro Feliciano well-rested.

Willie proved himself even more this week. Cliff Floyd was begging out of the lineup with injuries he supposedly had beaten. And it has been every little thing in the career of the immensely talented Floyd. The former first-rounder has come down with any leg injury imaginable. Every possible pull, strain or tweak was accounted for in his career.

Last year, Willie received a ton of the credit in Cliff Floyd's revival. He managed to play a ton of games and tallied 34 homers and 98 RBI, by far the best in his short Mets career. It was nice to know we had a formidable slugger in the middle of the lineup and a Steve Phillips move that might not have backfired as much as it appeared. People gave Willie credit. And he probably deserved it, if the stories that he forced Floyd to play despite minor aches and pains were really true.

Despite all of last year's progress, though, Floyd has markedly regressed. He is having what could easily be deemed the worst season in his career. He has missed time due to injuries and has been horribly ineffective when he played.

So now Willie is telling Cliff to put up or shut up. Play this week or we won't see you on the playoff roster. The Mets do have some capable outfield reserves, including Endy Chavez and Lastings Milledge, making Floyd's season-long slumpitude expendable in October.

In the end, that is a very important thing. I'm sure you all remember the injuries that defined the Art Howe era. Reyes was hurt, Piazza was hurt, Floyd was hurt, the pitchers got hurt... everybody got hurt. And Willie won't stand for that. There won't be any more small injuries that slow the team's progress.

And for that, I think Willie deserves a ton of credit.


Tonight: Former promising pitching prospect Oliver Perez vs. current promising pitching prospect Josh Johnson. Uh-oh.

And, on another note, don't you think Willie cracked his whip last night too?

Cody freakin' Ross?

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