Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Erosion Wears Down Mediate And Randolph

Last week, Rick Reilly wrote a typically inspired column in which he urged fans to root for Phil Mickelson to beat Tiger Woods. Essentially his point was that it is too easy to root for Tiger because he wins all the time. "It's like rooting for erosion," he wrote. It's just gonna happen whether you want it to or not. Watching Rocco Mediate try to beat Tiger in the U.S. Open playoff was a perfect example of a guy getting worn down by erosion. Mediate played beautifully, and of course the run he put on to go up by a stroke through 17 was incredible, but he had to be perfect on every shot in order to be close.

Mediate gained over 100 spots in the world rankings and is now in the 50's. Tiger hasn't played in two months and is firmly planted as #1. So you knew going in that it was going to take a miracle. They battled back and forth all day but the final two holes were a microcosm of this entire playoff.

Tiger teed off on the par five 18 and landed about a mile-and-a-half down in the fairway. Mediate teed off and came up well short of Tiger and in some trouble. Mediate's second shot put him back into the fairway, one shot from the green and in front of Tiger's ball. The trouble is, no matter what Mediate did on his drive, it was going to take him three shots to get to the green. It was a par five, so that is appropriate. But it was only going to take Tiger two shots to get there.

So now they were both hitting onto the green, Tiger from a little over 200 out, Mediate from around 140, with Mediate's one-stroke lead essentially gone already. If those two guys play that hole 100 more times, Tiger gets there in two 90 times and Mediate wouldn't get there in two once. It is like the guy plays on a different course. It is like watching two guys play one-on-one basketball, only one guy is shooting at an 8-foot hoop.

Granted, Mediate is not the biggest hitter in the world, and lots of other guys would be able to do just what Tiger did. But the thing with Tiger is that he doesn't miss shots. His putt on 18 wasn't great - he left himself a tough 6-footer to finish with, but the first one was from about 40 feet!

So like erosion, Tiger just did what he always did and steadily continued along until his opponent couldn't match him anymore. The difference this time was that his opponent never really crumbled, he just was playing on a different course at the end.

Speaking of golf, it looks like Willie Randolph will have some time on his hands to pick up the sticks. I like Randolph. He seems like a good guy. And the expectations placed upon him were impossible to fulfill. But the team stinks and he simply makes no changes to fix things. They can't score runs and he doesn't change the line-up to shake things up. The pitchers struggle and he just keeps running the same relievers in the same scenarios out there until it's too late. The team has no energy and while he may get a bad rap for seeming to be calm when in reality he may be much more fiery, it is his job to get them to wake up, and whatever he has been doing isn't doing it.

It is not necessarily the manager's fault when a team struggles, but you can't fire 25 players so someone has to go, and when the biggest problem with a team is that their attitude stinks, that is the manager's fault. But really, has there been any doubt this was coming?

That said, Omar Minaya had better work some magic very soon because he must be on a very, very short leash. The way Randolph was fired was cowardly and few of the big moves Minaya has made have benefited the Mets in the long run at all. He's been give the money to "win now" for four years in-a-row and they have nothing but an NLCS loss and a monumental, historical collapse to show for it.

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