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MLB News and Notes September 29

MLB News and Notes September 29

Notes from Friday's games
September 28, 2007

MINNESOTA: Joe Nathan is the first Twins pitcher with 36 or more saves in four straight seasons. He got his 36th Thursday night in a 5-4 win over the Red Sox. ... Twins starter Kevin Slowey had allowed four hits in each of his previous two outings, one lasting six innings, the other seven. On Friday, he gave up five hits in the first three innings. ... Minnesota is assured of its third consecutive losing month after having winning records in two of the first three months of the season.

CF Coco Crisp missed his fourth consecutive game because of illness. ... David Ortiz set a record Friday with his 51st double as a DH, passing the mark of 50 set by Edgar Martinez of Seattle in 1995. It was Ortiz's 52nd double of the season, with one as a first baseman. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka made his 32nd start Friday night. He's the fourth Red Sox rookie with 30 starts and the first since Jim Lonborg made 31 in 1965. ... CF Jacoby Ellsbury was back in the starting lineup after leaving Thursday night's game in the fifth inning with cramping in his right calf.

TAMPA BAY: Manager Joe Maddon is still considering whether to give 3B Akinori Iwamura a start at second base before the season ends, but acknowledged it's unlikely. Iwamura started at DH on Friday and Joel Guzman started at third. ... Maddon said he'll give OF Delmon Young a game at DH over the final three days, but will play Young every day to keep the rookie on pace to play in all 162 games. ... INF Brendan Harris (strained left lat muscle) is only available for defense and pinch-running duties, Maddon said.

3B Russ Adams (sore right shoulder) was scratched from the lineup about an hour before game time and replaced by Hector Luna. Adams is hitless in his past 13 at_bats and went 2-for-23 on Toronto's recent road trip. ... 2B Aaron Hill entered play Friday with an AL-leading .404 batting average in September. ... Toronto pitchers have recorded a major league-high six complete games since the All-Star break, and have allowed just 256 earned runs, the fewest in baseball.

NEW YORK: RHP Roger Clemens flew home to Texas on Friday, choosing to rehabilitate his bothersome left hamstring there instead of at the team's complex in Tampa, Fla. That was fine with manager Joe Torre. ``Wherever Roger goes, he's got workout facilities everywhere for what he needs to do,'' Torre said. ... Although the Yankees entered their weekend series at Baltimore with a chance to win the AL East, Torre said being prepared for the playoffs was his priority. ``Certainly we're going to try and win if we have a chance to win,'' he said. ``The most important thing to me is to make sure these guys are ready to start the second season.''

BALTIMORE: Scott Moore started at first base Friday night instead of Kevin Millar. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he wanted to see Moore play first base and didn't want to use the rookie against the left-handers New York intends to start on Saturday and Sunday. But Millar was also batting just .190 over his last 19 games. ... Erik Bedard (rib cage) hasn't pitched since Aug. 26, but he still ranks third in the AL with 221 strikeouts. ... Baltimore needed one win or one Tampa Bay loss over the final three games to avoid finishing in last place.

DETROIT: OF Magglio Ordonez enters the final weekend of the season leading the AL with a .359 average. Mariners OF Ichiro Suzuki, who has two career batting titles, is second with a .350 average. Manager Jim Leyland didn't discount Ichiro's hitting ability but said he thinks Ordonez will finish on top. ``Magglio has the upper hand but Ichiro is capable of getting five hits in a game,'' Leyland said. ``I think Magglio will pull it out. He's got a great chance.'' .... RHP Joel Zumaya's electric stuff has prompted many analysts to suggest that he should be the Tigers closer and Leyland said the talk isn't unfounded. ``I don't think there's anything wrong about (people talking about) Zumaya being the closer because that's what we want eventually. It's not a matter of if he is but when he is,'' Leyland said. He then cautioned, ``(Zumaya) has to get more economical with his pitches on a steady basis.''

Manager Ozzie Guillen would like the organizational meetings in the offseason to focus on the minor league system. ``For our organization, our minor league system needs to be stronger,'' Guillen said. ``The minor league system, I'm going to take a deeper look this spring training than I did before. I'm going to spend a lot of time in Tucson (Ariz.) watching the minor league kids.'' ... Guillen isn't sure where to begin when trying to upgrade the club for 2008. ``Right now, I don't know, because we failed at so many different ways,'' Guillen said. ... Despite a disappointing season, Guillen won't question his team's passion to win. ``They just struggled. I wouldn't say they weren't hungry, I wouldn't say they played lousy,'' Guillen said. ``Everybody just struggled. We just had a bad year.''

CLEVELAND: Manager Eric Wedge said he has not decided who would start the third game of the playoffs, but it will be either Paul Byrd or Jake Westbrook. ``We talked about it today, but I need to have a conversation with Birdie and Jake before announcing it,'' Wedge said. Byrd is 15-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 31 starts, while Westbrook, who starts Saturday at Kansas City, is 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA in 24 starts. ... Wedge said if the Indians opened the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday, they would likely use a 10-man staff. If they begin on Thursday, it would likely be an 11-man staff. ... The Indians did not arrive at their Kansas City hotel until 6 a.m. Friday after a night game Thursday in Seattle. ``It was a long night, a long day - a continuous day,'' Wedge said. ... The Indians entered Friday 29-11 since Aug. 15, the best in the majors.

KANSAS CITY: Buddy Bell, who announced Aug. 1 that he is stepping down as the Royals manager after this season, said it ``is a weird feeling'' entering the final weekend. ``I'm sure I'm making the right decision, but the closer I get to the end I'm more unsure if that makes sense,'' Bell said. ... SS Mike Moustakas, who the Royals selected with the second overall pick in the June draft, is scheduled to take batting practice before the game Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. Moustakas hit .293 in 11 games with Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League after signing for a $4 million bonus. He is playing for the Royals in the Instructional League this fall in Surprise, Ariz. ... 3B Alex Gordon, who was in a 1-for-25 skid, was held out of the lineup Friday.

ATLANTA: Baseball officials reduced Rafael Soriano's suspension from four games to two, and the right-handed reliever planned to sit out Friday and Saturday in Houston. Soriano was suspended for hitting Florida's Dan Uggla with a pitch on Sept. 17. He appealed the suspension and spoke with major league officials on Tuesday. ... The Braves had 801 runs entering Friday's game, the fourth time in five years the Braves have reached the mark. They've only topped 800 runs in seven of their 42 seasons.

HOUSTON: For the last homestand of Craig Biggio's career, a black ``7'' was painted on Tal's Hill in center field and a giant banner in left read ``Thanks for All the Memories Craig!'' Biggio debuted with Houston in 1988 and played all 20 seasons with the Astros. ... RHP Brad Lidge will face three months of rehab after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee scheduled for after the season. ``It's a little more than a scope because they have to do a cartilage plug,'' Lidge said. ``But it's not a major surgery, like reconstructive.'' The rehab period shouldn't affect Lidge's offseason - he usually doesn't start throwing again until January. ``I'll have the exact time I need to do what I always do,'' he said.

WASHINGTON: The Nationals picked up manager Manny Acta's option for 2009. Acta, the youngest skipper in the majors, has guided the Nationals to fourth place in the NL East, better than most expected. ``I feel the Nationals' future is in good hands with one of the best young managers in baseball,'' general manager Jim Bowden said. ... Ronnie Belliard nearly was thrown out by RF Shane Victorino on his first-inning single.

PHILADELPHIA: SS Jimmy Rollins won the Mike Schmidt MVP award. LHP Cole Hamels won the Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher award, CF Aaron Rowand won the Tug McGraw Good Guy award, and Larry Shenk, vice president of public relations, earned the Dallas Green special achievement award. All awards were voted on by the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The awards will be handed out before Saturday's game. ... The entire weekend series sold out Friday morning. ... Adam Eaton (10-9, 6.33) takes the mound Saturday. The struggling right-hander was pushed back instead of skipped in the rotation.

CHICAGO: Alfonso Soriano set a major league record and tied a Cubs mark when he led off with a homer on an 0-2 pitch from Bronson Arroyo. It was his sixth leadoff homer in September, a major league record for any month. Soriano has 13 homers in September, tying Ernie Banks' team mark for the month from 1957. ... Manager Lou Piniella clinched a division title with the Reds in 1990 during a rain delay at Cinergy Field. Asked if it would be particularly pleasing to clinch another in Cincinnati this weekend, he said. ``No, it wouldn't. I've got fond memories of this place, winning a world championship. I like the city. We've got to do it somewhere. This is the place.'' ... Ken Griffey Jr., who played for Piniella in Seattle, snuck into his session with reporters in the visitors' dugout to say hello. ``You still doing this stuff?'' Griffey said. The Reds outfielder is sidelined by a strained groin. ... Piniella wasn't aware that several Marlins suggested the Cubs were panicking while they got swept in Florida on Thursday. ``You know, they've got a lot of talent over there to lose 90 games,'' Piniella said, pointedly. ``Outside of that, I don't have much to say about the situation.''

The Reds are missing their starting outfield to injury. Ken Griffey Jr. (groin), Adam Dunn (knee) and Josh Hamilton (hamstring) combined for 89 homers and 246 RBIs. Their replacements on Friday - Norris Hopper, Buck Coats and Jason Ellison - had a combined one homer and 18 RBIs. ... Dunn was back in the clubhouse Friday for the first time since he had surgery on his right knee Wednesday to repair torn cartilage. Dunn said it had been bothering him for the last two seasons. ``I don't remember hurting it,'' Dunn said. ``I can't put my finger on how I did it.''

FLORIDA: Entering play Friday, SS Hanley Ramirez needed just one homer to become the third major leaguer in the 30-homer, 50-stolen base club. He had 51 steals. Eric Davis hit 37 homers and swiped 50 bases for Cincinnati in 1987 and Barry Bonds had 33 homers and 52 steals for Pittsburgh in 1990. Ramirez also could give the Marlins three players with 30 or more homers in one season for the first time in franchise history. Miguel Cabrera had 34 homers and Dan Uggla 31 heading into the matchup with New York. ... The bullpen had not allowed a run in Florida's three previous games (10 innings).

NEW YORK: RHP John Maine (14-10, 4.07 ERA) is scheduled to face Florida's Chris Seddon (0-1, 6.89) on Saturday. With the Mets fighting for a postseason spot, Maine said it feels like a playoff start. ``I need to come up big and help the team as much as I can,'' he said. ... The Mets dropped into a tie with the Phillies for the top spot in the NL East with Thursday's 3-0 loss to St. Louis but 3B David Wright isn't worried about his team dealing with the pressure. ``This is New York,'' he said. ``There's pressure on a daily basis.'' Wright singled in the first inning against Florida to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. He also has been front and center all month, answering questions about New York's slide. ``I think he's going to be a fine leader,'' manager Willie Randolph said. ``He's already shown that he understands his responsibility as a player to be accountable and stepping up and doing what he needs to do.'' ... Randolph remained upbeat heading into New York's final three games. ``I think we have it in us to come up strong this weekend,'' he said.

ARIZONA: Manager Bob Melvin was impressed with the performance of RHP Micah Owings, who found out two hours before the game Thursday against Pittsburgh that he would replace RHP Brandon Webb as the starter. ``I can't say enough of what he did for us,'' Melvin said. ... Melvin noticed a restless Webb throughout the game Thursday. ``Brandon was pacing,'' Melvin said. ``Pitchers get into a certain routine and it bothers them when that routine is changed.'' ... OF Justin Upton was in the lineup to get another right-handed bat in against LHP Jeff Francis. ... When asked if he'd rather face a team on a nine-game losing streak or one on an 11-game winning streak, Melvin said, ``Both are scary. You know the one will eventually come out of it and the other seems like it might not ever lose again.''

COLORADO: The Rockies' 87 wins is already the most ever in franchise history. ... Manager Clint Hurdle said he welcomes fans jumping on the bandwagon, even this late in the season. ``That's why they got 'em, so you can jump on them from time to time,'' Hurdle said. ... Fans arrived as early as 9 a.m. at the Coors Field box office to purchase tickets for the final three games of the season. ``That hasn't been the norm,'' Hurdle said. ``That's real good.'' ... The Rockies are hitting .277 this season with runners in scoring position, which ranks third in the NL. It's 10 points higher than last season's figure. ... The first time up to bat Friday night, OF Matt Holliday was greeted by an ``M-V-P'' chant from the crowd.

Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader with 523 career saves, helped keep the Padres loose during batting practice. As the players began their warm-up jog, he appeared to trip over a bucket holding baseballs. His teammates rushed to help him up and then started retrieving the balls. Hoffman's antics caught the attention of manager Bud Black who said stuff like that helped ease the tension of a tight playoff race. ... Black said that he watches the scoreboard during the game. ``I don't think it's dangerous,'' he said. ``It's part of the game. I might not look as close as others, but I'll peek between innings.'' ... RHP Chris Young makes his first career start against Milwaukee on Saturday and looks for his first win since July 19. He's 0-5 in his last 10 starts since that victory.

MILWAUKEE: 2B Ricky Weeks hit RHP Yovani Gallardo in the back with a line drive during batting practice. Gallardo was walking toward a group of players in right field when he was struck. He eventually walked off the field accompanied a member of the training staff. ... The commissioner's office reversed course Friday and revoked the three-game suspension assessed a day earlier to RHP Seth McClung. The reliever and manager Ned Yost were ejected Wednesday night after Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals got hit during the eighth inning of a 7-3 loss. ``I'm big-time happy,'' said Yost who served his suspension Thursday night. The players' association appealed the penalty, given out by Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline.

SAN FRANCISCO: The Giants are playing their 14th season-ending series against the Dodgers in a span of 26 years. ... This will be only the second time since divisional play began in 1969 that these storied rivals will finish on the bottom two rungs of the NL West ladder. It also happened in 1992, when San Francisco and Los Angeles were fifth and sixth, respectively. ... Last year, L.A. clinched a playoff berth by beating the Giants at San Francisco with one game remaining.

LOS ANGELES: 2B Jeff Kent has a $9 million option year on his contract for 2008. He doesn't want his Dodger career ending with him getting thrown out at home plate on Tuesday night by Colorado CF Cory Sullivan and bruising his left leg in the ensuing collision with Yorvit Torrealba. But Kent needs some time to decide whether he wants to return next season. ``I guarantee you that if I were to make a decision right now, I'd say no - because that's how frustrated I am about not being able to get to the playoffs,'' said Kent, a 16-year veteran who has played in only one World Series. ``I'm also frustrated at myself because I didn't play good enough to get there. Now I have to go home and look at my wife and my four kids in the face and try to figure out what we all want to do.'' Kent said he probably wouldn't decide until November.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 29

Buchholz season over because of fatigue

BOSTON -- Boston rookie Clay Buchholz won't pitch for the rest of the year and will miss the postseason because of shoulder fatigue.

The 23-year-old right-hander pitched a no-hitter against Baltimore on Sept. 1 in his second major league start, then was sent to the bullpen and made a relief appearance on Sept. 6. He had just one outing after that, starting and losing at Toronto on Sept. 19.

''Obviously this was not our first choice or our second. It was our last option,'' Boston general manager Theo Epstein said Friday. ''With the discussions with our medical staff, it was something we have to do.''

Epstein said the club had learned to be cautious following an injury to closer Jonathan Papelbon last year.

''We're very careful and structured,'' manager Terry Francona said before Friday's game against Minnesota. ''I don't think any of us are very comfortable sending him out there. There's been some fatigue. With fatigue comes a lack of strength. I know it's a little disappointing with what we've seen.''

Buchholz pitched 125 1-3 innings in the minor leagues thus year, going 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA for Double-A Portland and 1-3 with a 3.96 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket. He is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 22 2-3 innings for Boston.

''Unfortunately, he can't pitch safely right now'' Epstein said. ''He's at the point similar to where Papelbon got last year.''

Papelbon didn't pitch after feeling discomfort in his right shoulder against Toronto on Sept. 1 last season. The Red Sox brought him to spring training as a starter, thinking pitching every fifth day would lessen stress on his shoulder. He returned to the closer role late in spring training, and the team has been careful not to overwork him.

''I think going through Pap we have a good understanding.'' Epstein said.

''Pap was simply overused (last year),'' Francona said. ''When you get overused, there's fatigue and a chance for injury. That was my mistake.''

Buchholz threw 115 pitches in his no-hitter, 21 more than he threw in any Triple-A game this year.

''Innings-wise, he was OK,'' Francona said, but ''we don't put a pitcher out there if we have some concerns. We actually did not have him throwing the last five or six days.''

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 29

Astros remove interim tag for manager Cooper before final series

HOUSTON -- Cecil Cooper will return as manager of the Houston Astros after receiving a two-year contract Friday that runs through the 2009 season.

The 57-year-old was named interim manager when he replaced the fired Phil Garner on Aug. 27.

The announcement was made before the Astros opened their final series of the season, against Atlanta.

''It's a great thrill for me,'' Cooper said. ''I'm very confident I can do this. I know I can do it. We're going to get it done.''

Cooper had worked as Houston's bench coach since 2005. His promotion comes a week after the Astros named Ed Wade their new general manager to replace Tim Purpura.

''I'm became very comfortable, very quickly being around Coop,'' Wade said. ''I look forward to a long association.''

Houston has gone 13-15 since Cooper took over.

Cooper, a first-time major league manager, is the first black manager in Astros history.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 29

Baseball today - September 29

SCOREBOARD Sunday, Sept. 30

Washington at Philadelphia (1:35 p.m. EDT). The Phillies send Jamie Moyer to the mound.

STARS Friday

-Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. Soriano led off the game with a homer and Zambrano threw seven shutout innings in a 6-0 victory over Cincinnati.

-Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks, pitched seven innings to lead Arizona to a 4-2 win over Colorado.

-Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, had three hits and scored twice, helping Florida beat the Mets 7-4.

-Tike Redman, Orioles, had four hits and Baltimore beat New York 10-9 in 10 innings.


Boston and Chicago each clinched its division on Friday. The Red Sox, who beat Minnesota 5-2, won their first AL East crown in 12 years when New York lost to Baltimore, while the Cubs had to wait for Milwaukee to lose at home to San Diego to begin celebrating the NL Central title. ... Arizona's win combined with the New York Mets' loss to Florida put Arizona into the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Diamondbacks became the first NL team to clinch a playoff berth, but they still don't know whether they'll be the wild-card team or NL West champion, where they have a one-game cushion over San Diego.


The Mets fell out of first place and are two games back in the wild-card chase after a 7-4 loss at home to Florida on Friday. The Mets' eighth straight home loss dropped them out of first place for the first time since May 15.


C.C. Sabathia picked up his 100th career victory and the Cleveland Indians wrapped up home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs with a 5-3 win over Kansas City on Friday night.


Colorado's 11-game winning streak was stopped on Friday with a 4-2 loss to Arizona.


Pittsburgh assured itself a last-place finish with its 11th loss in the past 13 games, 6-1 to St. Louis on Friday. ... Kansas City lost 5-3 to Cleveland and the defeat, coupled with a Chicago White Sox victory over Detroit, assured the Royals of their fourth straight last-place finish in the AL Central.


Alfonso Soriano hit his sixth leadoff homer in September during Chicago's 6-0 win over Cincinnati on Friday, the most by any major leaguer in any month. ... Carlos Pena homered in Tampa Bay's 5-4 loss to Toronto and has hit a team-record 12 homers in September.


The White Sox have won eight of their past 12 games after a 5-2 win over Detroit on Friday.


Alex Rodriguez hit his 54th homer, drove in four runs and scored twice, but the Yankees lost 10-9 in 10 innings at Baltimore on Friday night.


Cecil Cooper will return as manager of the Houston Astros after receiving a two-year contract Friday that runs through the 2009 season. The 57-year-old was named interim manager when he replaced the fired Phil Garner on Aug. 27. Cooper, a first-time major league manager, is the first black manager in Astros history. He'd been Houston's bench coach since 2005.


''That guy is good. That guy is really good.'' - Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon on Toronto's Dustin McGowan, who beat the Devil Rays for the second time this month, 5-4 on Friday night.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 29

Red Sox win first division title since 1995, AL playoff pairings set

Jonathan Papelbon sprayed champagne near home plate, then threw the bottle high into the air. So what if Fenway Park was mostly empty? The Boston Red Sox had waited a long time for this party, and they let loose.

More than an hour after beating the Minnesota Twins 5-2 Friday night, the Red Sox could celebrate: They were the AL East champions for the first time since 1995.

Their clinching became official when New York lost to Baltimore 10-9 in 10 innings. Boston manager Terry Francona stayed in his office with general manager Theo Epstein and owners John Henry and Tom Werner to watch that game end.

''I pulled my hamstring jumping off the couch,'' Francona said. ''It's fun to see grown men act like little kids.''

With Boston's win, New York's loss and Cleveland's 5-3 victory over Kansas City, the AL playoff pairings were set: The Los Angeles Angels will open at Boston, and the wild-card Yankees will start at Cleveland.

''We're going to play even up with everybody now. That to me is more important,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ''Sure, you'd love to win the division. What it took us to get to the postseason, obviously the way we celebrated, that's the most important thing.''

In Boston, there seemed to be a different view. The Red Sox prevented the Yankees for clinching a 10th straight AL East title, and their fans enjoyed it.

As Papelbon danced barefoot in the infield and Daisuke Matsuzaka bowed to a group, the sound system at Fenway Park cranked up ''Don't Stop Believin'.'' The message board on the center-field scoreboard flashed: ''CHAMPIONS OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST.''

There were more than a thousand fans left inside, and their cheers echoed all around the ballpark.

''It's as good as it gets,'' Henry said while holding a victory cigar. ''To win the division, that's what you want to do.''

Matsuzaka (15-12) pitched eight innings and won for only the second time since early August. David Ortiz hit his fourth home run in seven games.

Papelbon finished for his 37th save in 40 opportunities. Kevin Slowey (4-1) lost for the first time in the majors.

''It's October,'' said Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, drenched in champagne. ''That's when great players play great. Hopefully, we have a few in this clubhouse.''

In other AL games, the Angels beat Oakland 2-0, Seattle topped Texas 6-4, Chicago beat Detroit 5-2 and Toronto defeated Tampa Bay 5-4.
Orioles 10, Yankees 9, 10 innings

At Baltimore, a rare blown save by Mariano Rivera let the Orioles rally past New York.

Jay Payton's bases-loaded triple with two outs in the ninth off Rivera made it 9-all. The Orioles loaded the bases again in the 10th and Melvin Mora dropped down a two-out bunt single.

Rivera blew a save chance for the second time since April 28. Edwar Ramirez (1-1) took the loss and Chad Bradford (4-7) got the win.

Alex Rodriguez hit his 54th homer and drove in four runs, giving him 155 RBIs.
Indians 5, Royals 3

At Kansas City, C.C. Sabathia posted his 100th career victory and Cleveland earned home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Sabathia (19-7) was OK after being hit in both wrists by line drives from Mark Grudzielanek. The big lefty is 5-0 in his past six starts.

Sabathia is 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA lifetime against the Yankees, but has not faced them since 2004. He was hardly concerned that the Indians lost all six games to New York this season.

''Bring them on,'' he said.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 29

This dive will leave many ripples

Now that the Mets' fate no longer rests in their hands, that they have nearly completed the most thorough collapse in baseball history, we might as well start pondering the next question.

Who will take the hit for this? If the team doesn't climb out of this hole, created by Friday night's 7-4 loss to Florida at Shea Stadium, will Mets ownership agree with its angry fan base and fire Willie Randolph? Or will it settle for the blood of a few coaches and a shakeup of the roster?

Let's start with the easier issue. Omar Minaya undoubtedly is safe. You could argue that the ultra-popular general manager deserves as much blame as Randolph for what has transpired - actually, this space will pose that very argument by the time you reach the bottom of this column - but Omar has more than enough goodwill and support in his corner.

So back to Willie. Common sense dictates that Randolph keeps his job. That the Mets don't eat the $4.25 million they owe him through 2009. That in a meltdown as complete as this, you can't possibly target one person as the scapegoat.

Nevertheless, one person inside the Mets' loop, asked about Randolph's future, opined: "I think it all depends who gets in the Wilpons' ear at the end of the season, and how ugly it ends."

It's an open secret by now that Mets vice president of development Tony Bernazard - brought into the organization by Minaya - is no fan of Randolph's. Bernazard doesn't seem to care who knows.

As to the "ugly" factor: Was Friday night ugly enough? Why wasn't anyone warming up in the bullpen as Oliver Perez melted down in the third inning, hitting Cody Ross and Mike Jacobs in a span of three pitches - after hitting Dan Uggla earlier in the inning - to force in a pair of runs?

The answer became clear in Randolph's postgame session. The man who boasts of having seen everything explained, "I don't think I've ever seen that before."

Randolph clearly needs some help with his game management. Bench coach Jerry Manuel is one of the classiest people you'll ever meet, but it's worth recalling that Manuel dissuaded Randolph from bunting in the infamous ninth inning of Game 7 of last year's NLCS, according to Cliff Floyd.

Let's not forget the roster that Randolph received this season. Not a single Mets starting pitcher underachieved, based on history and expectations. But you can only squeeze so much out of this odd mix of too much mileage and too little experience.

Meanwhile, Brian Bannister is a candidate for American League Rookie of the Year with Kansas City and Heath Bell sets up Trevor Hoffman in San Diego. Neither pitcher, traded by Minaya last winter, brought back anyone of value in return.

As for the players, here's what David Wright said after Friday night's game: "This is on the players. It's easy to point fingers, but the 25 of us need to look at each other. That's where the blame is."

Yet you likely won't see wholesale changes on the roster, either. Paul Lo Duca is as good as gone. Carlos Delgado? Maybe, although it could make sense to hold on to him and see if he rebounds in his walk year.

Perhaps the Mets should bid Tom Glavine well, even if he returns home to the Braves, and focus on making their staff younger.

And the Mets need to sit down with Jose Reyes, who is hitting an abysmal .215 (23-for-107) in September and has seemed out of it for far too long, and figure out what the heck was going on with him.

Randolph and Mets COO Jeff Wilpon endured a contentious negotiation last winter for Randolph's extension. The Wilpons have to be sickened by the millions that will be lost without home playoff games, not to mention the hit that the organization's reputation will take.

Of course, you could argue that the Mets will take an even bigger hit if they fire Randolph.

The fair move would be to dismiss Manuel or third-base coach Sandy Alomar (Randolph's two allies), as well as midseason arrival Rickey Henderson (Minaya's hire). But life isn't fair. Let's see what sort of ugliness Saturday brings to Flushing.

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