Please be advised that this blog was compiled yesterday, before the Mets beat the Marlins 5-3 at Shea. If in fact this team is beginning to turn it around, this will all seem a little less meaningful.
They say, “No news is good news.” In the Mets case, no news is, well, no news. Same old story, day after day, week after week, and even month after month. Stretching back to June 1st of last year, the Mets are four games under .500. And all you hear is, “We gotta keep battling.”
Those who feel that Willie should have been given the boot should make one thing clear. The feelings are not personal; this is business. Willie was a good player in his own right, and is probably a decent guy deep down inside. And while Omar and the Wilpons may have decided not to make any changes on Monday, there is no solid evidence of Willie remaining here for any certain period of time. In other words, the meeting probably was in fact to discuss Willie’s comments in the Bergen Record and to clear the air, and not to discuss his fate as Mets Manager. Of course, since the team’s performance has been mediocre at best lately, there were also talks of how to improve and get back on the right track.
The fact that this team is playing sub .500 baseball for the past year should be more concerning than the Mets organization as a whole, is presenting it to be. Last year’s collapse is forgotten, despite what some local media people say. It’s all about what this team has done for us lately. They are actually in a worse position now than they were last September. Last year, they just took for granted that they had the division won. Now, this team’s confidence is shot, and it shows the most in the way Jose Reyes has been playing. Not focused, not fundamentally sound, and with an acceptance of losing.
I have no confidence, whatsoever, in this team coming back when they are down. And with this team, no lead that they do manage to scrounge up, is safe. How long must we Mets fans wait for a change? Exactly how patient do we have to be? Even the most patient of fans cannot possibly hold their tongues any longer. With all of that said, should Willie bear all the responsibility for the team’s troubles? Absolutely not. It starts at the top and trickles down. Here’s how I see it:
1. Omar Minaya’s decisions to sign players like Luis Castillo and Moises Alou to long-term, big-money contracts have proven to be careless and inefficient. Castillo is only 32 years old, and can’t play a day game after a night game. Alou could have still been a good player and a quality presence in the clubhouse, but he’s always hurt and is getting on in years. And since Delgado never wanted to play in New York anyway, acquiring him was also a disaster of a move. Minaya’s "win now" mentality, with no Plan B, has destroyed hopes of a Championship beyond 2009. If they don’t do it now, they will have to start the rebuilding process, and we will be right back to where we were in the 90’s. Ticket prices are up, but attendance will be down. And with a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium, I don’t think the Mets can afford to do that.
2. Willie Randolph’s reluctance to get on his players when they are slumping may leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all those he comes into contact with. By not going out there and arguing and fighting for his team, he basically lets the umps and the rest of the teams know that they can put anything over on us. We all know that he can only play who he has, and while he shouldn’t have to re-teach them the fundamentals of the game, he does have to remind them of what they need to do sometimes. I think at this point, Willie should be taking some time to talk one-on-one with a few guys on this team who need to step it up – Beltran, Delgado, Castillo, Reyes and even Wright. It needs to be reinforced and reiterated to them what their role is on this team, how they can make a difference individually and what is expected of them. These guys need to be concerned about themselves as far as what they can do differently to transform this team back to the team of 2006, but not so much to the extent of a me, me, me attitude. Let each player be held accountable for their own actions and leave it up to them to turn it around. Let each guy do what he does best, whether it’s Reyes stealing bases, Beltran making outstanding catches in the outfield or Delgado hitting homeruns. One hot hitter or one very well pitched game is not enough. This team needs to come together as a unit. Willie’s relaxed and redundant post-game comments say, without using the exact words, that it’s okay the way things are. It’s not okay. And as far as the comments, the only race that should be on anyone’s mind is the Pennant Race.
3. The players not performing the way they are expected to and capable of is not Willie‘s fault. What is his fault goes back to #2. Maybe they don’t want to play for Willie. Maybe they feel that if Willie doesn’t go out there and stick up for them, they don’t need to play hard for him. Even though they would only be spiting themselves if that were the case, sometimes a statement needs to be made. At the same time, I don’t think it’s fair that the players be asked if Willie should stay or go. As Carlos Beltran said, it is not their decision to make. However, in listening to some of the player’s comments, it was not indicated by many that they do support him and feel as if he should stay. It may be possible that this team really isn’t that good. Just because a team has Championship talent, doesn’t mean they are of Championship caliber. Having talent and using it are two different things. And most importantly, Championship teams have to want it. This team may be overflowing with talent, but they are not producing wins. It has only gotten worse over the last month or so, sinking from averaging .500 to three games under. This team is lazy and lifeless. They are way overpaid and way underachieving. They know that firing one manager is easier than firing a team of 25. So there is no motivation. Why should any one player step it up when no one else is; they aren’t
going anywhere anyway. And there are no consequences suffered by these players for their lousy play.
Aside from a managerial change, what other modifications can be made to improve this team? Guys like Aaron Heilman, Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo have little to no value to another team. And the guys that do, like Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Wagner and Santana aren’t going anywhere, and rightly so. So what’s left are the in-between, average guys who haven’t done poorly but haven’t done anything so spectacular; they have simply lived up to the expectations allocated to them. These are guys like Church (who may be considered to have exceeded expectations), Endy, Maine, Schneider and Smith, etc. Taking that into consideration, what other moves can be made?
Fire Willie? Fire Peterson? Fire HoJo? It’s not the way they are doing their job, it’s the way they are not doing it. It’s what’s missing, not what’s there that’s causing problems. The Mets need to decide if Willie is part of the problem or part of the solution. He obviously did a good job of selling himself to the Wilpons on Monday.