Maybe I’m mistaken but when we made a managerial change on June 17, I thought the purpose was to get us into the Post-Season. When Omar Minaya fired Willie Randolph in the early morning hours and replaced him with bench coach Jerry Manuel, I, along with most Mets fans, were hoping for the best. We all thought to ourselves, ‘Good, maybe this is what we need to get us into the Post-Season.’ I don’t think any of us thought, “Well, now, hopefully we can get into a pennant race.”
When Jerry Manuel took over, we were 5 ½ games behind the Phillies. When the season ended and all the smoke cleared, we finished 3 games behind the Phillies. In 3 ½ months, we picked up just 2 ½ games.
The Mets played far better under Manuel than they did under Randolph. After going 34-35 for Willie, we went an impressive 55-38 under Jerry. However, the end result was the same in 2008 as it was in 2007. As difficult as this is to believe, this year’s club failed to ever come back from a 2-0 deficit in the 8th inning or later. We failed to ever overcome a 4-0 deficit at any time all year–in any inning. Manuel was brought on board with one mission and that was to get us into October. He failed. He was put in charge to accomplish one thing and he did not. But yet, he is being brought back–and most fans seem happy about that.
I do think Manuel is a good manager. It would not be fair to blame him for the way the season ended. I actually believe he did a good job. Considering the injuries and bullpen woes we had all season, it’s really Amazin we had any meaningful games at all in late September However, the ends justify the means. Manuel was given one purpose, one goal. And he did not achieve it.
Yes, we went 55-38. But keep in mind, Johan Santana always has been a strong 2nd half pitcher. And Carlos Delgado’s offensive explosion in the 2nd half garnered him serious consideration for the MVP. Had Delgado been stronger in the first half, perhaps Willie would still be at the helm.
At the end of the 2006 season, Willie’s Mets were literally one hit away from going to the World Series. In 2007, we ‘collapsed’ and by the start of 2008, everyone was calling for Willie’s head. In spite of having the 2nd highest winning percentage in Mets history, Randolph managed for 2+ months with his head in the guillotine.
On September 10 of this season, we were in first place and held a 3 ½ game lead over the Phillies. With a favorable schedule, we did not collapse, but we surely did falter. We didn’t blow a 7 game lead with 17 left. But we did blow a 3 ½ game lead with 2+ weeks left. The Mets hobbled to the finish line losing 10 of our last 17.
On September 17, the Milwaukee Brewers shocked the baseball world by replacing their manager, Ned Yost, with Dale Sveum. People scoffed, people laughed. How a team could do that with only a handful of games remaining seemed cold and callous. At that time the Brewers were battling the Phillies for the Wild-Card because the Mets seemed to have a lock on the division title. Milwaukee’s decision may not go down as the Public Relations event of the year. But it worked. The Brewers, new manager and all, ended up winning the wild card while the Mets and our new manager watched it all on TV.