In all fairness to our skipper, I don’t think any manager in baseball history could overcome the injuries he’s had to deal with. Remove 3 of the best 4 players from any team and you’re sure to see them struggle. Connie Mack, John McGraw or Casey Stengel would not be able to overcome the loss of a lead-off hitter, the biggest HR threat and your all-around best player. That being said, however, it’s not just that the Mets are losing. They are losing in an embarrassing fashion. They are playing totally uninspired baseball. You wont see basic fundamentals in a Mets game. And that’s where I think Manuel is faltering badly. Losing is one thing. But losing in such a listless, indifferent way is something different.
We Mets fans have had far more losing seasons then winning seasons. It is becoming an effort to watch our team play. When we have the lead we are fearful that the bullpen or a bone-headed play will relinquish the lead. And once we fall behind this team has consistently displayed an inability to fight from behind. They appear to give up. They go down without a fight. In my opinion that is what makes this season so painful.
None of us have any idea what it’s like to be a major league manager. We cant imagine dealing with 25 different personalities, many earning more then you are. What bothers me about our skipper is that he does not seem to instill confidence, the desire to win. With Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado going down there is no way to make up for that. However, this should be used as a chance for others to step forward, to shine. In 1969, many of the lesser known players had a huge role in that championship season. Back-ups like Kenny Boswell, Art Shamsky and J C Martin stepped up. In 86, Davey Johnson got the most out of reserve players like Lenny Dykstra and Kevin Mitchell. In 2000, Bobby Valentine did more with less then any manager in Mets history and we fell in love with the hard-nosed play of Joe McEwing, Jay Payton, Timo Perez and Benny Agbayani. Even as recent as 2006, players like Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin rose to the occasion and did what Willie Randolph asked of them. I just don’t see Jerry Manuel instilling that same ‘team’ feeling.
I know my fellow Mets fans will heed the battle cry of Tug McGraw. And yes, I still do believe. But it’s time to face facts. We all love the Mets and the reasons are as varied as our fan base. In 69, we won 38 of our last 49 games. In 73, we won 21 of our last 29 games. In 86, we came out of the gate going 20-4 and never looked back. Unfortunately, I don’t see the 09 Mets even coming close to a streak like that. With a little over 2 months of baseball ahead of us, we are simply going through the motions of what seems like an endless 162 game schedule.
All this being said, however, if there’s one team in Baseball that can get on a roll, one team that can start to win, one team that can start moving up in the standings and make the rest of the NL pay attention, it is our Mets. If the Braves or the Phillies go on a winning streak, no one notices. But if the ghosts of miracles past should step to the forefront, the Phillies will start looking over their shoulder. Will 2009 be another miracle? No. But on the other hand, just imagine ‘What If…’