One of my biggest complaints with the Mets in the last few years has been the frequent disregard of fundamental baseball exhibited by our veterans. I can forgive a rookie for the occasional “rookie mistake”, but when I see Angel Pagan throwing to the wrong base, or Jose Reyes taking off for third base with David Wright at the plate and two outs, it just aggravates me to no end.
The one thing that really ticks me off the most is seeing how often players would make similar mistakes in judgment during the course of the season. Lets face it, every player makes mistakes, but it really bothers me when the same exact mistakes are repeated game after game. Obviously, the Jerry Manual regime either did little to address many of the issues that plagued the team, or maybe he did, but the players simply didn’t listen.
While answering questions for Adam Rubin of ESPN NY, the topic of discipline came up and here is that exchange as copied from his site.
Do you consider yourself a disciplinarian? And, if so, do you have to walk a fine line because of today’s major league players?
“When you say disciplinarian, I don’t yell and scream at players. I never did. That’s a misconception. Sometimes during a game if you walk over to a guy and say, ‘Hey, look, I want some effort,’ in a certain situation, it doesn’t have to be broadcast. It’s just your point has to be made. And, yes, I’ve taken major league players out of the lineup for not running. I just think sometimes it sends a message. But I know one thing: Once in a while, if you understand the circumstances, you’ve got to turn your head on some things.
“Somebody asked me one time, ‘Geez, I don’t like, your left fielder is walking out to left field between innings.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ”What are you going to do about it?’ I said, ‘Nothing., How does he go after fly balls? That’s the only thing I really care about.’ But I also believe players — the real good players — they’re self-disciplined. They don’t need discipline. I sat next to Barry Bonds when I was in Pittsburgh. Nobody ever, ever saw this guy work. They only talked about how he played. I saw him work. And this guy wanted to be the best player going. Was he hard on some things? Was he tough sometimes to be around? Yeah. But he was driven to be the best. And that, to me, is self-discipline. And that’s what I’m going to try to instill in our guys — ‘look, you have a chance to be great.’
“I told Sandy and Jeff [Wilpon] the other day: One of the things that I was told a long time ago by Wade Boggs, who I really respect, he said, ‘Few men dare to be great.’ And I want those guys who want to be great. I want those guys who want to take the chance at being great. Because once you become great, you’ve got to maintain it. So when you’re not, you’ve got to deal with the consequences, and that is, sometimes, you’re going to be criticized. But you’ve got to understand, you have the ability to be great. And so we’re going to try to reinstill that.”
One of the things that was always apparent when watching Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel during games, is how they completely ignored blatant lapses in judgment by many of the players. For some reason Jose Reyes always seemed to get singled out, and rightfully so, but for once I would have liked to have seen one of them get in David Wright’s face for not hustling out of the box, or confronting Carlos Beltran for not employing a take out slide to avoid a potential double play. (At least until the Utley slide LY)
It’s obvious we’re not the type of team that’s going to out-slug the competition, and that’s fine, and plenty of teams have won the world series without four 30-homer guys in the lineup. But if we’re going to win by playing small ball, you have to pay attention to details. You have to be fundamentally sound in all areas of the game. Most importantly the hitter has to know how to adjust his approach at the plate depending on the situation. Outfielders have to know what base to throw the ball to, especially with runners on. Pitchers have to know when to brush a batter back and understand the importance of throwing strikes and trusting your defense.
These are the things I hope the new manager focuses on this spring and all season long. I want to see a huge effort on every single play, otherwise take them out of the game, fine them, and make an example of them, the way it used to be in the good old days.
It doesn’t matter who we sign and who we trade for. Until this team elevates their baseball acumen and raises their baseball IQ as I like to call it, not much will change.
There are too many fundamental things wrong with the way our players approach this game. It’s a system wide problem that you see even in the young players who get called up like Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, and Angel Pagan and Fernando Martinez before them.
This team as presently constructed, could probably improve by 10 more games in the win column just by playing the game the way it should be played and minimizing the incessant lapses in judgment and fundamental flaws that have defined this team in the last five years.
If the only thing that Terry Collins does is to turn those problems around and make this team fundamentally sound through discipline, leadership and a better understanding of the game, than his tenure will be, at least to me, a phenomenal success.