by “Christian Dan” Borrello,posted Sep 18 2008 1:01PM
The Mets hung in last night, after the Nats bats whittled New York's 7-1 lead down to a 9-7 squeaker in Washington. Only a day after dropping two to the worst team in baseball, Jose Reyes' "who me?" look in the New York papers told the story of the Mets' entire season. Unfortunately, Willie Randolph isn't around to absorb the abuse of ungrateful fans who root for the blue-n-carrot-topped stepchildren of New York baseball. They were all wrong for blaming the former manager for last season's implosion. They were wrong when he was fired. And they're all wrong now when crediting interim manager, Jerry Manuel, for their would-be comeback.
Carlos Delgado's turnaround season and his MVP-type second-half would have happened under Willie, Manuel, or Dallas Greene for that matter. In fact, Delgado IS the Mets turnaround.
Sure, they can blame this late-season collapse entirely on Billy Wagner's bum elbow giving-out. In doing so, Mets fans forfeit all rights to rip the Yankees for their MASH unit's failure to reach the postseason. The Yankees have no excuses. And their fans are bright enough to tell you so.
Sure, the wild card parachute may be there to bail out the interim Mets manager--the guy whom many-a-Mets fan wanted to hire as the skipper to christen Citi Field next April, breaking the bottle of Cristal on Jackie Robinson's statue that will welcome Mets fans in the rotunda.
Hold the champagne. This year, and next year.
No, Manuel is not entirely to blame for his team's potential sequel of 2007. Just like Willie Randolph was never entirely to blame for last year's horror flick.
Perhaps could it be--ahem!--the players?
For every pundit pounding Alex Rodriguez for his ho-hum eight homers and .271 average with runners in scoring position, there's the City's bizarro third baseman across the river, David Wright, hitting 32 points lower, with half as many round-trippers.
For every Johnny from Queens who says he'd rathuh' have Reyes over Derek Jet-uh' at short--now is the time for the Mets' young catalyst to be more of a captain than a clown.
The fact is, however, the guy to blame is the guy everyone credits for the Mets turnaround: Omar.
Minaya reloaded the Mets instead of rebuilding to bring the franchise back to prominence and catch the Yankees as soon as the World Series was no longer their divine right. In today's era, teams can no longer just plug-in veterans and give longterm deals to has-beens with torn labrums, or players whose contracts expire after their pensions kick-in. You also can't ask the youth of the left side of the infield to make-up for the AARP collection from the other seven positions. Players like Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Tom Glavine, Moises Alou, Damon Easley, Paul LoDuca, Delgado, and Brian Schneider may have been good stop-gaps, but a collective curse that may haunt them for Septembers to come.
Sure, the Mets landed Johan Santana at a lower cost than the Yankees or Red Sox would have paid to garner his services last season. And while the two-time AL Cy Young winner has been good, he's hardly been the dominant ace expected to mimic former AL pitchers like Roger Clemens, who've crossed into the National League. And its hard to praise the GM, when a stalemate between arch rivals and a big bank account made Queens the only destination left for the lefty.While it was a major Met coups, it's hardly brilliant.
The story hasn't changed. Willie wasn't the problem. When win totals rise, players credit the "new" clubhouse atmosphere, the same way they blame losing on bad locker room vibes.
Jerry Manuel shouldn't stand around any bus stops for a while. Because the same guys who got Willie fired will either write their manager's ticket, or throw him under like Billy Wagner's last rehab pitch.
Doing their eternal GM's bidding, win and lose.