Despite all the rumors, the firing of Willie Randolph was still a shock. It came immediately after a Mets win, a win that meant the team had won three of its last four. It came after a weekend where Willie pushed all the right buttons – sometimes his team performed (see: Robinson Cancel), sometimes it didn’t (see: the entire bullpen). Willie made plenty of mistakes over the past three and a half years, mostly in his handling of the bullpen, but I have no reason to think that a change of
managers is going to make Carlos Delgado younger, or all the players on the DL healthier.
One thing is encouraging, however. In his press conference today, interim manager Jerry Manuel said he would stretch the starting pitchers out to 120 pitches, and assign defined roles for the relievers. While I agree with Dallas Green when he said, “The reliever’s role is to get outs,” in this day and age, pitchers are used to a certain routine before they enter a game. They need to know when they are coming in so they can stretch and warm up properly. Yes, pitchers are divas, but there’s really no getting around that now. I really believe that assigning roles to the relievers will help.
But I don’t believe it will be enough. The Mets players have to step up. Will they play for Manuel? Playing for Willie’s job didn’t seem to be enough. Will they be even less motivated now?
The Jerry Manuel era begins tonight, and we will find out if it’s a change for the better, or simply more of the same.
Remember 2006? Way back when, when Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado, and Paul Lo Duca joined an already strong lineup headed by Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran? Remember the walk-off wins, grand slams, and automatic bullpen? Remember the
champagne, Lo Duca hosing off the fans, and Gary Cohen saying, “After running roughshod over the National League, the Mets are NL East Champions,” as Cliff Floyd ran the final out in from lef field? Remember the reunion of the 1986 Mets, and how that ceremony at Shea seemed like the passing of the torch to the new can’t-miss champions from Queens? I do. And I miss those days.
It seems like so long ago. Maybe because since then, the Mets were upset in the 2006 NLCS, have blown a seven-game lead with seventeen to go in 2007, endured the sudden, Titanic-like decline of Delgado, and are now struggling to tread water at the .500 mark like many other National League teams with half the Mets’ payroll.
In 2006, they would have never lost two straight one-run games to the Padres while scoring a grand total of two runs. They would have never let their momentum run out against a last-place team. And they would have never been 5.5 games behind the Phillies in early June.
The time to blame Willie Randolph has passed – he can’t do anything more for a team that is aging, injured, and inconsistent. The scary chill running up your spine is the nagging notion that this team is simply past its prime, and can’t win with its current roster.
Reyes and Wright are hitting, Beltran is streakier than a window cleaned with motor oil, but will probably get on a tear before all is said and done, but the supporting cast is clearly subpar.
The Mets don’t need an overhaul, just a tune up. But it just doesn’t seem that one new part here or there will get this jalopy firing on all cylinders again. That means there is plenty of hope for 2010. That also means there is little hope for 2009.
The Mets have been trudging through a swamp of mediocrity all season. They needed something. Something to blow up the status quo, and open the floodgates. Fernando Tatis may have done it.
Tatis was a dangerous hitter with the late-nineties/early aughts Redbirds. Since, he has battled injuries and minor league bus trips to get back to the majors. After shredding AAA for the second straight year, the Mets, devastated by injuries, elected to call him up to the big show. And he has responded in a big way. His latest hit, a double that brought in the heart of the Mets order, David Wright and Carlos Beltran, may have been the biggest hit of the Mets season.
Willie Randolph has suddenly become adventurous. Think that might have something to do with his meeting with the Wilpons? Hmmm. Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider have sat the last two games against left-handers. That feels like a decision from the front office more than a managerial one. Tatis, Ramon Castro, and Damion Easley contributed mightily to the series win against the first place Fish, and Binghamton alum Nick Evans had a huge game against the Rockies at Beer Field this past Saturday. Endy Chavez hit a game-tying homer in the ninth, and also contributed a single tonight. Carlos Delgado? Walked in a pinch hit appearance.
Randolph has started pushing buttons, and, at least for one series, it has paid off.
A series win against the division leaders could ignite this team. Great performances by the supporting cast could carry it even further. If the Mets turn it around, tonight’s 7-6, extra inning win, capped by Tatis, will be considered the turning point.
With the Mets a game over .500, and two back of the Florida Marlins in the loss column in the East, the Mets are clearly performing below expectations. They just lost three of four from the Washington Nationals. Digest that for a moment. THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS. And they found many ways to lose. They failed to show up in game one. Then, the bullpen wasted a fine outing from Claudio Vargas. Finally, the lineup wasted a terrific start by Mike Pelfrey. If it weren’t for John Maine’s outing, they would have been swept.
This is unacceptable. If this continues, expect Willie Randolph to be gone by June.
And since I seem to have the ear of Mets management (they took advice from my previous post, right?), hear me when I say Wally Backman is the man to manage this team. Do something radical. Hire someone who will kick butt. Hire a member of the “Scum Bunch.” Let’s get our uniforms dirty again, shall we?