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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Joyce MandelkernTuesday, August 14, 2007
By Joyce Mandelkern


I've been quiet for a long time in hopes of being able to write something truly positive. And there have been moments where I actually thought that was going to happen. There have been more times, however, when the exact opposite as occurred. Since I did not want to be one of "those whiny bloggers" that my colleague Dave Mills references in his wonderful posts, I have held off on posting. I can no longer hold my tongue, so with all due respect to Dave, here goes my whine.

I watch this team night after night play uninspired, sloppy baseball. They tread water. There are actually nights that I have been at Shea wondering if the team is actually going to get a hit against a pitcher that has below average stuff or is even making their first start in the bigs. And if we fall behind, I assume the game is over.

This is not to say that the Mets are not playing better baseball then they were a month or six weeks ago - they are. But is that good enough to win this division or go even deeper if we do win the division? I don't think so. This is a talented team that is not playing up to its capabilities (I sound like David Wright, don't I?). We have been hearing this and waiting for them to "flip the switch" and string together a bunch of wins since June. Yes, we have had many injuries that have severely impacted our lineup offensively and defensively. Injuries are part of the game and if you have made it to the major league level, even as a bench player, I think we can at least expect you to play inspired and fundamentally sound baseball. At this point in time, I'd rather see some of our "bench" players in there instead of our starters. At least they bring enthusiasm and exuberance. Luis Castillo seems to bring a sense of urgency, along with the enthusiasm and fundamentals that I haven't seen from some of the other starters in quite a while.

The only reason we have remained in first place through all of this is that there were actually other teams in the division playing worse than we were. We no longer have the best record in the "inferior" National League, so that crutch is also out the window now. Besides, I don't really care how other teams play, I care how we play, and we don't play like a dominant team - end of story. While we did play well against the Padres and the Dodgers, we didn't play well against the Pirates, Nationals, and the Marlins. These are the teams we are supposed to get "healthy" against and use to put a little separation between us and our division rivals. I can't even talk about the Braves without wanting to throw something against the wall. So we'll just skip it - you all know the drill by now anyway. If we can't beat the bad teams, how can we hope to beat the good ones?

Now here is the touchy subject - Willie. I think I would really like Willie as a person if I knew him. He strikes me as an extremely ethical, stand up guy. The problem is I'm not loving him as an in-game manager. I think he was brought up in the AL and hasn't made the adjustment to the NL way of playing, thinking and managing and its hurting the team. I just don't always understand his lineups, his substitutions (or lack thereof), his pinch hitting moves or situational decisions. I am beginning to question his motivational abilities as well. And the one thing that is really starting to tick me off, is his refusal to argue with an ump's call. Granted, I have a temper when it comes to these things, but I would just like Willie to make his presence known to the umps. What is wrong with letting them know he is watching them closely? He doesn't have to go berserk, but can he at least go out there? Show the players you have their backs. Maybe he needs to show a little fire, a little sense of urgency, and the team will pick up on it too. The manager does set the tone. If its no big deal to Willie, then its no big deal to the team.

The last thing that I just don't understand is why the Mets don't play better at Shea. The only reason I can come up with is pressure. Its great that they are a great road team, but can you imagine how terrific their record would be if they played well at home? So if it is the pressure, I implore all of you who go to Shea, PLEASE stop booing - its counterproductive!!! They have 23 games left at home. That is supposed to be an advantage. Lets not make it a detriment.

I'm not giving up on this team by any means. The one thing I keep saying to myself is that if the Cardinals could win the World Series last year, then we could certainly win it this year. How sad is it that I have to look to a team that played poorly all last year and didn't get hot until they backed in to the playoffs to give me hope? I still feel that we have the most talented team in the NL east, however, the best team doesn't always win, its the team that plays best. We have to start playing better baseball right now. Or there won't be an October.

Is anybody else as frustrated as I am? This team that I love so dearly, makes me want to bang my head against the wall or take each one of them by the shoulders and shake them and say "start playing good baseball before its too late!!" I don't know, maybe all they need is another trip to Carlos Beltran's barber shoppe.

About Joyce: I am an insanely passionate die-hard Mets fan since 1962 who is also a season ticket holder and usually can't bear to look and buries her head in her hands or starts pacing when I'm home when things get tense...   Read More -->

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Comments (10)

Joyce, I understand your frustrations, but I also understand if not completely agree with the booing. I watch as many games as possible on TV (missed two weeks worth with my sister's wedding in Israel), but have only gone to Shea twice this year. To me, a lot of the booing that I've heard on TV or in person involves anger over the way last year ended and the carryover effect. Many Met fans, myself included, have had the mentality of, "We should've won the pennant last year and anything short of a pennant this year is a failure." It looks like we WILL fall short of a pennant this year — which has made me as ticked off as I was in 2002, when that year's team displayed similar qualities and were nowhere near as good.

Getting back to 2007, questionable offseason moves by Omar (last night vs. the Yankees notwithstanding, I still hate the fact we let Bradford go and signed Schoenweiss) and the bad luck with injuries have contributed, especially the loss of Endy Chavez. But a combination of factors and the timing of those factors have fans at their wit's end this year, such as bad in-game managing by Willie (no excuses for pulling Glavine in the seventh inning Saturday, for example), a disappointing bullpen performance (Mota, especially; Heilman is what he is and I always thought Schoenweiss would stink), unclutch hitting with runners in scoring position (especially from the Carloses and Lo Duca), and inexcusable appraches on the basepaths, in the field, and at the plate (everyone is guilty here, but this is where I really get on Jose Reyes, and I'm a big Reyes fan.). I support this team through the tough times too, but at times they look about as interested in playing better baseball as, well, I'll skip the political rant. That's why the fans are booing. I understand why it may be seen as counterproductive to boo, but when you throw in high ticket and parking prices, a generic ballpark experience outside the game itself, and poor play, the fans are upset and some have a real right to be.

Just my two cents, agree or disagree, but let's at least agree that we're still fans and will root the Mets (hopefully) to the playoffs.

Question for Mets/U2 fans: what was up with the P.A. playing "One" while the CUV was being driven around the warning track during the Glavine ceremony Sunday? Were the Mets subconsciously telling us as fans something by letting the second verse play, "Did I disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth? You act like you never had love, and you want me to go without." That was a strange choice of tunes in a well-meaning but uneven ceremony.

Joyce - :i'm not worthy!: :i'm not worthy!:

OK OK OK...Look I completely agree with you. I know in September there are going to be some tight games - especially the critical ones where we lose by one run or so and be like - dag, shoulda took those games against the Nats, Bucs or Marlins - or all three! When we had the chance in August. They are playing very LAZY ball. I wrote a piece today about what constitutes a good manager. While much has been made about how Willie "knows his guys" and handles a clubhouse - let's be honest. He sucks as a strategist. And batting Stings Milledge 8th? Madon', I think I might have an aneurysm. What happens when DiFi has to be in the lineup? Oh he's the "vet?" Whatever.

They have been playing uninspired baseball for months now, and to think they can turn it on down the stretch....maybe a stretch. They are not winning the games they should and are getting bowled over by team that seem to want it (Braves come to mind). I love my Mets, and I believe they have the talent and ability to put it all together. Question is when? Sometimes the offense looks like a beast, then a game later cannot score a run. The starting pitching for the most part has held them in this thing, but when a guy is not having his "A" or "B", or even "C" game, they don't pull it together and pick him up. A guy can'to out and pitch effectively with always having the thought of " I can only give up so many runs" every time he takes the mound. It's an unproductive mindset and will do no good. Shake up the line-up, bench some vets, tell Reyes if he pops up another first pitch in an atbat, he'll do push-upslike Willie Mays Hayes, tell Beltran to tuck in his skirt and play to the ability we know he is capabale of, bat Delgado 7th or 8th because he is killing rallies for the most part, bench Green, do something. I really agree with the fact that Willie needs to show some emotion, and do battle with some umps, they treat him like he's some kind of hump off the street. Mets are well supported, attendance is close to what 4 mil? Merchandise is off the hook, someone please shout to the top of their lungs, " Lets Go Mets, Lets GO Mets"........and that's all I have to say about that.

First, note to APV: I was also saying "WTF???" when that song was chosen. Then again, I think the musical programming at Shea has been ridiculously boring, lackluster and uninspired, and really third-rate.

Joyce, I'm with you. To me, everything depends on the next six games. If they don't wake up and win four out of six, we can forget October. Or, worse: we'll get to October, and then blow it early. If this team was going to have a come to Jesus moment, they would've had it already.

As a "you don't boo your own players" person, I have to say that I understand the booing. The problem is there is no way to separate the "we are fair weather fans and the Mets are supposed to be good now" boos from the "we have been here since the dawn of time and you guys are playing sucky baseball and you're letting us down" boos.

How else do we, as fans, let the team know that we're disappointed? How else do we say, "Hey idiots, stop pushing the post-season rights and the ticket plans. We're here. You've got us. You're going to screw everyone who isn't a full-season holder in 2009 and we know it. You treat us like convicted felons when we come to the ballpark, when we go through the gates, when we try to go to our seats." When the only bright spot in a game night is the fact that the 7 is running express now, something is very, very wrong.

I too question some of Willie's moves or lack of moves in some games. He is a self described "gut" guy. BUT, so far the Mets have played well for him...not up to current expectations but better than in the previous years.

I don't agree about the motivation part. These guys are supposed to be motivated. They know what to do. Willie has plenty of "talks" with the younger guys but what are you really going to say to Delgado or Beltran? Delgado is trying, he just hasn't put it together. Alou has been hurt...Lo Duca is down... Beltran is down, no Chavez, etc. The only guys doing what we expect of them are Reyes and Wright. The rest are having sub par years for whatever reason. Mabye the missing ingredients were Bradford and Darren Oliver, maybe it was Manny Acta, maybe it's just bad luck.

Last year everything went pretty well. This year it hasn't. Sometimes it's as simple as that. That's baseball. You can look all the way back to spring training to see it was going to be a different year. I just hope that even if it is tough and frustrating at times, it ends better than last year.

Chris, you have very good points. I predicted at the beginning of the season that the division would be tight, the Mets would get 90 wins and be on top of the division. I still stand by that claim and lo and behold, they are on a 90-win pace. However, it's the way they are GETTING there that is hair pulling, head scratching and WTF-inducing. Like my gal MG said above, whether we like to believe it or not, these two series against the Bucs and Nats are going to be "season making" - I thought by now, they would have set the tone but nooooooooo. Then again, this *is* the Mets we are talking about! LOL

guys - about the booing - i can honestly see all your points b/c i myself feel like doing it too a great deal of the time - in fact, when i'm home watching, i do, as opposed to throwing something at the tv. what got me at one of the recent games is when the crowd booed john maine, who has, up until recently had a great year for us. he's been struggling and the crowd went nuts on him when he left. i honestly felt for the kid. i also have a thing about dads setting a real bad example for their kids when they're with them at Shea - you have to hear some of the stuff that comes out of their mouths and i can't help but wonder what they are teaching them and the pressure these kids must be under at their little league games. so i'll tell you what, the next time delgado doesn't get to a ball he should clearly make a play on, or can't dig one out of the dirt b/c he's sort of non-chalanting it - can you boo for me? that's the kind of stuff that drives me wild - not john maine having a bad outing...now mota is a different story :)

Joyce, I'm with you about the example the father's are setting for their kids; whenever I went to Shea (before I was forced to move out of state), my son and I were constantly bombarded with drunken, rude and loud guys (many of them fathers with kids at the game) screaming, swearing and booing everything. As for the players, I'd like for them to be tough enough mentally to be able to handle something like that without crumbling or complaining; you know, old school. As a Met fan since '62, I am used to the whole gamut, and have certainly experienced more bad than good. This team, despite it's injuries, is underperforming and stale; that is when a manager is supposed to earn the big $$! After 3 years, Willie should be showing more growth as a manager and as a stategist; in fact, he shows less and gets more stubborn. Can anyone out there remember a suicide squeeze? If he's done it, he's done it very rarely. Hit and run? His double-switches are horrendous and he uses his bullpen and bench poorly. Switch the lineup around to generate something....anything? Those are the things that a good manager does, and knows when to do, to give a team a kick in the butt. How far this supposed "good clubhouse" stuff goes remains to be seen, but my 54 years tell me that Willie costs the team between 5-8 games a year with his in-game "strategy" (or lack thereof). Is he making that amount up in the clubhouse? Maybe, but add to that the lack of backing up the players out on the field by never arguing with the umps AND the Mets total lack of protecting their hitters by NEVER knocking anyone down or even pitching inside, and I question Willie's "gut"! I mean, what would his old manager Billy Martin think about him?

george - i agree 100% and then some, with every single point you make regarding willie...thanks for saying it better than i ever could...joyce

Wow! I thought I was all alone with my feelings about this years team, but I see the silent majority is starting to make some noise. Whats that line " I am fed up and can"t take it anymore". This team is better than the way they play and thats the Booing. I have been a Met fan since their beginning and enjoyed the lean years knowing they were trying, this team just seems like it's not trying,BOOO and I can't take it anymore. In 1969 the Mets came from a 9 1/2 game deficit on Aug. 13 to a pennant clinching on Sept. 24. Tug McGraws "you godda believe" had that team never say die. Even with a first place lead in Aug of 2007, I am finding it hard to believe in this team, but I am still hanging in there.

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