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Win or Go Home

Mike SteffanosTuesday, September 18, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


I've always thought that September was the cruelest month in baseball. This year the way the Mets are treating their fans should meet the legal standard for abuse. I'm thinking of taking out a restraining order.

I haven't been able to keep this blog up the way I want to because my real job has gotten crazy over the past month or so. I mentioned after the Mets blew the 4-game series in Philly how grateful I was to have work to bury myself into after games. There was something about this team that didn't add up back in April and May when they were mostly winning, and it keeps rearing its ugly head every time Mets fans start to feel good about their team. For lack of a better word, I think this team is a little soft. The way they keep coming up short on the little things time and again is telling.

I don't feel the same affection for the 2007 Mets that I did for last year's club, and I said as much pretty early in the season. As I approach 4 decades as a baseball -- and a Mets -- fan, I appreciate the squads that don't need a wakeup call every two weeks. I'd rather root for a mediocre club like the 2005 squad that gives their all rather than a club like this year's bunch. Having said that, they're still the Mets, and I'm going to turn the game on every night and root for them.

If you've been a reader of this blog for a long time, you know my story. I was a huge Mets fan from the magical season of 1969 right through the early 90s collapse of the golden age of Mets baseball. What bothered me more than the deteriorating condition of the club on the field was the growing disillusion on my part with the management of the ballclub. It got to the point where it wasn't fun any more, and I never really came back as a fan after the strike season. I didn't become a die-hard again until Steve Phillips received his pink slip.

One thing I think I got out of walking away and coming back was a better perspective on the place that baseball should occupy in my life. I don't find myself hating baseball players just because they suck, although I don't enjoy watching them suck. I don't have a particular scapegoat for the 2007 Mets -- I think there is enough fault to go around.

Omar had a bad off-season, trading away some guys who might have helped for guys that haven't, and not signing the right free agents. Someone asked me a while back if I still trust Omar, and the answer is "yes". I'll be turning 49 next month, and if I've learned anything after all these years it's that no one is perfect. For the most part, I like what Minaya is doing, but I do hope he has a better off-season next time around.

I've always supported Randolph as manager, but he's been as up and down as the team this season. Sometimes he's hit the right notes, and sometimes he's come across as too laid back and cautious. Some of the criticism is over the top and unfair, but for a leader whose biggest strength has been getting his guys to consistently play the game the right way, he's come up short. Sometimes you have to modify your style to suit the situation, and Willie struggles with that. Brian Lawrence never gave any sign in his previous major league starts that he would do anything other than what he did in last night's game, and Willie went with the "safe" choice for starter when a bolder choice was required.

Still, even crediting the mistakes that have been made assembling and leading this team, the ultimate blame for all of the stumbles along the way lays with the players. This team was good enough to win the NL east if they just took care of business in these last 7 games with Philadelphia. They didn't. The players need to look within themselves to right this ship, and they know it. It's time to wake up. The starting pitchers need to take the lead in the way that John Maine did in Atlanta following the first Phillies debacle.

If the Mets can remove their heads from their rear ends and win the NL east, they can look at the playoffs as a fresh start. Anything can happen there, as we know all too well. It's time to take care of business in a 13-game season with a 3-game lead in the loss column. If they can't pull that off, then frankly they don't deserve to play any more baseball after that. I'm not saying that out of anger, because I'm honestly not mad. That's just the reality for a club who has allowed there to be too many meaningful games in September.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (8)

Well said. I couldn't agree more.

I don't respond to many of these blogs though I do find yours always stimulating to the degree of content.I am also turning 49 next month and have fond memories of 69-70 NY sports that lured my full attention. Was also turned off after the strike but found my way back to these present day Mets allowing myself to believe "Our Season has Come" after the way 2006 ended. I really believed that Willie had that leadership to whip these guys into fine ballplayers,taking care of the little details and mistakes that cost you the ballgame. But it really appears that this first year mindset has filtered into a don't offend the veterans theme.I'm not sure if it was by way of the management or by willie's contract signing.This attitude has festered into the results of which destiny is clearly in the making."To be or not to be"

Hi Mike, I am really tired of this team. I am drained from rooting for them. Maybe if we play 6 innings and pray for rain it might be fun again, but for now I'm done. Theres little left in me to get up for a game. Boy do I agree with you, I'd rather see the 2005 Mets, being in almost every game. You had hope till the final out and even felt satisfied if they lost because they tried.It's so differant with this years team.Eddie Coleman said some were laughing in the dugout while Philly was creaming us and LaDuca was ticked off and said those guys don't belong on this team( something like that) I agree, I'm dying and trying to mend from a quad bypass and you guys are laughing while the team is falling apart? It bothers me to see this hohum attitude, from the top down. I would have no problem with cleaning house in the off season and putting together a team that is in every game. There is something wrong with this team something missing, maybe they need a quad by-pass too. Even after I said all I said, I know I'll be watching them tonight and I still have a shout for them,just give me something to shout about.

It's become a task, and you hit it right on the button Mike, they are soft. Rev said that some guys were actually laughing, while they were taking a whoopin during the Phils game, is this acceptable behavior duirng a certified beat down? I love the Mets, this years' team had "high" expectations and maybe just now were seeing that those expectations may have been a little unreasonable. I don't think I expected a wire to wire like last year but since they have held first place for 85% of the year, I did expect a march to the finish and for them to finish strong. Instead, they have played some of the most up and down ball I have ever seen a team play. They seem to have no heart, no desire to destroy their opponents. They seem lacadaisical, weak, and quiet, sort of like their manager and many of their front line players. I know they have many issues, so there is no one source to blame. I just think there is no destiny like the 69 squad, no sense of fortitude like the 73 team, no sense of domination like the 86 team, and no sense of even if the chips are down they can still do it like 00. They seem content to have played a season and collect a check and go home..........sad. The weekend series may have just provided insight that in reality they just may not be ready to go to the next level.

While I'm only barely more than half your age, I do agree with you for the most part. I have no memorable championships to look back on, so for me I've really throwing myself into this stretch of Mets teams. You're right about Omar, that he made the wrong moves, but really I can see his intent and it didn't work out. It's Mota and Schoeneweis that I really kill him for, one a cheater and one too long a contract.

What you said about Willie makes sense, when he should've taken the daring move and pitched Humber, he pitched this year's Jose Lima. Also, they wanted to give Pedro an extra extra day, and while I understand the caution, wouldn't it have been better to evaluate the need for that later in the week when it's closer to his start? And then slot someone into the rotation Friday and give him the day then? The thing I don't understand is that he was faced with much the same last year, and Maine got the start and really performed in a way that shaped the rotation all the way into this year. So why the change of heart? I think he's feeling desperate, even if he's not portraying it, and making the wrong moves because of it. On the plus side, I remember him getting it together and managing differently in the Playoffs last yaer.

I'm not ready to look for the silver lining of September yet until they can start winning again, but I think it's going to be a "What doesn't kill you, Makes you stronger" type of month.

You touched on something I have thought many times over the past few years, that life experience does help us understand baseball. Put it into perspective I mean; I have stepped back from the constant following of the game more than once.

But these Mets, dammit; we let them into our world and this is how they repay us! No doubt they are more concerned with their own feelings and fortunes at the moment.

There is what I think is an ill-considered article by Tim Marchman in today's New York Sun, btw, suggesting that Willie shouldn't try to shake up his clubhouse by throwing a tantrum. Because, it is unseemly? I believe that a healthy spurt of anger, judiciously used by a manager who still has the ear of his team, can make a positive difference for a team in the process of throwing it all away. When Ralph Houk or Walt Alston or Fred Hutchinson got mad, their players tended to find a new focus; I don't know why it suddenly wouldn't work today.

Marchman prefers that Randolph solve the team's problems rather than make a scene. I believe he suggests that the Mets start Bunning and Chris Short on two days rest until the end of the season. Something like that.

With things goin as they are....We need to look at these past meltdowns in order to see what could lie ahead:

WORST MELTDOWNS IN SPORTS HISTORY
http://www.maximonline.com/slideshows/index.aspx?slideId=2792&imgCollectId=141&scr=TST1

I disagree that the Mets don't care about winning enough. I think, if anything, the problem is the opposite: they're putting too much pressure on themselvees, which is why they're pressing at the plate and making all these errors.

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