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.