By Mike Steffanos
Game 149: Nationals 7 - Mets 2
I never felt any sense of surety that the Mets would make the playoffs, but I have to admit that I didn't see this coming. I don't believe that you can take a win for granted against any team in September, but I felt that this Mets club would compete and not play scared. To my mind, they looked like a team that had lost its composure last night, playing with desperation rather than purpose.
We'll talk about Pedro another time, because I believe there is a more important issue at stake for the future of this team.
I remember Willie Randolph's first season in 2005 when the Mets had that horrendous early September road trip that dropped them out of any realistic playoff contention. I felt that it was important that Willie had reached a crossroads and needed to keep the team competing and trying to win. To his credit -- and theirs -- that was the case.
Now, for all the hype from Wallace Matthews and some others, I think Jerry Manuel is at a similar crossroads. As a fan, I can accept the Mets not making the playoffs because the team (especially the bullpen) isn't good enough. But if they're going to fall apart down the stretch, I think Manuel is gone.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't all Jerry's fault at all. If I was Omar Minaya, I would feel a big sense of responsibility for what went wrong this season. Jerry couldn't control the off-season decisions made about this bullpen and rolling the dice again with Alou.
On the other hand, the one thing I think a baseball manager should be held the most accountable for is getting his team to compete. Given that every major league manager has some level of competence with strategy and bullpen management, I think getting his team to compete is the most important thing he does -- particularly when things are going wrong. Just ask Ned Yost.
Good thing the Mets didn't jump the gun and offer Jerry a contract for next year. He still has something to prove, and his job is decidedly riding on it. I believe most Mets fans can live with their team coming up short in results, as long as it's clear that they are competing. Right now that is anything but clear.