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The Wrong Move

Mike SteffanosTuesday, October 6, 2009
By Mike Steffanos


I'll give the Mets some credit yesterday for trying to prove to all of us that the organization is determined to fix what has been broken over the last couple of years, but it seems to me that they've already made their first mistake of the off-season by electing to retain Jerry Manuel as manager.

While I can't blame Manuel for the endless string of injuries that sealed the Mets fate as far as making the playoffs, I have to hold the manager accountable for a season of sloppy fundamentals and three months of virtually unwatchable baseball.

The Mets dropped below .500 for the final time this season when they dropped the first game of a series against the Phillies on July 3 to fall to 39-40. Counting that loss, they went 31-52 the rest of the way. That translates to a 60 win season over a full 162 games. Indeed, it actually took a 3-game sweep of another team that was playing out the string to avoid the ignominy of a 60-something win season.

They went 8-20 in September and were swept in four series -- once each by Florida and Washington and twice by the Braves. Essentially they kept the Braves in the wild card picture for a couple of extra weeks.

For all of his faults, one thing for which I will always give former manager Willie Randolph credit is the way the 2005 Mets kept playing after falling out of playoff contention in early September.

Unfortunately for Willie, he undermined himself with his inability to deal with the New York media. While Jerry Manuel does himself a great service in that regard, I don't see any other area where his managerial skills exceed Randolph's admittedly mediocre talents as an in-game manager.

Manuel's handling of relief pitchers has been woeful, and I believe his reliance in "playing the hot hand" and running the same guys out every day sealed their fate in 2008 and had a lot to do with Parnell's mid-season struggles.

He has not shown himself adept at getting his team to play solid fundamental baseball, nor has he distinguished himself in his handling of young players.

He was not dealt a good hand with the injuries and some of the front office decisions, but his "go with the gut" decision making style compounded his problems.

In retrospect, Jerry's greatest strength in 2008 was that he was not Willie Randolph. The Mets decision to retain Randolph after the 2007 season proved to be a mistake. Keeping Jerry will likely prove to be another one. If the Mets don't get off to a fast start the speculation about his job will start immediately, and will be the same sort of distraction that Randolph's status was last year.

Even if the Mets were unwilling to spend the money on a name, they could have went with someone like Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, who was selected by Baseball America as their minor league manager of the year in 2005. They wouldn't need to invest a lot in either money or years to give Oberkfell a shot at a major league job.

Again, the injuries were a huge problem this year, and you certainly can't blame Jerry for that, but I do hold him accountable that the team took steps backward in fundamentals and bringing the effort.

By bringing back Manuel and all but two of his coaches, the Mets haven't done much to change the dynamic of leadership, and I suspect they will regret that. I could understand it if I could point to Manuel being an outstanding manager in any aspect of the game, but he simply is not.

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.

Comments (5)

As I wrote in my last detailed post on this site - "Minaya and Manuel will be back not because of the job they've done or that they are the best men for the job and shouldn't be blamed for the injuries, but because they have existing contracts and the Wilpons don't want to have to pay them off and also spend what it would take to bring in their replacements". I rest my case.

Mike, I agree with your assessment of Manuel. There is no way he should be back. But the bigger problem IMO is Minaya ... he really needs to go as well.

I just can't see this team competing in 2010 -- which admittedly is a really is a strange statement to make given we don't even know what the team will look like .... but I make it based on the executive and field level leadership in place ....

With Minaya and Manuel, we are destined for a horrid 2010 which should see them both fired at some point, we'll need to live thru another lost season and then start the whole rebuilding process again.

This organization is pushing their fan base to the brink this time ....

I have to agree it feels like Jerry has passed the point of no return... He was a refreshing change compared to his predecessor, however the attempted jokes have become rather stale - sometimes embarrassing and the team's play was ridiculously poor. The obsession with Tatis was maddening (sp?), as was the refusal to play Nick Evans, Brian Stokes and Figueroa ... retaining Omar is possibly an even huger blunder... Obviously he is incapable of speaking in public. He claims he never considers ethnicity, only talent while selecting players. The two backup short stops (Valdez & ramon Martinez), Dessens and Argenis were the best available players at their respective positions ? They excelled in what aspect of the game ? ok- they were competent at what - tossing the ball around the horn ?
For two or was it 3 consecutive seasons Omar planned around and depended on injury prone senior citizens such as Moises, El Duque, Pedro who physically qualifies as a sr cit; this year Carlos D qualified as a senior as did Sheff. Sheff was a pleasant surprise - Carlos D was not. There was talk about his being a problem last year... Agreed all the injuries cannot be held against any single individual. The Bernazard nonsense went on way too long - it was another sign that things could be run better and more professionally in
Queens.

mike, if u speak to met fans, they all want minaya and manuel to go..so, what do the wilpons do??bring them back..barry duchan hit the nail on the head.they won't fire them because of existing contracts.it's a sad commentary, but true.this organization is sinking like a stone.2010 shapes up as another lost year.i hope there are a lot of empty overpriced seats next year.Meanwhile, GO TWINS.Last nite was an amazing game.they are the anti-mets.Imagine, met fans, a team that actually shows guts and fight the last week of a season.the complete opposite of our metropolitans..too bad they have to play the yankees to advance.

After I vowed last year to give up on the Mets, I got suckered in by the new stadium, and the hope that things might be better in 2009. Well, that was my mistake and I won't make it again. Until the Wilpon's and Minaya are gone from the scene, I will be as well. I will not spend another penny on this team. The Wilpon's have to be the worst owners in baseball, with the most inadaquate general manager and field manager.

Ron Gardenhire, who I always liked when he was a Met had done a fantastic job in Minnesota. Maybe that's a team I should root for.

Never again.

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