The headline may come off all gloom and doom, but, in reality, the Mets haven’t completely shit the bed. Yet. Not to say I want to see it or am expecting it, but what got me most about this four-game series with the NL East leading Cardinals was the overall fan reaction.
A month ago, I climbed on my soapbox here and said that you needed to appreciate the 11 game winning streak for the now, but understand that it was indicative of what this team really is. This is a squad with flaws. Some of them glaring. Some of them through no fault of the manager or general manager, but even at full strength, this is not a perfect roster.
Sure, we got really excited and had vision of cigars in October, but when it came down to it, the most important thing wasn’t a vision or a dream. It was a number. The number 8.5 to be exact. That was the amount of games the Mets led the Nationals by three weeks ago. Since the Yankees played streak-buster, we’ve been a sub-.500 ball club who has looked absolutely inept offensively for a good majority of the time and has given back not some, but ALL of that 8.5 game lead and more.
And most fans meet that fact not with anger or rage, but apathy. That bothers me.
Three weeks ago, Citi Field was drawing huge crowds and we were hearing complaints about the lines at the bathrooms and how full the concourses were. There was a buzz around the fan base. An excitement that hasn’t been around since 2006. I may not live in Queens anymore, but I have Facebook and Twitter and friends and the internet. I have my fingers on the pulse a bit.
Coming off the horrible road trip in which concluded by getting utterly embarrassed by a Cubs team that is in much the same situation as the Mets, the team returned home to the tune of 2012. A lot of fans were dressed up as empty seats. The buzz was gone. The excitement dissolved. And that seemed to be OK with everybody except for a select few.
I have defended Sandy Alderson for probably 99.9% of the things he’s done since becoming the general manager of this team. Sure, I did not like the Michael Cuddyer signing, but, when taking everything into account, I feel he’s done just about the best job he could with the resources he’s been handed.
The team has been ravaged by injuries. Before the season even officially began, Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Vic Black and Bobby Parnell were already on the disabled list. Then the other dominoes began falling. David Wright. Travis d’Arnaud. Jerry Blevins. Jenrry Mejia got suspended for PEDs. Buddy Carlyle. Dilson Herrera got called up from Vegas, played a few weeks and then he went down.
I don’t know any organization in baseball that has so much depth that it could sustain an elite level of performance with losing so many bodies. Which is why I don’t blame the GM. I do, however, blame the manager.
Losing Wright and d’Arnaud who are two key contributors to your everyday lineup are big deals, absolutely. I’m not one of those people that thinks David is washed up. I do think he’s not what he once was, but he’s still a valuable contributor. But, the fact of the matter, is that it’s not like we lost Miguel Cabrera here. And we have plenty of veterans on this team that should be able to pick up the slack. Terry Collins was originally hired by the team to be a placeholder until the team became competitive when the thinking was that the team would go get somebody with more of a track record. Collins had been atrocious in previous managing stints and even had his Angels team go into full-scale mutiny and refuse to play for him. Early in his tenure I gave him a pass. Lack of talent, decisions that weren’t so obviously terrible, but the one consistent thing about Collins has been his complete inability to get anything more than the minimum out of his players.
Juan Lagares became a standout last season in spite of Collins trying to keep him on the bench as much as he could. Lucas Duda was only allowed to blossom once Alderson was able to finally dish off Ike Davis who was a Terry favorite. And let’s not start on Collins’ apparent man-crush on Ruben Tejada. I don’t know if anybody quite gets that one.
When it comes to the young players that the Mets are trying to sell you on, Collins has done absolutely nothing to help move them forward and turn them into linchpins of a burgeoning franchise. Travis d’Arnaud needed to be sent to Las Vegas to be retaught how to hit. Wilmer Flores had to be sent down to get playing time (because…Ruben Tejada). Matt den Dekker was a late-inning defensive replacement for Terry Collins who got sent down and would have won a batting title in Las Vegas had he had enough at-bats to qualify. Kirk Nieuwenhuis went from middle of the order threat in Triple A to forgotten bench player to being designated for assignment the other day.
Sure, you’re not going to hit on every prospect, but these stories are too alike. When there’s a problem, send the guy to Vegas. Send him to…Wally fucking Backman.
Wally Backman has been managing in the organization for a number of years now and has had success at every step of the way. Success that has included many players on the current Mets roster. He’s always been known as a great baseball guy and is universally loved by players and ex-players. He’s had his issues and they’re well-documented, but has been a good citizen and has been an integral part in helping build the pipeline to Queens. He was also a second baseman in a notable World Series in Mets history and though outspoken, has definitely proven his mettle and earned an opportunity.
Wait. This all sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Former 2B…notable Mets World Series history…managed up the team’s minor league ranks growing with players that were expected to be key contributors to the big club. If this was Monday Night Raw, glass would be breaking and Jim Ross would be screaming, “BAH GAWD! That’s Davey Johnson’s music!”
Davey Johnson led the Mets to the greatest run in the history of the franchise in the mid-80s until his dismissal during the 1990 season. He’s arguably the best manager in team history (older fans will argue Gil Hodges, but it seems to be more of a generational thing) and followed a scary similar track to what Backman has currently done within the organization before being finally given the reigns.
I am genuinely afraid that this season will spiral down the drain unable to be recouped by the time they finally decide to make a change. In three weeks they’ve already lost the energy from the fanbase along with first place in the division. Injuries or not, the level of play has been all too often unacceptable and that falls on Collins and his coaching staff. We’ve seen too many games in these past few weeks where the team has looked unprepared and lifeless. The manager’s main responsibility has always been to have his team ready to go. Terry Collins has never done that.
It’s time to make a change while the season still matters. Before all hope is lost and we’re back to hoping next year will finally be the year for meaningful September baseball. It takes a certain amount of testicular fortitude to fire a manager of a (for now) winning team, but the signs are all pointing to a rapid decline and that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Keep the fans in the ballpark. Get a manager in here who you send all your players to when they need fixing anyway. Put a little spark on that bench. Get me Wally Backman.