Saturday, November 17, 2007
Because sometimes it takes days of reflection, lots of miniature hot dogs wrapped in blankets, and an inability to let go of the past that takes me to the very Gamma and Alpha of what really makes me upset about this whole Paul Lo Duca thing.
Oh, I guess I have to explain that (I keep forgetting that nobody has brainwaves as warped as mine.)
I'll never forget being speechless that day in 1994 when the New York Jets blew a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins...a game that culminated in the two words that still sends shivers down my spine: fake spike.
Two weeks later, the Jets played the Lions in a game that seemed like a funeral procession. It was one of those typical Barry Sanders games where every time he carried the ball the Jets would stop him in the backfield...except of course for those one or two carries Sanders would go for gains of anywhere between 70-90 yards. The Jets couldn't get a damn thing going on offense and lost 18-6. It was the first day that I ever remember hearing the term "back up the truck", as in "BACK UP THE TRUCK, GET RID OF ALL OF 'EM! THIS TEAM IS GARBAGE!!!"
Yes, that team was garbage, as they went from 6-5 to 6-10 before you can say "Pete Carroll".
Back then, 1994 at the Meadowlands counted as a collapse of epic proportions, and "back up the truck" never seemed so apropos of something. The thing that Jets team needed mentally was for the losing attitude to be washed out. The roster was good, but it was old. Some players needed to go if for no other reason than the fact that the last thing the team needed was for too many players hanging around who were still shell shocked from losing the last five games of the season. If that meant that some babies had to go with the bathwater, so be it.
And that's what the Jets tried to do going into 1995, as they got rid of their head coach (Carroll), and solid core players like their leading receiver (Rob Moore), a Hall of Fame safety (Ronnie Lott), a Hall of Fame wideout (or at least Art Monk should be in the Hall, the one bright spot in that Lions game was seeing Monk break the all-time record for consecutive games with a catch), and a Pro-Bowl calibre cornerback (James Hasty, who's in the above photo as a spectator to disaster).
(Of course, they replaced Carroll with Rich Kotite and won four games over the next two seasons, but that's neither here nor there. The idea of roster turnover was a sound one back then, and maybe they didn't get rid of enough players.)
Fast forward to November of 2007, soon after the Mets made five straight losses in 1994 seem less like a collapse and more like a mere life lesson. If there's ever a need for some roster turnover where some babies go out with the bathwater, it's the current New York Mets. Instead it looks more and more like the Mets, whether it be out of the lack of options that are out there, or the thinking that the '07 Mets are less shell shocked and more determined and motivated by their collapse, have decided to go into '08 with basically the same team that fell apart in '07, keeping guys like Moises Alou and Damion Easley...and at least making an effort to re-sign Luis Castillo before their recurring, inexplicable fascination with converting shortstops into second basemen has taken hold yet again.
(Will this franchise ever learn? I mean really, David Eckstein's the best they can do? But that's another entry for another time, my friends.)
Of course the one guy who unequivocally, according to Mets brass at least, cannot come back under any circumstances, is Paul Lo Duca. If you believe what Jon Heyman said on Friday, the Mets blame Lo Duca for calling the wrong pitches in 2006 (I guess that includes the one that Guillermo Mota shook off before Scott Spiezio sent it to the top of the wall in Game 2 of the Cardinals series, right?) And the fact that they ignored Lo Duca this winter as if he had a communicable disease (you can make your own joke about the Long Island bar scene if you wish, I'll refrain) tells me that the Mets blame Lo Duca for Scott Spiezio, for the entire 2006 playoffs, for the collapse this past September, for Jose Reyes' slump, for the Scott Kazmir trade, for Jimmy Rollins' proclamation, for Rickey Henderson, for the lines at Shea Stadium's bathrooms, for traffic on I-80, for Michigan losing to Appalachian State, and for Bobby Thomson's home run in 1951.
I have to say, in all of the dissecting and re-dissecting
I've seen and made on September's collapse, well down on the list...if it's even on the list...is Paul Lo Duca's pitch calling. But that is the scapegoat that the Mets are selling us. I ask you, with all of the other deficiencies facing the Mets, is that fair? Because so far, that's what the Mets are telling us...they're telling us that everyone else on the Mets wants to win next season except Paul Lo Duca.
Perhaps I'm overreacting. I admit I'm not the most level headed guy in the room even when I'm in a room by myself. And I'm fully aware that there could be some major changes for the better between now and the winter caravan, although Omar Minaya is going to have to be a special kind of creative to do it now that Yorvit Torrealba is apparently going to try to bat higher than the Manhattan area code somewhere else. But I can't help thinking that because we're not seeing the wholesale cleansing as we did with the Jets in 1994, one man is taking the blame for three weeks of bad baseball...and worse off, it's the wrong man.