"You play to win the game" -Herman Edwards
"Oh crap, we're 25 games out, maybe I should manage to win." -Snoop Manuel, in not so many wordsIt surprises me when I go back and look at the game logs of guys like Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy, and see that Church really didn't have as many games off in the early part of the season as it seemed, and that Murphy, who seemed to have a spot on the bench way too often in favor of Fernando Tatis, led the 2009 Mets in games played with 155 (a feat that should be worthy of some special award akin to a purple heart ... maybe a Golden Needle or something.)
Somehow, Jerry Manuel did it with smoke and mirrors ... that's it. But not the same smoke and mirrors that the Cardinals surely thought Davey Johnson used to win in '86. No, Snoop had to go to his smoke and mirrors after everyone got hurt, and had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
It's the only way I could explain it. The stats say otherwise, but what my eyes saw and what my ears heard told me that Snoop Manuel isn't the man for this job. You probably could have figured it out from the angry tone I had been taking near the end of the season, but I've been convinced that Manuel isn't the man to lead this team to the next decade. And it has nothing to do with the impatience that us New York fans are accused of.
Any manager that treats spring training like the end of the world (the 80-pitch drill), April-August like spring training (too worried about getting guys like Gary Sheffield at-bats when the full complement was healthy, pitching guys out of the pen for seven days straight and then letting them rot for weeks), and treats a meaningless September like the World Series (for example, putting Frankie in a game down by a run in the ninth, then bringing him back for a save the next night which he promptly blew in nuclear fashion) is not the gangsta for this job. And I'm done with the injury excuse. Too many games were being lost in ways where the injuries were a non-factor.
While I'm worried about throwing away 2010 before 2009 is over, our friends at Mets Today point out that it was the same deal last year, meaning that while we didn't know it, 2009 was thrown away before 2008 was over.
"He (Manuel) emphasized the need for his players to practice the skills that produce victories not necessarily those that 'help you statistically'". -10/4/2008How'd that work out for you there, Snoop? Did the team fall short of those expectations? Or could it have been a failure of epic proportions? Probably closer to the latter, don't ya think? Obviously, Snoop has learned absolutely nothing.
If it was just the ineptitude, I'd be more willing to lean on the injuries as a crutch. But when you have a manager that never seemed to be on the same page with his players (Snoop: "Oh, Jose had a good run today." ... Jose: "I ran? When?"), and threw them under the bus (or the tractor) at every opportunity, when does it get old? It got old with Willie Randolph ... and upon further review, how much of the rift between Randolph and his roster was caused by Tony Bernazard sneaking around the clubhouse undercutting him at every turn? When does this get old? The next time he blames Oliver Perez's 58 walks in 19 innings on bad defense? Or maybe when he blames David Wright's next slump on not getting enough sleep?
Let me segue from that to a cautionary tale, if I may: If Manuel actually came out and said that David Wright wasn't getting enough sleep, and Wright said that was ridiculous, might I say you'd rip Manuel a new one? Might I say ... rightly so? But this actually happened before. Which manager was the culprit of this?
The same manager everyone seems to want back to right this ship: Bobby Valentine.
Listen, I love Bobby V. Loved him ever since he told me he liked my banner on Banner Day 1984, when he was just nodding at everyone else (dammit, if he was one of the judges, I would have won for sure). But know that with Bobby Valentine comes these kind of motivational tactics that wouldn't fly with star players ... it didn't fly back when it was Todd Hundley, and it certainly wouldn't fly now. For Bobby Valentine to come here and make it work, it might take breaking up some core, and that will frighten some of you ... because Valentine is someone who is at his best when he's doing more with less. You can't have it both ways. Valentine would be a great option to have back here, but let's not forget his flaws too.
Someone else who does more with less is Tony La Russa. That's right, The Genius. And it seems that the genius might be available soon along with the pitching coach that turned Joel Pineiro and Kyle Lohse into valuable members of society let alone halfway decent pitchers. Now ... put yourself in the owners' shoes. You've basically ensured that Snoop is coming back next season, but Tony La Russa might be available. Now what? Do you let him go to the Reds and work for Walt Jocketty because you've made a commitment to Snoop? Or do you make yourselves look like the ones who went back on a promise to bring in La Russa? After all, it's not like playing the fool is a new role.
So barring a change of heart by ownership (good luck), what must Snoop learn in 2010? Learn that games in September are only important to win when you have a chance to win. That you only break the glass that contains Fernando Tatis only in case of emergency. And that spring training is in March, not May. And that bad defense doesn't cause Oliver Perez to walk home an entire ballpark. It's the other way around.
And keep your head on a swivel. You never know who's gaining on you.