Monday, October 1, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Well, well, well…

I guess I might as well wipe the egg from my face as I settle in to eat my next meal—a serving of crow and humble pie. Who was the one ridiculing the Phillies all season after they said they were the team to beat in the National League East in the preseason? Um, that was me. Who was the one who said the Mets would cruise into the playoffs this year? Uh—that definitely wasn’t me. I wouldn’t be a true Mets fan if I ever thought anything was going to be easy.

But still—the Mets’ historic collapse at the end of this season was downright embarrassing. Humiliating. Don’t-show-your-face-for-fear-it-will-get-laughed-in kind of bad. It was almost as bad a collapse as when the Yankees lost the ALCS to the Red Sox after being up in the series 3–0.

Who gets the blame in the Mets’ stunning collapse? How could the team blow a 7-game lead with 17 left to play? It’s a tough one. Here’s how I see it.

I like Manager Willie Randolph and General Manager Omar Minaya. Randolph is a winner, through and through, and he is used to being around winners and winning. Is it a big deal that Randolph didn’t lose his cool over the last two weeks, while his team was imploding left and right? Nah. Willie treats his players like men. He expects them to come out and play hard every day—no excuses. He figures that if the players need him to light a fire under them, especially when they are slipping and sliding their way right out of the playoffs like clowns on ice, then they shouldn’t be playing the game, and they damn well better not be playing for him. These guys get paid big bucks to play hard. If they are so weak-minded as to self-destruct under the pressure of a pennant race, they need to go somewhere else besides New York. Willie should stay.

Minaya is not perfect, and he did make some mistakes this year—his starting rotation was aging, his bullpen was leaky, and some of his offensive acquisitions are way overrated. That being said, Omar is a great manager of personnel, and I am sure he is already thinking of ways to make certain this sort of thing doesn’t happen to his beloved Mets ever again.

Rick Peterson, the pitching coach? Please. I’ve watched Peterson with the A’s and the Mets. He is as bright as they come and has ways of getting his guys to play over their heads. The fact that the Mets’ pitching failed so miserably at the end of the season was more of a personnel thing than a coaching thing, I think.

The Wilpons? Nope. The Mets’ owners promised Minaya that they would be pretty hands-off when they hired him, and they are trying to live up to their word.

As always, the lion’s share of the blame goes to the players—the guys who make all the money. Who came up small for the Mets when they needed pitching? Just about everyone, except maybe John Maine on Saturday. Whose batting averages declined rapidly over the last two weeks, when all those humongous salaries couldn’t buy the Mets a big hit? Just about everyone, once again. No pitching and no hitting. Hmmm. That must be why they lost all those games at the end.

Of course, credit needs to go to the team in Philadelphia, who played lights-out ball for the month of September. Maybe Jimmy Rollins was on to something, after all.

So here come the playoffs. Go, Cubs! C’mon, Indians! Although I usually root for the underdog, I just can’t bring myself to pull for Philly this time. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. Another year of watching the Yankees and Angels in the playoffs while the Mets and A’s sit home.

Well, there’s always football. The Giants’ 12 sacks last night in their win against the Eagles helped me feel like a small measure of revenge was taken on Philadelphia. So good-bye for another year to regular-season baseball. Only the teams that deserve it remain.

1 comment:

Ed Attanasio, Freelance Writer, Journalist, Baseball Historian, Comedian and Ad Copywriter said...

Wow. The NL West totally dominated the rest of the National League in the playoffs. Nice piece, Meat. We're looking forward to seeing you soon.