OK, I understand about the injuries. The Mets are a hurting group and won’t be whole again this season. We probably won’t see Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran until spring training. The next time we see Carlos Delgado at Citi Field will likely be in a road uniform.
Lack of all their parts has cost the Mets a considerable number of their 60 losses, but also damaging has been their often uninspired, lazy, sloppy brand of baseball. Sloppy was on full display in last night’s loss at Arizona.
Manager Jerry Manuel simply told reporters last night, “we were a bad team,” and privately lashed out at several players. Daniel Murphy failed to cover first base on what could have been a double play; instead Anderson Hernandez threw to an empty base. (Not too bright, either.) Angel Pagan didn’t think on two costly outfield plays, one a careless dive and the other an errant throw. Both led to runs.
And, Mike Pelfrey continued to languish in mediocrity. Pelfrey, who had been expected to make significant strides this season, is floating through this season in Oliver Perez-like fashion.
OK, the Mets aren’t whole, but that’s no excuse for playing lazy-thinking and lazy-hustling baseball. Physical errors are part of the game, but errors caused by a lack of concentration or preparation are never acceptable. Never.
Here’s the deal. Before every pitch, a defensive player must ask himself what he would do if the ball were hit to him. He should have a plan. Hustle is admirable, but misplaced hustle, as in Pagan’s dive, is not smart baseball. And, Pagan has made more than his fair share of poor-thinking plays on the bases.
Injuries are one thing, but there have been numerous instances of undermanned and under talented teams winning – and that includes the World Series – by playing fundamentally sound. Not doing so is the first indication a team is packing in a season. It is a sign of quitting, and that’s a reflection on a manager, and Manuel can’t be happy about that prospect.
Believe me, everything will be open to evaluation after the season and that includes the manager. Manuel will be judged more on if he still has the ear and backing of the players than a won-loss record that at this rate will be lucky to be .500.
After chewing on his players, Manuel also blamed fatigue, but that’s his responsibility. David Wright gets only his second rest of the season tonight, but there have been other opportunities to give him a blow. There is simply no reason why fatigue should be an issue if the players are utilized properly. Conversely, there’s no reason why Francisco Rodriguez’s slide can be attributed to rust. Giving regular and consistent workloads to a player is also the responsibility of the manager and coaching staff.
When the story of this season is written, four sentences from Manuel last night will neatly summarize what has been the storyline to too many games this season: “A very poor game. A poor effort on our part. Despite maybe not having what we’d like to have, still it’s the major leagues. We have to perform better than that.”
Says it all, really.
It is true, true character is more revealed in times of adversity than prosperity. And, with the season dwindling away, the Mets still have a chance to salvage something. Their pride and self-respect, or at least a fraction of what is left. The season won’t just be neatly packaged by the injuries, but by the effort in the remaining 50 games.
Those 50 games will also go a long way toward the off-season evaluation process and the quest for jobs next spring.