After several swirling days of finger-pointing, at the Mets’ listless offense and hitting coach Howard Johnson, manager Jerry Manuel did his own pointing.
And, fittingly, he directed it in the same direction Mets fans have for nearly two years – at himself.
Manuel looked in the mirror and went to bat for the beleaguered Johnson and his other restless coaches.
“I think when you go through these things, I think you have to look here,’’ Manuel said. “You have to look at the manager. I don’t think it’s fair to put other people out there. I think you have to look at the manager.
“That’s part of it. That’s part of the job. That’s part of being in New York. That’s just what it is. This is who you have to look at. Not the other people.’’
Several times during the Western trip Manuel said, “we’ve got to hit better,’’ putting the onus on Johnson. He’s said the said thing about the pitching staff, which sent the focus on Dan Warthen.
Manuel also hasn’t been shy about throwing his players under the bus, bringing to mind Ryan Church, John Maine and Jeff Francoeur. And, don’t think the other players don’t notice.
Manuel’s handling of the bullpen has been questionable, from insisting on Jenrry Mejia’s bounce-around role instead of working to be a starter in the minor leagues to overworking his relievers.
It has also been well documented how he burns out the hot hand. Fernando Nieve, used on almost a nightly basis in April and May, is no longer on the team.
Sometimes, Manuel over thinks a situation and is too stubborn. Taking one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters, Jose Reyes, who at the time was coming back from injury and illness, and move him to the third spot in the batting order is the most glaring example.
It was Reyes’ return and production in the leadoff spot that helped spark the Mets’ spurt in June. Manuel also didn’t help himself when he played around with Reyes’ oblique injury in late June that resulted in him bouncing in and out of the lineup for nearly two weeks.
There are other examples, but overall the team has played hard for him. There are the occasional lapses in focus and fundamentals, but for the most part the players hustle. In some respects, considering the obstacles of Carlos Beltran being lost for the first half and the questions in the rotation, some might say the Mets have overachieved.
Based on the questions heading into the season, they could be worse. But, in the end, the Mets’ season will come down to wins and losses and how competitive they are down the stretch.
The Mets can still make a season out of this, but if they don’t the front office will come calling. Since they won’t fire the players the coaches will take the hit.
And, so too, will the manager.