The Mets have completed 21 games and have a record of 9-12, and are about to start a road trip where they will be guests in Philadelphia and Atlanta.
This team is clearly lacking direction, and it all starts with Jerry Manuel and the decisions he makes each day when preparing the lineup and making late-game substitutions.
Similar to last year under Willie Randolph's management, the players do not have clearly defined roles, and favoritism seems prominent. This creates all sorts of problems, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
The Mets have lacked an "in your face" type mentality, and this has hurt them because they do not seem to have that competitive edge, especially in big-game situations. It appears that they are too cautious and too nice to be taken seriously by the teams in their division.
It is a game and they should have fun and not be so serious, but they are perceived as mentally weak, and this needs to change in order for them to be competitive in their division the rest of this season and beyond.
Manuel will not assign an official captain, but David Wright is the face of the franchise, and Johan Santana is clearly the ace of the pitching staff and the vocal leader in the clubhouse.
This in itself sends mixed messages. If Santana is doing the work of the leader, he should be the media person and face of the franchise.
Being that Santana is not an everyday player, he cannot possibly answer day-to-day questions, and that is part of the reason why Wright is in front of the media.
The other reason is that unlike most of his teammates, Wright is accountable and does not run at the sight of approaching microphones, even on the worst of days.
Wright will patiently stand there each day and talk about all aspects of the game that just occurred, not just the hitting but also the pitching and defense.
Santana can only speak about the games in which he is the starting pitcher, since the days that he doesn't pitch he is merely an observer, not a participant.
This is not a knock by any means, but when you are not on the field that day, you are not a participant. If you are watching from the dugout, you are an observer, no matter how much guidance and support you give to your teammates who are playing that day.
By keeping Wright in that "defacto captain" and "face of the franchise" role, especially given his struggles the first 21 games, while making it obvious that Santana is the only pitching ace and clubhouse leader, there could be a division in the clubhouse.
The other starting pitchers have had their struggles but constantly comparing their starts against Santana's starts will not help them and it may cause some resentment because they will feel that their best is not good enough.
Wright does receive a tremendous amount of support in the clubhouse, and he is the first person to offer support to a teammate in need. For Wright to be able to turn the corner offensively, pressure needs to be lifted off his shoulders.
Here is a link to an article where Gary Sheffield speaks about Wright's struggles and leadership:
"We've all been there. I know what it's like. A lot of times, your knees shake. I know mine do, and sometimes I don't know why," Sheffield said. "It's just that you want to come through so bad.
"But you have to put everything in perspective. We're on the biggest stage, so obviously it's going to get more attention, but (Wright's) going to be fine. He has a lot of support on this team. He's supported a lot of people on this team. He's the captain, and we have to lift him up. He just has to realize that he doesn't have to carry this team. Play your small part, and we'll be fine."
This is just one teammate speaking but I am sure that many of his Mets teammates feel the same way.
The unavailability of Carlos Delgado during the Marlins series did hurt the Mets, even though, to his credit, Fernando Tatis did a great job, but he is not the leader that Delgado is on the field
Carlos Beltran does not get involved with leadership responsibilities, and neither does Jose Reyes.
I know a lot of people may not agree with me, but I don't see either of them as someone who is trustworthy in their teammates eyes on a day-to-day basis.
Both Delgado and Beltran, along with Reyes, turned their 2008 seasons around once Randolph was removed from management.
With the slow start, you cannot help but wonder if they will begin campaigning for a new change in management in subtle and not so subtle ways.
Manuel has an uphill battle, no doubt, but his leadership network needs to be better defined to help him manage the team in a more efficient manner.