Generally, I am not one to blame managers for a team's performance. Mets fans have wanted Jerry Manuel's head since he was hired in 2008.
His even-keeled, sometimes humorous attitude about the ebbs and flows of a Major League season is, quite frankly, the way a manager ought to perceive the marathon that is a baseball season, but it has often rubbed Mets' fans, who live and die with every pitch, the wrong way.
Mets' fans are a strange breed. They have "seen some stuff," to paraphrase a colloquialism. Epic collapses and playoff berths lost by a single game have caused this team's fanbase to look at every single game and every single managerial decision and at-bat within that game as Game Seven of the World Series.
Manuel can't afford to look at it that way. He needs to look at the season as a marathon and keep his cool under pressure.
Manuel has achieved that, so what is my problem with him? My problem is that Manuel needs to feel that way internally but not let that feeling rub off on his players.
Up until the week before the All-Star break, Manuel had achieved that. His players hustled, played hard, were team-first guys, and took the game seriously.
Since the All-Star break, it has been the opposite. Stories are starting to come out that demonstrate that Manuel is losing control of this team, and that is when a manager has to go.
Over the course of 162 games, any manager will make mistakes. He will make bad decisions that cost the team games and bad decisions that inexplicably work out. Those are never the reasons to fire a manager.
A manager, like a school teacher who is in charge of the behavior of his or her students, is in charge of the behavior of his players, and that is the area where Manuel is falling short.
As his team has entered an epic downswing, there are three things that have occurred that should cause Manuel's prompt dismissal:
First, when Manuel was asked about this road trip, Manuel said,
"We felt coming on this trip that the one good thing about this trip is that it's early enough in the second-half schedule that if it's what it is, we still feel we have a good enough team and enough time to overcome that."
So the team should feel like it is defeated before the trip even started? Mission accomplished Jerry, good job.
Second, after the team's second game in Arizona, there was laughter in the clubhouse. Alex Cora, one of the team's leaders, exploded that the Diamondbacks had just "stuck it up their [ expletive]."
But here is the problem: Can you really blame the laughter Alex? Jerry Manuel laughs after every loss in his postgame interview. The team is simply taking on the persona of its manager, laughing and shrugging off losses.
Finally, take a look at Jeff Francoeur. He was praised all year as a team-first guy by Jerry Manuel, and just look at what has happened this week. When Frenchy was asked about his role, was he team-first? Here are his comments:
"If there was an opportunity to play more somewhere else, that would be great…I love it here, but if they decide to go in a different direction, I would be happy to play somewhere else.”
Well, I am sure glad Francoeur is comfortable enough to go to the media say he would be happy to play somewhere else. Do you think one of Lou Piniella's, Joe Girardi's, or Joe Torre's players would say that?
I am not so sure, and that is the problem: profound comfort as a losing New York Met. Jerry's relaxed atmosphere has rubbed off, just like in a classroom where a teacher let's everything go and the kids run wild. Francouer should have had that conversation with Manuel privately.
The Mets need a manager who will make things a little more uncomfortable right now and who will try to re-light the fire.
As for Omar Minaya, he needs to be fired as well. It simply isn't reasonable to allow a general manager who has never won anything but a division title to hire his third manager.
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