I am an avid Phillies fan. For the second straight year, I'm watching the Mets fall apart inexplicably. I've seen the Mets organization do pretty much everything except fully admitting one simple fact...
The New York Mets have a problem.
Don't get me wrong, the Mets have done plenty of things to try to improve- it's just that none of them actually dealt with the problem. Firing Willie Randolph was a short-term fix, and I think Omar Minaya and the rest of the front office may have realized that at the time. They went with the old front office doctrine of "If things go wrong, fire your manager". The problem is that doing so was much more of short-term fix than many expected, and for the second time this season the Mets have begun to slip. They're lucky the Brewers are in free-fall as well, because this time they'll have the chance to make the playoffs despite their collapse which is shaping up to be nearly identical to last year's.
It looks like "team tightrope" hasn't learned their lesson yet. The Mets have been so overconfident, and unwilling to deal with their problem head-on, that it has continued to cost them big time. Jerry Manuel wasn't the solution. Adding the textbook definition of an ace, Johan Santana, hasn't helped either. Sure, injuries have held them back, especially in the bullpen. However, if I remember correctly, Billy Wagner was on the mound in the ninth for much of the Mets' 2007 collapse.
If the Mets are going to stop the bleeding they have to find the real cause of their issues and deal with it rather than just make more and more personnel changes. Do I know what their problem is exactly? No, I don't. What I do know is that the Mets were perfectly capable last year, and are (or at least were) perfectly capable this year, of winning a World Series. Nobody thought this collapse would happen twice; there was no reason to think that, but just assuming that it wouldn't happen again because of a few changes here and there wasn't the wisest decision for the Mets to make.
The really sad part is that the Mets have been the team to beat in the NL East over the past two years (there, I said it). The problem is that that statement went from being true in essence to being true literally. Now, everyone has been getting their fair share of Met-beating, despite the fact that the Mets have been the front-runners. Yet, somehow many people, especially in Philadelphia, knew that the reality of the situation was that the Mets had an inherent flaw that would cause them to have a collapse relapse in 2008. As Phillies fans, we knew the Mets were a better team in almost every way, but after September 2007 we also knew that the Mets were a lot easier to beat than many people always say they are.
The way things were shaping up going into September 2007 we should NOT have won the NL East. Again, this year, the way things were shaping up at the beginning of September we should NOT be leading the NL East by 2.5 games. We might not admit it, but it's true. At that point, in both years, every ESPN analyst I can think of was picking the Mets to win the division, but we knew they were wrong, because we saw the situation from a unique angle.
Mike Schmidt also knew they were wrong. When his email was posted on the Phillies' clubhouse door, boldly proclaiming that the Mets knew the Phillies were better than them, he was right and wrong. He saw a serious flaw that was destined to hold the Mets back down the stretch. Where he was wrong was that the Mets didn't, and still don't know what is wrong. Until the Mets stop firing managers and adding players in a vain effort to fix things, and really find what's wrong, you can expect things to be like this long after the final pitch of 2008.