Elster's World

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Blame Game

In the end, the loss was so surreal, it was almost impossible to take in.

7 runs in a third of an inning. The worst outing in a 300 win career by a hall of fame lock was almost the *perfect* way to finish a monumental collapse.

7 and a half games with 17 games remaining. never been done before. The Mets are holders of this dubious distinction. They are monumental chokers. They are failures. They squandered a sure thing - a shot at redemption for last year's fall against the Cardinals. They spent 147 days in first place and lost it all with just 18 days to go.

Obviously all Mets fans are sick right now. They are unable to cope with what has just occurred, even as any rational one has seen this coming for 2 weeks - that the Mets Collapse has been a done deal for weeks.

So as we all try and recover from this debacle - as we try and figure out how we are supposed to fall in love with this team again next spring - the question lingers; who is to blame for this stunning turn of events?

Obviously, there is no single answer. There is plenty of blame to go around - from the front office to ownership to the manager to the coaches to the players themselves. Almost every person associated with this team shares in the blame. Below, in order of worse culprit to minor culprits, I try and sort out my take. Please keep in mind when you read this that it's knee jerk reaction to the Collapse - while all the blame remains, the question of the ORDER of the blame may change:

- Willie Randolph. Say what you will about being undercut by his general manager, Willie took a Juggernaut and he turned it into a basket case. Being upbeat and staying positive works when you are Joe Torre and the Yankees had a bad April. But when your team is falling apart at the seams, promising that "we will still win the division" just sounds stupid. Especially when you DON'T win the division. Throw in the horrible mishandling of the bullpen (did Joe Smith really need to throw 1,000 innings in the first half of his first full professional season? Did Mota really need to come in in every tight spot even though he's a gas can?), the questionable moves (It's not a good idea to use up all your bench players in the 7th inning? Really? Should we really stubbornly stick to using Julio Franco even when it's clear to everyone in the Western Hemisphere that he had nothing left in the tank?) and the shaky communication with his players and it's my belief that the ceremonial head that needs to roll here is his.

- The Bullpen. They get a spot right above the man who assembled them (more on Minaya in a minute) because, despite it all, they melted down over and over again when they needed to be good. At the end of the day, you need to go out there, pitch, and get guys out. The bullpen failed to do this all season, especially down the stretch when the team needed them the most.

- Omar Minaya. Minaya took a team one out away from the world series, made almost no upgrades to the offense, failed to add a starter and downgraded the bullpen by about 300%. Rumors that he constantly undercut Willie's authority while he pretends to be his biggest supporter persist. It was the failure of the bullpen which is probably the biggest game issue with the team and Minaya deservedly gets the blame for that. He also failed to adequately fill the fifth starter spot, which accounted for a number of losses this season. The only reason he gets the third spot and not the second is that he assembled a very good squad and brought some solid secondary talent like Marlon Anderson and Luis Castillo.

- The clutch hitting. Simply not there too many times in too many big spots. Beltran ended the year with very good numbers despite missing many games with injuries, but there were just too many strikeouts with runners in scoring position - fooled by terrible breaking pitches. Delgado was too brittle and too ineffective this season. David wright's April too weak. The 6, 7 and 8 spots simply didn't produce like they did last year when Jose Valentin was hitting 20 plus homers and Xavier Nady was still in right.

- Jose Reyes. High on this list as we watched his batting average plummet like the sub-prime mortgage market, watched his home runs fall in half - watched him fail to ignite rallies, fail to hit in the clutch, watched his defense suffer and, finally, watched his fail to play hard. Jose Reyes, more than any other player on the team, is the ignition. When he doesn't go right, neither does the offense. And Reyes went wrong the final 2 months of the season in spectacular fashion. Though I have not heard anything, I wouldn't be shocked if we find out in the next few weeks that he's been hiding an injury for months or that he was just plain fatigued. He certainly didn't look right for a few months.

- Moises Alou's quad. If Alou would have stayed healthy, the Mets would have won a bunch more games in the middle of the season. That much is clear. His bat was as potent as ever when it was in the lineup. If the lead had been 12 games with 17 to play, that's the difference between the playoffs and no playoffs.

- The starting pitching. I just can't kill it as much as everyone else seems to want to. This was the Mets biggest question mark going into the season and look at these numbers. Glavine 13-8, 4.45, Maine 15-10, 3.91 (including going out and throwing one of the best games ever by a Mets pitcher in a HUGE spot on Saturday), Oliver Perez 15-10, 3.56, El Duque 9-5, 3.72, Pedro 3-1, 2.57. The problem was El Duque's health (he only made 24 starts) and the fifth starter. Was trotting Brian Lawrence and his almost 7 era out there 6 times really a good a idea? It is fair to mention that John Maine took 4 steps back the second half of the season after an all-star worthy first half and Tom Glavine fell apart down the stretch as well. Duque missed too many starts with injuries and there were too many games where Oliver Perez couldn't get out of the 4th. The starters are certainly not blameless, but they were just not that high on the list.

The injury bug. It's not an excuse, just a fact. Injuries hurt this ballclub. Of course when you have 6 players over the age of 50, that's going to happen. But Pedro, El Duque, Lo Duca, Milledge, Alou (see above) Delgado and Beltran all missed significant amounts of time with injuries. The team wasn't fully healthy until late August and then Delgado got hurt. Throw in Carlos Gomez and lastnigs Milledge missing time and you have alot of missed time.

- Passion. In retrospect, the team played the entire season in third gear, never turning it up a notch and expecting to roll into the playoffs and shift into 4th and fifth gear there. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way. You can't slumber through and entire season that way. you need to be passionate the whole way though. This is both the fault of the manager and the team leaders. which leads us to....

- Leadership. Not enough leaders on this team. Lo Duca is vocal but I suspect he has too many enemies to be a true leader. Glavine, Wright and Wagner were there in front of microphones this season but Wright and Glavine don't seem like in your face types at all. So the question is, who is leading this team? The answer? No one.

Who did we leave out? Shawn Greens lack of production? Check. Lastings Milledge's early season injuries and his list of boneheaded mistakes? Check.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Almost no one is really immune. At the end of the day, when a team falls apart like this it's nothing if not a collective effort. Still, the blame game makes us all feel better at least.


  • If the rumors are true that Omar undercut Willie, they should both be fired for that reason alone. No team can have a manager whom the GM has no confidence in, and a GM who undermines his manager is hurting his team.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 1:07 PM  

  • I heard it this morning on FAN - Esiason and Cartoin were discussing it at length.

    By Blogger Elster, at 1:29 PM  

  • The whole organizational attitude seemed to be "we've got it coming". That is no way to win even in a weak division.

    Today, I found this poor substitute for results in my Mets email (I'm on distribution for game scores, etc.):

    "Dear Mets Fan:

    All of us at the Mets are bitterly disappointed in failing to achieve our collective goal of building upon last year's success. We did not meet our organization's expectations -- or yours. Everyone at Shea feels the same range of emotions as you -- our loyal fans -- and we know we have let you down. We wanted to thank you for your record-breaking support of our team this year.

    Equally important, Ownership will continue its commitment in providing the resources necessary to field a championship team. Omar will be meeting with Ownership shortly to present his plan on addressing our shortcomings so that we can achieve our goal of winning championships in 2008 and beyond.

    You deserve better results.

    Many thanks again for your record-breaking support.


    By Anonymous Bob Miller, at 9:48 AM  

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