I am Not Amused
"I’m a gangsta now. You act gangsta on me I’m going to have to get you."
It's taken a while, but finally, somebody puts the time in to tell me why Jerry Manuel is a no-brainer to be retained as manager of the Mets. Guess what, Steve Popper? Not good enough.
As readers of this space will no doubt recall, I am against just giving this job to Manuel without considering other options for the following reasons.
*No one can tell me a single tangible thing Manuel does better than Willie. I am far more convinced that the late first half and early second half "progression" to the mean was due more to an inevitable 80-90 win achievement of the talent on the team than to any magic Jerry produced.
*The team got the same result: failure. So on the face of it, he was not able to motivate this crowd any more than Willie was.
*Manuel, far from burying Aaron Heilman, rubbed him in our face. Over and over again.
*Manuel used the shitpen as an excuse to cover his ass, not as an incitement to creativity. Manuel never showed any creativity in the bullpen. This was particularly apparent in the final doomed game, instead of having an "all hands on deck" mentality and bringing in a starter, someone like Pelfrey (who had yet to EPIC FAIL), he used the pen as an excuse and trotted out the same old same old failures. I want a team that will do anything to win. This team too often does nothing to win.
*I suspect this team needs a disciplinarian, not a players' lil' buddy. They need leadership, not a head excuse maker.
*There are options. Oberkfell is sitting right there on staff. Time for something new, Fred, if you had the guts.
Here's Popper's case for retaining Manuel, in order of presentation, not plausibility:
1) He used the metaphor of "Gangsta" to put Reyes in place when Jose threw an embarrassing hissy fit minutes into Manuel's tenure.
This is just puffery. Puffery which fills up most of the article mind you. I was at that game in Anaheim, and I have a distinctly different interpretation. Was Reyes disciplined for this amazing display of insubordination? Jerry came off looking weak right out of the chute and the media has substituted this idiotic prattle about "cutting" Reyes with a "blade" for analysis. Do "gangstas" miss the playoffs?
2) "He benched Luis Castillo, challenged Carlos Delgado and buried struggling pitchers in the farthest reaches of the bullpen."
There are three claims here:
1) Benching Castillo took managerial stones. Well, Luis Castillo can't hit. If we give JMan points for benching Luis in Omar's face, fine, but this was a pretty easy call. Apparently Castillo came into camp out of shape and I doubt this was lost on his teammates.
2) The idea he "challenged Carlos Delgado" is questionable, and pretty weak journalism. What is a "challenge"? This statement is a just so story which will go "unchallenged" by most because Carlos Delgado suddenly started performing up to expectations after a mostly dreadful first half. But I see no causal mechanism that connects Jerry to Delgado's adjustments at the plate.
3) Buried, as it should be, among more plausible stories in this package of claims is an outright falsehood. Jerry Manuel never "buried struggling pitchers in the farthest reaches of the bullpen." In fact, his continual usage of Aaron Heilman is exhibit A for the case that the Mets should look at their options when it comes to the manager spot. This one is so wrong, even Popper, no idiot, admits it towards the end of the article discussing the infamous usage of Shownblow.
3. "Perhaps the most astounding part of Manuel’s tenure was that even as it ended as disappointingly as Randolph’s had a year earlier, there was not a grumble from any player that they had been wronged."
Aha! You tripped my wire! Jerry Manuel has done astounding work, because after failing again, "there was not a grumble from any player that they had been wronged." So Manuel is popular with the players. Is that the kind of manager you bring in to deal with a bunch of underachievers whose focus tends to wander, and who suffer a huge collective September let down like clockwork?
4. The media likes Jerry: "If there is one thing Manuel clearly did better than Randolph it was handle the media with a manner that was far closer to Joe Torre than Randolph ever got. He was patient, funny and open. And like the best coaches in any game, he also used the media to get his point across."
You can run YOUR team based on this criteria. The media likes Paris Hilton and John McBain too.
5. Omar thinks Jerry did well: "I think Jerry did a very good job coming into a very difficult situation," general manager Omar Minaya said. "I thought he was able to get us playing, I think actually he ended up getting us to play better than I thought our team was, with all the injuries, overcoming the injuries of [Billy] Wagner and [John] Maine. I thought he did a very good job myself."
Well here we have the real problem. Omar already has his deal renewed, so we can't really talk about his issues here. Suffice to say, he has his flaws and the 2008 Mets were a direct projection of his catastrophic oversights. The Mets had two big injuries: Wagner (who had been choking quite a bit) and Maine, this is true. But I almost can't believe that Omar thinks we're going to accept this as an excuse, that the team wasn't good enough to get where they ended up. NO MEMBER OF THE OFFENSIVE CORE WAS EVER INJURED FOR ANY SIGNIFICANT PERIOD OF TIME, AND THIS YEAR'S TRAUMATIC PITCHING LOSSES ARE IN LINE WITH THE PAST TWO YEARS (EL DUQUE AND PEDRO AND SANCHEZ ETC.). Injuries are part of the game, and the Mets were pretty damn lucky this year, considering that Beltran, Wright, Reyes (and Delgado) were healthy as hell. The problem was once Omar's backups went down (Pagan, Wise!!!) he had no plan to save this team. All and all, he got pretty lucky with out of the blue call ups too (Tatis, Murphy, Ramon Martinez etc.). A team has to be planned around the possibility of injuries. Injuries are not a valid excuse for poor design, but once again, Omar is getting away with the BIG lie (see, "without Pedro, Beltran would not have signed with the Mets and the Mets would never have been reborn" when Beltran signed for the $$, money that was not forthcoming from his first choice, the Spankees, and Delgado rejected the Pedro-ful Mets the first time around and had to be traded for. Pedro had nothing to do with Wright or Reyes).
All and all, this is pretty weak pudding. The tone of the beat reporters and blogs suggests that everyone is settling for Manuel because he's a nice guy, because he says fun things in post game, because its the path of least resistance, and because they have no imagination. Even now that Jerry seems to be demanding more than 2 year contract (!!), no one has soured on rehiring a symbol of the continuation of Willie Randolph regime. Is Jerry the worst possible choice? Am I going to attack Mr Met over this? No, this may turn out fine somehow. But it might be a grievous error. In any event, it is symptomatic of the lack of thought Sterling Inc. puts into hiring at key leadership positions, even in the face of 3 years of failure in the clutch. The Wilpons seem to have put more thought into selling off pieces of Shea Stadium. But hey, everyone likes Jerry. He's got a terrific personality. He wears glasses!
Everybody liked Art Howe too.