(Long Island, N.Y.) The first day of the off-season was more productive than six full months of the regular season were for the New York Mets. By bidding farewell to manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya, the first move in a winter that should be very active was made, more out of necessity than strategy.
This team has not showed any character, leadership or a killer instinct in quite some time. Many feel that they saw their best chance at a championship go by them with the Adam Wainright curveball that Carlos Beltran looked at for the last out in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
Since then, the Mets have had two monumental September collapses and two irrelevant seasons of sub-mediocre play. Ownership finally took notice and began chopping heads on Monday.
“Our family has owned the New York Mets for a very long time,” CEO Fred Wilpon said at a press conference held at Citi Field. “We’ve had a lot of good years and too many poor years. That’s painful. But I must say that the last four years have been the most painful to me.”
That may sound encouraging from the outside, but before you could catch your breath, it was also known through a source that the team intends on retaining the majority of their coaching staff. Never mind that the incoming GM and field boss may think differently. This is the Mets and they do things their own way.
By making it known that they want hitting coach Howard Johnson, pitching coach Dan Warthen, third base coach Chip Hale and bullpen coach Randy Niemann back in some capacity, the Wilpons are tying their future employees hands before they are even hired.
Fred Wilpon also said that although anything can happen, he fully expects third baseman David Wright and shortstop Jose Reyes to return and still be the main pieces in the core – the same core that has played listless baseball for four years and counting.
So if you’re the new GM or manager, you are coming in to a job that has four members of the coaching staff and two high-priced but not clutch players waiting for you. Both Wright and Reyes have shown that they are anything but clubhouse leaders on a team begging for one. Reyes, if he is to gain any respect around the league, needs to learn how to play with pain. A tweaked oblique had him shelved for an amount of time that other players wouldn’t miss with much more severe injuries. When he is in the lineup, Reyes’ approach to hitting leaves a lot to be desired. He is very aggressive to a fault at times, especially when a pitcher is wild and has walked a batter or two. Put the house on him swinging at the first pitch, regardless of the location.
And Wright may finish with fairly impressive numbers, but does not hit when it is needed most if you watch the Mets game by game. Throw a low and outside off-speed pitch to him with two strikes and you can pretty much bet that Wright will weakly wave at the ball in the dirt instead of laying off.
Whoever is hired will be an improvement from the previous two men. A change was needed long ago, but better late than never. If the Mets can keep up their successful offseason, things may look bright come springtime after all.
But it all will be for naught if ownership does not sit back and let the baseball people do their jobs.