With apologies to those who were earlier subjected to this spaceâ€™s perhaps premature support of Jerry Manuel, the time clearly has come for this somewhat capable and apparently decent man to be replaced. The relatively short-lived resurgence of May and early June was preceded by-and followed by-a performance very similar to the 2009 one, minus the injury excuse.
Jerry Manuel is not a terrible manager, nor is he a great one. While his pitching moves can be dissected, a manager must work with what he has, and with the bullpen Jerry possesses, a great many of his moves, in all likelihood, would not make much of a difference anyway. The bunting is a different story. An offensively challenged team should not bunt like the Mets do. The Howard/Utley/Victorino-less Phils provided the perfect counterpoint Friday night. With Ruiz at the plate, men on first and second and no outs, and a tie game, he was allowed to hit away, and smacked a single. Thatâ€™s the way the game should be played.
Indeed, watching this entire series showed a team with a plan, a team not afraid to be aggressive, and a team which never gives upâ€”precisely what the Jerry Manuel Mets are not; at least not on a consistent basis.
Regardless, Jerry is not coming back next year, and we have the last two months to use as a laboratory to see if an interim Wally Backman-managed team featuring our Junior Core youth movement can show promise and, from an ownership standpoint, keep the fans interested and optimistic. This works for all concerned.
As our house meteorologist and all-around smart guy Prismo mentioned, we have right in front of us a perfect chance to give Wally two months to see how he behaves at the MLB level. And as Mr. North Jersey, the James Brown of the blog business as our hardest working man, has mentioned, the video of Wally going insane a few years back was apparently shot during a season where the team was being filmed for the show Playing for Peanuts. As this was indeed the case, the entire (ridiculous and embarrassing to be sure) incident must be examined in a wholly different light. Who knows what might have been encouraged/desired to improve ratings, gain exposure, and sell DVDs.
Buck Showalter is gone, and those who say that the Wilpons will not hire Valentine again are most likely correct. This leaves Backman and Tim Teufel as the most appealing choices to this writer. Bob Melvin is a twice-let go retread. Not the answer. Backman and Teufel have both had some success in the minors, but Wally has had more. In addition, he was thought of well-enough by the DBacks to be hired by them as manager. Yes, so was Melvin, whose MLB managerial record is eerily similar to Jerryâ€™s-one postseason appearance and a Manager of the Year award, but a record right around .500 overall, and neither of their teams showed sustained improvement over a multi-year period.
Some have mentioned Backmanâ€™s apparently also bunting at strange times-but A ball is a place where, while winning certainly is important, teaching is paramount. He may have been trying to increase the offensive repertoire of his charges rather than playing with Jerryâ€™s annoyingly predictable conservatism.
Backman was, all sides must agree, a hard-nosed player who undoubtedly squeezed the very most from his athletic abilities. He certainly has those often-debated mystical qualities of â€œheartâ€ and â€œgritâ€ but unlike some other Gritty McPlayers, Wally actually was a central part of some really good-to-great teams.
There clearly has been something missing from this team for years, and it is indeed hard to point a finger at what it is. But there is most definitely validity to the idea that the players around Wright, Reyes, and Beltran just have not been good enough since the near-magical 2006 season. That team had a supporting cast which included the still-productive Delgado, the fiery AND productive LoDuca, the surprisingly productive-and by many accounts very helpful teammate-Valentin, the looked-up-to Floyd, the excellent bench player Chavez, and bullpen pieces of Bradford, Oliver, and Sanchez. As the well-respected dean of TRDMB writers GraveDiggerHebner pointed out with some modern statistical research, even the esoteric numbers show how much better this supporting cast was than those of the last four years.
While it is perhaps an unfair comparison to look at the best team in franchise history, just for fun and to point out how good a great teamâ€™s supporting cast can be, the 1986 team had Rick Aguilera as 5th starter, Randy Myers in the back of the pen, and two utility players named Howard Johnson and Kevin Mitchell.
What does all of this mean? The team payroll was somewhat significantly decreased this year. This fact, when combined with the teamâ€™s failure to spend at all thus far during the year, leads one to reasonably believe that we are not going to be seeing a Beltran/Pedro/Johan/KRod/Bay-type newcomer this offseason.
Which very strongly suggests that the players around our stars had better be a lot better than they have been the last couple of years if this team is to contend in 2011. And thatâ€™s where a new manager comes in. After 2011, Beltran, Ollie, and Castillo all come off the books. Thatâ€™s a lot of money. But do we want to wait until the next big free agent/trade acquisition(s) in 2012 to contend again? In 2011 we will most likely have to try to contend with what we have.
The feeling here is that Valentine or Showalter would have been very able to coax more from lesser starters and marginal players than Manuel can. But Buck is gone and Bobby V seems unlikely.
So when considering the career Backman had as a player, as well as some of the clear success he has had in the minors, this all points to him as a very attractive choice. A man who never stopped hustling, who got the maximum from his abilities, and who was a key part of the best team in Met history. Being a vocal and fiery fan favorite and ring-wearer cannot hurt either from a business standpoint. And it must be noted that some of the most successful managers of the last few decades (Cox, LaRussa, Martin, Weaver, Piniellaâ€¦) have had incidents on and/or off the field as well.
We have 51 games left. This is a nice, long period as a trial for Wally and for many of the kids. We had hoped to be right in the middle of the playoff hunt, but we simply are not. And every time we have a good win or two, it is followed by a bad loss or two. The team has won 2 road series the entire season, in mid-June in Baltimore and Cleveland; it has not won back-to-back games since June 22-23; and the offense is increasingly abominable. What will watching Jerry bunt excessively and start someone like Mike Hessman (and bat him 5th!) do for this teamâ€™s future? Jerry basically admitted late last year to playing Tatis in an effort to try to get an extra win or two to help save his managerial job. We must not see this the rest of 2010, and Manuelâ€™s quick backtracking on giving FMart all of the AB against righty pitchers again shows his unfortunate tendencies.
Letâ€™s give Backman these last 51 games-or as many as logistically possible-to see how he will behave and to find out what he can do with a roster that very well may comprise much if not almost all of what we will be seeing in April 2011.
The team is almost certainly out of the running for 2010, so how can Backmanâ€™s interim hiring damage the Metsâ€™ chances the rest of the year? And all things considered, the potential for media backlash should he behave poorly really cannot mean much at this point after what we have witnessed the last two years; the potential reward is clearly worth the risk.
It says here that a more aggressive style, from a true Met winner, along with the â€intangiblesâ€ that a change like this can bring, argues quite strongly for this move to be made, and to be made now.