Manuel Perpetuates Blame Game

manuel-ghandi-smAh, now it’s all clear. Perhaps I was too harsh on Frankie Rodriguez, Johan Santana, and Carlos Beltran. By blaming others, finger-pointing, and driving the bus over their teammates, they were merely carrying out the ethos set in place by their field general.

Because yet again, Jerry Manuel does his own finger-pointing to explain the Mets’ miserable season. When asked about the possibility of losing 90+ games this season, Manuel was quoted last night during the SNY postgame (and recorded on MLB.com):

“You have to go back to the health issue,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “If you don’t have those pieces in place, it’s difficult to do anything, and do anything well and do it consistently.”

(hat tip to TheRopolitans)

See? Blame game. It fits nicely. I absolves Teflon Jerry from responsibility. He can blame the circumstances around him for the Mets’ dismal record, as if he is somehow separate from it. How can he possibly win baseball games when he doesn’t have the “pieces” ?

Funny, though, that this time last year the media and much of the fanbase couldn’t congratulate Manuel enough for leading the Mets into the Promised Land (well, they never guessed ANOTHER collapse would occur in the final days). He was some kind of Zen wizard, regaling journalists with his koan-like bits of wisdom, and managing the Mets with a measured balance of father-like encouragement and stern discipline.

Heck, one journalist referred to Manuel as a magician, and suggested he could win “Manager of the Year”.

Carlos Delgado was a one-man wrecking crew because Jerry motivated him to do so. Fernando Tatis hit like Ted Williams for a month because Jerry gave him the chance. Daniel Murphy looked like the next Wade Boggs because Jerry “worked so well with youngsters”. Jose Reyes was fulfilling his superstar promise because Jerry knew how to keep him focused. Carlos Beltran and David Wright were MVP candidates because Jerry was giving them just the right amount of rest. Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez turned their seasons around because Jerry had them working with Dan Warthen.

And if by some miracle the Mets did NOT make it to the postseason, everyone knew exactly why — because the bullpen would fail.

Huh … sound familiar?

Even amidst all the miracles Manuel was spinning on his way to sainthood, there was a built-in excuse. It would be the fault of the men in the bullpen — not the man managing it — if things turned sour. Jerry’s irresponsible abuse of arms from June through August would be forgotten when the relief crew collectively and colossally collapsed. It would be the fault of Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, or the injury to Billy Wagner, if the Mets blew it again. Anyone but Jerry.

This is the culture that Jerry Manuel created — one where the team learns to find reasons why they lose, rather than creating solutions to win.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 September 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm
    Aside from the obvious on-field debacle that transpired in 2009, I started looking at the Mets from a different perspective from very early on in the season.

    With each injury, it became less and less likely that the team would have any sort of chance to sniff the post-season….so, really the fact that the Mets wouldn’t make the playoffs this year wasn’t really surprising.

    What was surprising, to me anyway, was the complete and total “mail-in” we’ve seen from almost everyone this season….from:

    – The Wilpons (getting fleeced over the winter and putting an absolute “stop” to any improvement), to

    – Omar (scrambling, babbling, and eventually blaming everyone around him – for certain things that went wrong along the way), to

    – Jerry (proclaiming that the goal was to “play .500 ball” — until the infamous “CAVALRY” rode back onto the scene) — a complete failure, now 21-games below .500.

    – Players pointing fingers at each other in the media from time to time, no matter how obvious-or-subtle.

    – Bad defense

    – Horrific baserunning

    – Complete lack of fundamentals, all the way around

    This season was a complete and total “wash”….and even the most optimistic of fans gave up on it a long, long while ago.

    For all of these reasons, I feel that the Mets have to make a managerial change. I’ve just seen far too much “Willie” in Jerry Manuel….and know that this is coming from someone who supported Randolph until he saw the same stupidity over and over again.

    Manuel’s done nothing to show me that he can manage a “sinking ship”, so to speak. From a low-bar that was set….to a sort of “toleration” for bad-play — I’ve seen enough. He did a nice job of masking the problems during his interim stint, but after this full season….with little to no development of his players — and underachievement from almost every guy that did stay healthy?

    Enough.

    There’s still very little accountability with this bunch — and with regard to the injuries (and their mystery natures/statuses), it appears that communication is also at an all-time low.

    Time to start changing the culture…….again………

    To quote Billy Wagner: “(Flippin’) Shocker!”

    I’m very skeptical of any of this happening, though — since The Wilpons are very quick to reward ineptitude with contract extensions before they truly “prove” anything.

    For the record, I wouldn’t bring Manuel back — and would give Minaya one last run of it; simply because he’s got a contract through 2012 with 2-additional option years PAST that!

    Morons.

    I firmly believe that we see so much tolerance within this organization — simply because the guys at the top of it are just as bad, if not worse, than the players who sometimes look for excuses/look to place the blame at the feet of others.

    The general constant within the organization?

    Throwing others (whether it be managers, teammates, beat-writers, etc.) under the bus in the press, whispers through anonymous quotes in the media — until situations literally blow up in their own faces.

    As much as you can’t go doing these things every couple of years, I’d change the culture on that alone — but don’t trust The Wilpons to do the right thing in bringing in actual competent, respected baseball people.

    From top to bottom, the Mets lack character. And I’d hope to see more of a movement toward achieving that within my lifetime.

  2. Luis September 18, 2009 at 12:46 pm
    You speak in half truth’s. While it is true the team tends to give reasons why they lose (and by team I mean Manuel and Minaya). To say Manuel’s quote of “You have to go back to the health issue,” is merely an attempt at the “Blame game.” Is like saying their is no truth in his statement when in fact almost every Mets fan that has watched this season will tell you if asked what was the biggest reason we failed in 2009 and they will tell you “injuries”.
  3. joejanish September 18, 2009 at 1:05 pm
    Luis, I speak neither full nor half-truths — I relay truths and comment on them.

    The Mets fans you hang out with are apparently much different from the ones that I do, because there are many, many fans that didn’t drink the Kool-Aid and saw the reality that this team has been flawed from Opening Day (or earlier). Prior to the mass of injuries, the Mets were losing due to a lack of fundamentals, poor execution, and miscast personnel.

    In regard to the blame game, going back to April, Johan Santana blamed a loss on the play of his leftfielder. It’s been a pattern ever since.

    But I’ll take the bait. If this year the “reason” was injuries, then what was the “reason” last year? The bullpen, right? See, I call that an “excuse” while you call it a “reason”. And what was the “reason” in 2007? Better yet, how did supposedly the “best” NL team in 2006 lose the NLCS to a nearly .500 team? What was the reason then?

    Every year we get excuses. This year we get an excuse after every lost game.

    There are people who work hard to find excuses (or reasons) to explain their failures, and there are others who find solutions that drive them to success. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

    And suddenly I sound like Anthony Robbins.

  4. Luis September 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm
    🙂
    I will not challenge you on your statement about you only relay truth’s since this is your blog and your entitled to say what you please.

    The kool-Aid fans you speak of are not my people that’s for sure as I know they would get a chuckle from that line.

    The reason for 2008 was mainly the bullpen among other things that I will spare getting into with you so as not to get sidetracked. and the Mets addressed that aspect of it by ridding themselves of people like Heilman and and adding people like Krod to the mix. This is what all teams do every year they look at why they did not win and address it.

    I don’t see how it is any different for the Mets.

    This year the simple truth of the matter is while there were many question marks going into the season the biggest reason we failed is nothing more than we never had Reyes Beltran and Delgado on the field for a significant part of the season plus no Maine Putz Ollie Niese and whoever else was down for a significant part of the year.

    Heck the backups to our backups even went down.

  5. isuzudude September 18, 2009 at 1:34 pm
    ‘nutz, I give you a gold star for your post. Well said.

    Jerry Manuel would be the ideal manager on a team that has absolutely no problems or players who need a particular role. If he could just throw out the same 8 position players everyday, and have a starting rotation that went 7 deep every start, and a bullpen full of crossover pitchers who never get tired, Jerry would win 100+ games. Needless to say, however, that’s not really a rousing compliment. Give Jerry a team with one flaw, and he’ll do his damnest to make that achilles heel the size of Mount Everest. Last year it was the bullpen, and this year it’s the injuries. In other words, if a certain aspect of his team actually needs MANAGEMENT (what an appropriate word), he’ll fail miserably yet take no responsibility or corrective actions.

    And to think there were people – ‘professionals’ even – who considered Jerry an NL Manager of the Year candidate. A year later that notion is so grossly absurd it makes my brain quiver.

  6. joejanish September 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm
    Luis, I would be an idiot if I didn’t admit that the Mets CHANCES were diminished due to all the injuries they suffered.

    But at the same time:

    1. Health likely would not have made a difference — the team still would have missed the playoffs. Their record may have been better, but I strongly believe we’d still be disappointed in the team’s performace.

    2. Every year it’s a new excuse, and that’s not how a winning organization operates.Last year, the bullpen. This year, injuries. What’s next year’s excuse?

    3. Accountability / taking responsibility for one’s actions is key to any winning organization — sports or otherwise (yes this is pretty much the same thing as point #2) We’ve seen evidence of the blame game going back to April, with Santana throwing Murphy under the bus, and Beltran doing the same to Pagan a few weeks later. It breeds a losing culture when teammates do that — particularly when it’s the “stars” or perceived leaders acting that way.

    If everyone was healthy all year, the Mets probably did not have enough talent to overcome these fundamental flaws. Talent can sometimes overwhelm a poor approach / non-winning mindset, but eventually it is the best TEAMS — the ones that work together — that come out on top.

    The Mets assembled some talented players, but talent by itself doesn’t always translate to winning.

  7. Luis September 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm
    I guess where we differ is where you see an excuse I see an assesment of what went wrong.

    “Health likely would not have made a difference” is an opinion that your entitled but we will never know if the team would of made the playoffs.

    Accountability now there is a word that is hard to measure. You say Santana calling Murphy out is a lack of accountability while others see it as a leader stepping up not afraid to say what needs to be said. The truth most likely is somewhere in the middle.

    There is a time and a place to call people out and as long as a player has the balls to say it to a players face also I see it as much ado about nothing so long as the player can own up to his mistakes also as these players have done also.

    You think just cause a player may call a player out once in a while that that is a losing mentality? I think when it’s done behind the shield of the media with unnamed players its a losers mentality.

    On the contrary it says more for a player that can say what everyone already knows and not tow the company line in my opinion.

    I wish Wright was more this way and he was once this season when he publicly didnt agree with one of Manuel’s observations.

  8. joejanish September 18, 2009 at 2:28 pm
    Luis, the Mets had essentially the same team last year and didn’t make the playoffs. And almost the same team in ’07. Why would they have made it this year?

    I’ve played on too many losing teams, and not enough winning teams in my life. There are very basic fundamentals behind each type. One of the common elements among the winning clubs — in my experience, not opinion — were players who took full responsibility for their own actions, and PICKED UP, rather than criticized, their teammates. With every single losing team, it was the exact opposite.

    But that’s just MY experience. I’ve only played/coached for about 30 years, with dozens of teams, through over a thousand games. Someone else may have experienced things differently. And I’m from the “old school”; read up on Vince Lombardi or watch Hoosiers to get an idea of how leaders and winning teams conduct themselves.

    What positive thing could possibly have come from Santana calling out Murphy for misplaying a ball? It was a physical mistake, not one from a lack of effort or mental lapse.

    So what you’re saying is it is completely OK for a highly skilled, gifted, experienced player to blame a lesser skilled, inexperienced player for screwing up? How does that make Murphy better at catching fly balls? How does that improve team chemistry and morale?

    It would be completely different if Murphy was not hustling. In such a case, I agree — it would be leadership to step up and call him out.

    I wish the Mets had someone like Wally Backman in the dugout. You wouldn’t hear excuses from anyone if he was in charge.

  9. rich September 18, 2009 at 2:51 pm
    Finally a legitimate conversation between two people who disagree that didn’t degenerate into name calling. While I lean much more to Luis’s side on this issue the fact that his opinion, as well as Joe’s was not denegrated by either party. I can’t see how one can dismiss the injuries and call them merely “excuses.” No team in history could have overcome such a freaky rash of injuries. Last year the bullpen clearly could not get the job done once Wagner went down-they simply did not have the horses. Was there blame to be shared there? Of course because the bullpen needed more than they had before Wagner went down. 2006 and 2007 I don’t see anybody making excuses be it the players or management or anybody-they simply blew it both years. They had teams that could have/should have won but they choked. Anyway, good to join a reasonable discussion.
  10. Luis September 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm
    Again you say in your 30 years of experience only losers do this. That may be true but I am trying to tell you it’s not just black and white. Its neither one or the other.

    Has any team that has won a W.S. ever had someone on the team with status call out another player? Odds are that the answer most likely is yes.

    I simply saying that while that one incident may not have been appropriate depending upon whom you ask. It is also not a reason to suggest that he or anyone else is now a loser for having done so.

    On another note to suggest the Mets had essentially the same team last year is amazin to hear I guess they had a Krod down the stretch to close out those games.

    With that I have to leave our chat for another day but maybe we can do a lil Q&A that we can post for the fans of both your site and mine nleastchatter.com to see in the future.

  11. joejanish September 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm
    Luis – I urge you to research your bet. Go back ten years, and see if any player of status on a championship team publicly called out one of his teammates for a physical error.

    For a lack of hustle? Probably. Mental error? Maybe. For making an error? Doubtful. My bet is on the table.

    Yes the Mets had essentially the same team last year. They had Wagner in place of K-Rod. Yes Wagner was lost for September but again — there we go with the excuses! Other teams lost their closer (ahem, the AL Champ RAYS) down the stretch but still made it to the playoffs. Do a search on “bullpen blueprint” here at MetsToday to learn the REAL reason the Mets’ relievers failed.

    And I just remembered the 2007 excuse — it was because the team “didn’t have an ace to prevent losing streaks”. That was the reasoning behind adding Santana.

    Every year, another excuse …

  12. joejanish September 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm
    Rich – see the 2007 Phillies. They lost Utley, Howard, Victorino, Werth, and Myers (among others) for significant stretches. Not as long as the Mets lost their “cavalry”, but for good stretches nonetheless.

    And the Mets’ season was over before they lost Beltran. Manuel was already setting up the excuse file in mid-June — when the team was in second place! Even if the cavalry had returned in July, the team was such a mess it wouldn’t have mattered.

    Manuel starting talking about playing .500 ball and saying the team couldn’t win with who they had when they were only a few games out of first, instead of talking about ways they’d win in spite of the losses to personnel.

    Today, yeah, we can say injuries were a major factor. From June to July, though, it was Jerry waving the white flag, instead of making lemonade.

  13. Wendy September 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm
    Joe, I agree, Jerry’s “hang in there at .500 til the cavalry returns and then make a push” was the worst attitude for this team. When Minaya made it clear at the trading deadline that no deal would be made although he reportedly refused several offers, you know this season was lost in the eyes of management and that injuries were the scapegoat.
  14. John Fitzgerald September 20, 2009 at 4:45 am
    Joe,

    You forgot to mention that the Mets “cavalry” were high risks for either an injury or a decrease in production, especially Reyes’ legs and Delgado’s overall production.

    Additionally, you correctly predicted arm/head issues with Perez, Maine and Santana. Take some credit for that – you were the ONLY person writing about these things early in the season.

    A house of cards is a house of cards, injuries or not.

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