Can’t Have it Both Ways

Depending on who you talk to, the Mets are either underachieving or overachieving, and accomplishing one or the other because of Jerry Manuel or not because of Jerry Manuel.

It’s a fascinating dichotomy. When the Mets are doing poorly, many point to the weaknesses on the roster — and in particular the starting pitching. Yet, when the Mets went on their 10-1 streak, they looked to have enough talent to contend — to be world-beaters, in fact. On paper, their starting pitching and bullpen both appeared outstanding, and if the offensive ever started clicking … look out!

When that same assembly of pitchers and batters went 5-13 in the first 18 days of May — against teams with worse records such as the Reds, Nationals, Marlins, and Braves — the same people who gushed about the Mets suddenly questioned whether they had enough talent to compete in the NL East.

Other than the loss of Jon Niese — and the addition of Ryota Igarashi — not much has changed in terms of personnel since that crazy hot streak at the end of April. And as much as I like the kid, I find it hard to believe that Jon Niese is the lynchpin / difference-maker for the New York Mets.

So either the Mets DO have the talent to contend — and their current record 22-23 shows they are underachieving — or they do NOT have the talent to be more than a .500 team.

In scenario one, Jerry Manuel and his coaching staff can be placed on the hot seat; perhaps they are not getting the most out of the personnel they’ve been given. In scenario two, the field management is mostly blameless, and can only be lauded if the Mets find their way above .500. But you can’t have it both ways. Meaning, you can’t give props to Manuel when the Mets go 10-1 after he puts Jose Reyes into the three hole, but then blame Reyes for not sparking the offense thereafter. Similarly, you can’t credit Manuel for great bullpen management in April, then blame the relievers for crapping the bed in May. The season will be measured over 162 games, and over that time either the Mets have the talent or they don’t, and if they have the talent, the manager can get the most out of it OVER THE LONG TERM or he can’t.

Personally, I’ve thought from the beginning that the Mets didn’t have enough pitching to compete seriously for a playoff spot, and the issues with John Maine, Jon Niese, Ollie Perez, and others have only helped support that belief. However, the Mets just took two of three from the Yankees, and people are starting to talk about how competitive the Mets can be now that Jason Bay is hitting, David Wright is going the other way, Jose Reyes is shaking off the rust, Jennry Mejia is looking like a legit setup man, and Carlos Beltran’s return is on the horizon.

So which is it? Do the Mets have what it takes, or don’t they? And if they have it, is Jerry Manuel the guy to lead them to the postseason?

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. MikeTomaselli May 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm
    I predicted another streak before you left, Joe. I think the Mets will take two of three here against Philly too. Thing is then they will go and lose a few games that make you scratch your head. This team is inconsistent because their manager does not put them in the position to win night in night out. I believe they are underachieving because we all know the offense could be better and the bullpen has been mismanaged. However the starting rotation was OVERACHIEVING earlier in the year. Now with Maine and Perez out, and Neise supposedly on the mend, they might get to a more consistent state with Takahashi and Dickey. We know what to expect from Pelf and Johan so simply adequacy from Dickey and even some regression from Takahashi has this staff back to acceptable levels. As long as this team pitches they can win most days, and the offense will dictate how much they actually win (if that makes sense). So the offense and bullpen- underachieve, pitching- overachieved for a time (now they just need to achieve at least mediocrity behind Pelf and Santana).

    There is talk of guys like Oswalt and Lee but I do not believe that will happen. This team can add a pitcher but not either of those guys. Of the two I'd pick Oswalt because he is locked up longer term and if they are giving up prospects I'd want guarantee he will be around (Lee would walk).

  2. AlexSVK May 24, 2010 at 5:31 pm
    Oh, absolutely, before the season started, I thought the Mets on paper had enough talent to win roughly 85 games, i.e to at least 'play meaningful games in September'. Unfortunately, absurd roster decisions (GMJ, Jacobs, F-Cat, Mejia, Figgy) combined with terrible Jerry's managing took its toll. Baseball is a game of percentages, and my guess is that Jerry's decisions (lineup construction, pinch-hitting, bullpen management) cost the Mets appx. 5% a game. With a competent manager, I'd say the Mets could have easily been 24-21at this point.

    On the other hand, taking into account injuries to Niese and Maine, ineffectiveness of Perez, failed bullpen projects (Escobar and Calero) and general bullpen overuse, the Mets can hardly be considered an 85-win team anymore. There's still hope though. The Mets should try to sign Maya and hope that both he and Takahashi can step up in the rotation. Hopefully, either Niese or Maine can come back strong after the injury. Also of note is that the Mets have played a ridiculous number of close games so far. Assuming this gets corrected, the arms of Frankie, Iggy, Feliciano, Nieve and Mejia should be better rested despite Jerry's over-managing.

    Put together, I'm fine with the roster. Just get rid of GMJ, send Mejia to Buffalo and sign Maya. It should be enough to at least compete for the Wild Card, which would be a huge improvement over last year. However, it is painful to watch how Jerry's decisions each day hurt the Mets.

  3. Astromets May 25, 2010 at 2:52 am
    When Jerry makes a substitution that comes back to burn the Mets because the pitcher is up when no one is left on the bench or is overusing a player and puts him in with the game on the line or some mismanagement during the game – you can blame Jerry. This happens often, especially bullpen mismanagement, but is not the reason Jose Reyes has stunk, or Jason Bay had 1 homer before yesterday, or Wright strikes out with a chance to tie the game in the ninth or Wright throws the ball away to end the game, or a pitcher makes an inexcusable walk (like to the opposing closer). People who are calling for the Mets to fire Jerry or wish they would go on a losing streak so he gets fired are a) not Mets fans and b) not well informed baseball fans. People think because they watch casually, they understand everything about the game when there is a lot more to it, it is a difficult sport.

    You can blame Jerry for the bullpen mismanagement, but the Mets would maybe be 2 games better if he managed it perfectly so far. Maybe with a more open manager they can implement a better lineup (the lineups 2nd worst hitter regularly ends up batting 2nd (and playing 2nd), I am talking about Castillo and Cora) and we have a few more wins. But maybe these guys react worse to another, less friendly manager and lose a bunch of games they have won. It is weird though when Jerry has a tiff with a player, like with Maine and Church, although with Maine it was in his best interest.

  4. mic May 25, 2010 at 6:10 am
    Point blank , Jerry hasmade bad moves.
  5. isuzudude May 25, 2010 at 11:04 am
    People who are calling for Jerry to be fired are not Mets fans, or are not informed? Well, quite frankly, I am one of those people, and my closet is filled with Met t-shirts, so what does that make me?

    You say, when it comes to Jerry making mistakes, "this happens often." How is that, then, NOT a fireable offense? Especially considering he's been doing it for almost 2 years now. And yet there are so many other snafus he has committed you failed to mention, and when you add up all of his blunders and questionable decisions you derive that he is the root cause of what is causing this team to continually stumble over itself. How in the world do you have the intuition to state the "Mets would maybe be 2 games better if he managed it perfectly so far?" If he managed PERFECTLY? I sure would hope the team would be more than 2 games better than what they are. Think about it: they have scored 10 more runs this season than they've given up, yet are a game under .500. They are 5-11 in 1-run games. Even if a more competent manager was able to help the Mets win half of those games, that's still WAY more than 2 games better.

    And you say, "People think because they watch casually, they understand everything about the game when there is a lot more to it, it is a difficult sport." Well, are you not also being guilty of doing the exact same thing? You are preaching how anti-Jerry fans are not really fans, or are just stupid, and that his deplorable managing skills have had little to no effect on the team's success. Forget about how ridiculous your logic is; what irks me most is that you're being a hypocrite. I guess, according to you, anyone who watches baseball "casually" should have no opinion whatsoever. And, unless you're a former or current major leaguer, you have broken your own rule. Please, do us a favor and drop the accusatory tone, and understand that people who have different opinions than you can be just as educated, just as passionate, and just as big of fans as yourself

  6. nstab May 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm
    Astromets: Calling those who don't agree with you poorly informed or treasonous is a lazy argument.

    Luckily, I do agree with you, I think Jerry's bullpen shenanigan's have cost us no more than 2 games, and the lineup miscue's only a few more. However, those 2-4 games over 1/3 of a season are the difference between sub .500 baseball and making the playoffs.

    Lineup and bullpen are the main responsibilities of a manager during the game. I'm not ok with ANY member of our team costing us 6-12 games a year mishandling their in-game responsibilities, let alone the leader of the team, the person who should be setting an example for everyone else on the club.

    I'd gladly replace Manuel for someone who can make better baseball decisions. I'd also suggest that Jerry's ho-hum, no worries, catatonic attitude – which made him a great interim manager post Willy – has not been good for this club. I'd like to see a new manager bring some fire and a sense of accountability.

    Finally, in response to the original post: I really enjoyed 11-2, but anyone who looks at the pitching and management on this team and thinks we're playoff bound is either a) not a well informed baseball fan or b) not a Mets fan.

  7. MikeTomaselli May 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm
    I don't know a single non-Mets fan who gives a shot in hell. I think ONLY Mets fans believe this team can win. I firmly believe that if the roster is tweaked and the staff gets consistent behind the top 2, then this team will win games in spite of the manager. I also think the manager has cost us way more than two games… c'mon how is it even possible someone who watches the games does not think this?
  8. gary s. May 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm
    i agree..we win despite jerry.i also predicted that this was a 80 win team before the season started.with the useless duo of maine and perez out of the rotation, we now have an opportunity (oswalt, lee, millwood) to actually improve the team dramatically by adding a top starting pitcher.i'm waiting omar..
  9. mic May 26, 2010 at 10:03 am
    Sorry i’m late,
    1. -Problem with Jerry: Replace him with who? Fact is he (and Willie) got us to one playoff and within 1 game of 2 others. Yes he can be dopey, but his coaching staff is better than last yr. Chip Hale in particular.
    2. -Injuries- We knew this. Maine and Ollie were crap shoots. But so was Pel. Meija was a sure ‘option to AAA’ but guess what he has looked good, and I for one think he is a good arm to have.
    3. Trade: For who? If Millwood for Ollie…OK. Oswalt ONLY if we are in a race in July. Funny how Dickey …our BIG FA offseason signing has turned heads (Joe, didnt you right something on that?)
    4. Omar: Off season moves: How would you rate them now? PS- there was a 2nd baseman added recently, not to mention JR House.
    5. Moves: How long before Jesus Feliciano gets a cup of tea? and Chris gets a little PT?