What Happened to the Chemistry?
It wasn’t that long ago that nearly every New York baseball journalist and blogger was talking about the great “chemistry” of the 2010 Mets — and how the players loved playing for Jerry Manuel. Such comments about the positive vibe in the Mets’ clubhouse continued even through the team’s tough times in mid-May.
But there seems to have been an accident in the lab, because that chemistry has vanished. In the past week, Alex Cora demanded an end to laughter in the clubhouse, Jeff Francoeur said he wouldn’t mind being traded, Jerry Manuel had to call a closed-door team meeting, and now Rod Barajas is clearly unhappy with being unseated by Josh Thole.
From Mike Sielski’s article in The Wall Street Journal:
“To give up on somebody after what they’ve done to help the team, for me, it’s not a good thing,” Mr. Barajas said. “It’s not the way a team wants to see their teammates treated.”
“I don’t want to say it in a bad way, but if you look at the scenario, how we got here and how we got in this situation, whatever we were doing before worked,” he said.
We’ve gotten to where we are because of a certain system we’ve had in place. For me, once you start making drastic changes and changing the landscape of the team, it could go either way.”
Sounds like trouble in Metsville.
On the one hand, there is every reason for Josh Thole to be getting more chances to play, because of his hot bat. On the other hand, the offseason winter mantra from the Mets front office, manager Jerry Manuel, and pitching coach Dan Warthen was that defense and leadership behind the plate was valued as much or more than offensive skills.
In other words, there has been a sudden change in philosophy — a reactionary decision rooted in desperation. That’s fine if the change works. Or is it? Because yes if it leads to success then it’s the right decision but it also proves that the original plan was flawed. The fact that Thole is playing ahead of Barajas can be construed as a lack of confidence in that plan as well.
When leadership lacks confidence in the plan that they put together, the people below can sense it and in turn question the plan and the leaders that put it together.
And suddenly that chemistry breaks down.
While it’s true that “good chemistry” is generally identified when a team is winning, and “bad chemistry” is blamed when a team is losing, you have to think that chemistry — good or bad — may be insignificant and/or ineffectual on its own, but can be a symptom or clue to something much larger that does have an impact on a team’s on-field performance.