Is R.A. Dickey the Mets Leader?
Last night’s postgame interview with R.A. Dickey reminded me of an old E.F. Hutton commercial, as people were hanging on his every word. Here’s what he had to say:
“We have find a way to be honest with ourselves about what kind of team we are. We can’t just keep telling ourselves that ‘oh, we’re a better team than this’, you know — we may not be. And we gotta be honest about that and identify what we’re doing wrong and do it better. That’s the only way you have any growth. If we want to reach the destination that we have set out, then we have to be honest with ourselves about, you know, how can we take more ownership on what’s going on.”
Dickey was candid and made good points; he continued to speak for several minutes and included himself as one of the people who needed to take responsibility for what is going on and do better.
If I have any issue, it is this: why is R.A. Dickey the mouthpiece of this team? Why is he the perceived leader of this team? The Mets have one of the highest payrolls in MLB, have legitimate stars on the roster — a few of whom have been on the team for 5+ years — and the go-to guy for quotes is a journeyman knuckleball pitcher who a year ago today was a 35-year-old filling out the back end of a AAA rotation. Some people like to ignore “intangibles” such as leadership because they can’t be quantified. But I believe — actually I know — that on-field performance is at least somewhat dependent on a player’s confidence level, his approach to the game, and his focus. When a player is lacking in any of those three areas, his performance can and usually will suffer. When several players are lacking — even just a little — in those areas, and in turn those several players are executing just a bit below the way they are capable, it adds up and the team as a whole underperforms.
It’s easy to say that the Mets stink because they have a low batting average, they’re not getting on base, and the pitchers are walking too many batters. But WHY are they doing these things? Because they are physically incapable of performing better? Is Angel Pagan hitting .167 because he doesn’t have the skill set to hit MLB pitching, or because right now, his confidence is at an all-time low? Is Willie Harris physically incapable of executing a simple bunt, or is there something in his head — mentally or emotionally — that is clouding his focus? Do Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey belong in the minors, as their ERAs suggest, or are there some minor adjustments (physically and/or mentally) they can make to get them back to competing as legit MLB pitchers?
When a team is in a losing streak, it can get into the individual players’ heads. They might start “pressing” and physically tightening up, which affects them physically and alters their performance. They might make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t make — something as simple as chasing a pitch out of the strike zone, or as dramatic as diving for a fly ball that is unreachable. When players “force” things, more bad things tend to happen, compounding the original problem and creating a negative cycle. Right now, the Mets are in that cycle.
In reality, I don’t believe the Mets have enough talent to compete for a postseason spot. But I also don’t believe they are so awful that they should be losing 70% of their ballgames. R.A. makes good points — each individual needs to take responsibility for his own area of influence and figure out how to do it better. When and if that happens, the 2011 Mets as a team should begin to look better than the ’62 edition. It would help, though, to have a few more influential and respected people like Dickey in the dugout and clubhouse, to keep things calm and provide an example of how to go about such a process — because it’s not necessarily something that comes naturally; often, players need someone to look to, and speak with, to understand how to relax and find their focus. Are there people like that already on the Mets? I’m not so sure.
Wright can pretend he is a leader all he wants but he’s not performing right now and really has being trying to assert himself as the leader for years without success.
My feelings are nobody can lead here until they are all on the same page. Aside from not having the pitching & talent perhaps to compete on a daily basis. I think mindset may be an even bigger issue. These guys (Dickey aside) believe they are playing well (listen to Wright last night) & they believe they are close & they believe w/ that it will turn around basically on it’s own.
We were told Collins was being brought in to change that & all he is doing is feeding that losing mindset. In the off-season Collins talked he would be leading charges on the field to fight, he would not stand for bad umpire calls, he & his players would be angry after losses & take them all to heart. The list goes on & on and all they have in common is we are seeing none of that. All we are seeing is more of the same nonsense.
What a huge mistake it was to hire Collins. We needed a manager who would take the reigns & lead & begin to change the mindset (the culture) & most of all teach these guys how to win. We need Wally more than ever in my book.
The Mets seem to be doing worse now than they did the end of last season and the season before, both not exactly elite teams that had much to play for by the end. It’s depressing but perhaps they finally realize the season is basically a lost cause, a way station to better times.
Hopefully, they can except lower expectations and aim for a smaller goal. There are signs of credible play, like them hitting yesterday etc., but there still is an overall bad vibe. Just play ball. Oh, I’m sure various parts are in trouble skill-wise, but the problem seems too broad for it just to be about bare ability.
Would Dickey make a good manager some day? It would be interesting to see if players would respond to his philosophical approach to baseball and life.
Collins is definitely walking a fine line here. He is trying desperately to find the positive in a mostly negative situation. The fact is, though, that the Mets could turn this season around, because they really aren’t that far off.
Jason Bay could really help raise the confidence level by playing to his career average numbers. Pagan might relax as Beltran and Bay take on more offensive responsibility. Harris and Hairston go back to the bench where they can be assets instead of liabilities.
Dillon Gee is up at the right time. If/when Young comes back, I would send Pelfrey to the minors to get his head straightened out.
I don’t think it’s time to blow up the roster and start over, but it will be in another few weeks if the results don’t improve significantly.
That said, putting the deepest dimensions where your star player tends to hit wall-scrapers was probably not the ideal implementation. I don’t think Citi is bad for the Mets overall, but it is definitely bad for Wright. Unless, y’know, he finally gets it through his head to hit line drives, and not swing for the fences in key RBI spots.
I don’t think we have a single position player on the roster who can make a case for leadership based on consistently hard, heads-up play. Maybe Bay could be that if he stops giving away at bats…
The best competitor on the team is rehabbing from shoulder surgery. I wonder how much the rest of the staff is missing his example.
Carlos Beltran has been a leader on the field, playing a new position and hitting well. Murphy and Ike are morphing into leaders. You might question there maturity but they play hard.
Joel Sherman has called DW out. In his articles yesterday he labelled DW a complementary player (on a good team)…hmmm
NO! Johan is not a leader, best pitcher…yes
AND…..Where did Jerry Manuel go?
Even before the beaning I don’t think he was quick enough to adjust to the way the pitchers had adjusted to him. But since, he has a lot of holes in his swing.
Also I think he was really messed up by HoJo. In his first couple of years Wright was a very very good two strike hitter. He shortened his stroke a little and waited on the ball a little longer with two strikes. He had a lot of big hits to right field with two strikes. Wright then began to take on HoJo’s characteristics of the big swing being overly aggressive and trying to pull everything. Also added a little bit of a uppercut. Hopefully he will get back to the 2005 and 2006 level. But I wouldn’t count on it.