I wish I could share my co-blogger's pluck, his acceptance, his relative calm. But I can't. The only comfort I can take from yesterday's disaster is that Willie Randolph's firing may have gone from an “if” to a “when.” But how much agony do we have to endure before then? How many losses? How many boos? How much dismal baseball? How much finger-pointing?
And that's without even mentioning the controversy that's about to engulf this team. Billy Wagner all but openly called out Carlos Delgado, with collateral damage for Luis Castillo and Carlos Beltran. I believe Billy when he says he isn't talking about color but about individual players. But I also believe the talk-radio hyenas will blow this up into exclusively a question of color. And it's not just Delgado and Castillo and Beltran whom the fingers are pointing at. Which slumping player is the target of endless psychoanalysis and rumormongering? Jose Reyes. Who was the last guy called out by Wagner for being flighty and unmotivated? Oliver Perez. Who's now been called out by the press for ducking the media before his start against the Yankees? Johan Santana.
Let's be clear about this. I don't know who on our roster tries and who doesn't. I don't know what motivates or doesn't motivate Carlos Delgado — just as I don't know what motivates or doesn't motivate Aaron Heilman, or what was in David Wright's head as he wandered in the general direction of first base this afternoon. I'm not remotely qualified to guess how much players not talking to reporters has to do with language and cultural barriers, though I bet there's some of that — reporters whose first language is English gravitate to players whose first language is English because it's easier, and players whose first language is Spanish find it easier to duck pesky reporters by exaggerating the language barrier, just as players whose first language is English would if the roles were reversed. I wish none of this were happening. But it is, I can guess how it will be portrayed, and there's a real risk of it getting awfully ugly.
It would be a shame if that were the immediate cause of Willie Randolph's ouster, because there are so many other reasons for that to happen — most notably that his expensive, talented players continue to routinely do moronic and/or lazy things while in uniform.
Witness the frozen-in-amber shuffling of Castillo and Wright on the ball Austin Kearns dropped in the third. I don't know if Castillo would have scored on that play if he'd been at least running, but I do know he would have had a better chance than, say, Reyes did going to third a few innings later. I do know Wright damn well should have been on second. In a game that close, with everything that's gone wrong so far in this infuriating season, that's absolutely inexcusable. And spare me announcers making nice: Keith said that happens and you learn from it, but if the Mets have shown one thing since last Memorial Day, it's that they don't learn. As for the excuse of Castillo's leg, he'd bunted for a hit the previous at-bat. If he's got a bad quad that plagues him on random plays, put him on the DL. Otherwise, tell him to at least attempt to earn his absurd contract.
But for sheer baseball stupidity, the bottom of the eighth was worse. Reyes made a dumb play, as he does all too often lately. (Is it too early to suggest that Reyes, for all his electricity and thousand-watt smiles, is a dumb player?) But what really burns me is why Castillo was bunting. You've got six outs left — why on earth would you give one up when the guy on first is that fast? I understand having Reyes run and then bunting him to third with none out — Castillo may as well sacrifice, seeing as how he's otherwise useless — but with Reyes on first that play is idiotic, stone-age baseball. Even if it had worked, it would have been stupid. (And if Ryan Church had bunted with Beltran on first in the ninth, I really might have taken a cab to Shea Stadium and gotten myself arrested.)
The rest was miserable luck, from Willie Harris's latest dagger-in-the-heart catch to Delgado's ankle-high liner to Beltran being erased on a contact play. (That's the irony of Delgado's apparent refusal to talk — he hadn't done anything wrong.) But luck, as they say, is the residue of design — and this team desperately needs a redesign. If you've watched more than a few years of baseball, you can smell death in the air. The manager has lost his clubhouse. Too many of the players aren't accountable. The clubhouse is turning toxic. The press is out for blood. The fans have turned on the team. (And you can blame them less and less each day.) And we can expect no mercy from the 29 other teams, starting tonight with the Yankees — our third last-place team in a row, but that hasn't gone so well this week. (The Yankees at least have plausible excuses for being bad right now.)
Fred and Jeff, it's up to you. It's your $137 million lining the pockets of players who aren't earning it. It's your final hurrah for Shea that's rapidly turning into a bitter farce. If neither of those things moves you, consider how you'll feel opening your gorgeous new park and hearing the fans shower a catatonic manager and his uncaring charges with venom. That's where were headed. If you want to stop it, you need to do something very quickly.