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Even by 2009 Mets standards, yesterday was a bizarre day, one marked by two doses of good news and one dose of distraction.
The distraction was SI's report that the Mets turned down a package of Fernando Martinez, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell and Ruben Tejada for Roy Halladay. Why is that a distraction? Because I don't believe it's true — not for a New York minute. If it somehow is, and Omar Minaya really turned it down, he should be ridden out of town on a rail. (Well, he should be ridden out of town on a rail anyway. We'll get to that in a second.) A Triple-A starter with potential, a reliever who throws hard but gets knocked around, a prospect who can't stay on the field and a 17-year-old roll of the dice for a 32-year-old ace who's one of the best pitchers in the game? That's Johan II — a deal you say “yes” to so fast that you choke trying to talk and wind up text-messaging the word to J.P. Ricciardi and even then you're shaking so hard you wind up typing something like y yesss s.
Distractions aside, the first bit of good news is that we got to play the Nationals, who are useful at arresting headlong plunges such as ours but otherwise a disgrace, a shoddy trick played on good fans of a city left too long in the wilderness. Jeff Francoeur and Livan Hernandez had fine nights, which in a better world would lead to them immediately being traded for whatever they might yield in return. In this world, it leads to a garbage-time win. (If that’s short shrift for a rare Met victory, my apologies. I’m happy, but what does it really change?)
The second bit of good news was the report that Jeff Wilpon told Omar and Jerry Manuel that their jobs were safe. You might ask why that's good news, considering our front office…
- manages a major-league roster as if the roster limit were 22 guys
- either employs incompetent physicians or competent ones whose counsel goes unheeded
- makes trades that suggest statistical analysis is conducted with an abacus, a phrenology text and dog-eared issues of Sports Illustrated
- seemingly bids against itself to sign fat, old and bad players to guaranteed deals; and
- is otherwise dysfunctional in an endless parade of quietly depressing ways.
The answer for why it's good news is that it's the Mets, and these days when I hear news from the baseball-operations side of the Mets' house, I simply assume the opposite of what's being said is the truth.
- Player X did not suffer a setback in rehab = Player X suffered a setback in rehab
- Player Y is day-to-day = Player Y will be out for at least six weeks
- Omar and Jerry are safe = Omar and Jerry are in serious trouble
Actually, I'm not campaigning for Jerry's ouster — his strategic reliance on small ball and adulation of grit and other intangibles is irritatingly Neolithic, but I think the effect of such things is ultimately fairly small, and Jerry strikes me as a pretty good players' manager. But the front office is another story. It's a shame that the rash of injuries that doomed the season will probably keep Omar and his various feckless or reptilian lieutenants safe from a just reckoning for everything else they've screwed up.
Which is the increasingly inexplicable part.
We all know the Met brass are thin-skinned about bad PR — it's been a weird, vaguely sad obsession in Flushing for years now. But now the Mets repeatedly suffer self-inflicted, Seinfeldian disasters in their efforts to escape bad press. This would be hilarious if it were happening to the Pirates (come to think of it, it routinely does happen to the Pirates), but unfortunately we're talking about the team I love.
Beat reporters and bloggers from all ends of the spectrum reflexively doubt anything the baseball-operations people say. Stories about front-office dysfunction spread often and easily, with no one inclined to disbelieve them. The handling of injuries is so comically inept that players have reportedly complained to the Players Association. (Now there's a way to attract top-tier free agents!) Manuel's “surgery on Thursday” crack wasn't the smartest thing for an employee to say, but he was only saying what everybody who watches this team thinks all the time. Avoiding bad PR? The Mets have become a factory for it.
I've accepted that 2009 is a season from hell. I’m not happy about it, but I know some seasons come up snake eyes. What's harder to accept is that the front office has turned Citi Field into the Augean stables of baseball operations. Unless we get to play the last 72 against the Nationals, it’s time to clean house.
I'm off to San Diego Comic-Con and Maine (because that's a logical itinerary). I fully expect Greg will have this season pointed the right direction by the time I return. Right partner?
It's all Fear right now, but sometimes you gotta have a little Faith. Get your copy of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.