The Mets collapsed two months early this year. Injuries to Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, et al. have been a problem, but their replacements haven’t exactly been scrappy hustlers rising to the occasion. The low moments have been replayed over and over: Luis Castillo dropping a pop fly, Jeff Francoeur covering his face with his arms after losing a ball in the lights, Fernando Martinez falling over for no apparent reason while waiting under a fly ball.
The funny thing is, usually the tradition of depicting bad teams by assembling clips of players slipping and sliding and bobbling is a contrivance: The baseball season is long, and no doubt even the ’27 Yankees had some boneheaded slapstick moments. But this Mets team actually is built for bloopers: They’re too old (Gary Sheffield, Castillo) or too young (Martinez) or playing out of position (Daniel Murphy, Jeremy Reed). They’ve practically been designed to fail comically in the field and, in less visually amusing ways, on the mound and at the plate.
Meanwhile, the people who assembled these underperforming players—and spent nearly $150 million to do so—are battling each other in the press. The Daily News published a report last week, attributed to anonymous sources, indicating that general manager Omar Minaya, despite his recent contract extension through 2012, is not guaranteed to keep his job after this season. Two days later, the same reporter had a scoop about Minaya’s longtime consigliere, the Mets’ vice-president for player development, Tony Bernazard, who apparently ripped off his shirt and challenged the Binghamton Mets minor-league team to a fight. Then an anonymous player told the Post that Bernazard is “crazy” and that “no one like[s] him.” Bernazard is believed to be the primary reason for the Mets’ Midnight Massacre firing of Willie Randolph last year; he’s known for feuding with players and coaches. Is Minaya selling him out to improve his own standing? Who knows? Maybe someone’s selling them both out.
Meanwhile, and more concerning to fans, Minaya still insists the Mets are in the playoff hunt, saying there are only a “couple” teams ahead of them in the wild-card race. (As of press time, there were seven.) Even the players don’t think that—just look at them—and it raises the disturbing possibility that Minaya might make a trade that further depletes the Mets’ already limited stock of prospects in order to gain an older player who will help them hang around the edges of the race just long enough to save his job. With Minaya pulling this act, and Bernazard losing at his own game, the Mets are uglier in the front office than they are on the field. That’s terrifying.