It wasn’t that long ago that the Mets were dreaming of Cliff Lee, or Roy Oswalt, or some other just-one-more-piece that would push them over the top in the National League East or the wild-card race. The Mets were buyers: Of course they were buyers! Then July came, and a 5–13 record came, and a free fall came, and now here they all come: The headhunters, wanting Jerry Manuel’s job, Omar Minaya’s job, everybody’s nose on a platter. The Mets lost again last night, 2–0 to the Dodgers, and now they’ve lost four in a row, seven of eight, ten of twelve. It’s about time for the Mets to become sellers, right?
The problem is that you have to trust the seller, and despite the last-gasp June that extended the lives of Manuel and Minaya, nobody trusts the people running the Mets right now. (Before the game last night, Manuel had to face one of those extended questionings about his job, his performance, his emotional state — one of the unfortunate embarrassments dying managers must muddle through. It feels like Manuel has done a few of these.) It’s all falling apart.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, because he’s a pro at this, found an actual member of the coaching staff to talk about how painful this is. It’s Howard Johnson, who probably shouldn’t have been deputized to talk about such matters.
“You know what? It’s part of the job,” said Johnson. “I think at this level you get hired to get fired at some point. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but you deal with it. That’s the reality of sports. We’re trying to set a standard here and we’ve scuffled. Hey, this organization has been solid. I don’t feel any pressure that way or anything like that. It’s nothing like that.”
Nothing terrible about that quote, but when a member of the staff is actually using the word “fired,” it’s obvious the sharks are circling. Will this happen over the weekend? Next week during the homestand? Right after the trading deadline? If that’s the guessing game we’re playing — When does the ax fall? rather than Whom are they gonna trade for? — then the narrative, the game, it has already been lost.