I generally don’t see the point in firing a manager when his team’s just playing out the string to get to the end of the season. I see no reason for the Phillies to go ahead and send Larry Bowa to the curb just to name someone “interim” manager for the rest of the season. I said “generally.” If the Phillies were considering bench coach Gary Varsho as their next manager and wanted to give him a four-week trial run from here to the end of the season, that would certainly be worth the hassle.
Chances are Bowa’s done in Philly, and I doubt Ed Wade will be turning to someone in the organization as his first choice to take the reins in 2005. Otherwise, he might very well have already changed the locks on the manager’s office in Citizens Bank Park. The team will probably wait until the offseason to see who’s available — and which coaches on other teams they can get permission to talk to — and hire someone just before Christmas. The division was the Phillies’ to lose this year, and they sure did it with flair. During Bowa’s tenure, Philadelphia has a winning record before the all-star break, but can’t crack .500 down the stretch. They have a history of blowing their wad too soon.
But there is one case in which I’d like to see a change made today: the Mets’. Clearly, Art Howe is not the man for New York. (I think the main problem is the Wilpon family and their idiotic decisions over the past four or five years, but they’re not about to fire themselves or sell the team.) He’s too soft, too quiet, and he’s clearly lost control of the team. The losing streak is currently at nine games and the Mets have won once in their last 14 attempts. There’s no heart, no pride, no sense of any desire to win from the team as a whole.
It’s hard to overlook all that the Wilpons have done to get them to this point since the end of the 2000 season:
• They didn’t even give Steve Phillips a chance to sign Alex Rodriguez and had the GM come up with some ridiculously lame excuse that he was asking for too much (a luxury box for his family, a private jet, etc.).
• They wouldn’t give the Mariners Aaron Heilman for Lou Pinella. As a Notre Dame grad and a Mets fan, I would love nothing more than to see Heilman have a decent career in New York. So far, he hasn’t shown he can stay at the big-league level, and certainly hindsight shows this as a stupid mistake on the Mets’ part. But at the time, as much as I wanted to see Aaron make his major-league debut in blue and orange (and I went to Shea last summer for the game, against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins), I thought it might be worth it to send an unproven minor-league pitcher to Seattle for a sure-thing to manage the club.
• They wouldn’t trade Scott Kazmir for Alfonso Soriano. Who knows how seriously the Mets pursued Soriano, but some talks during spring training got far enough for one of the Wilpons — father/owner Fred, I believe — to go on the record in the New York Times and say that Kazmir was one of the few untouchable prospects in the Mets’ organization (David Wright was another). The Rangers rumors probably were Jose Reyes and Kazmir for Soriano, but even with Soriano’s less-than-Yankee-like season in Texas, giving up an injury-prone Reyes with little power and Kazmir for Soriano doesn’t look like such a bad move for the Mets now. That they could then decide that Victor Zambrano was worth letting go of Kazmir is unfathomable to me. I could take not getting Soriano for Kazmir had they kept Kazmir. But this? God.
The Wilpons are clearly falling into the abyss that George Steinbrenner dragged the Yankees into in the 80s. During his height as “The Boss,” George couldn’t resist meddling in the day-to-day operations of the team and guided the Yanks into their worst stretch in their history. When he was suspended, then backed off, the farm system signed, drafted and developed the likes of Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. Then they went out and won four of five World Series and have made it to two more since then.
The Wilpons aren’t letting their baseball people do their jobs. They’ve got pitching coach Rick Peterson advising Jeff Wilpon on trades, they’re sending Jim Duquette out there to clean up the mess of the Zambrano trade and injury and they’re making bad moves at the wrong time. If the Kris Benson and Zambrano trades were made for the future (figuring they could sign Benson quite easily and knowing they have Zambrano locked up for three more years), that’s one thing. But you get the sense that the trades were made also as a fading hope at making a postseason run this year, which is ridiculous. If that’s the case, the moves should’ve been made in early July, when the Mets were in the thick of an NL East race that had the Mets, Braves and Phillies all within two games of one another. But July 30, it was way too late.
Art Howe isn’t going to get the team anywhere. These players — when they’re healthy — might be enough, but clearly the pitching staff lost its magic since having the best ERA in the majors when the Subway Series started at Yankee Stadium in late June. Wilpon criticized the Mets for not continuing to win despite injuries, saying good teams overcome them, but the Mets aren’t equipped to overcome injuries to Mike Piazza, Mike Cameron, Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui with the likes of Jason Phillips, Gerald Williams, Joe McEwing and Wilson Delgado. Those players are OK as bench players, pinch hitters, late-inning defensive replacements, pinch runners and day-game-after-a-night-game spot starters, but in no way can you send two, three or four of them out there day after day and expect to beat the likes of the Padres, Phillies or Braves.
A report in the New York Daily News said that should Bowa get fired, the Mets would consider him as a bench coach. Good God, no. Not unless that means Howe is gone and Don Baylor is promoted to manager. What could the Mets get out of having Howe as the manager and Bowa as the bench coach (with Baylor either gone to manage some other team, or sticking around as the Mets’ hitting coach)? Howe and Bowa on the bench would be a good cop-bad cop routine every night, every inning. And Baylor — perhaps the best manager of the bunch — would be doing the least managing.
It’s taken me a while to admit this, but the Mets, clearly, are a mess.
There’s little hope for the near future in Flushing.