NEW YORK – New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel had some extended time in the season finale loss to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field Sunday afternoon. With all reports pointing to his dismissal at some point Monday, the 14-inning loss may have provided him some time to reflect.
He called on seldom used pitcher Oliver Perez, used four times since August 1st. In the second year of a three-year $36 million contract, Perez hit a batter and walked three that gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was a bad farewell for both Perez and Manuel
“I Felt bad we had to put Ollie in that situation,” said Manuel who still did not know about his status in his final post game meeting with the media. “I feel bad that we had to put in Ollie in a situation that we had no choice with. We had nothing left. That’s tough for me.”
There were nothing more to say. Perez in many ways epitomized the failures of general manager Omar Minaya who was expected to be dismissed or reassigned to another role with the organization. The few fans who remained in the announced crowd of 30,849 also expressed their displeasure when Perez was lifted with one out.
They also let Manuel know that they don’t want him back at Citi Field in 2011. The change in command came. Manuel and Minaya relieved of their duties Monday as the Mets finished their second consecutive losing season at Citi Field with a final record of 79-83.
Attendance at Citi Field declined this season, 2,573,173, a significant decline from the 3,154,262 that went through the gates when the ballpark opened for business last year. That was added ammunition for Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon to hand Manuel and Minaya their walking papers.
Certainly there were some positive aspects to another dismal Mets season. They were a season high 11 games over .500 on June 27th then after the all-star break a 2-9 road trip put the Mets back to reality. The chemistry may have been broken when Luis Castillo returned to the lineup off the disabled list.
Castillo had to play because a muli-million dollar contract granted by Minaya could not stay on the bench. The Mets led the National League in stolen bases, primarily because Angel Pagan was second in the league, led the league in shutouts with 19, were sixth in staff ERA, and won nine more games from the year before again finishing fourth in the NL east.
The perspective of Manuel was about another struggle, and looking at the future as he relied on numerous rookies to do the job in his daily lineup. “We struggled pretty much all year offensively,” he said. “We had some opportunities. One good thing is we have established some good young players.”
“They will be solid foundations for the future of the organization.” he said citing catcher Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, pitcher Dillon Gee and infielder Ruben Tejada, though Manuel said he didn’t know if Tejada was ready to fill the everyday role at second base.
There was Pagan who became the everyday center fielder when opening day starter Gary Matthews Jr. was released. He was perhaps player of the year on this Mets team. He may not be one of the issues that a new GM will have to confront. Pagan earned his role and was respected in the clubhouse.
Manuel in one of his final good gestures as manager gave an appropriate tribute to David Wright and Jose Reyes, two cores of the organization. They took their positions in the ninth inning and were removed so that fans could give them deserved curtain calls.
“I said today that I would try to show them how much I appreciated what they done and how they played and performed,” he said. “I thought it was opportunity to show them some class and I’m glad I did it for their sake.” He also had starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey come out of the dugout and take a bow after being lifted after seven innings.
Pelfrey finished the season with a career best in victories (15), in strikeouts (113) and ERA at 3.66.”If anything I learned from the adversity,” he said about the season. And if the Mets are to win again they need consistent outings from Pelfrey, and another front line starter,
“I’m very appreciative first of all, that Jerry would even think about doing it especially what he has been through the past couple of days,” commented Wright about what his manager did for him and Reyes in the ninth inning. “At the end of the day it’s tough to really enjoy anything talking about we finished under .500 and don’t make the playoffs again.”
Manuel commented that he never lost the team as the Mets continued to slip away after the break, into August, and all of September. He sounded like it had come to an end after 2-1/2 years at the helm. “I have to clean up do all that type of stuff and find out what direction the organization wants to do, then head to Sacramento and pick up the rocks.”
“I would hope that going forward that the Reyes’ and the Wrights’ have become a different type of player,” he answered hesitantly when asked about his legacy, though as of Sunday Manuel still had his job. “I would hope the young players established would become core players, foundation players.”
Now it is official. Manuel won’t be a part of that foundation. And neither will Perez who quickly left and was out of the building before reporters could get to him. An ugly ending and (0-5) record in a season of futility for Perez.
The lockers were cleaned and bags packed as the Mets went home for the winter. Who will lead the new regime, set the foundation and make Citi Field a place to be for October baseball?
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]