Frustration and friction for the Mets as they conclude winless home stand

A second half collapse has once again left the New York Mets frustrated as they left town for an 11-game road swing to Arizona, San Francisco, and San Diego. Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field, after a series finale loss and three-game sweep to the first place Washington Nationals, manager Terry Collins was trying to find some answers.

Perhaps, like last season, when the Mets also collapsed after the all-star break, hitting the road was the best remedy. But this slide has come earlier as the Mets fail to get the hits, the bullpen gives up the runs, while a patched up starting rotation tries to put in some innings.

This time, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg (11-4) fanned 11 in seven innings. And for the second straight game, Adam LaRoche hit a home run. His 18th of the season, a two-run shot to right field off Tim Byrdak broke the game open in what became a 5-2 win and series sweep.

Jeremy Hefner (1-4) took the loss striking out a season high and allowed three runs including back-to-back home runs in the second inning from Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa.

And that home run by LaRoche also became an added part of the frustration, a season high sixth straight loss for New York, 12 of their last 13 games, and 1-11 since the all-star break. And for the eighth time in their 50-year history, New York had a winless homestand of six or more games.

Frustration also, because the pitch that Byrdak threw to LaRoche was a fastball down the middle. His catcher, Josh Thole set up for an outside pitch that was reportedly called from the bench by pitching Coach Dan Warthen. ‘

Not the pitch Thole expected, and it led to a dugout confrontation that saw David Wright intervene to defuse the situation. The Mets say it is a part of the frustration and all they need is some wins to restore some order and get back in the race.

However, it is getting more difficult to win because the Mets are not doing anything right like they did in the first half. In a very quiet Mets clubhouse, Wright tried to explain what has been going wrong.

“It’s what happens when two competitors disagree with something,” said Wright about the dugout squabble. “That happens regularly, but when it happens, you don’t want it to be in front of everybody like that. I’d be more upset if they weren’t upset about it, because obviously Thole wanted one pitch and Byrdak wanted a different one.”

Said Byrdak, “We need to go out there and win ballgames. We can’t let our emotions get the best of us. There’s frustration all around the clubhouse. From what he did in the first half to come out in the second half and have this happen…”

He added, “There are a lot of guys that are pissed off. Everybody is pissed off. I made a mistake on the mound and I apologized to Josh about it. It never should’ve happened.”

Byrdak also said it was a pitch that wasn’t executed well, and the bullpen needed to keep the game close in the situation with LaRoche at bat.

Thole also said it was the emotion of frustration that has set in the Mets clubhouse, a totally different reaction that Collins and the team were portraying when they won ballgames in the first half and became a surprise team in baseball.

“It’s one of those things when you are not winning ballgames,” said Thole when asked about the pitch that Byrdak threw. “Emotions get the best of you sometimes. That’s what happens when you give up runs and lose games. Stuff like that happens.”

Thole added, the pitch caught him off guard and there was no elaboration about further dissension with Byrdak or Warthen. But he did say, “I don’t think anything can get any worse than it is right now. We can’t wait to get out of here.”

Before being swept by the Nationals, the Mets dropped three straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finished the stand,0-6, now their last seven at home with a loss to the Cubs before the break. New York is four games under .500 at 47-51, and further away from the Nationals in the NL east, 11/1-2 games and seven in the wildcard.

Frustration, yes, and a way to fix what is wrong and do what they did right in the first half is something that Collins and his coaching staff were going to contemplate on the long plane ride to Phoenix.

The Mets start a four- game series with the Diamondbacks Thursday night and Matt Harvey, their first round draft pick of 2010 will get the start.

“We’re gonna get through it and your gonna see a different team in the next two weeks,” said Collins about his team that was 36-29 on July 7th. He held a team meeting this week and would not comment about what happened with Thole and Byrdak in the dugout.

There is no sense of panic, but it is frustration.

“I deal with accountability,” he commented. The manager held a team meeting earlier this week sensing something was wrong.“Standing up and being a man and playing the game right. We’re gonna get back on track,” he said.

And getting back on track, is what Collins alluded to with getting big  hits and making the right pitches, just like his team did a month ago. “We’re better than the way we’re playing and we’re gonna prove it.”

For the Mets they have to prove it the next 11-game or the frustration will get worse.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring 786@aol.com

Posted under David Wright, Fastball, Game Road, Game Sweep, Hitting The Road, Michael Morse, New York Mets, Pitching Coach, Rich Mancuso, Road Swing, Straight Game, Strasburg, Top Story, Washington Nationals, Wednesday Afternoon

Despite Win, Everyone is Talking Minaya and Manuel

NEW YORK-  There were multiple reports coming from Citi Field Friday evening that team general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel will be replaced when the season concludes Sunday afternoon. The moves have been rumored for the past month.

With the Mets once again finishing their second season at Citi Field below the .500 mark, there is every reason to believe there will be a new regime running the show next April.  Prior to the start of a three game season finale series with the Washington Nationals, won by the Mets 2-1 in 10 innings, Manuel was asked about reports he would not be returning next season,

“I have not discussed anything,” said the Mets manager regarding his situation. The talk about Manuel not returning for a third year has been a constant topic of discussion since the all-star break. “Nothing has been told to me,” he said,

He added “Just like every year you discuss it, you discuss it at the end of the year. I haven’t been told anything.”  Though Manuel may have not been told anything about his status there is every reason to believe his regime with Minaya will conclude Sunday,

Minaya, general manager since 2004 has seen minimal results during his tenure. The Mets once again this year, with high expectations and third highest payroll in baseball, failed to make the postseason again since their 2006 loss in the National League Championship Series to the St Louis Cardinals.

On the field the Mets tried to play for something as they finish out the string. Against the last place Nats, starter Pat Misch went eight innings, gave up three hits and struck out 10.  Michael Morse hit a solo home run to center in the seventh, the lone run surrendered by Misch that tied the game at 1-1.

“I know I can pitch,” commented Misch (0-4) who did not figure in the decision, “Obviously the record doesn’t show it and maybe the numbers aren’t the greatest.” Manuel, speaking like he will be in control next season said, “He can possibly give the organization some depth next year.”

The game stayed at 1-1 until the bottom of the tenth when catcher Josh Thole hit a 3-1 pitch to the right field stands that gave New York a 2-1 win. It was the third home run for Thole as the Mets got another walk-off win. It was their fourth hit of the game off Nationals Tyler Clippard (11-7) tagged with a loss out of the pen.

“I didn’t know what to do when I got to home plate,” said Thole. As was the case with rookie Ruben Tejada, who got a walk-off wining double against the Brewers Tuesday night, Thole was mobbed by teammates when he reached home.

It was his first ever game winning home run. Thole is projected to be the Mets starting catcher next season. “Just wanted to get out of here with a win and get out of here on a positive point,” he said about the win and final games of the season.

They are playing out the string, the Mets are. Manuel is still in control as is Minaya, at least until Sunday. The final two games won’t make a difference as the Mets even with a sweep over the Nationals will have their second consecutive losing season finishing under .500.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under All Star, Baseball, Friday Evening, Game Season, High Expectations, League Championship Series, Mets, Michael Morse, Minimal Results, National League Championship Series, New York Mets, Omar Minaya, Pat Misch, Payroll, Regime, Season Finale, Second Season, St Louis Cardinals, Sunday Afternoon, Tenure, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on October 2, 2010