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By Ernie Palladino
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Even as we sit well before Memorial Day, a two-sided debate has already started to take shape.
Do we cancel the rest of the season and give Joe Girardi a contract extension and Manager of the Year honors? And do we just get it over with in Flushing and proclaim Terry Collins a goner after this year, if not sooner?
It’s an interesting dualism — on one side a manager who is battling an injury situation that makes plague look like the common cold. Girardi’s team keeps winning despite Andy Pettitte becoming the 13th player to hit the DL since Opening Day, and the 15th since spring training. And you can throw in catcher Chris Stewart in there, too, as he is day-to-day with a left groin injury.
On the other side, you have a different kind of malady that affects Collins’ Mets. It’s an organizational culture that allows immaturity to go unpunished, underachievement to continue, and the talent arrow to remain pointed downward. In other words, you get what you pay for, and what the Mets are getting right now is a season spiraling toward oblivion.
Unlike last year, when they at least put on a passable show through June, they are floundering now. Only Matt Harvey pitching every day, it seems, would give them a chance to work their way up from fourth, a placement made possible only because of the dismantling of the last-place Marlins in the offseason.
Girardi has worked nothing short of magic in the Bronx. With a calm, collected demeanor, and with a lot of wise help from GM Brian Cashman, he has filled in the gaps with economical pickups like Vernon Wells, who still gets the bulk of his $21 million for 2013 from the Angels, Lyle Overbay, and just a couple of days ago a Colorado utility infielder named Reid Brignac who, by the way the Yankees’ year is going, will undoubtedly go on to hit .300 and drive in a slew of clutch runs.
Girardi’s Yanks are having such a lovely time of it that there are no murmurings of controversy coming out of clubhouse; just a bunch of guys eager to get in the lineup and get at-bats. The help comes from all over the lineup, from players like Jayson Nix and Curtis Granderson playing in and out of their natural positions.
The Mets in comparison are exceptionally healthy. Maybe they could use a little non-self-inflicted adversity to pull things together. Instead, Collins has a show-boating bench guy in Jordany Valdespin who garners the same affection from his teammates as he gets from opposing pitchers, a veteran first baseman in Ike Davis who stays in the majors despite a .156 BA that doesn’t begin to tell the story of a current 2-for-33 (.061) slump, and a starting rotation that, outside of Harvey, just hasn’t been good.
Don’t even talk about the bullpen. It’s a disaster. Bad enough that 0-5 Jeremy Hefner — the Mets are 0-8 in his starts, by the way — gave up four runs in four innings the other day, but the pen gave up four more runs. Two of those came off homers. It’s a real chore these days getting to closer Bobby Parnell, the only bright spot out there.
Don’t blame it all on Collins, though. Sandy Alderson hasn’t given him any talent to work with. As Davis and Lucas Duda daily look evermore like glorified Triple-A players, what little money the Bernie Madoff-ized Wilpons have budgeted for Alderson hasn’t been spent wisely.
So we have the contrast, the gap if you will. On one side of town, a first-place team with a manager being talked up as the best of the best. On the other, a fourth-place disaster with little hope of improvement and a manager on the ropes who is just doing the best he can.
Wouldn’t it be nice if things turned around ever so slightly for the Mets, so everyone in New York would have a reason to watch baseball this year?
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