What a Mess…

I have had to be very real with myself and my Mets fandom in the last few weeks.

This team is terrible. Willie Randoph was not the problem.

Jerry Manuel was not the problem. Neither was Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, or any other single player.

The problem is mental. The problem is one of group psychology. There is something inherently wrong with he makeup of the players on this team as a group, and until it changes, nothing will change.

I look at Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes, the longest tenured Mets at this point. Individually, they are all extremely talented players, who for whatever reason (and I don’t claim to have the answer) are unable to take that talent and succeed on the highest level. Carlos Beltran will forever be defined by Adam Wainwright’s curveball in ’06. David Wright will be forever defined as Captain Un-Clutch, or as I have taken to calling him K-vid Wright because I have never seen a more talented player look so consistently lost at the plate. Jose Reyes will forever be defined by plays like last night where he was caught napping leading off first, down one run in the ninth where he was doubled off on a failed bunt attempt. The frustration being that it was the fourth time he was on base last night, and scored only one run.

So, what is the problem then? I think I heard the answer last night. Not from David Wright, the supposed leader of this team, who is as full of excuses as he is terrible swings. Not from Terry Collins, who appears to have absolutely no control over what is going on with this team, and sounded totally fine during his post game presser last night, when he should have been airing out his lazy players for their awful play. It wasn’t from Carlos Beltran, who instead of taking Angel Pagan, his protegé, under his wing and explaining to him how god awful his base running has been and how his lack of production is killing this team, has been loafing after balls in the outfield.

No, I heard the answer from the least likely of sources. R.A. Dickey, the Mets knuckleballing “Ace”, who was as honest and candid as I have ever heard a major league player, or any player for that matter in my sports watching life.

Following the latest Mets implosion, Dickey threw himself, and his teammates by extension, under the bus, the classiest and most honest way I have ever heard. What he said in essence is that as 25 men, they have to stop saying “We are getting unlucky, we need to play better, we are better than this, we need to execute” as those are simply empty words, and be honest about who they are, what they are doing wrong, and find a way to fix it. To say I was left speechless would be an understatement.

Dickey’s exact words were:

“It starts with me. We have to find a way to be honest with ourselves about what  kind of team we are. We can’t just keep telling ourselves, ‘Oh, we’re a  better team than this.’ We may not be. And we’ve got to be honest about  that, and identify what we’re doing wrong, and do it better. That’s the  only way you have any real growth…If we keep waltzing through the season and saying, ‘Oh, we’re better  than this,’ or ‘We’ve had some bad breaks,’ or ‘The umpires are bad,’  we’re going to look back and kick ourselves in the butt because we’ve  done nothing about it. We’re walking too many guys, we’re  not hitting with runners in scoring position. If you can identify the  problem, it doesn’t have to be psychologically so overbearing.”

I think this was so powerful to me because this is how I try to live my life. Analyze what you do, think about the outcome you desire, determine what action is needed to obtain the outcome, if the desired outcome is not obtained, be real and honest about why not, and act differently in the future.

This is ground breaking because this type of talk has not come from the Mets in 4 or 5 years. There is 0 accountability for failure, because there has always been an excuse. David Wright is the face of this for me. He always has a reason why the outcome was what it was, without ever owning his own failure. He never says “We failed because I struck out with runners on first and third with one out.”

I have no idea if Dicky’s comments will have an impact, I have no idea what kind of voice he has in that room of men. What I do know is, Carlos Beltran isn’t speaking up, David Wright isn’t speaking up so someone has to.

I am still waiting for a beat reporter to ask Terry Collins this question: “If your entire focus this spring was on fundamentals and playing the game the right way, and your team has the worst record in the league for no other reason than they are the least fundamentally sound, most undisciplined, unfocused team who does none of the little things right, is that your failure, or your players failure?”

I am so disappointed. There is not Jerry Manuel to fire, there is no Oliver Perez to send packing. This is the team and the manager that I was hoping for, these just are the results I have hoping for.

In my venture to watch every film that was up for an award, we can cross Inception off the list.

I thought the film was good, got right to the point and was all in all worth watching.

I have very vivid dreams and foggy memories, so I have often struggled with what is real and what did I dream. This made watching this film all the more interesting.

I have to say that I was left wanting more. Because the film jumps right into the plot, there is little explanation of where the technology to enter and manipulate dreams came from, and how Leonardo’s character became a user of it.

The thing that left me wishing for more the most was the ending. In the scene near the end, when Leonardo and Ellen Paige are in Limbo, fighting with Leo’s dead wife, Mal, she hints that what he perceives to be reality is nothing more than a dream. She explains to him that his reality is so full of holes and vagueness, that it must be a dream. I wish they had built on this more. I think the ending would have been better if there had been a hint of Leo’s life with his children was a dream as well, and that he had to accept that fact and still embrace it. It’s not my movie, so I have no right to say “This is what you should have done”, but in this case, I think the end would have been more powerful.

I think we all live our lives with a quite voice in the back of our heads hinting that none of this is real. By accepting the possibility that what we perceive to be “real” could be nothing more than a facade, we take a leap of faith and live anyway. That leap of faith defines our human experience.

More on the Mets

I don’t want to sound like I am harping as I just posted about this the other day, but this is clearly not 2010.

Everything that has been unwatchable about the Mets for the last 5 years, has been completely absent in the first 5 games of the 2011 season.

Like I stated in the previous post, I left the opening night of the season feeling “Here we go again”. Everything since then has felt completely new and different. Players hustling, taking the extra base, working at-bats, getting big outs, clean fielding, smart managerial decisions… Who is this team? None of these things were done with any type of consistency in the last 5 years. They would show flashes of these things, just enough to string me along. As a Mets fan, I am a human dichotomy, one part optimist, one part depressed pessimist.

Today, following last night’s hammering of Cole Hammels and the Phillies, I have every expectation that they will continue to play like this. I don’t think they will win every game. There is every possibility that they lose the next two games (Mike Pelfrey tonight, facing Roy Halladay Thursday). I don’t really care. Baseball is a long freaking season, there are going to be loses. What I cannot stand is watching sloppy, indecisive, poorly managed losses that should have been wins. Which is all we have had for years. The Mets only loss this season came not because Mike Pelfrey made a bad pitch against John Buck (it was part of it), but because Josh Johnson is a better pitcher, it is going to happen.

I do not have any misconceptions that this team will win 4 out of every 5, but they are a good team.

I think the biggest changes came at the top. This group of players is not all that different from the players that have been around the last few years. What has changed is that for the first time in as long as I can remember, the Mets have a smart, capable GM, who consistently delivers a clear, strong message and sets the tone for the entire organization. Omar Minaya was great at spending big money on free agents, and terrible with dissemination the message and communication. The Mets were a freakin’ circus the last few years. They couldn’t manage the roster without losing players like Darren O’Day to waivers. They couldn’t hold a press conference without accusing a beat writer of lobbying for a job. They couldn’t do seemingly anything right. I honestly think a lot of that has changed.

It will take the media and the rest of the country to change their opinions of this organization. They will focus on the Madoff thing. They will focus on Santana’s injury, and the losing of the past, and this and that. All the while, I honestly think the Mets will keep winning.

I keep saying it, this isn’t 2010 anymore.

Opening Weekend Thoughts

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel some level of “Here we go again” Friday night as I watched John Buck’s grand slam sail over the right field wall in Florida. Last year was just so frustrating that it was almost impossible to avoid the crushing depression that has plagued the Mets entire organization since Carlos Beltran had his knees buckled on that fall night in 2006.

I watched Friday as Mike Pelfrey folded in the face of pressure and the head to head matchup with Josh Johnson who displayed Friday what an Ace looks like. Pelfrey, who is by default the “Ace” of the Mets, which in this case simply means that he pitched the first game of the season, is not an ace. Not in mental make-up (where is the guy who barked at Chase Utley to get back into the box when he stepped out on Pelf two years ago) not in “Stuff” (can you strike no one aside from Josh Johnson out?) and not in appearance (has another 6’7″ man ever looked smaller standing on a 20″ mound of dirt?).

That “here we go again” feeling carried over into Saturday night, when I checked the score on my phone only to see that the Mets were down by 2 in the first inning with Jon Niese (my pick for breakout performance by a Met this year) on the mound. As I checked the score periodically throughout the night, the innings kept passing by with the score against the Mets staying at 2. I arrived home to find the Mets in the lead late in the game with a chance to win their first of 2011. Enter K-Rod, exit Mets lead. “Here we go again”. But no, these are the 2011 Mets. These are not the same 25 men who have been followed by a black cloud that has swarmed around this team like a mass of angry, miserable bees. No, these Mets fought back, they took the lead, they lost the lead, they took it back. They hit when they had to, the pushed the envelope with good base running and tough at bats, they got outs when they needed them. This was a team that I did not see last year. They won a road game, a feat they repeated on Sunday en route to winning their first road series of the season, something they didn’t do against an NL team until August last year.

These are the 2011 Mets.

Do I think they are going to win 2 out of every 3 and finish the season with 100 wins? No, I don’t. But I do think they have the ammo to contend in the division. The reality is every team in the NL East has problems. The Phillies is their lineup and bullpen, their strength is their rotation. The Mets is their lack of an Ace, their strength is their lineup, the pitching depth and the fact that this is not 2010.

I think the Mets can take 2 of 3 against the Phils this week. But I know that if they don’t, even if they are swept, it will not mean this season is doomed. This is not 2010.