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New York Minute


August 25, 2009 1:17 PM

Minaya, Manuel escape the ax


Fred Wilpon’s announcement Saturday that Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel would return next year was the Mets owner’s version of hitting into a double play and killing any potential chance for a team rally.
Wilpon told the New York Post’s Mike Puma that general manager Minaya and manager Manuel, who have presided over this wreck of a season, are safe for next year. "Am I going to bring Omar (Minaya) back next year? Absolutely. That's a fact,” Wilpon told the Post.
As for Manuel, Wilpon said “Jerry is my guy.”
Really? Why?
The two have run this ship into the ground, even with all the injuries that have devastated the team this year. They are 57-68, a staggering 16 ½ games behind first place Philadelphia. The only thing that is preventing them from a seat in the basement in the National League East is Washington, which is still waiting for a major league franchise to come its way.
Indeed, the Mets are closer to last place (13 games) than they are first place. And don’t expect the gap to close any time soon. Florida and Atlanta are much improved, and in the National League wild-card race. Both teams are stocked with young talent that has them primed to be contenders over the next few years. The Mets farm system is threadbare, and their veterans are injured or unproductive.
Shockingly, Wilpon’s comments indicate neither of them will take the fall for a team that has totally collapsed this season.
Minaya, who took over as general manager in 2004, should be the one feeling the most heat. The team went 83-79 in 2005, and then went a National League-best 97-65 in 2006. The team missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons, winning 88 and 89 games, before this season’s collapse, which finds them at 57-68 entering Tuesday’s game against Florida.
Manuel’s record is just as troubling. He was 55-38 last year after replacing Willie Randolph, but the team faltered down the stretch. The Mets went 13-12 in September, blowing a 3 ½ game lead and allowing the Phillies to win the National League East. He has been directing the ship for the entire year in 2009, and it has not been pretty. The starting pitching is weak behind the now-injured Johan Santana, and the bullpen still can’t get important outs, even with Francisco Rodriguez as the closer.
The team will point to the injuries, of course, as the reason for falling off the cliff this season. To be fair, the team has been ravaged by the injury bug. Santana will miss today’s start with an elbow injury, and some teammates expect that he will need surgery. That could be the most significant injury all season to a team that has seen marquee players such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Oliver Perez, John Maine and J.J. Putz miss significant time. David Wright is also on the disabled list, and Jeff Francouer now has a thumb injury.
The injuries have indeed played a significant part in this meltdown, but it seems someone needs to be held accountable for this disaster of a season. If neither Minaya nor Manuel gets held accountable for this debacle, who does? The trainers? The medical staff? The hot dog vendors?
Compounding the problem is Minaya’s contract, when a three-year extension kicks in next year. The team doesn’t want to buy out that contract – reported to be worth about $12 million – but you have to wonder how the team can survive with a GM that has given hefty deals to Moises Alou and Awful Ollie Perez while also trading some promising prospects such as Heath Bell, Brian Bannister and Matt Lindstrom.
The Mets will contend next season will be better once all of the injured players return. Certainly that will help, but the fans are losing confidence that Minaya and Manuel will be the ones that get this team back to the postseason.

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