During last night’s game between the Mets and Phillies ESPN’s Jon Miller and Joe Morgan made the point (more than once) that the Mets team needs to man up. (That’s my interpretation. They didn’t say it exactly that way.) This is not a new concept. I’ve seen countless blog posts and Twitter messages saying the same thing and I agree. This idea is the driving force behind the call by so many Mets fans to hire Wally Backman as the team’s next manager. And while I don’t necessarily disagree with the call for Backman (I’m actually on the fence on that issue) I think the bigger issue is the kind of player leadership this team has.
Whenever people talk about this team the two names that come up first in the conversation as leaders are David Wright and Jose Reyes. Their names probably come up more often than Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran (or, as Miller would say, Beltron) because Wright and Reyes are home grown players. Whether being home grown or not is proper criteria for becoming a team leader is a separate argument but it was definitely a factor in their status as team leaders.
The problem is that this team needs a slightly different kind of leadership than these guys are giving. As Miller & Morgan and many others have noted this team’s leadership is too soft. This is not the fault of Wright and Reyes. They can only lead the way they learned how from the team leaders that were around in the early stages of their careers. Unfortunately the tough, rugged, in your face kind of leader has been few and far between on the Mets roster during the Wright/Reyes era. The closest they got was Paul Lo Duca and his day is long gone for various reasons. (I’m still convinced the Mets knew his name would turn up in the Mitchell Report before they traded him but I digress.) And this is why the favorite refrain of many Mets fans today is “we want Backman”.
Though I think Backman is an option that should be investigated and strongly considered when the team finally looks for it’s next manager (he will make the players more accountable than they seem to be right now and add some fire that seems to be missing) it’s going to take more than a change of managers to change the teams fortunes. They’re going to need to augment their team leadership by adding a player whose personality brings a bit of Backman to compliment the way Wright and Reyes go about their leadership roles.
No matter how good the management and player personnel the Mets will continue to be a soft team until this kind of addition is made to their roster.