2002-11-02 / Sports

Howe Can We Not Question Mets’ Moves?

Sports Columnist
By Elio Velez

Sports Columnist

A hopeful optimism prevails throughout the Mets organization with the hiring of Art Howe as their new manager.

Here is the stark reality.

The Mets are still in an organizational chaos, have a lame duck General Manager in Steve Phillips, a clubhouse run by the inmates and a fan base that is justifiably upset with the lack of direction. It sounds almost exactly like the 2002 New York Mets.

Welcome to the soon to be 2003 New York Mets.

Chaos, the way it oughta be.

The Mets pursuit of Lou Piniella was a ridiculous sojourn filled with too much comedy for a team that needed to be serious to become a major player. Art Howe does not fill that missing piece.

Why was A’s GM Billy Beane, one of the best executives in sports today, so willing to give up on a three time division winning manager? Why was Beane so happily giving Art Howe to New York as it was a bargain baseman deal at Macy’s? Didn’t the Mets get the feeling that Beane was selling a piece of land that looks great but is filled with hints of toxic waste beneath the surface?

Because Beane, unlike Steve Phillips, knew that Howe did not have the managerial instinct to take his talented A’s clubs to the next level and wouldn’t in 2003. In 2001 and this past season, Howe had problems containing the hijinx of certain players in the clubhouse and always got off to terrible starts at the beginning of the 2001 and 2002 season. Some of the players were tuning Howe out. Beane pulled this year, a Phillips circa 1999, by trading or demoting the players that were causing a ruckus.

2003 could be the last time that the A’s triumvirate of Mulder, Zito and Hudson will pitch together and soon to be millionaire Miguel Tejada will be in a green and yellow uniform. Howe failed to get them past the first round and why would Beane want to pull his hair out waiting for the inevitable first round loss and the second guessing.

So Beane pushed his glaring problem to the Mets. He didn’t have to pay Art Howe and replaces him with Ken Macha. It could be another genius move from the same man who fleeced Jason Isringhausen and Terrence Long from the Mets for Kenny Rogers and Billy Taylor.

Flops, the way it ought be.

How typical for Fred Wilpon and Steve Phillips to choose a guy way out from left field that wasn’t in their radar when this whole process started. Phillips gets a guy who he can still control because if there was anyway that Piniella got to manage here, Phillips would lose his final say in management. Do you think that Phillips would want to lose the ear of his only employer? (Nelson Doubleday left as co-owner in August) The ultimate corporate survivor once again saves his own hide.

And when did creativity stop for the Mets? Except for Jose Reyes (a future star) and Aaron Heilman, did Phillips ever try a combination of Pat Strange, Jae Seo, an established Timo Perez, eat the salary of Jeromy Burnitz, or did anything creative to get Pinella? Choosing one prospect wasn’t going to get it done. Would that have stopped Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman? Heck no.

Fred Wilpon wanted to hire an ‘A’ type manager who would create a winning atmosphere and kick butt. He needed Piniella. Showalter could have even done that job. Wilpon believes in his decision makers and though admirable it may be, is in the end, a foolish task. They were outclassed, tricked, hoodwinked and laughed at by the Mariners, media and their own fans.

Even with the bumbling and stumbling ways of management, Howe will have to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. If Howe can pull off a winner, more power to him and the real credit because management sure doesn’t give me the opus to credit them.

New York’s second-class citizens, the way it shouldn’t be.

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