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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Phillie's Hard Slide, Phillies' Play a Wake-Up Call for Mets

It never was a friendly rivalry, and now it's getting worse.

Chase Utley slid very hard into second base on a takeout slide of Robinson Tejada. The Mets got angry, and, from what I heard on the Phillies' post-game show, Mets' pitcher John Pelphrey was very upset.

So, to retaliate, the Mets' skipper, Jerry Manuel, said that the Mets would do things like slide hard against the Phillies, "things like that."

This is the same Jerry Manuel who said that while on the one hand he didn't want the Phillies to clinch against his team, on the other hand it might be good for his young players to see what a good team's clinching is all about.

Perhaps Utley slid like a runaway freight train last night (he was going pretty fast). So, what did the Mets do to retaliate? They tried to ice the kicker. The Mets had men on second and third with two outs, and, as Lidge in the midst of his wind-up, the Mets called timeout to ice the closer. Lidge induced the hitter -- one of the many unmemorable Mets players -- to ground out back to him. Game over, or so he thought.

But then he learned that third-base umpire Hunter Wendelstadt had called time out, causing the Phillies' manager, Charlie Manuel to turn Phillies red and give crew chief Jerry Dale a tongue-lashing over the call of the time out. Fortunately for the Phillies', the Mets' tactic failed, Lidge struck out the last batter, and the Phillies now have a magic number of two.

Look, Utley's slide was pretty hard, but if the Mets are livid then if I'm a Mets' fan I have to ask myself "where was this passion, this drive, this commitment to, well, playing hard and winning?" all season. Sure, the Mets have been befelled by more injuries over the past two or three years than most teams. But the Mets' problems run much deeper than absent players. The Mets' don't have good leadership or chemistry in the clubhouse. If they're angry, that's not so bad, but they should ask themselves what they are angry about? A lack of cohesiveness? A lack of commitment to the details? A lack of having a bunch of guys who can rally the clubhouse and set good examples?

Compare and contrast the Phillies and the Mets, and there's no contest. The Phillies are full of veterans and have more than their share of leaders -- Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Jamie Moyer, to name just a few. Who sets the standards for the Mets? Who leads them? And don't automatically say the guys with the best numbers, because that always isn't the case.

The Mets' players should combine their anger at Chase Utley's hard slide with Jerry Manuel's suggestion that seeing a team clinch is a good thing and think about some things in the off-season. The Mets' front office should figure out who the leaders can be and talk with those players about setting standards -- getting to spring training early, talking in the off-season, getting together in the off-season, etc. A team whose players get along is a team where the players look forward to coming into the clubhouse, look forward to practicing hard and start to build successes together.

As for last night, neither team should make two big a deal out of what happened. One team needs to lick its wounds, finish the season, make some big decisions, and try to regroup for next year, with leadership at the forefront of the front office's mind. The other is en route perhaps to another outstanding post-season, and no player on a team out of the money wants to burnish a reputation for retaliating to a point where he ends a player's season or career. My guess is that the umpires will be all over the quotes and the comments from last night's game, talk about them with the managers before the game, and put both teams on a very short leash today.


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