Steve's Departure Won't Heal Met Wounds

Jose Reyes and Steve Phillips have something in common. For both men, it's not a matter of "if", but a matter of "when". In the case of Reyes, of course, we are talking about the start of a big league career. With Phillips, on the other hand, we are talking about the end of one.

It's sad to say, though, that when owner Fred Wilpon and his voluble son Jeff muster up the courage to fire their general manager, they'll merely be placing a band aid over a gaping wound that needs, at the very least, a tourniquet; if not a complete amputation. Steve's departure - in and of itself - won't stop the bleeding.

Soon after his arrival in July of 1997, Phillips made his mark as an inventive trader who cobbled together a Mets team that went to the playoffs in both 1999 and 2000. In New York, of course, that's ancient history. You are expected to win, and do it now, or be gone.

So it seems that the upper echelon of the Mets organization has made it clear - the first few months of this season could very well determine Phillips' fate. Put aside for the moment that in the minds of more than a few fans, he probably should've been axed with Bobby Valentine last October 1.

Rather than grading and developing young talent, he has made his mark as a GM who has used high-level prospects as trade bait for high-priced veterans; too many of whom have proven to be on the downsides of their careers, and some of whom have been complete busts. He has picked his boss' pockets, and given them precious little to show for a $120 million payroll.

While there is no question that he accepted accolades for his moves in the off-season of 2001, it's painfully obvious today that he neglected to prepare for the future while attempting to win in the present.

It seems pretty obvious that Steve Phillips is responsible for this mess and must be removed, but will his firing have any bearing on immediate Mets success? Not when they are currently locked into pathetic and hopeless contracts like Mo Vaughn's, a dreadful fielder who is struggling mightily at the plate.

That's all on Steve Phillips and friends, trading away Kevin Appier for what has been nothing short of a complete waste of cash. And Big Mo's not the only one. Think Roger Cedeno. Think Jeromy Burnitz.

In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately town, Steve Phillips has developed a rotisserie team that can't hit its way out of a paper bag. The playoffs? Seems like twenty years ago. This season? Feels just like the last one never ended - a continuation of 2002.

"I don't think there is anything wrong [with the way this organization runs]," Fred Wilpon said in the New York Post. "I am still very hopeful. We have very good players, managers and coaches."

Hmmm. No mention of the General Manager?

It's seems rather simple. Fred Wilpon realizes that he needs to cut bait; something this organization has had trouble doing recently - look at players such as David Cone. Is there anyone, though, who can turn this franchise back onto the right path?

Should Fred promote Jim Duquette? Obviously the Mets think highly of him, since this past offseason saw them denying permission to several teams who had been interested in talking to him about their GM jobs.

Problem is, though, that Duquette has been Phillips' sidekick this whole time, lobbying for several trades and signings that have been complete busts. He unquestionably has had a lot of say in how this whole mess has been put together.

Now you're going to make him your top man?

One thing that Mets fans can count on is this: When Steve is finally cut loose, Bobby Valentine can cut loose, too. Don't think for a moment that Bobby hasn't been holding his tongue in check during his stint on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Let the fun begin.

And maybe that, in truth, is all the fun that Met fans will have to look forward to this season.

Writer Christopher Guy covers the Mets and baseball daily for

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