Phillips Learns Lesson the Hard Way

Mets general manager Steve Phillips was shown the door today. Woe unto the Mets that it came this late. When the Mets lost the World Series three years ago, Phillips sought to remake the team in the image of its Bronx rival. Bigger payroll equals a shot at the World Series, right? Not quite.

While the Mets of 2000 went 94-68. and notched a Wild Card spot that catapulted them to the Fall Classic, the 2001 Mets ended up 82-80, in 3rd place and 6 games out of first.

Had the crew Phillips assembled last year pulled themselves together, we might now be talking about the 2002 Mets as the Comeback Kids. 2001 would have been an aberration, a mere glitch on the record of a team that made it to the playoffs spectacularly in 1999 with a one-game Wild Card win against the Cincinnati Reds and to the World Series in 2000, finally leaving the Atlanta Braves in the dust.

Alas, the 2002 Mets eked out a 75-86 record, and a last place berth, 26 1/2 games away from its southern rival. Yes, the 2002 Mets were a sight to behold. All that buck and so little bang for it. Manager Bobby Valentine's head was on the chopping block all season long and by the end of it his tenure with the Mets was at an end.

In the offseason, the Mets named a new manager (Art Howe instead of Lou Piniella), and lost a Japanese third baseman because of a press conference scheduled ahead of said player delivering the news to his former team. Oops.

With the Anaheim Angels besting the San Francisco Giants in last year's Series, one would have thought that Phillips might have seen the light and cast aside his star-buying mantra.

Instead we get this year's model of ineptitude: 28-35, and already in last place, 15 games away from the team they thought they could best this year with the acquisition of a pitcher (Tom Glavine, now 5-6 and day-to-day with elbow problems) and a left-fielder (Cliff Floyd, a bright spot on the Mets roster. Not all of Phillips' acquisitions, it seems, have been for naught).

The team might see some improvements, but is anyone really expecting the team to pull victory from the jaws of defeat? Mets fans would be happy with an above .500 finish, and, barring that miracle, an escape from last place.

Mets fans would be happy to watch their team, one, at least split a doubleheader.

Mets fans would be happy if the team sustained no more injuries for the rest of the season.

Mets fans would be happy if Jim Duquette, senior assistant general manager and Phillips' temporary successor, would be brave enough to make a few trades that rid the team of its excess baggage and brought in some fresh-faced talent before the All-Star Break. Something to show that things really are going to change in Flushing, Queens.

And fortunately that might just happen.

"This has been a very disappointing season," owner Fred Wilpon said at a news conference to announce the firing, according to the Associated Press.

"We will attempt to energize the team ... by getting younger and more athletic."

Mets fan can only hope and pray that Mr. Wilpon holds future general managers to that standard.

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