What a Fine Mets You've Gotten Us Into, Stevie

Okay, so I was wrong on Bucky the "Stunt Man." Good luck, Buck (I just can't wait to see what ARod does with that bunt sign). Sweet Lou has gone by way of the Devil Ray. And, finally, the Mets got themselves a manager. I'm sorry, that's about the most complimentary thing I can say about Art Howe right now.

After all, he is from somewhere west of the Hudson (or, in my case, the Passaic), instantly making him some kind of a huckleberry to most New Yorkers. Even the major press here is calling him as such: Art Howe... a nice guy... easygoing... doesn't keep a tight reign on his players... a "player's manager." I guess those are qualities that would work well, say, in California or Texas, where it takes about three hours to get a food order placed. But in New York? The place where fast food was invented before fast food was invented? C'mon Steve! What were you thinking?

I'd like to believe Phillips put some thought into the Mets plan after Valentine's firing, but it seems more and more like this plan was a cut and paste from Napoleon's blueprint for the invasion of Russia in winter. While the Daily News was telling Mets fans to "relax" as Louis Victor Piniella was supposedly well on his way to New York, the same paper today leaves Mets fans to scream "Howe?!?" instead of asking "who?"

However, upon reflection, why should it be any other way if you're a Mets fan? Leave it to the Mets to target the one guy that so upset Seattle ownership, they would rather hang Piniella by his toenails under the Space Needle than let him go to New York. Making matters more embarrassing for the Mets during this entire ordeal was seeing Wilpon reduce Phillips into nothing more than an annoying child tugging at his pant leg: "Not now, Stevie! Can't you see I'm busy?"

But in the end, it seems Phillips got his way... and his man. Isn't this the way it should have been from the get go? Didn't Wilpon tell us that he would let Phillips search for the next manager, and that he would only get involved in the approval of the same? I must confess, at one point during this whole process, the cynic in me felt that we were being treated to nothing more than the game of "hardball" being played by men in an entirely different arena: away from the diamond and into the rough and tumble world of big money, big egos and "mine's bigger than yours."

In that game, Phillips would have been congratulated for playing the pawn to Wilpon's king, allowing Wilpon to play "good cop/bad cop" with Gillick & Co.: "You know, I just received word from my G.M. that, should Seattle not accept the players being offered by us, we have the opportunity to get a playoff caliber manager for nothing. Now, not that I want to go that way, but if Seattle continues to be unreasonable on this, then I will be left with no choice in the matter." Well, apparently, no choice was left for the Mets in this matter. Roberto Alomar AND Jose Reyes? C'mon. That offer ranks right up there with Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.

Well, apparently the Mets have come a long way. Unfortunately, their expected response was followed by an unexpected decision.

In the end, what Phillips has brought back from the left coast to inspire his motley crew of overpaid, comfortable and aimless loners is a man who was either in the right place at the right time, or is the next Joe Torre, a man with a calm, unassuming demeanor who speaks softly but carries a big baseball bat. I lean toward the former, but if I am wrong, I suggest Mr. Howe contact Dick Allen to see if that ole' 42 ouncer is still available. Howe's going to need it.

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