The 2008 season ended in fitting fashion - at the hands of a bullpen that has more blood on its hands than Lady MacBeth.
If Jerry Manuel made one mistake today, it was in believing that Scott Schoeneweis could get a right-handed batter out when Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez inevitably pinch-hit for Jacobs leading off the eighth inning. He obviously wasn't going to get the lefty-lefty matchup that he wanted; should Manuel have simply let Brian Stokes face Jacobs and take his chances? Well, the result tells us that Stokes couldn't have done any worse.
Then it was Luis Ayala, whose batting practice 3-2 fastball ended up in the bleachers courtesy of Dan Uggla. At that point it was time to offer silent prayers to the God who has ignored us so many times before and hope that somehow, the Cubs would find a way to outlast the Brewers. Minutes later Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer to give the Milwaukee the lead; don't expect to see me in church anytime soon.
So it's over now, with the death blow delivered by the Florida Marlins for the second straight season. Blood should flow throughout the concourses of Citi Field this off-season, from the general manager's office all the way down to the home team's clubhouse. Massive change is badly needed, but with the Wilpons inexplicably leaking word of a four-year extension fpr Omar Minaya earlier this week, there's little reason to believe that such massive change will take place.
This isn't Jerry Manuel's fault, of course, but he probably has to go too. Any reminders of the horrors we've seen over the last two years must be completely scrubbed out, and that includes the job of a man who really deserves better. Manuel will land on his feet; he deserves a shot at one of the vacant managerial jobs in the off-season.
As for me, I'd still love to see Bobby Valentine or Wally Backman given the manager's chair, but the Wilpons will probably hand the job over to a retread with a recognizable name and a timid personality. This is a loser franchise, after all, and they will surely go for another loser instead of taking a chance on someone who might upset the apple cart while winning ballgames.
There can be little to complain about with Oliver Perez's performance, even though he probably shouldn't be asked to return next season. He was simply brilliant for five innings, and economical enough that he could've easily lasted eight innings if he remained effective. Cameron Maybin's double to lead off the sixth came on a 1-2 pitch at the conclusion of a tough at-bat, and the Marlins dunked in two straight singles that were really more about fortuitous placement than getting good wood on the ball.
Manuel was right to go to Joe Smith when he did, with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning. The 1-1 pitch to Josh Willingham was a strike, but that doesn't excuse the next two pitches that were clearly out of the strike zone. Smith made the best of a bad situation after that, getting a pop up and a ground out to get out of the inning. The game was going to be in the hands of The Arson Squad at that point, and we all knew what that was going to mean.
My only other quibble was starting Ryan Church in right field, who has looked terrible this weekend and for large portions of the second half of the season. He looked completely lost at the plate again today, striking out in his first three at-bats, and Church brought nothing to the table that couldn't have been replaced or improved by Endy Chavez or even fan favorite Daniel Murphy.
Then again, Nick Evans made a rookie mistake by throwing to third on Mike Jacobs's deep fly ball to left, and that may have indirectly led to second run of the sixth inning. There are people don't understand why the Mets would shop for a natural left fielder after the season. They think that a platoon of Murphy and Evans should suffice.
What those people do not undertsand is that an infielder's instincts are not easy to overcome and do not automatically translate to the outfield. If you have any doubt about that, look at the play Chavez made to reel in the third out of the seventh inning. Is there any doubt that ball would've sailed over the head or Evans or Murphy and driven in the go-ahead run for the Marlins?
That's not a knock on either rookie, each of whom may have a place on the 2009 Mets anyway. Murphy has spent most of his professional career at third base, while Evans has mostly played first. It's not enough to go out and read Outfield Fundamentals for Dummies; a true outfielder understands that the ball absolutely must go to second base there, to keep the baserunner on first and allow the pitcher an opportunity to get a double play.
If Evans throws to the right base after corralling that first out, Perez might have been left in the game to face Dan Uggla, who has struggled mightily this season against left-handers. Uggla has only grounded into 10 double plays this season, but he has also struck out over 170 times and would've been a great match-up for Perez. It's all academic now, but the simple act of having to play two rookie infielders out of position for so much of the season had a profound effect on this game.
As for me, I don't know when I'll be able to come back to this blog again. It is a catalogue of failure, six months of abject failure, and there is no other way to look at this lost season. I have had my heart ripped out of my throat by this baseball team for three straight years now, and I don't know how or why I'm supposed to come back for more. Perhaps the closing of Shea Stadium closes a chapter of my life even more completely than I could've ever imagined.
I just don't see how much longer this relationship can continue.