Terry Collins let the Mets have it Thursday after their sixth loss in a row, a sloppy, uninspired 10-1 trouncing by the Nationals that Jose Reyes called "embarrassing, a little bit."
"Obviously, this is an awful time," Collins said. "Awful time. As I've said many times before, I'm responsible. I'm the manager of this team. I'm responsible for it. We haven't coached, we didn't manage and we didn't play. It's pretty simple.
"And you go through stretches -- this is one of them -- perception is reality in our game. And the perception I have right now is we folded it up. And I won't stand for that.
"You come and play the game right. I don't care what the situation is. I don't care what the standings say. I don't care what the pitch counts are . . . Playing the game correctly. That's all I care about. Our fans should be upset. I don't blame them a bit."
The small number of fans who were left when the final out was recorded saw a happy Washington team that had just swept a four-game series. They saw the Mets players slink out of the dugout suspecting they were going to catch heck from their excitable manager before a flight to Atlanta for the final road trip of the season.
But the players said Collins didn't say much to them. The steam coming off his head was probably enough.
"We know we're playing bad," said David Wright, who made his sixth error in as many games. "We don't need anybody to tell us that we're playing bad."
Said Jason Bay: "He didn't say much. He didn't have to. He was fired up just walking through. Understandably so. I don't think it surprised anybody. Everybody knew that the way we played it wasn't going to be a jovial atmosphere, that's for sure. I think we got the point."
As far as the manager's perception of the players "folding it up," Wright said that wasn't his perception, and he seemed to take exception with the suggestion. "You got guys going out there and battling their butts off," he said. "Sometimes you don't get hits, sometimes you don't make the pitches. I guess from outside it could look like it, but you go out there, you battle and sometimes things just don't go right."
Wright was aware, however, that it wasn't someone from "outside" saying it. It was the manager who watched his team drop eight games on a nine-game homestand and said he was "disgusted" by it.
"No energy at all on the field," Collins said. "This is not the way we've played all year long . . . I've been proud of the way this team's played all year long. But we're not done. We've got two weeks to go and if we're going to fold it up that tells me a lot about how it's going to be when it comes to crunchtime next year when we are fighting for something."
Remember a while back when these Mets had an overachieving, lovable vibe about them? Those days seem hard to remember.
"You don't want to say the past five months of effort and hard work are for naught," R.A. Dickey said "I think that's where we are right now. We're at that crossroad. We fought valiantly for a long time and you don't want it seemingly to go for nothing."
Then they have to play much better than they did Thursday in their final four series. Without Reyes and Lucas Duda, they managed just seven hits, continuing an offensive swoon.
Valentino Pascucci, filling in at first, committed a comical error when he tried to tag Rick Ankiel on a fifth-inning dribbler but didn't have control of the ball. Ankiel kicked the ball into rightfield as the first Washington run scored against Chris Schwinden (0-2), who was charged with two runs (one earned) in his second big-league start.
The really bad stuff was saved for the final three innings. Daniel Herrera balked in a run in the seventh. Angel Pagan let a long fly to right-center fall between him and Willie Harris for a double, sparking a three-run eighth. Wright's eighth error in 10 games opened the ninth and the Nationals scored four more runs.
"You don't pitch, you don't hit, you don't catch the ball, it's pretty simple as far as you're not going to win too many games," Wright said.
So what do they do? At 71-79, it would take a 10-2 run to finish the season at .500. That doesn't seem very likely, especially since their final opponents are the Braves, Cardinals, Phillies and Reds.
"We got to find a new formula," Collins said. "I don't know what it is yet. Got a three-hour plane flight to figure it out before tomorrow. Because that next team -- they will embarrass us if we play like we did here."