With Jerry Manuel likely in his final weeks as manager, we are approaching an infamous moment in the team's managerial history. On Sept. 15, 2004--after a loss to the Braves--Art Howe was fired by the Mets but was given the opportunity to finish out the season. He did.

It had to be one of the the oddest events involving managers in New York baseball, including the travails of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin.  When George fired someone, that guy was out the door right away. 

Expect Manuel's end to be far less dramatic. His contract is up and will not be renewed.

 

Let's look back at the events surrounding Howe's firing in a story reported by Newsday's Bob Herzog: 

 

Art Howe's decision yesterday to remain as Mets manager through the end of the season officially made him a lame duck in a dysfunctional organization that has pulled up lame in the stretch for a third consecutive season.

So while general manager Jim Duquette, with the support of the Wilpon ownership, made the decision to give up on Howe last week, Howe would not give up on the Mets for their final 17 games.

"I'm not a quitter. I've never walked away from anything in my life," Howe said in explaining why he opted to return under such awkward circumstances to an office full of media members before last night's Mets-Braves game at Shea Stadium. "I recognized that I'm still under contract with the club [for two more years and $4.7 million]. An important part [of his decision] was that Jim asked me to come back. My respect for him is very high."

Duquette's personal respect for Howe is equally high - "This decision says a lot about him as a person," the GM said - but his professional respect is apparently much lower. Owner Fred Wilpon acknowledged that the decision not to keep Howe as manager beyond this season was entirely Duquette's and was presented to ownership at a meeting last Friday. It was not to be announced until after the regular season ends on Oct. 3, but when details of that meeting were revealed in a Daily News story, Duquette asked Wilpon to go public immediately with the news that Howe would be replaced.

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"Jim made the recommendation, but it wasn't in a vacuum. He gave me his reasons," Wilpon said. "I said 'fine.' I could've said no, but that's not what happened."

Outfielder Cliff Floyd called Howe's predicament "very awkward," but insisted that contrary to some reports, players did not lobby to get rid of their manager. "Nobody here had any discussions about him getting fired," Floyd said. "That's the last thing we'd do, especially the way we've played. He can't hit it. He can't catch it. He can't throw it. It's just unfortunate that he takes the hit, but this game is unfair that way. That's how this business is. We didn't perform on the field and the manager gets the blame."

Howe was typically impassive about his plight, acknowledging, "It's a tough situation. I have mixed emotions. I signed a four-year deal and I thought I'd be here until the end."

He declared he would "finish it out with a lot of class and with my head held high. I've been in this game my whole life and I've seen it happen to other people. You deal with it. There are no hard feelings. It's a business."

A business that deals primarily in results and on that score, Howe knew he was doomed. The Mets finished last under him in 2003 and are struggling to avoid the same fate this year. To the fans, Howe offered, "I'm sorry I didn't do a better job. It's too bad because I know this is a wonderful place if you're winning. I did the best job I could."

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That it wasn't good enough, both he and Duquette agreed, was at least partly because of a rash of injuries that struck in each of Howe's seasons, sidelining at various times regulars like Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, Jose Reyes, Kaz Matsui, Cliff Floyd, Mike Cameron and numerous others. "An inordinate amount of injuries," Duquette said, noting that only two other major-league teams have had more players on the disabled list than the Mets in 2004 and no team had lost the first four hitters in the lineup.

"The conditioning and health of this team hasn't worked," Howe said. "Anybody watching this team the last two years knows we haven't had a full deck. We didn't have the depth to cover those injuries."

Injuries aside, there were reports that players undermined Howe's authority.

"Completely untrue," said Duquette, who refused to give specific reasons for the firing. There was also speculation that Howe was penalized for being a laid-back players' manager.

"When you're not successful, that's thrown back in your face," Howe said. "There's a guy across town [Joe Torre] who's pretty even-keel and pretty successful. I think that having respect for your players pays dividends down the road."

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The road ended for Howe in New York before his journey was done, and the 57-year-old wasn't sure of his next destination. Duquette said he would be amenable to keeping Howe in the organization next year if both sides were willing. Howe said he would "relax and spend time with my family" after the season. "It's too early to think ahead."

Then, showing he hadn't lost his sense of (gallows) humor, Howe cracked, "As Martha Stewart said, I know there's some closure."