The Mets will play the final weekend of the season without any formal announcements regarding the fates of manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya. But the team's ownership has been prepared to relieve the two of their duties for weeks now, and that is expected to occur as early as Monday, according to a person familiar with the situation.
After four straight years without a playoff appearance and downward spiraling attendance, the Mets determined that making changes was unavoidable. Thursday's loss ensured that Manuel will finish with a losing record this season despite a $130-million payroll, and Minaya is being held accountable for a handful of bloated contracts, most notably to Luis Castillo ($25 million) and Oliver Perez ($36 million).
With Manuel's contract set to expire, the Mets won't have to worry about eating any money, something they were forced to do when they fired his three predecessors: Willie Randolph, Art Howe and Bobby Valentine.
Minaya's situation is a little more complicated. He has two more years on his deal, worth roughly $2.5 million, and that could lead to Minaya staying on with a different job title - if ownership gives him the option to do so.
That remains unclear at this point. Manuel said before Friday night's 2-1 win over the Nationals - courtesy of Josh Thole's walk-off homer in the 10th inning - that he has not spoken to ownership about his future. A person familiar with the team's plans said Minaya has not been told of his status either.
With those announcements still in limbo, that made for an unusual pregame news conference with Manuel.
"Obviously, I like what I'm doing and I love the city," he said. "I love this environment and I look forward to hopefully get the opportunity to help turn the franchise around. It's had a couple tough years."
As for Friday's early reports of his demise, Manuel laughed, saying, "It sounds like everybody's got me written off, but nobody's told me I'm written off. They kicked me to the curb and I'm not seeing the curb."
Given the circumstances, Manuel was upbeat, but he bristled when it was suggested that someone told reporters about his pending fate before notifying him. Manuel believes he should be the first to know.
"No question," he said. "I think that would obviously be the honest thing, or the integrious thing to do. You obviously would like the people to let you know before it comes across the [television] screen, or something like that."
The Mets were mostly unfazed by the buzz that Manuel and Minaya will not be returning. With the team in a funk since the All-Star break, it has seemed likely that something needs to change, and those two are the biggest targets.
"They're still with us, so it's too soon to talk about it," Jose Reyes said. "But we need to be ready for whatever happens. I don't even know if I'm going to be here next year. Let's see what happens."
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has not spoken publicly about the upcoming personnel decisions other than to say during a recent trip to Atlanta that those subjects would be discussed after the season.
Principal owner Fred Wilpon also has remained quiet. The last time he was asked if Minaya would return, in early August, the elder Wilpon replied, "Is the sun going to come up tomorrow?"
Either way, the Mets finally will provide some definitive answers when the season is over. Manuel does not plan to approach the Wilpons before then.
"I think I'm an employee here, and I am employed to manage games, and that's what I'm going to do," Manuel said. "I'm going to manage the next three games just like I've managed the whole year, try to put the team in a position to win. That's what I do. And then after that, if someone feels there's a need to come and speak to me, I don't have a problem with that, not at all."