It’s always somebody else’s fault in Flushing, and when you’re speeding toward a 12th losing season in the past two decades, the body count tends to escalate.
Regardless of how Brodie Van Wagenen chose to spin things Thursday, are we supposed to believe that Dave Eiland — the pitching coach for two World Series winners — suddenly became bad at his job? Or that Chuck Hernandez, the guy who answered the phone in the bullpen, is the reason for Edwin Diaz throwing batting practice and Jeurys Familia eroding faster than a sand castle at high tide?
It’s not their mess.
It’s just their turn.
Just as it will be Mickey Callaway’s turn at some point and, much later, Van Wagenen’s. We’ve seen this movie before. Over and over again.
The Wilpons are always shuffling personnel because they’re the only ones without an expiration date — or a consistent plan that can produce sustainable success for the Mets, a little big-market franchise that somehow manages to catch lightning in a bottle every decade or so with a playoff trip.
Van Wagenen was the Wilpons’ biggest Hail Mary pass yet. The only thing the former CAA agent knew about a team’s front office was how to extract money from it. And for Van Wagenen to make his clients as rich as they got from the budget-conscious Mets, he had to be brilliant at that particular skill.
But being a GM takes more than a sales pitch, and Van Wagenen is learning that the hard way, at the expense of the team he touted as a potential division winner. The one saving grace for the Mets this season? Nobody put “Come Get Us” on a clubhouse T-shirt.
Just about every word Van Wagenen has uttered so far has come back to bite him, and we can’t help but think he’s getting pressure from above to dump the sales pitch and start collecting scalps instead.
All you had to do was listen to him Thursday at Wrigley Field, where Van Wagenen gave his explanation for jettisoning the club’s resident pitching experts.
“This decision — along with any decision — is an organizational decision,” Van Wagenen said. “Nothing is done independently and we try to make the decisions that are in the best interests of the entire organization. We hope this will put us on that track.”
That’s when Van Wagenen tipped his hand. He’s the GM. He’s running the team. He’s in charge of hiring and firing people below him. These are supposed to be his decisions.
Sure, the GM consults all of his lieutenants, gets input from the manager and, in his case, maybe even polls some of his more trusted players (aka former clients).
But if a team is operating correctly, the GM makes the call and stands behind it as his decision. As soon as the word “organization” is thrown in, that feels like code for ownership and makes Van Wagenen’s stature shrink.
It was a bold move to jettison both Eiland and Hernandez in one fell swoop, and Van Wagenen had the numbers to make an argument.
While the rotation had pitched better of late, it still ranked 13th in the majors with a 4.27 ERA, and with the exception of Jason Vargas, seemed to be regressing for whatever reason. The bullpen was an unmitigated disaster, sitting at 28th overall with a 5.46 ERA and the most blown saves (16) in the majors.
Did the canned coaches deserve the blame for that? We’re about to find out.
Van Wagenen cited the obvious experience of Eiland’s replacement, the 82-year-old Phil Regan — a Mets pitching whisperer with the homegrown staff — and praised his working connection with the other two. Ricky Bones reprises his role as bullpen coach and Jeremy Accardo was given the newly created position of “pitching strategist.”
Van Wagenen chose to keep the only other pitching voice on the major-league staff. That’s Callaway, the manager he didn’t hire.
Van Wagenen denied that these firings put Callaway on notice.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Mickey has my full vote of confidence.”
For whatever that’s worth. Until the “organization” tells Van Wagenen to change his mind.