This coming June will mark the two year anniversary of when Mets General Manager Omar Minaya infamously fired now former Mets manager Willie Randolph at three in the morning, less than two hours after defeating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 9-6. The next morning, Minaya then proceeded to replace Randolph with then current bench coach, Jerry Manuel, to try and turn around a struggling Mets team in time to compete for a playoffs spot. With his positive attitude and incessant laughter, Manuel did just that -- at least until late September, when a beleaguered bullpen and a silent lineup combined to cause the Mets' second collapse in two years, falling short of the playoffs by a single game.
Despite everything that occurred, however, Manuel returned as manager for the 2009 campaign. But in a year filled with season-long injuries and media disasters, things could not have gone much worse for Jerry, who by the end of the season was under immense scrutiny by the media and looked like he might be let go by the front office during the offseason. But Minaya continued to stand by his man, as he decided to once again bring back Manuel for the 2010 season. There was no question, though: the Mets were under a lot of pressure to succeed. They had to get off to a fast start. They had to prove that last season was just a fluke and that they could get back to their winning ways.
Besides an encouraging win on Opening Day, the Mets did just the opposite, winning only four of its first twelve games, showing many shades of 2009. The starters weren't going more than six innings, the arms in the bullpen were getting tired, David Wright and Jason Bay looked awful at the plate, and the team was just simply not winning as many games as they needed to. Manuel wasn't happy, the front office wasn't happy, and the fans were furious. At one point, the weekly Fan Confidence Rating on Matthew Cerrone's Metsblog.com was at 3%.
The Mets then returned to Citi Field for a ten-game home stand in which they would face three tough teams in the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers. But it didn't matter how good the teams were that they were facing. The Mets had to perform, and it had to be now, or else Jerry Manuel's job would be in serious jeopardy.
The team went on a rampage. In one of the most successful home stands in franchise history, the Mets won nine of the ten games, including sweeps of the division rival Braves and the defending National League West champion Dodgers. Everything was clicking on all cylinders. Jose Reyes reverted back to old form, pitchers were striking out batters like I haven't seen in years, and prospect Ike Davis even came up and provided the Mets with a jolt of energy through his bat as well as his glove. It was the first time in Jerry Manuel's tenure as Mets manager that I ever felt truly confident in the team he put out on the field. And most importantly, it concluded with the Mets standing alone at the top of their division.
So, what can we conclude from this home stand? First, the Mets are a good team. Whether you want to believe it or not, they really are. They have the ability to score runs, they can pitch their way out of a jam, and they can defeat winning ball clubs. Of course, it's only April, and it's impossible to know how the next five months will play out. But for right now, the Mets look like a winning team, and as long as they continue to do what they have been doing all week, they will continue to be a winning team.
Secondly, Jerry Manuel's job is safe...at least for the moment. He didn't crack under the pressure, he stayed calm and composed, and he proved to Major League Baseball that the Mets mean business, and they are going to try and compete in this league for as long as they can. Of course, things have a way of turning around just as quickly, and this is a team known for having much bad luck. So how safe is Manuel's job? It's tough to say, because who knows what Omar is thinking other than Omar. But for right now, Jerry is without a doubt making a strong case to the front office and the New York Met fan base that we shouldn't look away, because the 2010 Mets aren't disappearing anytime soon.