Over the course of the season, the manager's decisions might influence 100 games, but account for 4 or 5 wins--6 or 7 even, if he's as consistently wrong as Jerry Manuel. Similarly, the lazy center fielder might not hustle in 4 notable instances, but over 162 games, the net-effect of his hustling or not-hustling on any given play is probably negligible.
A starting position player sees about 2,300 pitches per season, each with a single, recorded binary outcome attached to it. How the outcome came to be is interesting and ever-changing, but from season-to-season, the sum of the outcomes is remarkably consistent. Teams usually play to their talent.
Which is why I just can't take things like this seriously:
The Mets should be embarrassed of themselves.
Yes, this is a flawed team… but most teams are.
The thing is, the New York Mets play in a league with lots of parity, they have severalvery good players on the roster, a $130 million payroll, and a passionate fan base who want nothing more than to see the team win.
Yes, the roster could be better. Yes, the manager could make better choices late in games. Yes, more money could be spent on better talent.
I'm not criticizing Matt--his sentiment is common and understandable. Teams just don't outplay the destiny of their own mediocrity, though. Closed door meetings, finger-waggings and Alex Cora temper-tantrums are just pathetic attempts to assert control over forces greater than any single game. I buy that good teams can "play down" to bad competition, but when you're Jeff Francoeur or Alex Cora, how much lower can you really go?
In baseball, more so than any sport, roster construction is the great game within the game. Yes players have career-years, down-years and disasters do happen. Those events are just inherent risks, though, which can be accounted for in the construction. It's always painfully obvious which teams in the offseason are scrambling to get 25 players together and which are creating redundancies and contingencies for a finely tuned machine, years in the making.
Chastise perfectly fine players if you want, but know they probably feel as helpless as you.