Earlier this season, Red Sox fans saw what happens when clubhouse tension takes over.
Having too many players and not enough slots on the lineup card is supposed to be a good problem for a team to have. In the case of the Red Sox, however, it backfired. Terry Francona was forced to sit one of two players: The guy who delivered the 2004 World Series or the guy who delivered the 2007 World Series.
Either David Ortiz or Mike Lowell was extremely unhappy on a daily basis, and it wore on the clubhouse. Seeing one of the team leaders so disappointed with his situation does not bode well for the rest of the team, and it showed in the loss column. While two former stars struggled to find their places on a team that was once theirs, the rest of the team struggled to overcome the suffocating tension.
The case of the Mets is a little bit different, but the result is the same. The clubhouse tensions are starting to boil over, the pressure is mounting and before long, New York could be headed for yet another collapse.
The New York Daily News reported that after Tuesday night’s devastating 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, some players and media members stood laughing in a corner of the clubhouse, inciting the ire of Alex Cora, who snapped, "Show some respect. They just stuck it up our [expletive]," on his way out of the clubhouse.
Players are human, and they’re prone to fits of rage just like anyone else — particularly when their team has dropped five of six since the All-Star break. But it’s always a very, very bad sign when players fail to disguise that tension in front of the media. When it gets to that point, when there’s no longer any attempt to put on a happy face, there are two possible outcomes: A closed-door team meeting that hopefully will smooth out the issues or an unavoidable collapse.
Over the last several years, the Mets have unfortunately become very accustomed to underperforming and underachieving down the stretch. In 2009, the trouble cropped up right around the beginning of July. On July 2, the Mets were .500 and were one game out of first place in the NL East. That was the last time all season they were at .500, and by July 31, they were 10 1/2 games out of first.
On July 17, 2008, the first day of the second half, the Mets were 52-44 and tied for first place. They surged through August and most of September, spending just two days out of first from Aug. 14 to Sept. 15. Then, they dropped seven of their final 13 games to permanently relinquish first place and miss the playoffs.
2007 was by far the worst-case scenario. The Mets seized first place on May 16, and on Sept. 12, with less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, they had a seven-game lead in the East. Then, inexplicably, they suffered an unheralded collapse, losing 12 of their final 17 games and finishing a game behind Philadelphia to miss out on the playoffs.
Obviously, the Mets have become all too familiar with collapses, but now that they know what causes them, isn’t it time to isolate the variable and make sure another one doesn’t happen?
Right now, they are 49-45. They’re in second place in the East. They have more than two months left to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself once again. It’s time to start a new trend, and it starts with making sure the things that are supposed to stay behind closed doors actually stay there.
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