Thursday, May 13, 2010
Will the Mets leader please stand up? Part 1
According to Webster's Dictionary, the word leader is someone who leads, guides or is the first and/or principal performer of a group. In other words, it is someone who takes charge. When scanning through the pages of history, we see countless examples of people who have qualified under this definition and have achieved great success.
The most notable in American history may be George Washington. He is a man who took control and was great at making adjustments. He used the situation to his advantage. He showed heart, attitude and experience to lead and conquer. The rest is history as they say.
Believe it or not, sports and history have much in common. A team needs a leader. They need someone who will stand up and guide. Someone who will be the experienced one when no one else knows what to do in a given situation. Every successful team has had this to some degree or another.
The current New York Mets are lacking this presence on the field. They are too busy listening to instruction and direction from managers, general mangers, owners, scouts and whatever else the case may be. The trouble is that the leadership presence that they need is not experiencing the situations with them, only observing and responding to them.
For this reason, it is not possible for a manager to be the true leader of a team. They will direct and pull the strings, but never truly guide in the moment. Therefore by definition, the New York Mets lack a player who meets these characteristics. Although they have a few candidates for the role, no one has truly stepped into it. This may perhaps be the major reason for the uninspiring and at times unspirited play that the team has displayed over the past few weeks.
The record of this current team as I am writing this is 18-16. This isn't the best record in sport right now, but it certainly isn't the worst. It is a slightly above average record for a slightly above average team. The question is why are they just a slightly above average team? What do they lack that the top tier teams all seem to have?
The answer is leadership. The team has actually been without this for the last several years, since the departure of their last true on field leader, Mike Piazza. There have been a few since him that have tried to fit the mold, but to no avail. Before we look at the current candidates, let's take a brief look back at the past so called leaders. This is how we learn in history, sports and life, by looking back and learning from past errors.
Since Piazza, the Mets have had only a few who have attempted to guide this team. Paul LoDuca, Pedro Martinez, Brian Schneider and Carlos Delgado are the only ones who really come to mind. LoDuca had the fire, intensity and heart that you want in a leader, but not the self-control. He led by example only.
Pedro Martinez led by word but seldom action or example. He was brought in by the Mets brass for the specific purpose of leadership. He showed the heart and the mouth, but not the consistency required for the job.
After the departure of LoDuca, Brain Schneider was charged with the mission of leading this team. His leadership, however proved to be that of the quiet type. He led by example but not by words then was injured and became lost in irrelevancy.
The final one was Carlos Delgado. Delgado had the mouth, attitude and experience needed to fill this void. His health, however, became an issue. He was a good influence on the team, though he was not without his own controversies. But a good leader must be able to call out a teammate to encourage them to strive to do better. The problem with Delgado is just as he was taking on the role, his health prevented him from being effective in that role.
Moving forward to the present, the team still lacks that leader. There are a few who could fill that gap on the current roster. In part two of this article, we will take a deeper look at them. From the current roster, they are: Johan Santana, David Wright, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Rod Barajas, Ike Davis and Jose Reyes. We will examine the pros and cons of each of these candidates, in part two.