I generally try to look on the bright side of life, but sometimes things just go wrong where I have to blame someone, especially when it comes to the Mets. During my life, plenty has gone wrong with the Amazins, so much that there is a lot of blame to pass around. In no particular order, here are some of the top scapegoats in the more recent Mets history (since those are the ones I remember):
Armando Benitez: This list appropriately begins with one of the most notorious scapegoats. Even though he is one of the top closers in team history, Benitez will be remembered for his failures. In Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, with the Mets up 3-2, Benitez coughed up a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, which the Yankees would eventually win in twelve innings. In 2001, he blew a couple of games down the stretch against the Atlanta Braves as the Mets were attempting to state a miraculous run to the playoffs. He also had a habit of getting beat by Pat Burrell on a regular basis.
Felix Millan: This one is before my time, but the sting is still there. After a solid 1973 season, the normally sure-handed Millan made a costly error on a ground ball in Game 1 of the World Series, leading to two unearned runs; Oakland won the game by the score of 2-1. It can be argued that the Mets should’ve won the series anyway, but Millan’s error didn’t help the cause.
Luis Castillo: Acquiring the second baseman in 2007 was the right move at the time for the Mets; inking him to a four year contract the following offseason was not. Castillo had lost most of his speed and range on defense and wasn’t hitting much either. But he will live in Mets infamy for dropping an Alex Rodriguez towering popup in 2009 that cost the Mets a hard-fought game against the Yankees (ironically, ’09 was Castillo’s best offensive in a Mets uniform). The loss didn’t dash any playoff hopes or anything like that, but losing that way to the cross-town rivals is never easy.
Carlos Beltran: He should not be on this list, but there are a lot of Mets fans still angry at Beltran for not swinging at the vicious Adam Wainwright curveball in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Since then, many have blamed Beltran for most of the Mets’ problems, even though he was one of the better players on the team during his tenure (.280/.369/.500 batting line during his time in Queens). Still, some will always #BlameBeltran
David Wright: As much as the fans love you, they can turn on you in an instant. That is what David Wright has learned recently for not living up to his “superstar” billing. Like Beltran, Wright doesn’t deserve a lot of the blame, but as long as he isn’t putting up similar numbers as he did from 2005-08, he can expect to be jeered.
Art Howe: Howe was fired after two seasons even though the roster didn’t have much talent. Still, someone had to be blamed, and the stoic Howe took the fall.
Willie Randolph: Imagine how different Willie Randolph’s career would have been if the Mets made the playoffs in 2007? Odds are, he would’ve managed a few more years after that, especially if they made the postseason in 2008 as well. Instead, he took the blame for the ’07 collapse nearly halfway through 2008 in one of the more controversial firings in Mets history.
Steve Phillips: To his credit, Phillips put together the team that made the playoffs in 1999 and 2000. But to his detriment, he quickly destroyed it and brought in players like Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz, none of whom worked out, and the team slipped into a three year funk.
Omar Minaya: Like Phillips, Minaya helped build a contender, and like Randolph, he would be remembered differently had the Mets made the playoffs in ’07 and/or ’08. Of course, he might also be to blame for the Mets not making the postseason those years, and he also has something to do with the team’s lack of financial flexibility, thanks in part to large contracts handed out to overpaid players. Minaya took the fall after the 2010 season and is now part of the Padres front office.
The Training Staff: Some injuries just aren’t preventable, and it is understandable when older players have problems that flare up. However, when half the team winds up on the disabled list at some point each season, it might be time to reevaluate those who focus on preventive care.
The Wilpons: Out of all the scapegoats, the Wilpons are currently taking the most heat. Whether they knew about the Madoff Ponzi scheme doesn’t matter, because either way the team is in dire financial straits. Fans and others want them to sell the team, but odds are the Wilpons will hold on for dear life until the last possible minute, leaving the team and the fans to suffer.