A few of us met up with Jerry Manuel today as he was helping out at a soup kitchen in Manhattan and the topic of discussion almost immediately turned to the Mets and their desperate need for Manny Ramirez. Okay, that was our words, not Jerry's.
Face it. No matter what Jerry says, no matter what I say, no matter what you say, Manny is not coming to the Mets. They didn't pursue him other than a cursory look at the trade deadline last year and they have not pursued him this winter. They are going to spend some more money, but it's not going to be on Manny.
Will they regret that this season? Maybe at some point in a three-game losing streak when we remind them and point out what Manny is doing, likely for the Dodgers. But for now, the chase of Oliver Perez is the priority - as well as whoever Omar Minaya is scouting today, on a scouting trip out of town that I have not been able to narrow down just who he is looking at (but it's not in the United States - does that help?).
Manuel didn't just talk about Manny though. He talked about Oliver and how he could help. And he also talked about what he already has.
Jerry believes that the Mets are already a better team than a year ago just because of the bullpen improvement with the acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz.
And he believes that the Mets will be better - and could handle Manny in their clubhouse - because of a growing maturity. And it might surprise you where Jerry thinks that leadership can come from. Not just David Wright - and Manuel said he won't be naming a captain - and not just Carlos Delgado or Johan Santana or Carlos Beltran.
Manuel expects leadership to come from Jose Reyes - and he said he will push for that to come now.
"I think that’s the next level for him, to add responsibility to him," Manuel said of the 25-year-old shortstop. "That to me is maturation. You can be 50 years old and have no responsibility so you never mature. But if you have some responsibilities than the maturation process takes over. I think the more responsibility he has, obviously the more maturity he has the better player he becomes."
Not many people seem to view Reyes that way and I guess it's with good reason. He plays hard. He has fun. But he also seems to be a target of a lot of the blame that goes around for the Mets troubles and little credit for just how much he has already accomplished on the field.
He's a two-time All-Star, has finished in the top 30 in the MVP balloting in each of his four full seasons and led the National League in hits last year. He is a stellar fielder and a constant threat on the bases.
But there always seems to be something missing. Maybe Manuel will pry that out of him this year. And maybe that will be what the Mets need more than what they won't get.