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A Rough Start For Jerry Manuel

The words came out of Jerry Manuel’s mouth in his postgame press conference, which I am sure made front-office personnel cringe a little. "Today's game was not a good game for us. I thought we appeared unprepared and I have to take the blame for that," said the Mets manager.

So, in Game 6, as the Mets were preparing to go on a grueling six-game road trip to Denver and St. Louis, with their ace on the mound, they were unprepared to play in front of a Sunday-afternoon crowd at Citi Field. Add in the fact that everyone connected with the Mets admitted that a quick start would be imperative this season, including the aforementioned Manuel. He said during spring training, "Given everything we went through last season, a good start would help that's for sure."

It is certainly easy to overreact after a game in which Johan Santana pitches poorly and Livan Hernandez keeps the offense off-balance for seven scoreless innings, but when you look at the schedule you quickly realize the mess the Mets are in. They knew 16 of their first 22 games would be at home, and after this past week the Mets would have road series in Denver and Saint Louis, followed by a homestand against the Cubs, Dodgers and Braves. Any way you slice it, that's 16 games against teams with legit playoff aspirations, and the task will be more difficult after a 2-4 start.

Part of the problem is the Mets are not getting that big hit that will keep an inning alive or win a close game. "It is very disappointing that we lost the first two series," said Mets third basemen David Wright, "especially when you consider that we had chances to win games with big hits. Now, we go on the road facing two tough teams which might be an early-season test for us."

It will also be an early-season test for the manager, as the Wilpons will keep a close watch on both the standings and the turnstiles -- the crowds after Opening Day have been very light, with a plethora of empty seats readily seen around the ballpark. Mets fans have already began to sound cranky, and a poor road trip might make them even more testy when the team returns home on April 19 for a 10-game homestand.
How Manuel's team responds to this first big moment of the 2010 season may very well decide how long he stays in the manager's office.

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