Zack Scott’s dig at Mets players also bad look for organization

The Mets started what promised to be an endless day in a hole that felt much bigger than the second-inning deficit they carried into Citi Field courtesy of Tuesday night’s surprise storm.

In the first and only act of a doubleheader that called for them to finish nine innings in Game 1 and play seven in a Game 2 that would be postponed by rain, the Mets had to overcome Washington leads of 3-1, 4-1 and 7-4 to win, ultimately, on Brandon Drury’s pinch-hit bloop in the eighth.

They also had to overcome a challenge more forbidding than anything the woeful, stripped-down Nationals could muster: Zack Scott’s decision to air out his players for failing to do more to help themselves and their team.

Out of left field, off the top rope, the Mets’ acting GM delivered his Zack attack Tuesday after his team had lost seven of eight, had played what he called “unacceptably bad” baseball and had landed — with a dramatic thud — in third place. Maybe he was sick and tired of Pete Alonso’s talent for whistling past the graveyard and for insisting the sky was blue while being pelted by rain. Maybe he got nudged by an angry and embarrassed boss, Steve Cohen.

Or maybe Scott, a guy who had been around a lot of postseason winning in his years in Boston, simply realized the Mets’ training and prep habits were the methods of losers. So he called a press conference to say that when it came to the Mets’ many soft-tissue injuries, the players, in some cases, were responsible for their place on the injured list. “Most of the time, to be honest,” he said, “it’s compliance issues.”

Come again?

Zack Scott
Zack Scott
Getty Images

“Actually following the plan,” Scott said. “Because these are all individuals and control their own bodies and sometimes they’re not as compliant as they should be.”

The acting GM had clearly devolved into the acting-up GM. Scott mentioned the players’ need to listen to the staffers who are constantly on them to properly hydrate. “At some point you gotta take that responsibility,” he said. “We’re not just going to stick a needle in someone to hydrate them because they’re not doing it themselves.”

If you were scoring Scott’s jabs at home, it was hard to keep up. Once upon a time, in his opening press conference as Giants coach, Tom Coughlin unfortunately described his new team’s many injuries as “a cancer” and a “mental thing” that he could correct. But in 35 years of covering sports in New York, I don’t recall another GM blaming players for injuries the way Scott did.

No, that doesn’t mean he was wrong. Public shaming is a strong deterrent (though it would have been helpful had Scott put a name or two on it), and if some highly compensated Mets are refusing to follow the simple instructions that might keep them on the field, they deserve to be ripped.

But Scott needs to understand that this is not just a player problem. In fact, his criticism opened a window on the soul of an organization that was supposed to be beyond this kind of folly.

Cohen was supposed to represent a new day for Mets fans. He was supposed to be the anti-Wilpon, a big spender who would collect high-profile talent and create a culture defined by his commitment to winning. Cohen maintained he would be disappointed if the Mets didn’t win the World Series in three-to-five years.

“I’m not in this to be mediocre,” Cohen said after buying the club. “That’s not my thing. … I don’t suffer people who give me responses that are mediocre.”

And then nine months later, there was Cohen’s acting GM using that word again. “We’ve played very mediocre baseball for most of the year,” Scott said. “This recent stretch has been much worse than mediocre. We’d have taken mediocre at this point.”

Mediocre … mediocre … mediocre. When will the Mets be anything but?

Here’s a question of greater consequence: By going after the non-conforming slackers in his midst, didn’t Scott realize that he was calling into question his own leadership, and that of Cohen, team president Sandy Alderson and manager Luis Rojas?

In any business, management is expected to make employees accountable and to inspire them to perform at the highest possible level while serving all team-centric needs. If players are hurting the cause by refusing to listen to trainers, coaches and executives — while potentially going unpunished — something is seriously wrong. For the Mets, it’s only more obvious now that they have fallen out of first place after spending three months atop the NL East.

Wednesday, in its comeback victory over Washington, Zack Scott’s team tried taking the first baby step back toward respectability. The Mets still have a long way to go to get there.