That is why players go down to Florida and Arizona in mid-February and stay there until April 1. It's all about preperation, timing and execution. If a team fails miserably during the regular season, or if the team appears divided in the clubhouse, many point to the strategies of the manager during spring training as the main culprit.
For the New York Mets, they are a team out of excuses, yet they keep trying to make them.
In this year's installment of the World Baseball Classic, the Mets are the most depleted team in camp this spring, having shiped off a league leading 16 players to the idiotic contest. Gone are Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Feliciano, Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz, Oliver Perez, Alex Cora and David Wright.
If you want to throw in Pedro Martinez, who may be back with the team if they can't find a fifth starter, you can. If Johan Santana didn't have elbow problems and recovery from an off-season knee surgery, then he too would be missing from camp.
That is almost a third of the regular 25 man roster missing important time in Flordia and playing all over the planet this month.
Meanwhile, the Mets main competition for the division, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, did not send many players to the WBC. Atlanta sent six players, but only three are of any importance: Jorge Campillo, Chipper Jones and Brian McCain. The Phillies sent only five, only two of which are of importance: Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.
It makes it look like the Met players do not care about winning this season. They seem more interested in getting out of camp and away from each other for a month so they don't have to deal with the drudgery of pre-season baseball. However, for a team that is coming off of two collapses and rumblings of racist and ethnic disorder in the clubhouse over the past two years, it is important for the entire 25 man roster to be intact during spring training.
Keep in mind, this is Jerry Manuel's first full season as manager. He is a master motivator and communicator, and he needed to have everyone in camp, so he could begin to destroy the gorilla that is on the backs of these players.
An article in Monday's Star Ledger reported that Manuel was "not overly enthusiastic about so many players being gone" (Costa, Star Ledger).
"I don't have a choice in the matter," Manuel was quoted as saying.
It is not a good thing when the two prized off-season acquisitions, K-Rod and Putz, are not in camp. K-Rod has yet to pitch an inning in a pre-season game this year for the Mets, Putz only pitched one inning at the start of pre-season. The two of them should be in Met camp getting used to the roles of set-up man and closer, not spending more time closing for two different teams in March.
It makes no sense.
Jose Reyes is too valuable for the Mets to lose him to a severe injury. The Mets should have stopped Reyes from going because if he were to get injured while stealing a base, the Mets season is basically finished.
As for Beltran, Wright and Delgado. The last thing the Mets need is for either one to crash into a wall or fall into the stands while trying to get outs for Team USA or Team Puerto Rico. It makes no sense.
The Mets did this to themselves. The Wilpons and GM Omar Minaya have been big supporters of international competition and representing the Mets brand overseas, but risking the health of their players and the needed chemistry and time they need to have in March is not the way to do it.
The Mets just don't get it. But the Phillies and Braves do. That is why the Mets are chumps and the Phillies are champs.