Archive for December, 2006

Take the Tour!

Monday, December 18th, 2006


David Wright is offering to take Barry Zito on a tour of New York to show him what a great place it is.

Whenever the Mets are trying to sign someone there’s always this talk about players or owners or general managers wanting to take the player on a tour of New York to show them what a great or what a normal place it is (depending on the player, some apparently want great and some prefer normal).  What is this about? 

Rusty Staub helped us to hook Keith Hernandez by taking him on such a tour, showing him how wonderful the restaurants were, how terrific Broadway was, how beautiful the women were (I recall reading this somewhere but I am uncertain exactly what was involved in this last bit of the tour).  Keith had played in the National League for several years at this point.  He had been to New York.  Presumably he had heard of the place and might have had some idea of what it had to offer.  Could this have been the first time he was learning that there were great restaurants in New York or great theatre or, indeed, beautiful women?  How does a tour of these things hook anybody?  How dumb do you have to be to get hooked by a tour like this when you are trying to make a decision about where to sign a multi-million dollar contract and spend several years of your life?

Zito has probably been to New York before.  There’s an American League team in New York, isn’t there?  I forget.

Some players, usually with families, are thought to be afraid of New York.  So guys like Tom Glavine are given the “don’t be afraid, your families will be safe” tour.  Like many people from outside the city, a lot of ballplayers have only visited New York in December to see the Radio City Holiday Show and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  They believe, astoundingly, that the city is always as bizarre and insane as it is on those few blocks around the goddamn tree and the Rockettes and the windows at this time of year.  So they need to be convinced of something Phil Simms once said:  that once you get outside of the craziness of the city itself, the New York metropolitan area is really not that much different from anywhere else.  Phil, alas, is absolutely right.  But it seems that a lot of people and a lot of baseball players think this is a good thing.  They think that if you get away from all the hustle and bustle and raise kids in the normal America that begins right outside the city, the kids will not be corrupted, the kids will not be in danger.  People who think this either have never been adolescents in American suburbs or they have forgotten what it was like. 

I’ve read that Zito is considered something of an eccentric (yoga, incense, dyed his hair blue once).  His apartment doesn’t have furniture, only foldable lawn chairs.  Why, please, does a guy like this need 16 million dollars a year?   New York is a city that has always welcomed eccentrics.  Zito could live in Greenwich Village, and unlike most eccentrics, he could afford to.  He likes music.  There’s a lot of great music in New York.  And then there are the beautiful women.  If he marries one, he can move to Connecticut and have kids.  New York has everything he needs.  There’s no need for him to go anywhere else. 

Loser? Wimp?

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

I get the impression that a lot of Mets fans are angry at Omar Minaya and the Wilpons for not doing anything very big by this point to improve the team.  Of course the Zito thing is unresolved but it seems likely, from newspaper reports, that desperate Texas will outbid us. 

Zito will sign for something close to $20m per year.  Can the Mets afford that?  You bet they can.  The Wilpons have the money.  The Mets will make massive amounts of money  next year.  Zito will probably pay for himself with what he will contribute to buzz, wins, rating points, and ticket sales.   But if a merely above-average pitcher like Barry Zito signs for a salary like that, I will be glad that the Mets aren’t signing that paycheck.  Why? 

It’s not because merely above-average players don’t deserve money like that.  They do.  If they generate the revenue, they deserve the big paychecks.  Even if they don’t generate the revenue, the player deserves that money if some owner is willing to gamble it on the possibility that they might generate the revenue.  So it’s not because this is too much money for Zito.

I won’t want the Mets paying that amount because I don’t want them to get the competitive edge they need for next season just by signing a check for an amount larger than what all but five or six teams can sign for.

What sense does this make, you ask?  None, to be honest.  What about Beltran?  What about trades like the one that brought us Delgado, which are essentially free-agent signings?  What about the current size of the Mets’ payroll?  How can I live with the privileges of wealth and not want to go to the logical next step of thinking that our wealth should not just make us competitive, it should make us super-competitive?

Forgive me.  I don’t want to take that next step.  I am what some of the sages on the discussion board would call a “loser” or a “wimp” or worse.  I am already so bothered by the way in which the competitive balance in baseball can be determined by a team’s wealth and market size that I desperately want to continue to pretend that it can’t be.  If the Mets pay $20 million for a merely above-average pitcher, I won’t be able to keep lying to myself for that much longer.

The Mets are my team.  I want to root for them forever without feeling guilty about it.  I will always keep my fingers crossed behind my back for teams like the Tigers, the A’s, the Twins, and even I hope someday, the Pirates and the Royals.  But I want to continue to pretend that the Mets belong in that pack, fighting for their place.  I don’t want to have to think about how they have that great big budget behind them.  I don’t want them to get into the business of assuring fans who want victory at any price that they are not, themselves, losers.

Omar, you’ve shown us that you know what you are doing.  I trust you.


‘Tis the Offseason

Saturday, December 9th, 2006


I was in Newport, Rhode Island a couple of weeks ago and my wife and daughter and I went into a shop that sells holiday decorations.  There’s a tree in this shop that is decorated only with sports ornaments.  We go into this shop every year and last year and the year before and the year before that the tree was filled with Yankees and Red Sox ornaments.  (Newport is in Red Sox country but it gets a lot of tourism from the New York area).  There were no Mets ornaments.  None at all.  Well, this year there were just as many Mets ornaments as Red Sox and Yankees ornaments.  It is in very subtle things like this that one can observe the renewal of the team’s popularity. 

Now what I’d like to see are some ornaments that aren’t also available in the same exact design for the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Royals.  Has anyone run across any creative or interesting holiday decorations that capture something about the Mets that is unique?  Shouldn’t there be a series of ornaments (collectible!) with the Home Run Apple, Cow Bell man, Mr. Met, Endy Chavez with his arm bending back over a fence at an impossible angle, Jose Reyes with his uniform all dirty, David Wright with a little plastic bottle of champagne and a cigar in his mouth, etc.  You get the idea.  What is it with the world?  How hard is this to figure out?