1) Bloggers and journalists I respect say that the Mets are completely out of the pennant races and players and management should stop insulting our intelligence by saying that we’re still in them.
2) Bloggers and journalists I respect say that the Mets should either rebuild or go for it now. They should stop saying that they’re going for it now when they are in fact rebuilding.
3) Bloggers and journalists I respect say that this season has been a disaster.
4) Bloggers and journalists I respect say that Minaya’s whole administration has been a disaster.
I don’t agree with any of the above statements and to me it is so obvious that none of them are true that I sometimes feel as if I am living in a parallel universe.
1) The Mets are at .500, 9.5 games out in the division, 7 games out in the wild card, with thirty-six games to play. Although we all know that it is extremely unlikely that the Mets will make the playoffs, I would find it hard to root for a team that WASN’T saying, at this point, “we’re down, but there’s still hope, if only we can get a streak going.” That would be like giving up when you’re going into the ninth inning 4 runs behind. And it’s true. Several teams this decade have made successful runs from this far down with this many games remaining. Mets teams not any better than this one have won ten in a row or gone 18-3, or even just 12-3. The Mets right now are finishing the season with the strongest starting pitching they’ve had in twenty years. It could happen. It probably won’t. But I think it is too early for the fans to give up and it is, in my opinion, WAY too early for the Mets to give up.
2) The Mets are rebuilding AND they’re trying to win now. What is so hard to understand about that? The two have never been mutually exclusive. The rebuilding process has been going well (Niese, Davis, Thole). If the Mets had gotten a normal season out of Jason Bay and even just a below normal instead of disastrous half season from Carlos Beltran, they would have been in the thick of things. The winning now strategy didn’t work, but acquiring Bay could have been enough to make it happen, and when the Mets made that move, most of us thought it was a good move that would achieve good results.
3) The season wasn’t a disaster. A great many people thought the Mets were a below .500 team. Optimists like me thought they’d win in the low 80s. Optimist’s predictions about how they would reach .500 turned out to be wrong. If I had told you at the start of the season that Maine and Perez would combine for one win, and Beltran and Bay would combine for 8 home runs, you never would have guessed that we’d be at .500 on August 26. Too many good things happened this season to allow anyone but the most embittered fan base to call it a disaster.
4) Everybody points to the insanity of the Perez and Castillo contracts and the trading away of Heath Bell. These were all dumb moves but they don’t look to me like more than the average number of dumb moves you can expect from any franchise. There were also successes like the Santana trade, and the acquisitions of Beltran and Delgado. Yes, they should spend more on the draft, but they’ve found a decent number of diamonds in the rough (Dickey, Pagan, and even poor John Maine there for a couple of seasons) and some talented players are emerging from the system.
I think the real problem is that we haven’t won. And I think it is difficult to win because as the history of all sports and baseball indicate, there is no formula for winning. Sometimes you lose even though you’ve tried hard and have not made decisions that much worse than your competitors. I agree that Minaya and Manuel must go, and I agree that the Wilpons need to find some way of understanding the psychology of their fans and the psychology of running a baseball franchise better than they have. The Mets need a new face that will allow the fans to believe. Jeff’s face won’t do it and I don’t really think the owner’s face should do it anyway. They need a general manager and a manager who can come in here and inspire confidence, so that the wounded fan base isn’t so thoroughly demoralized that they become ruthless and unforgiving in all of their judgements, to the extent that they are not even willing to stick by a team that still has a ghost of a chance.
I’ll be at the Fairfield Museum and History Center tonight (8/26 at 7 pm) at 370 Beach Road in Fairfield, CT, talking about what it means to be a baseball fan.