What does a Mets fan have a right to expect? I think that a Mets fan has a right to expect competence from ownership and management. I think a Mets fan has a right to expect spirit and effort from the team. And I think a Mets fan has a right to expect an intelligent receptiveness to his/her needs from ownership.
I don’t think a Mets fan has a right to expect to win. I don’t think a Mets fan has a right to expect “results.” I don’t think that fans of any team have a right to expect winning or results. I don’t think the fact that we’re in New York should mean much. If I ran baseball, it would mean nothing.
I don’t agree that what has happened this year should be considered unacceptable. I am disappointed that Perez and Maine are done, and I am disappointed that Bay is having what I hope is only a disappointing year of adjustment. But a lot has happened this year that does not disappoint me. It appears that the organization may be richer in talent than I ever thought they were. It may be reasonable to give management and ownership some credit for this. I am glad that a lot of this talent was not traded away to achieve short-term goals. I still haven’t heard of anything the Mets organization should have done or could have done in the past year that makes it fair to say that what has happened is “unacceptable.”
Is the problem, as some have said, that the Mets are too nice? Do they lack swagger? The 1969 Mets, let me tell you, were plenty nice and the 1986 Mets were a lot nicer than what is by now their mythological reputation. Swagger, I think, is overrated. Lastings Milledge had swagger and people yelled at him for it. What a team needs to win is not swagger, but confidence. Many of the 2010 Mets right now have a confidence problem. Swagger is something you see in certain people with certain personalities when they are confident. But some confident people don’t swagger. And swagger itself, or meanness itself, won’t get you anywhere. Confidence is what you want. And if Mike Pelfrey gets his confidence back, and Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay get back on track, watch out. The Mets will be confident and good, and my guess is that they won’t be any meaner than they are now.
I do agree that Jerry Manuel, by this point, should be replaced, because I think there are others who could do a better job of managing the Mets right now and there is need for a change. It is probably also time for Omar Minaya to go, for the same reasons. But I am not going to blame Jerry and Omar for what has happened the last few seasons. Just a tiny bit of luck would have made everything different in 2007 and 2008. And if Mike Pelfrey could have remained consistent and Jason Bay could have performed as he had in all of his most recent seasons, the Mets would still be in the thick of the pennant race.
The Mets are not on life support because they weren’t mean enough or because they’ve been badly led. The fact is that they weren’t quite good enough to win it this year, as nearly all of us agreed at the start of the season. And there weren’t enough opportunities to make them that much better. Who would you have given up to get Cliff Lee or Roy Halliday? The reason everyone is so down on them now is that in May and June, they raised our hopes so high. We have been in this place before, a lot lately, and we’re hurting. But how has anyone determined that it is unacceptable that we should be hurt?
What is unacceptable is callousness and cynicism. What is unacceptable is laziness, indifference, and incompetence. I still need to be convinced that Mets management and the Mets players are guilty of these things this year. I respect those who make reasoned arguments that the Mets have these qualities. I may disagree, but I will listen to the arguments of anyone who can explain to me how what has happened should have been avoided.
My problem is with the idea that I hear behind so many radio calls, blog entries, and forum posts. My problem is with the idea that defeat itself is unacceptable. Too many Mets fans now believe this. From what I heard from Yankees fans interviewed when Steinbrenner died, they have believed this for a while. All I can say is that I don’t believe this. And I think that the conviction of many New Yorkers that because we are New Yorkers we have a right to expect to win is the saddest aspect of the legacy of George Steinbrenner.