Archive for October, 2010

First Impressions of Sandy Alderson

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than Sandy Alderson did at his inaugural press conference.  He came across as formidably intelligent, calm, focused, and diplomatic.  Everything he said was characterized by balance:   We can’t guarantee a winning team by a particular date, but we’re going to improve probabilities.  We’re looking for a manager who has the intellectual requirements for the job and who has the emotional requirements as well.  We’re looking for someone who is analytical, who can also be intuitive.  I will make decisions but sometimes I will offer recommendations.  It is unlikely that we’ll be active in the free agent market this year but it is not inconceivable that we’ll achieve a great deal with what we have.  Alderson was so perfectly diplomatic that he hit a home run with his relatively noncommittal answers to two challenging questions Minaya might have made a royal mess of:  the one about hiring more Asian players and the one about how his style was different from that of his predecessor.   I was also very impressed by the acuity of his observations about the importance of homegrown players to the fans.  Alderson has actually noticed that the fans like to follow players in the minors, see them emerge and become successful with our team.  How wonderful it will be to have a general manager who acknowledges that the psychological experience of fans is worth thinking about and paying attention to.

 By the end of the news conference, I had the impression that the Mets franchise was now in the hands of someone who would never waste our time with a mis-statement, or even a momentary lack of verbal clarity.  I  had the impression that the franchise was now in the hands of someone who is forthright and authoritative.  I don’t know if we’re going to win a lot of games any time soon.  But I am convinced that our probabilities will improve, and that the next few years are going to have a different character than the last decade.

Some Upcoming Appearances

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Billy Joel’s film of The Last Play at Shea, in which I make some brief but very enthusiastic appearances, will be showing at several theatres across the country on October 27, and it will be opening for at least one-week runs (from October 29 to November 4) in several theatres in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California.  You owe it to yourself to see the film.  It’s a moving and a meaningful documentary that deserves a wide audience.  To find out the latest about where it will be appearing, click on the link above.

In the next few weeks, I will be making the following appearances:

October 28 – 7:30 pm     Talk and reading at the Tenafly Public Library, Tenafly, NJ

November 2 – 7 pm        Talk and reading at the Nyack Library, Nyack, NY
 
November 16 – 7 pm      Appearance, Q & A, and live podcast interview with Rich Ackerman of WFAN at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, 67 East 11 Street, in Manhattan, NY
 
 November 18 – 7:30 pm  Talk and reading at the Leonia Public Library, Leonia, NJI love to give talks at libraries, social centers, etc.  If you’d like to have me come and talk and read, please feel free to e-mail me at danaabrand@yahoo.com.

 

As the holidays approach, a couple of people have asked me if I am going to have the same holiday deal this year as I had last year.  I am.  In a few weeks, I’m going to announce that if you want to buy a discounted copy or copies of either of my books (The Last Days of Shea or Mets Fan) with a unique and personalized inscription, all you have to do is e-mail me at the e-mail address above, telling me how many copies you want and telling me a little about the Mets fandom of the person the book is for.  You also have to give me the address to which I can send the books and I’ll give you my address to which you can send a check.  The price will be $17.50 including postage for either book, but less per copy if you order more than one (since I can put it all in one package).  There, I’ve already announced it.  One of my favorite things about last holiday season was writing the personal, individualized inscriptions for the people who ordered books.  So if anybody wants to get a head start on the holidays, e-mail me.  I’ll get the inscribed books to you right away. 
 
I’m looking forward to the World Series this year.  I’ll root for the Giants, but I find myself liking both teams.  When was the last time that happened? 

Why I Am Glad the Yankees Lost

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Lots of wonderful people are Yankees fans.  So I’m not going to do this thing with you where I say that Yankees fans are the kind of people who throw junk into the visiting bullpen.  Remember that Red Sox fans tried to do something like that with Mets fans in 1986 when some jerk at Shea threw a beer bottle in the general direction of Roger Clemens.  This sort of stereotyping is never fair.  If you do it with a human group other than a fan base, you deservedly get into trouble.  If you persist in thinking that the people in any one fan base are better than people in any other, my view is that you’re taking all this stuff too seriously.  I am also not going to say that Yankees fans are the kind of people who leave an important game early when their team is losing.  I’ve seen some Mets fans do this plenty of times.  And we all know that a lot of people at playoff games couldn’t care less about which team wins.

While I don’t have anything against Yankees fans, I also don’t have much sympathy for them right now.  Their team lost.  Good.  I say this after respectfully waiting 20 hours.  Yankees fans are undoubtedly healed by now.  They’re already confidently considering how the Yankees are going to get Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford and are therefore not going to have to go into the playoffs next year with a team that has the kind of glaring imperfections that were so evident in this year’s Yankees team.

Yankees fans are annoyed right now with those of us who are doing what they call the Snoopy dance.  A Yankee fan Facebook friend of mine, the estimable Lisa Swan of Subway Squawkers, is perfectly right to observe that we who are doing the Snoopy dance have not won anything.  You’re right, Lisa.  But that doesn’t mean we’re not happy.  We’re not celebrating the fact that we have won.  We’re celebrating the fact that you have lost.

Why are we being so mean?  (Yankees fans ask, plaintively, uncomprehendingly, with their eyes open wide and tearing a little bit.)  Well, guys, you may not deserve our sympathy, but you do deserve an answer to this perfectly legitimate question.

We are celebrating the fact that the Yankees have lost because we are human beings.  Human beings have a tendency to resent other human beings who feel they’re entitled to what everybody else hopes and dreams about.  Yankees fans, you know this.  You call it jealousy and you ask us to rise above it.  But it’s not jealousy.  It’s more complicated.  The way you think devalues what we yearn for.

Baseball is a game whose pleasure comes from hoping and dreaming for something that is unlikely to happen.  It is not a game whose pleasure derives from winning.  If it were a game whose pleasure derived from winning there would no longer be any Texas Rangers fans and there might not be any Mets fans either.  The pleasure is in hoping and dreaming for what is unlikely.  This is what keeps the rest of us going.

Fans who feel that they’re entitled to making it to the World Series, and winning it often, are trying to turn the unlikely into the likely.  This devalues baseball.  It devalues the unlikely thing and in the process it devalues the hopes and the dreams of the rest of us.  If baseball triumph is something that should be had, rather than something that might be had, it is not a big deal.  This is why Yankees World Series tickets on the secondary market were selling for so much less than Giants tickets or Rangers tickets.  What Yankees fans have is not worth much.  This is why, to your infinite annoyance, the rest of us don’t envy you.  This is why the rest of us like to see you lose.  We like to think that losing will remind you of something you no longer believe.

We still believe.  We do not expect.  This doesn’t make us better than you,  But this makes it more fun to be us.  When the Mets win, or the Rangers, or the Giants, our cups runneth over.  Your cups just fill up.

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I want to give a shout out to all the wonderful people I met at the showing of Billy Joel’s The Last Play at Shea in Rockville Centre on Thursday night.  I enjoyed seeing the film with you and talking with you about it afterwards and I relayed the things you said and the enthusiasm you expressed to the producers.   This is a terrific film and everyone should try to see it.  To find out where it’s playing for a more extended run, and to keep abreast of all the news about future showings and a DVD release, visit thelastplayatshea.com.

Come See “The Last Play at Shea” With Me in Rockville Centre

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I’ll be hosting a post-show Shea fest and Q & A after the Thursday, October 21, 7 pm showing of Billy Joel’s “The Last Play at Shea” at the AMC Loews Fantasy 5 at  18 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, NY.  If you’re seeing the film in Rockville Centre, please stick around and say hello!

See “The Last Play at Shea” this Thursday, October 21

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Billy Joel’s The Last Play at Shea will be showing at theatres all across America this Thursday, October 21.  If you click on the link, you can view the trailer and see a list of the venues nationwide.   You can also order tickets in advance. 

Don’t miss this.  It is a great film, filled with great music, powerful images, and real emotion.    I reviewed it when it was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and I have described what it was like to see it with a crowd of 25,000 at Citi Field, as we were part of what was probably the largest movie premiere in history.  As you can see from the list of venues, a few theatres in the New York area will be showing the film all through the weekend.  I am hoping and expecting that even more will eventually show it for a full theatrical run. 

See it Thursday.  Let’s show them that there is a huge audience for a fine film about Shea, about the Mets, about New York, about Billy Joel, and about one of the most exciting and meaningful concerts in the history of rock and roll.

Requiem for the 2010 Mets Season

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

It took me a long time to give up on the 2010 New York Mets.  And after I finally gave up on them in the second half of September, I continued to enjoy them.  I know that most Mets fans did not feel as I did.  The weirdest thing for me about the season was trying to have fun while everyone around me was howling.

Why were they howling?  Who expected the 2010 Mets to make the playoffs?  Remember the consensus at the start of the season:  that the Mets had pretty much done what they could in the offseason, that they had a chance, but probably wouldn’t get very far?  79 wins was not a surprise.  My guess is that if you could average everyone’s predictions, that’s about what you would get.

We know why we were howling.  The Mets’ fan base had its skin scraped off by the cruel final moments of 2007 and 2008.  Skinless, we were dipped into a vat of bile and boredom in 2009.  Then after a 4-8 start, we had a miraculous spring.  Miraculous springs are cruel.  They’re like giving false hope to the fatally ill.  So when the mask fell off in late July, the howling got particularly loud and bitter.  It lasted into the middle of September, when everything settled down to a whimper.  I often hear things that other Mets fans don’t hear.  In the last two weeks, I thought I heard something.  I went to the stadium to see R.A. Dickey pitch, to see the Mets win 9-1.  Hardly anybody was there.  I sat behind the third base dugout for $35.  I marveled at the fact that the guys playing so well in front of nobody were the same guys I had seen earlier in the season.  And I marveled at the way the dozens around me were cheering with great vigor.  When I left the stadium, and would run across some of the millions who were staying away, we would talk about the Mets.  I would hear their regret, and yeah, some disgust, but I was also hearing weak, but sincere expressions of undying love.   At the end of a fourth disappointing season, giving up on the Mets forced each one of us to consider the possibility of giving up on the Mets forever.  We all thought about it, and we passed.  They stunk.  They were a disgrace.  And we would not be ourselves without them.        

As Casey or Yogi or some other primal Met might have said, once we got used to the fact that this was a bad season, it wasn’t such a bad season.

It really wasn’t.  And it wasn’t so bad because it had some of the elements of what I have called “a good rooting situation.”  In my essay “What the Hell Did I Want?” in my book The Last Days of Shea.  I wrote that a good rooting situation is the goal of most baseball fans.  It is not the same thing as winning.  Winning is nice, but it isn’t always.  Under certain circumstances, it can be boring, bland, anxiety-producing, or embarrassing.  Contrary to a lot of what you’ll hear, winning is never the bottom line in baseball.  Winning is the bottom line in wars or elections.  Unlike wars or elections, baseball is about pleasure.  The bottom line in baseball is having pleasure.  A good rooting situation gives you baseball pleasure.

There are certainly fans who get all of their baseball pleasure from winning.  There are people who think they are successes in life because they make a lot of money.  Most people don’t just want to win or make a lot of money.  Most people care how the winning happens and how their lives are lived.  People like this can have baseball pleasure when their team doesn’t win, just as most people can live successful lives without making very much money.   

What gave me pleasure was the fact that Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Reuben Tejada, Angel Pagan, Chris Carter, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, John Niese, Hisanori Takahashi, Bobby Parnell, Elmer Dessens, and Manny Acosta gave me far more than I could ever have expected of them.  I also saw a lot to hope and dream about in the work of Dillon Gee, Jennry Mejia, Nick Evans, and Lucas Duda, after his first thirty-five at-bats.  There aren’t any Seavers and Koosmans, or Goodens and Strawberrys in this bunch, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a cornucopia of new Mets talent developing in a single year.  Despite their ups and downs, I also saw Wright and Reyes demonstrate that they were basically all right.  Santana was spectacular.  My point is that more than half the roster gave me something, often a lot, to cheer about.  Nobody could have said that about last year.  You can’t say that about most years.  I know it didn’t all come together, but I don’t think it missed by much.  If Bay’s bat had been in there, and if Pelfrey’s arm hadn’t gone dead at just the wrong time, the Mets might have kept their heads above water and I wouldn’t have had to have the sense that I was enjoying all these hopeful developments by myself.   In your mind, turn ten to twelve games from losses to wins.  You can do this with just Bay and Beltran and you don’t even have to reverse any managerial decisions.  The Mets would have been in the thick of it.  They might even have beaten Atlanta for the Wild Card.  If that had happened, we would all have respected the organization, we would have been able to appreciate the team, we would be praising their grit, and we would have had a chance to win.  Are you going to argue that if they had the grit, they would have won?  I’m not convinced.  Call me a fool, but I think that what they needed was Bay’s missing 20 homers and 20 doubles.  Grit, I think, is something in people’s eyes.  People see it in a winning team, but after fifty years of watching baseball, I still need to be convinced that it is actually what makes teams win. 

We were raw.  We had no faith.  And then they tricked us into hoping.  We came forward like a million puppy dogs, our tongues hanging out, happy to be given the treat we had not expected.  We didn’t get the treat.  They hit us with a bat.  We were angry because we had been tricked.  We were angry at ourselves because we fell for it.  We were humiliated.  We wallowed in self-pity.  We liked the new guys.  We knew good stuff was happening.  But we were not in the mood to count our blessings in a year that had a lot of them.  We just wanted to holler until our stupid, pitiful voices were hoarse. 

What happens now?  Who knows?  We all know that there will not be many opportunities for the Mets to become that much better next year by making a trade or signing a free agent.  If they get better, it will be because of further development by the players mentioned above, the possible return to form of Bay and maybe Beltran, or a new atmosphere created by a new manager or general manager.  I think we’ll have a chance to win something, but we’ll still be a long shot in a division with the Phillies.  Will a good, developing team, not quite ready to contend, satisfy a fan base that has worked itself into a state of almost pathological despair and resentment?  Probably not.  The Mets aren’t going to sell many season tickets.  But there will be a season, and another year of our lives to share.  There will be a Hall of Fame and Museum, with some stirring old pictures.  There will be the old Home Run Apple, with its big Cyclops eye and its new coats of paint.  There will be the voices in the fan walk, the words on the bricks about Mets fans in heaven and Mets fans forever.  Someday we won’t just be imagining the voices in the bricks.  Someday, we will hear them, in the thunder of the new stadium.  I don’t know when Citi Field is going to be loud again, but I know that I will have to be there and hear it.