I grew up a Mets fan and for most of my life I have not been an anti-Yankee Mets fan, although I'm not quite ready to jump on Boomer & Carton's Mets Fan for Yankees train either. I used to pull for the Yankees when they were in the playoffs back in the late 70's more as a New York sports fan than anything else. But that attitude has changed. In fact this postseason has cemented in my mind that it's okay to cheer against the Yankees.And it probably should be encouraged.
The sad thing it pretty much has nothing to do with the product they put on the field. Look at Jeter, Canoe, Texeira, Rivera, Hughes, CC and Posada and you'll see that these are all quality players who command respect in baseball circles because they are guys anyone would want on their teams. A-Rod is obviously the lightning rod for baseball drama, but save for him the Yankees are not a group of arrogant or obnoxious players.
Unfortunately their fan base is.
It wasn't always this way, but I guarantee you know at least 2 or 3 "Yankees fans" who were fans of another team at some point in their life. I can name 5 off the top of my head. The Yankees have the largest bandwagon of any team in any sport. Not even the Cowboys or the Chicago Bulls of the 90's had as many as the Yankees currently do.
But it's not just the bandwagoners that are making this team hard to like. The lifelong die hards have become jaded too. Just yesterday I was talking with a guy who grew up a Yankees fan and has been a loyal supporter of the Yanks since he was a kid. We were talking about the baseball playoffs and pending World Series matchup when he made this comment:
"Yeah, I was upset about the Yankees losing, but 5 minutes later I was over it because I knew they'd be back next year."
That is hubris. And sadly this statement was heard more than once amongst the many Yankees fans I happen to be acquaintances with. Can you think of another sports team where their fan base would utter this type of statement after a devastating playoff defeat? Think about it. Not even Lakers fans or Patriots fans or USC fans would say something like this. It's unprecedented except for amongst the Yankee fan base.
I know for a fact that Phillies' fans don't think this way as many of them were as angry as Mets fans were when Beltran buckled under that Wainwright hanging curve.
You can cheer against the Yankees for your own reasons whether it be for spite or a deep rooted envy. But until the Yankees fan base is put in their place and this attitude of championship entitlement is squelched, you won't find this Mets fan showing any love for the crosstown rivals.
Matthew Cerrone over at Metsblog.com wrote a post today on why he thinks the Mets need Sandy Alderson. Alderson might be the right guy for the job. Logan and Hahn could also be good options in my opinion, but one thing in the post that stood out to me was a closing statement that read:
"...winning is not necessarily the most important short-term goal. Instead, working to create an environment for winning is more necessary..."
Now Metsblog.com is probably my most visited site and favorite sports blog, but in this instance they're wrong.
Winning in sports, unlike other areas of life, solves almost every problem. The Mets have had their fair share of off the field issues. No question. But we are honing in on those issues because we can't talk about how good the team is. Losing has blinded us from baseball matters and forced us to focus on anything else. A winning team can solve the Mets issues. Environment has little to do with it.
It won't excuse the players misconduct. K-Rod should still be punished. Players with legal issues have to be dealt with. But do we honestly think the 1986 Mets had "an environment for winning?" From everything I've read and heard the 1986 clubhouse was a lair of misfits with issues around every corner. From Keith smoking cigarettes in between innings, to Doc & Darryl doing who knows what off the field, to Ray Knight throwing punches, the '86 team was not a wining environment. Need a modern day example? Look at this year's Jets team, the '98 Bulls, or pretty much any Cowboy Super Bowl team. A wining environment would be a laughable description for any of those. They were just plain winners because they did what was needed on the field/court.
In today's day and age of political correctness, heightened sensitivity and coddling of our children, we have come to believe that the right "environment" will breed success in the workplace or home or school.
When it comes to baseball, winning trumps everything. You can't stand your ace pitcher? Who cares if he win 19 games. Don't like your right fielder? He's batting .300 with 30+ homers and you'll love him.
Winning seasons can right the most off course teams. A winning environment is only half right. Drop the second half and you've got yourself a proposition.
The buffet of GM's the Mets are interviewing is hard to keep up with. I'm not really on the pulse of the baseball GM market so often times I have to do a little research to find out exactly who these candidates are and what they stand for.
A recent name that popped up is Dana Brown. I started digging and discovered that Dana was a star centerfielder and leadoff hitter on Seton Hall's 45-10 1987 team that featured future hall of famer Craig Biggio, ex-Met Mo Vaughn, ex-Met Jon Valentin and NCAA MVP Marteese Robinson. Dana was drafted by Phillies in 1989 and made it to AA, but never any further.
He's got an eye for talent though. He was with Pirates when he drafted Chris Young. Most thought Young would play basketball out of Princeton, but Dana stuck with him and Young turned out to be a stellar pitcher before injuries plagued him these past few seasons.
Sandy Alderson may be the front runner for the job, but it's nice to see a local Jersey guy with roots in the area get a shot. I'm not a huge Alderson fan. Maybe the Mets will give Brown a closer look. I'm glad I did.
This is the worst part of any season. The waiting. Here the Mets have closed another disappointing season. They've made the right move to start cleaning house by firing the GM and the manager. And now are ready to right this ship.
But now we wait.
Until a GM is hired, and probably a manager too, nothing will happen. The Mets should have someone picked to be GM by the time the World Series is ended. And then we'll have to wait and see who this GM wants this manager to be. And then, finally, we'll get to the real issue, the players on the field.
It'll be Christmas (hopefully not later) by the time we start seeing how this team will shape up for both next season and into the future. Until then we have to suffer through another Phils/Yanks World Series.
I can't tell you how many comments I received from angry Mets fans over the past two years when I lobbied for the Mets to go get Roy Halladay. I wanted to give up prospects. Give up every day players. Give up pretty much anyone to get a Halladay/Santana tandem at the top of the rotation.
The arguments I heard included comments about Halladay's age, he's never been to the playoffs, you're wasting the future of the franchise on a small market pitcher...yada, yada, yada.
And here we have proof positive: Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. Period. It's not just the fact that he pitched a no-hitter last night. Or that it was his second no-no of the year. It's the fact that he's a winner. Every time he steps on the mound you're guaranteed 8+ innings of 3 runs or less (most likely less) and the guys a fighter.
Omar could have saved his job if he got Halladay. I'm not saying the Mets would have been World Series champs, but they'd be a heck of a lot better.
Welcome to the off season. It's time for every Mets Lifer to take on the honorary role of being an armchair GM. We'll hear a new rumor every week about who the new GM or manager will be. Trade rumors will pick up after the playoffs. And it will generally be a long 6 months before regular baseball activity picks up again.
Whomever the new GM will be, they're going to have their hands full. Lots of decisions to be made, budgets to be balanced, and reputation to be restored. But I honestly believe the 2011 Mets can be fixed in just three moves. They're not easy moves. They may not be achievable. But three moves is all it will take.
Of course there are a few caveats that have to occur in order for these three moves to have their full effect. The assumption is that the Mets keep Carlos Beltran for the final year of his contract, they sign an extension to Reyes so they keep him at shortstop, and finally (save the best for last) K-Rod is able to pitch in 2011...assuming he's not in prison.
If this is the case, here are the three moves the Mets have to make to return to respectablity:
1. Get a #1 pitcher
I've been preaching this point for at least 3 off seasons now. In fact, I'd been shouting about the need for Roy Halladay specifically, but alas my cries have fallen on deaf (and dumb) ears. Johan Santana is still a great pitcher. I think we all know that, but he still needs another solid, reliable arm to support him. I'm not talking about Javier Vazquez either. He'd be a nice addition, but the Mets desperately need the likes of a Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez or Josh Johnson. Someone to partner with Santana and then allows guys like Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese to take their deserved role as supplements to the staff. Not marquee pitchers as they've been forced to be. This is the toughest achievement of the three moves, but it's the most important. If the Mets start the season with the same rotation as they've had this year, the Mets won't make the improvements they need to be competitive. Why? See #2.
2. Get a reliable 8th inning guy
Bobby Parnell may turn into a solid reliever for years to come, but I highly doubt that it starts next year. He's got heat on his fastball, but his pitches lack movement and he has no supplementary pitches that are effective. If he can develop a Wagner-esque slide to go with his fastball, then he's ready for prime time. Until that occurs, Parnell needs to start the season in the minors. The Mets biggest vacancy in the bullpen was the revolving door that became the 8th inning. Is it Takahashi? Could be. I know it's definitely not Feliciano or Dessens or Green or any other arm that currently resides in the pen. Whether the Mets have to secure someone via trade or free agency or turn Takahashi into that guy, they need to enter 2011 with a firm understanding of who will be pitching in that 8th inning. If the Mets add a #1 starter to partner with Santana, we'll see the bullpen cut down on their innings pitched and be in a better position to help down the stretch should a pennant race occur. Without an 8th inning guy, it won't matter who the closer is because we'll continue to struggle to reach that 9th inning while wearing down arms and psyches trying to figure out who that person should be.
3. Improve at second base or catcher
I doubt the Mets can improve at both, but they have to get some additional production at one of these positions. Josh Thole can hit for average, but his lack of power production leaves you two positions without a home run threat. Let's say the Mets have to keep Castillo or platoon with Tejada at second and Thole is your catcher. Between second base and catcher that's a grand total of maybe 5 home runs for a season. If you have another position player who gets injured (like a Beltran) or under performs (like a Bay) then you've got some gaping holes in your lineup. Maybe Daniel Murphy will return and become the Pete Rose type of player everyone dreams he will be (unlikely). Then you might have your solution at second base. Also it's not like there are a ton of power hitting catchers out there that you can just grab up. You don't want to pick up a Varitek or Pudge who are aging, one year rentals either. So I think your move has to be to get some extra pop at second base. Maybe a Ty Wiggington can return? I'm not sure, but there has to be some additional RBI/HR production from one of these two positions.
If the Mets can make these moves, I honestly think we'll see a significant improvement in 2011. Of course I'm assuming the Mets remain healthy and we don't see players regular production magically disappear (a la Jason Bay).
Dear Mr. Wilpon,
I hope you've enjoyed your summer because most Mets fans have hated theirs. Much like the economy, the Mets are on the verge of a double dip recession. The team's unemployment numbers are expected to go up and those that are employed are performing at an unacceptable level.
But unlike the federal government, you can actually stop this recession. You have the ability to set the course of correction. One man. That's pretty impressive, but here's the part you won't like. It involves you backing away.
That's right Mr. Wilpon. Step away. It's the single hardest thing for any leader of an organization to do, and that's identify when they are not suited to perform and allow others to handle the duties for them. This is no easy task but it's not an impossible one. It just involves removing pride and putting the success of your organization above anything else.
The funny thing is it will probably make you more money. You see, Mr. Wilpon, you're not a baseball guy. I know you like to think you are, and yes I realize you do own a baseball team. But that doesn't make you suited for involvement in baseball operations.
On Monday, I fully expect you to fire Omar Minaya and begin a process to find his replacement. I implore you to find a great baseball mind and let them direct this ship. You should absolutely hold them accountable and manage the overall direction of the "business" but you must let this person take the wheel to drive the Mets towards future success. You are probably an extremely intelligent individual, but even the smartest of men don't know everything.
Admit that you're not a baseball genius and find someone that is. I guarantee that it will increase your bottom line, improve company morale, and adjust fan's perception. I don't want to hear you on with Mike Francesa talking about the direction of the Mets. That's not your job. Your job is to find someone that you can trust with one of your greatest assets. They can do the talking and know they have to answer to you as their boss for the end product that is put on the field.
The test of a truly great leader is their ability to surround themselves with great people. Be the right kind of leader. Know your strengths and find others to manage your weaknesses.