The New York Sun folded the other day, and the last edition had a good column from Tim Marchman who I thought always did a good job. I’m breaking from etiquette here and posting the entire thing because it’s a good read and I don’t know how long a dead newspaper’s website will last.
Mets Fans Should Embrace The Suffering
By TIM MARCHMAN | September 29, 2008
The Mets, according to a survey Siena College conducted earlier this year, are the favorite team of 12% of New Yorkers, a population that, broadly defined, counts 18.75 million people. We can thus suppose that there are about 2.37 million Mets fans in the metropolitan area.
If team owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and general manager Omar Minaya were to apologize personally to them all 10 at a time, and if each of these apologies lasted a minute, it would take 164 1/2 days of round-the-clock groveling to make good to every last Mets fan. This would leave the three men free right around Opening Day of next year; they should get started.
What Mets fans want, of course, are solutions, not personal apologies, but the latter seem likelier by far. A year after their last great collapse, the Mets suffered another one because of specific mistakes that weren’t the result just of bad judgment, but of a misguided philosophy, one that’s been consistently held as long as the Wilpons have been involved with the team.
This philosophy holds that money can solve all ills, that a team with a few true stars doesn’t need to worry overmuch about what happens at the margins of the roster, and that changes are made to punish past failures rather than to prevent future ones. A team built along these principles can be good, and occasionally better than that, but it can never enjoy any kind of sustained dominance. And indeed the Mets haven’t.
A photograph of the field at very the end of yesterday’s game could have been ordered up as a perfect illustration of these problems. On the mound for the Florida Marlins was Matt Lindstrom, the hardest-throwing reliever in baseball, casually discarded in a minor trade two years ago. At the plate was outfielder Ryan Church, picked up along with catcher Brian Schneider in a puzzling trade for the talented, if troubled, Lastings Milledge that added to the Mets’ payroll while doing little to improve the team for the long term. The scoreboard registered a deficit charged to reliever Scott Schoeneweis, a highly paid but superfluous specialist whose presence on the roster did little to address the team’s real needs. And somewhere in the edge of the frame would be manager Jerry Manuel, raising the question of what might have been if the Mets had chosen to enter the season with a leader who hadn’t already been discredited.
There’s little reason to believe that the thinking that led to that tableau will change next year, or any time in the near future. There’s thus little reason to believe that the Mets aren’t going to squander the opportunity to build a perpetually dominant team around David Wright and Jose Reyes, who will likely become the two greatest everyday players in franchise history, or that they are going to do much more than roll out yet another edition of the same incomplete and half-baked bunch of mismatched and broken parts that’s been taking the field in Queens since 2005.
This doesn’t mean that the team can’t or won’t win. No team with Wright, Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana, who on Saturday turned in perhaps the most inspiring performance in team history, should ever be counted out of anything, however many times the Marlins gut them on the last day of the season in front of their own fans. But it does mean that the chance to build a dynasty along the lines of the Yankees, Atlanta, or even Boston is probably gone.
Dour a conclusion as this may be to draw from the wretchedness of the last two weeks (or, for that matter, years), it does point to the one thing that Mets fans can do on their own, without waiting for the light to dawn on Wilpon and their capos: They can give up all hope. A pessimist is never disappointed and is sometimes surprised. Only by abandoning all expectations, and admitting the certainty that however badly one might think the Mets can scotch something they’ll not only find a way to do so worse, but also to do so more painfully, can the Mets fan align himself with the natural order.
After working off last night’s hangover, the Mets fan should simply give in to despair, and even seriously consider actively rooting against his team. A fan seriously convinced that Reyes is destined to go back to drawing 25 walks a year, that Santana’s arm is going to fly off on the mound, and that Wright is on the verge of succumbing to a crippling fear of the clutch is a fan whose heart can’t be torn in half by yet more miserable failure. A fan who believes that the team is simply cursed if not an outright fraud might be miserable, but he won’t be so miserable as those who work their way into believing that next year’s versions Luis Ayala and Ramon Martinez will carry their team through into October.
Total resignation and despair: For 2.4 million New Yorkers, it’s the only thing that makes sense. At least until next spring.