Monday, November 30, 2009

What is a Laughing Stock?

Since the Mets' 2009 season mercifully came to a close, there have been quite the number of words/terms that have been used to describe them. They've been labeled pathetic, a joke, second class citizens, and a laughing stock. A great big laughing stock...

What IS a laughing stock? The 1962 Mets were a laughing stock. The Knicks since 2001 are a perennial laughing stock. The Detroit Lions are a laughing stock. But the Mets? Can one unbelievably unlucky injury plagued hell on Earth season make the Mets a laughing stock just like that? Many in the local and national media seem to think so.

The dreadful 2009 season the Mets had has somehow eliminated the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons. Jose Reyes is no longer a star on the rise -he's washed up at age 26 after being healthy for 4 straight seasons (apparently only players on teams other than the Mets recover from injuries in their 20's). The team that was picked by Sports Illustrated before last season to win the World Series is now dead in the water. They apparently have no direction (even though their farm system has been improving and is now around the middle of the pack). They have no hope (even though they sold over 3 million tickets, have pledged to keep a high payroll, and have a brand new ballpark and relatively new network). To the media and uninformed fans of other teams, they're a laughing stock.

From 2005 through 2008, the Mets averaged 89 wins per year. They came back from the dead in 2005, and were one swing away from making it to the World Series in 2006 (but were at a severe disadvantage after losing both their #1 and #2 starters before the NLDS - a fact no one ever brings up). In 2007, everyone knows what happened. In 2008, the Mets lost Billy Wagner in August and ended up missing the Playoffs by a game. Tough endings to seasons? No doubt.

From 1997-2009, the Mets have had 9 winning seasons and 4 losing seasons (three of those losing seasons were 2002, 2003 and 2004). They've made the playoffs 3 times during that span, and missed out on the playoffs by 1 game on 3 other occassions (1998, 2007, 2008). They've consistently been at one of the top spots in baseball as far as attendance is concerned. They've launched their own network, opened a beautiful new ballpark, continued to dwarf the team across town with their charity efforts, and have had no trouble attracting free agents.

But 2009 happened. Apparently, losing Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, JJ Putz, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Ryan Church, Alex Cora, Gary Sheffield, Angel Pagan, Brian Schneider, Jeff Francoeur, David Wright and others for huge chunks of the season had nothing to do with the Mets losing over 90 games. They were a laughing stock again (even though they were contenders up until the point when the injuries got too absurd to combat in June). They were a joke of a franchise (even though they had a brand new ballpark, and a network with some of the best in the business as its voices). Their future was doomed and they needed to rebuild (even though their core of David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez was in tact). Their farm system was brutal (even though they have Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, Reese Havens, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, Jenrry Mejia, Brad Holt and others on the horizon). All of these things somehow became fact after ONE injury ravaged season.

Now, according to the same drones in the media, it's going to be impossible for the Mets to attract free agents this offseason (even thought they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran after a brutal 2004). If that angle isn't good enough, the writers (New York Daily News, I'm looking at you) will claim that the Mets are in a financial freeze - that they don't intend to spend this winter...another notion that's a complete crock.

All of this hyperbole is enough to drive a regular fan insane. Since most Mets fans are already insane, my advice is to take all of this stuff and shrug. Laugh if you must, or just crack a small smile. Don't believe the nonsense that's being spewed. Don't let the negativity cause you to scale back your fandom. Don't fall for the trap. The 2010 Mets, barring injuries, will be what the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 teams were - teams that win more games than they lose. If they play up to their capability, they'll make the Playoffs. And if they catch the breaks that are necessary for a Championship run, they'll make one. Laughing stock my ass.

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