Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Patience - or Lack Thereof

Much like this agitated cat, Mets fans are growing impatient. To use this picture as an example, Mets fans are the cat and the offseason (thus far) is the empty bowl.

Some fans are still calm as can be and others are edgy. A handful have taken to being negative for the sake of it, and the ones who are buying the doomsday scenarios and reckless vitriol being presented by the media are beyond help at this point. All, however, are waiting to be fed.

Before Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies and John Lackey signed with the Red Sox on the same day, most fans were in agreement with the following notion: Of all the deals that had been made so far this offseason (trades and signings), there wasn't a single player they were upset about the Mets missing out on. To name a bunch of the major moves - 32 year old Chone Figgins signed a deal with Seattle, Placido Polanco (whose value is as a 2nd baseman) signed a 3 year deal to play 3rd base for the Phillies, the Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson, Randy Wolf signed with the Brewers, and the Braves signed two geriatric relievers (Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito).

If the Mets had made any of those moves, they would've been foolish AND they would've been blasted by the media. Figgins would've been seen as an older player with little power, Polanco as someone out of position, Granderson as someone who can't hit lefties, Wolf as too expensive, and Wagner and/or Saito as too old. Since those players all went to other teams, the moves were praised by the media around here and the Mets were painted as a team that had "missed out." Even though they didn't make an offer for any of those players.

When the Halladay and Lackey deals went down, though, lots of the fans reached their breaking point. Lackey didn't sign with the Mets, so to the media (and consequently the fans), that meant that the Mets were a terrible organization who Lackey didn't want any part of. Does that mean the other 28 teams in baseball besides the Mets and Red Sox are also horrible franchises? Because Lackey didn't sign with any of them either.

Halladay is a different story. He went to the Phillies. Does that move improve the Phillies marginally? Absolutely. However, to acquire Halladay, they traded 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner and proven Postseason bulldog Cliff Lee (along with some of their top prospects). Halladay made it known that the ONLY team he was willing to accept a trade to and sign an extension with was Philadelphia. The Mets had no shot. Again, though, the media spun it as the Mets missing out (when 28 other teams missed out as well), and the fans got angrier and louder.

Today is December 23rd. As an intense and fiercely loyal Mets fan, here is my take:

The biggest need for the Mets this offseason is to find a corner outfielder/middle of the order bat. Right now, they have the best offer on the table for Jason Bay. People are speculating that since he hasn't accepted the Mets' offer yet, he must not want to play here. That may be true. However, using that logic, by rejecting the Red Sox' offer when it was the only one on the table, that must mean he didn't want to play in Boston either. What this appears to be, is a game of cat and mouse. The Mets want Bay, he wants a five year deal (while the Mets have only guaranteed four). Each side is trying to avoid blinking. I'm aggravated at the pace of the negotiations, and I'll be furious if the Mets miss out on Jason Bay and fallback option Matt Holliday. However, they're both still on the market and their suitors are minimal. One of them will probably be a Met in the coming days.

The Mets needed to address their bullpen, and they found one piece with the signing of 30 year old Japanese Reliever Ryota Igarashi. He throws in the mid to upper 90's, and was snatched up on a 2 year deal worth between 3 and 4 million - a very solid move for the Mets that was almost ridiculed because they haven't yet addressed the offense and rotation. If the Mets add one more power reliever (perhaps Octavio Dotel), their bullpen will be in very good shape.

That leaves the starting rotation. If you're a fan who's angry that the Mets didn't sign Jason Marquis (he of the career 4.48 ERA and 1.40 WHIP), I don't know what to tell you. The Mets need a solid #2 type starter to slide in behind Johan Santana, and Marquis is not that. Neither is Randy Wolf. The only #2 type starters on the market are injury risks (Ben Sheets to name one). And I'd much rather have the Mets take a chance on someone like Sheets, if the alternative is someone like Marquis or one year wonder Joel Pineiro. Low-risk, high-reward is the better bet than moderate risk-no reward.

Again, I'm antsy. I wish the Mets had done everything already...signed that power bat, acquired that #2 starter, finished upgrading the bullpen...but they haven't. I can't guarantee that the Mets will fill every hole. But I also don't believe that a team in New York with a brand new ballpark - a team that won 90 games on average from 2005-2008, only to suffer through the worst injury ravaged season in the history of baseball, is undesirable to free agents and as some writers have taken to spewing "a third place team even with Bay and others." I think that idea is a crock. If we're sitting here in a month and the roster is made up of retreads and R.A. Dickey, I'll have been proven wrong. And I'll be pissed. But it isn't January 23rd, it's December 23rd. Carlos Beltran signed in January, Johan Santana was traded in January. Mets fans should have a little more patience...not tons, just a little. See what happens.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Disappearance of True Sports Journalism

Around the time I was nearing the last leg of my daily morning commute, while I was hustling through the howling winds by battery park on my way to the subway, my thoughts were on baseball.

I thought first of David Wright, since he's a resident of the City, and I wondered what he might be doing today. Was he as excited for the season as I was? With the dawn of blogs, followed by facebook and twitter, the intensity of the fans during the offseason has been increasing.

And as the Winter Meeting have progressed - with little action by anyone, save for the Yankees who dealt a few of their overhyped prospects for a glorified platoon player - lots of Mets fans have become increasingly agitated. They were first bothered by the fact that the Mets wouldn't be spending money this offseason (which was perpetuated by the vast majority of the Mets' beat writers). Then, they were aggravated when a Yankee shill who's about to be honored by the Hall of Fame for some reason, penned an article stating that all the Mets were interested in was signing low-cost Latino's (the inflammatory part of the article was slyly removed by editors from the online edition after fans got wind of it).

When the first actual quote from anoyone but an unnamed source or supposed team insider came out yesterday (from Omar Minaya stating that the Mets would indeed be in on the big free agents), the writers printed it. They didn't apologize for spinning their agenda's in their effort to move papers. They didn't give the Mets credit. Everyone is aware that the object is to sell papers, and interesting negative stories sell. But if you're going to print stories like that, back them up with facts and common sense.

And then it dawned on me...The same supposed journalists who have been damning blogs to hell, are slimier and more fallacious than most bloggers. Worse, they're vindictive and agenda-driven. What else could possibly explain the unbelievable amount of piling on that has been done to the Mets since the 2009 season came to a close? A team who from 2005-2008 won 90+ games per year on average, had suffered a hellish injury marred season. Their punishment for their injuries and the record that resulted, has been writers (mostly local and some national) claiming that the Mets are a loser franchise that won't spend money. A team with no direction.

The fans who follow this team, but aren't as consumed with baseball as some, bought into the nonsense. They started to believe that the Mets were a loser team, even though 2005-2008 proved differently. They feared that the Mets wouldn't spend money, even though they've spent money every season and offseason in recent memory (obtaining Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, and extending David Wright and Jose Reyes).

So far this offseason, all the Mets have done so far is signed a backup catcher and showed remarkable constraint. It's something I'm thrilled about. While other teams have been handing out contracts to middling players that were excessive in both years and dollars, the Mets have lied in wait. It's the tact they took with Carlos Beltran, who signed in January. And it's the tact they took with the Johan Santana sweepstakes, which concluded around February. As the days have passed, the suitors for Matt Holliday have dwindled (the Cardinals are getting impatient, the Yankees dealt for Granderson, Red Sox officials have indicated they only have interest in Jason Bay).

All the while, the Mets lie in wait. Some of the fans that were perilously close to the edge, due in large part to the rambling and nonsensical hyperbole from the area's baseball writers, have slowly started to back off the edge. Others are still skeptical. The one's who have been level-headed throughout, are becoming even more confident in the direction of the team. One thing, though, is starting to become clear. The area writers (with some exceptions...Dave Lennon of Newsday for one) may want to take a look in the mirror before accusing blogs of being nonsense filled wastelands that are threatening to make newspapers obsolete. With every article that gets pumped out, the disappearance of true journalism is becoming more and more obvious. The writers are doing a fine job of single-handedly making their work obsolete. They don't need any assistance from us.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why I Won't Cancel My Ticket Plan

I received an invoice from the Mets a little over a week ago. Enclosed was a letter from the Mets, stating the obvious - they knew 2009 was an awful season all around, they knew that we knew, and they pledged to make 2010 better. I didn't believe them. Not because I think they're lying or being disingenuous, but because they can't tell the future.

If the Mets or anyone else could tell the future, the team would've been prepared for the rash of injuries that destroyed the roster last season. I appreciate the team's attempt at apologizing and promising better times, but I knew it wouldn't be something that swayed my decision - since my decision was already made.

I never once pondered the idea of not renewing my ticket plan. I've had a partial (Saturday) ticket plan with the Mets since the 2001 season. No, I wasn't a bandwagon fan who jumped on board after the 2000 World Series trip. I was a 17 year old who had finally convinced my father to purchase a ticket plan (2 seats in Loge Reserved, Row A between third base and left field) and come to the games with me.

For nine seasons, we cherished those seats in Loge Reserved. We made friends with most of the other plan holders who sat around us, and made enemies with the fairweather fans who came into our section and pissed us off. We imitated the vendors - everyone from the guy with the awful toupee, to the soda vendor who pronounced pepsi as "petsee," to the guy who sweated into his beer. The games were sometimes great and sometimes awful, but usually fell somewhere inbetween.

It was more than the games, though. It was knowing that any time the Mets were home on a Saturday, we would be there. For all the arguments fathers and sons have, there would never be one that took place at a Mets game. It was a time to sit in the sun, cheer for your team, curse a little, laugh a lot, and throw back a few. In 2007, when my father eventually got tired of dealing with all the traffic we had to sit in to and from the games, my friend Jeff bought his ticket and we split the plan until Shea Stadium was demolished after the 2008 season. Our last Saturday game at Shea was Johan's masterpiece against the Marlins that kept the Mets alive.

As the offseason before 2009 went on, we agonized over whether or not we would be offered a ticket plan in new Citi Field. We eventually were, but it was different than the one we had at Shea. Instaed of 13 Saturday games, we received 10 Saturday games and 5 weeknight games. This change was a problem for some, but since I work in the Bronx and my friend Jeff works in Manhattan, it wasn't a big deal meeting up after work to head to the weeknight games. We of course decided to get the plan, and our friend Charles came in with us and bought a 3rd ticket.

The seats we were able to secure in Citi Field were in Promenade Reserved, Section 527, Row 2...a far cry from our old seats that were in the Loge at Shea. But even though they weren't the best seats, they were still good. And they were a ton less money than we had paid at Shea (coming out to roughly $300.00 per seat for the 15 games - plus whatever we spend on parking and food). Every Met fan knows how last season turned out, so there's no need to go into that. We went until it was unbearable (which for me came when I was unfortunate enough to see David Wright take a fastball to the head). We enjoyed Citi Field, and even when the Mets were getting blasted, we enjoyed eachother's company.

My friends and I are enormous Mets fans. We follow the team 12 months a year, hang on every pitch, and look forward to every game. Our moods rise when the Mets win, drop when they lose, and go into the toilet when they drop a game in agonizing fashion. Our girlfriends can't understand why we care so much about the Mets, nor do we expect them to. We were born to root for this team, and take great pride in doing so. We DO care this much, and that's all that matters. No matter how bad the team gets, no matter how terrible the losses get, no matter how down the rest of the fanbase gets, we will always be there.

That's not to say that the losing doesn't have a huge impact on us. It affects us tremendously. We get pissed off, we storm around the ballpark by ourselves cursing and shaking our heads. When we're watching the games at home, we call eachother in disgust and throw our possessions at the walls when bad things happen to our team. Through all of it, the Mets remain our team.

We refuse to buy the negativity being spewed by the local and national media about the Mets. We aren't offended that our beautiful new ballpark has a rotunda that's dedicated to the man who broke baseball's color barrier. We aren't mad that the Mets haven't already signed Matt Holliday, unlike the delusional and impatient fans who are already thirsty for blood. We're aware that the offseason will play out slowly, and we hope that the Mets end up with the players they need.

Mets fans are different than Yankee fans. We're conditioned to not give up easily. We aren't spoiled brats who expect our team to win the World Series every year. We refuse to whimper in the corner because the Mets had one brutal injury ravaged season after having four seasons where the team averaged nearly 90 wins.

We will keep our ticket plan. And like the days I spent at the ballpark with my father from 2001-2006, the three of us will go to the ballpark together to cheer for the Mets. We'll sometimes get there early to tailgate a little, head to shake shack for a burger, and then settle into our seats. Every time we attend a game, we'll have our momentary escape from our jobs and our love lives and any nonsense that may be going on at the moment.

We'll enjoy the day or night, enjoy eachothers company, and hope the Mets win. We'll do those things because that is what being at a baseball game is all about. It's not a place to bicker over nonsense (like the rotunda or the media's controversy du jour), it's about enjoying the ballgame. If there are 2 strikes on a batter and Johan is in his delivery, we'll stand up and cheer (the fairweathers behind us can complain all they want). If one of the Mets drives in a run, we'll stand in unison and slap hands and beat the hell out of eachother in celebration. Unlike tons of other Mets fans who have been canceling their tickets in droves, we will be there. And come April, we'll be filled with optimism just like we are every season. That optimism will likely turn to sadness and disappointment sometime between April and late October. But if it doesn't, oh what a season it will be.