Archives for posts with tag: Omar Minaya

I’m going to ramble, spitball, and generalize.  Bad ways to start a post-2009 entry.  But I have very general, very nebulous things on the mind.

If you’re desperate for the punch line, scroll down until you see, in bold, “This brings us back to the banana peel.”  But I’m no short-order cook, and this is a long boil, so read it all for full flavor.

I’m hungry.

As is often the case, I’ll start with the Times, which I keep swearing I’ll stop reading for baseball purposes, but can’t seem to get away:

“Back to the 2009 Yankees: they are quite likable as a group. The
players are, anyway. Their owners and top management are all too often
defined by haughtiness, greed and entitlement. In that sense, the
Yankees embody New York, where hauteur, avarice and entitlement are
hardly unknown. The Mets are almost polar opposites. Their fans know in
their bones that even when things seem to be going well, someone is sure to throw a banana peel in their path
.”

Emphasis mine; find the piece here, written by Clyde Haberman.

I don’t want to be that kind of fan, though I know sometimes I can be.  I know plenty of Mets fans who are, and they range from the remarkably astute and articulate to the “could you perhaps try breathing with your nose and NOT your mouth?”

But perhaps more importantly, I would like to no longer be perceived as that kind of fan.  I’ve written on a few occasions (do your own search on “fandom;” too lazy this morning to dig for links, and you might enjoy sifting) about the schism between Mets and Yankees fans, the level of entitlement, of perceived entitlement, and how I conduct my business as one who enjoys baseball.

I don’t grant the premise that to be a Mets fan means to be long-suffering, though many have suffered greatly.  I don’t recall on any occasion, after scanning my ticket for entry, being handed a promotional cross to bear, sponsored by Church’s Chicken.

Yes, there’s a Church’s Chicken franchise in New York City.  It’s on the corner of 44th and Eighth.

I thought, and to an extent still do think, that right thought will lead to right action, which will lead to right perception.  And while I batter the Buddha to my own baseball aims, I see that I’m going to have remarkable trouble making baseball friends this way, or managing not to sound like a know-it-all, or a smarmy sort of patzer, peddling his nonsense to people who are genuinely distressed, getting them to think positively until something bigger bursts their bubble.  Misery and company, you see. 

And someone with such a profound dislike of Sean Green and a fear that he may, somehow, return, should not be butchering Eastern religion so that he may get everyone off the page of “Woe is me,” or “This bites,” and onto the page of “We forgive you, Mets organization, but we have a list of grievances we’d like to file, in a collectively calm and reasoned manner.”

Lots of talk yesterday from Mets leaders reviewed by Mets bloggers, which, unless Will Leitch has scooped my idea to use Metsblog as a resource once more, you can find:

–here (Jerry Manuel at Citi Field; Michael Baron, why the long face? Who hurt you?);

–here (Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon from Citi Field);

–here (Messrs. Minaya and Wilpon on WFAN; read this while watching Monday Night Football. Green Bay, you embarrassed yourselves);

–here (germane to recent one-sided conversations I’ve had);

–and here.

There is little to find remarkably newsworthy in the conferences and interviews held.  Note that I did not state there was remarkably little to find newsworthy.  A subtle yet important difference.

Luis Alicea, first base coach, is out.  Sandy Alomar, bench coach, shifts about if he wants, or else splits.  Razor Shines, third base coach, stays pending re-assignment.  Dan Warthen stays.  Howard Johnson stays.  Jerry Manuel stays.  Omar Minaya stays. 

Payroll unaffected by Bernie Madoff’s criminality, but maybe Mr. Minaya will find some cost savings.  There will be more Mets imagery in the ball park next year.  There will be a prominent Mets museum (I’m now nearly convinced this will be over by that massively empty space behind center; just give me my museum as video academy and I’ll ride into the sunset).

Daniel Murphy will get better.  Oliver Perez (Fauxhawk) will have a good year again.  Injuries plagued the team.  Johan’s feeling great.

That’s the gist.

It is news that they came out and said these things.  But none of these things rise to the level of bombshell, and the presentation–I have to point out Caryn Rose’s excoriation, posted on her blog, as a prime example of “Yoikes”–left a bit to be desired.

I’m not trying to pull punches here.  I don’t feel as angry about this as others do because my expectations of upper management are different.  To an extent, my expectations are lower, but that’s mainly with with regard to their notes regarding the product on the field. 

And no, I can’t believe I wrote that either, but my observation in 2009 revealed to me baseball players who are fundamentally unsound and prone to injury.  Those grievances I take to the manager and the trainers.  I don’t expect Messrs. Minaya or Wilpon to break the matter down for me like I’m watching MLB Roundtripper or Baseball Tonight or SNY’s SportsNite. 

Instead, I expect them to have some idea of what they’re doing when they retain Jerry Manuel, who is responsible for the product on the field, as presented to him by the general manager.  Here we have the first of what will be many points in this off-season where I stop to suggest a question I believe should be asked.  (That was almost a sentence.  As I said: rambling.)

If the reason given to keep Jerry Manuel on was because his performance this year could not be adequately judged, and 2010 will provide the opportunity for a more balanced assessment:

  • was it argued–when discussing his larger body of work–that the product on the field this year could have avoided some of the errors in performance that sometimes led directly to losses, and if so, what was the outcome of that line of discussion? and,

  • is there a plan in place to re-evaluate matters if the 2010 Mets experience the same level of physical breakdown?

There’s more news in the answer of those questions than in simply saying he’ll be back because 2009 was atrocious and as such not appropriate for evaluation. 

It’s also easy to perceive a contradiction in describing the year as “unacceptable.” By not defining a root cause beyond injury yet retaining the training staff, you’ve either ignored or eliminated injury as a cause.  No one hears about reviewing training protocols or warm-ups or weight training.  They hear “unacceptable” and they want something equally stark done about it right just now. 

My concern is that no one in the Mets organization’s said Word One about what happens if these players, or other players, break down again, even with revised protocols and regimens.

On the whole, the conferences themselves seemed a way of quelling debate among fans and the media that was sure to grow coarser if silence followed Sunday.  Where senior management failed was in properly framing the debate prior to heading out there. 

Now, much like with the communication of injuries over the course of the season, I could ask whether failing to frame the debate was intentional or accidental; whether the goal was always to get the media and the blogosphere–don’t know why I separate them, but there you go–spinning its wheels while working privately to fix matters, or whether the fall-out from the conferences and the interview was unexpected.  At this point, the evidence
indicates the latter.

However, it could also be that the thought of the aftermath never occurs, or seems secondary to the work that needs to be done to pull together a champion organization.  The thought on the latter here would be that if the team were winning and winning convincingly, there’d be little to grouse about: “Yes, Mets fans, we hear you.  But if we kept worrying about trying to get to the end of this hamster wheel you call frank and honest discourse about this team we own, we wouldn’t be focused on getting you a team that could make the postseason and win on a regular basis, thus slowing down said hamster wheel.”

This brings us back to the banana peel.

The 2009 season was a fine illustration of just how many ways that banana peel can come at the Mets fan, and if you grab the average one at a party and ask them just what they think about Tony Bernazard, or the terrible onslaught of injuries, or a bases-loaded walk issued to a rival with their own boorish, loudmouthed fans, that Mets fan is going to feel just awful.

If nothing else sticks from this post; if nothing else has an impact that can make it to someone who can make a difference about it, let it be this: the 2009 season, with all of its horror and histrionics, has made a good number of fans embarrassed to be fans.

That word “embarrassed” is overused, too, but consider what it means: people have invested time and money in an entertainment product, and now they are open to abuse about that product.  These are not people who work for the Mets.  These are not shareholders.  All they did was hook onto a team.  And right now they feel like garbage.

For whatever reason they might feel like garbage, that they feel so is a tremendous problem–one that not a #2 pitcher, a left fielder, a catcher, or any back-up shortstop will fix. 

Winning might soothe it, until the next time the GM makes headlines by calling out a local reporter, or a manager makes comments about a guy’s twin concussions, or an executive vice president of business operations tries to parse the definition of “obstructed,” and makes a hash of it.  Then that fan is back to defending his team at the bar or at work or at the gym.

Lord, I cannot stress how important it is to grasp this concept.  Crawl into it, sleep in it, walk around with it for a couple of days: people spent lots of money to have fun, and instead they’re working to avoid feeling AWFUL.

Who the hell wants to do that?  Who wants to do MORE work? They’re not paid in tickets; the free hot dog came and went, and only with purchase to the game.  It’s horrible

I’ve advocated taking a break from the Mets when taking a break from them is warranted.  There are many other fantastic things with which to occupy your time.  I feel bad in that my entertainment is gone for six months, and the future does not look promising for extending next year beyond the obligatory.  But the angry people matter, too.  The ones anticipating the banana peels matter a great deal, and there is certainly no hope for them beyond praying for a good team.

The cheapest, easiest, most responsible thing that can be done to make the life of the average Mets fan a little easier is to get hard and expansive control of the message.  Take the discipline of the Bush Administration and coat liberally with the grassroots embrace of technology and expansiveness of applicable detail of the Obama Administration, and come out with a communications arm that’s capable of taking some of the heat off the fans that act as the team’s ambassadors.

I’ll say again: of the things on the 2010 To-Do List, it’s gotta be the cheapest, easiest, most responsible thing.  Don’t need an open door policy; don’t need to give away the Colonel’s secret recipe (I obviously could stand for some fried chicken).

But what must be done is put in place a structure by which the daily slings and arrows can be taken gracefully, and fans’ opinions considered and given voice, so that when seasons like 2009 happen again–and let’s hope baseball and the Mets last long enough so that we can see what it’s like to have a successful dynasty followed by the inevitable lean years–the team is prepared.

Be prepared.  Don’t bundle and announce and assert and bungle, like yesterday.  Finding an effective press secretary isn’t like trying to find a power bat for first.  The market is over-saturated.  Grab someone good and experienced and unemployed, and get cracking.

The alternative is seeing the fan base slip as one generation passes into the other, and that’d spell disaster in the long term.  Plan for decades; reap the rewards now.

That’s it; that’s all I’ve got on that.

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guinness.JPG

On Tuesday, Danny Frisella was traded for a Guinness.

Thing about Two Boots hosting Amazin’ Tuesdays is that owner Phil Hartman offers you a free beer if you bring in a Mets baseball card.  Greg Prince of Faith And Fear In Flushing kindly brought in one of his four (four, Mr. Prince?  Really?) Danny Frisellas and cashed it in, in honor of my birthday.

I am now fully ensconced in my late twenties, so beer has more cache than birthday cake, especially considering the day I’d had, and the day that was to come. 

Forget the fact that I’m 0-for-6 on the year when it comes to Mets events outside of the ball park; forget the extended crime that was last night’s ninth inning (vs. Braves, L; 6-5)–and on that note, let’s have Frankie Rodriguez pitch occasionally in game situations, just to see if he can plunk and give up hits during the fifth or sixth inning; I’m talking about struggling with a camera not more than six months old, a computer not more than three months old, and a cable box that won’t cooperate when all I want to do is catch up on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia before the premiere.

Come on, karma.  The Mets are guaranteed a losing season this year.  Haven’t I had enough?

The Mercury-in-retrograde-style hangups (The Wife is a big believer in that planet causing electronics to go goofy bananas) gave me time to think on some of what was said down on Grand Street the other night; make no mistake: the evening was packed with flavor.

phil hartman.JPGThat’s Mr. Hartman, above, extolling the virtues of an odd cocktail, shown below:

the kosher kid.JPGUnlike others I overheard during the evening, I’m avoiding any comment on the ethnic implications of Italian liqueur floating on top of Irish liqueur.  But take that comment to mean the comments were made.

On that note–reporting that things were said while not reporting WHAT was said–I give you Mr. Jeff Pearlman, who spoke third on Tuesday:

jeff pearlman speaks.JPGThat’s Mr. Pearlman (yessir: Mister; sorry that caught you off-guard, but better safe than sorry), standing, with Mr. Prince on the far left, in orange.  In case you’re unaware who Mr. Pearlman is and why he’s talking to a room full of Mets fans, here’s his Wikipedia entry, his website (which holds a link to his blog), and the article on John Rocker that everyone who loves sports and reads must’ve seen at least once.

There you are.  Context.

jeff pearlman and john rocker.JPGMr. Pearlman loves what he does, and that makes him a remarkably engaging speaker.  I like his prep style, too: the man was jotting notes to himself on a bar napkin minutes before he was to address the crowd (he sat to my left).  He’s off-the-cuff, he’s excitable, and he has a penchant for deep tangents that somehow doesn’t get in the way of him finishing a train of thought.

Tangents included:

  • “Always pay for lunch.”

  • Kevin Mitchell and Doc Gooden got into it about the cat incident, and he (Pearlman) watched the discussion unfold.  Actually, you can read all about it at that link.  Never thought I would link to Snopes.com, but there you are.

  • Jay Horwitz is a sweetheart of a guy.

  • The Mets are the ones putting the kibosh on any movie based on The Bad Guys Won, a move I find unfortunate.  It would be tremendous for business.  There’s such a fear of putting out anything that would make the Mets look bad, but we’re in an age where bad isn’t necessarily good, but humanizing, and thus interesting.  There’s a way to do that movie and leave feeling genuinely and positively proud to be a Mets fan.  Just requires a touch of finesse and imagination.

  • The guys who aren’t superstars are the guys with the best stories.

There were some other tangents, too, and that’s how we get out of my own tangent. 

Mr. Pearlman has more on John Rocker, if you can believe it.  Stuff that Rocker asked be off the record, stuff that came to him after the story came out.  Stuff you so badly wish you’d been at Two Boots to hear, because it’s deliciously excellent.  One story in particular which I will be redressing in order to use it as a joke in a screenplay; it’s too perfect.

Another Mets fan and writer, present at the event, wanted to ask why Mr. Pearlman would discuss these off-the-record happenings in an open forum, knowing full well that there are writers present.  He (Mets fan and writer) and I discussed this at length; I thought about it quite a bit more while alternately wondering how it could possibly be so packed at Pacific Standard on a Tuesday night.  Here’s what I came up with:

I don’t know that Pearlman’s mentioning that the stories were off the record when they were told means that they should be off-record when told to a room of folks eating slices of a pizza called “The Pig,” underneath a giant poster of Hubie Brooks. 

I know that while anything involving John Rocker’s ridiculous opinions is funny to me, it may not be funny to others. 

Additionally, I know his nonsense occurred about ten years ago, and whatever Neanderthal ideas he holds close to his heart may be fueled by ire toward the Mets but weren’t crafted by the Mets.  In other words, it’s not like the guy came running out of the bullpen, heard the boos, and thought, “You know what?  I’m gonna become a spitting-mad bigot.”  That’s screwing with the chronology a bit.  But to put it another way, he’s old news.  And not even Mets old news, really.  Just old news.

So it’s funny, like hearing a “Priest, Minister, and Rabbi” joke that ends with no one in that mix looking particularly good.  But I’m not ready to repeat said joke, and I’m not looking to cast aspersions on the guy who told it.  You should be sorry you missed it, though.  Oh, man… classic.

I have a lot more to say on Mr. Pearlman; his notes on what he does and how he does it were of great interest, and again, he was a presence before the crowd.  But I think best to keep that business in my back pocket.  I’ve gone on enough about him, and
I’m not even halfway done here.

jon springer and number 6.JPGJon Springer (above) gave the crowd his compilation of the best Mets to wear the number 6.  A full list can be found at his site, here.  (UPDATE: read the whole piece posted at his Mets By The Numbers site by clicking here.)

I don’t remember that he made the list (why would he), but I have zero recollection of Manny Alexander.  This is important because I took a minor hiatus from baseball in 1996, and came back with an artificial dedication in 1997.  I remember Lance Johnson leaving, and Turk Wendell coming.  My mind is a complete blank on Manny Alexander. 

This should teach the kids out there that if your mind won’t let you think about anything other than a woman who may become your future wife, you should probably just let it run its course.  That I spent any time thinking about some guy I wouldn’t remember at all twelve years later… though I do remember the first Zero bar I ever had.  Funny what sticks and what doesn’t.

metstradamus.JPGIf you don’t know John Coppinger’s work as Metstradamus, you should.  In fact, I’ll be adding his blog to the link list after I’m done with this epic.  He’s the gentleman presiding over the free-wheeling discussion on the 2010 iteration of the Mets in his Todd Zeile pinstripes.  Getting to that discussion means we’re halfway through.  Thanks for sticking around.

discussing the mets.JPGIf the level of discourse held on Tuesday is the level of discourse being held about the Mets in the majority of bars and living rooms, then the Mets as an organization are in fine shape.  I had a meta-moment sitting behind the crowd, realizing just how smart and hard everyone was thinking about a thing that’s that horribly wonderful hybrid between a game and a business.  It was said by Mr. Coppinger and I wholeheartedly agree: the Mets have one of the smartest fan bases in all of sport. 

I’ll exclude myself from that assessment; I don’t wish to toot my own horn, and while I love the game and love the players and fans, I don’t have a head for stats and whenever the Mets make me feel like jumping off a bridge, I take a break.  I think if I were smarter about the Mets, I’d either jump off that bridge, or not even want to jump in the first place.

You know, depending on the height of the bridge, jumping might classify me as a die hard.  But I’m afraid of heights.

That went a little Mitch Hedberg.  I’m sorry.  Someone please feed me a leaf.

But they’re smart.  Smart and opinionated.  Smart and opinionated and mad as all get out.  Goddamn.  Fewer heads were called for at the Bastille.  Turns out I was mad, too; here are my notes, taken on or after I shouted something about mercilessly heckling Gregor Blanco (Mr. Blanco, I sense a meme developing at your expense…)

The organization is incompetent? Without a plan? Reality time: This is a multimillion dollar operation, with a multinational presence. If you think they don’t have “a plan,” then you’re out of your mind. (Stress the ridiculousness of this “rudderless” assessment.)
 
The problem, manufactured or not, is communication. The plan, as it’s called; the injuries; the Bernazard.
 
How much communication is the fan base owed?
 
How much is this locked down by the organization to create family friendly and accessible fare?

Allow me to explain: it was my birthday and I was on my third beer.  Sure, I’d eaten.  But Tommy Hanson was running a clinic down in Atlanta and people were shouting and using the F-word.  How could one NOT get excited?

But allow me to explain further.

springer discusses.JPGSome advocated the ouster of General Manager Omar Minaya, and some went as far to suggest that if Jerry Manuel got the axe, Minaya would be Dead Man Walking.  As a simple “if –> then” premise, I have to agree, and would even go so far as to make it a bi-conditional: if Mr. Minaya goes, Mr. Manuel goes with.

…Here’s my tangent: if you’re talking about somebody’s job security, the least you can do is use a formal prefix.

But if the general manager is let go, who’s to say another GM wouldn’t want their own guy coaching the men on the field, and have their own opinion of the farm system, and make their own changes and have their own plan?  If Mr. Minaya gets the boot in 2010, are the Mets in for another few seasons or more in the tall grass?  Who’s so crazy as to come in after the past three seasons (four if you count 2006) and make any declaration of imminent success?

This was the argument made on Tuesday, not necessarily in favor of keeping the current regime, but in worry that the organization would suffer a far worse fate if it wasn’t kept.

By the way, just because Jon Springer and Jeff Pearlman are featured in this photo doesn’t mean they were arguing this point.  It’s just an action shot.

I have to believe, though, that an organization this large, employing this many people across so many states and in so many countries, with this extensive a public presence, has a plan.  The plan my not be good; it may not be sound as you see it.  Jeff Wilpon may be buying lottery tickets.  I highly doubt he is, though that Mega Millions jackpot a few weeks ago was a doozy.

The problem is not, “The Mets don’t have a plan.”  The problem is actually, “The Mets don’t appear to have a plan; not knowing that plan is infuriating.”

I don’t know what to do about that. 

I’ve mouthed off separately on how poorly I believe the string of injuries to key Mets players was communicated; there, too, I’m sure there was a plan but it was kept close to the vest–not necessarily to keep trade value up, because everybody has to pass a physical–because the goal was not to start a panic.  Frustration is panic’s kissing cousin, and that’s what we got.  The team looked bizarrely inept, and the suggested “crazy like a fox” stance appeared less and less plausible.  Some biting of the bullet and strength in the face of potential panic would’ve gone a long way there.

I think things like Mr. Bernazard’s pulling a Randy Marsh (cartoon, not umpire) would be better handled when the team isn’t falling apart at the joints, but when things snowball, they REALLY snowball.

But I don’t know what to do about a lack of communication about a plan.  This thing is a business, and the same is true throughout baseball: newspaper titans; gum manufacturers; phone companies; rea
l estate barons.  They don’t have to tell us what they intend to do about the lack of a true left fielder, though one can easily assume they think, at the least, that it would be nice to have one.  I’m sure they think, perhaps correctly, that no one would be clamoring about “hearing what the plan is” if the team were cranking out seven- and ten-game winning streaks.

Additionally, I don’t think you can reasonably legitimize what went down at Two Boots by slapping a Mets logo on it and holding regular salons at the Caesar’s Club, or some other sort of thing.  They’d be mobbed, or would cost an arm and a leg to get into and STILL be sort of mobbed, on the thought that any Johnny Crackpot or Sally Gottaplan could wield some influence. 

the crowd at two boots.JPGNo, there must be a level of accountability there that begins with the organization paying employees for their input and hard work.  The product of that relationship shows on the field and in the press.  We know what’s happened on the field, to an extent.  We don’t know why what’s happened in the press has happened in the press, aside from what was relayed; again I’m citing communication of injuries and the Bernazard incident, but also continued questions of lack of “grit.”  And that, reasonably, has colored what we’ve seen on the field.

Again, success is the fastest way to cure dissatisfaction; evincing a belief in imminent success is not enough because of the old “fool me once” trap.  But besides offering the usual bread and circuses: batting helmets brought to you by Harrah’s; awful music videos by teen pop stars; “Everybody Clap Your Hands!”–how does one satisfy a rabid fan base that demands answers to questions one doesn’t want to answer?

…That’s not a rhetorical question.  I’m actually asking it.

If I had the reins, I think I would start by thinking about what I could do to re-frame the questions, so that they’d be ones I WOULD want to answer.  That’s if I cared.  I don’t do the sacred work of the Mets, but in my little bit of the earth I get plenty of questions that are the wrong questions to ask, and spend much of my day re-framing the debate, and educating.

That, and staring at databases.  Seems I do a lot of database work these days.  Not what I signed up for, let me tell you.

I would urge ownership to care about the questions coming up at events like these, if they do not currently.  I wouldn’t urge them to release private data, or put the whammy on their behind-the-scenes moves by telling us how great that Carl Crawford guy is, or some other such thing.  But I would urge some sort of education: not condescension, not lip service; an actual explanation of how the business operates, why it operates in the way that it does, and what questions they think we should be asking.

Truly no idea how to present that conversation, but if they could do that, and do away with the Miley Cyrus music videos at the start of some home games, and turn off the canned noise for an inning a game, AND please the ya-yos by giving away something not branded by Aflac or Premio Sausage–

–That’s right; I called you ya-yos.  I’d prefer the end of ALL giveaways and a reduction in the price of tickets, and have that brought to me by Corporation, Inc.–

…then that’d please all manner of folks.

glee.JPGThis is not an endorsement of a show I find visually arresting but otherwise stultifyingly awful.  I just like to be artsy.

Anyway, more on that to come, I’m sure.  Otherwise, I’d like to offer my thanks again to Greg Prince, who along with his partner-in-crime, Jason Fry, put together these events.  An additional thanks to Mr. Prince for reading about his experience in 1977, and talking with me a bit about blogging, the upcoming off-season, and what Felix Millan brought to the ball club.

Word is Two Boots would like to do more of these in the off-season, and I imagine if that does happen, the discussion will be similar to what was held the other night.  Don’t miss it.  Unless the Mets begin hosting blogger-only press conferences with a rotating cast and a pre-determined subject of discussion, events such as these will be the only place you’ll get to hear intelligent wrangling, however ridiculous you may think the opinions to be.

Ridiculous or not, I’d be so much more worried if people stopped caring.

Like Lastings Milledge to a ball park, I was later than I thought I’d be to Two Boots Tavern yesterday; unlike Lastings Milledge, I have no shards of face to lose or save.  Besides, I had an important software pickup to make.  And then, an important barge to drink beer on while staring out onto the Hudson (note two separate links there).
 
And to the cyclist in the salmon-pink shirt who thought I cut him off crossing Twelfth Avenue, two things: your responsibility at that crosswalk is to yield to me; also, you came out of nowhere.
 
Nevertheless, Two Boots was arrived at and Two Boots was had.  Below, your hosts.
 
jason fry and greg prince.jpgThat’s Jason Fry on the left and Greg Prince on the right, of Faith And Fear In Flushing.  Also in attendance were Caryn Rose of Metsgrrl and Dana Brand of the eponymous Mets fan blog.  Also in attendance, via satellite, were the New York Mets and the Florida Marlins (and repeated shots of the Marlins projected new home, which looks fine if a bit stout); some attendees; beer; the Larry Tate pizza.
 
Those who are unaware, take note: the Larry Tate is spinach, tomato, and mozzarella on a white (ricotta) pie.
 
As Greg Prince read his recent post about the friendly hazing/rousing welcome Andy Green received from the remaining dozens of Mets fans at Citi Field immediately PW (Post Wright), I noticed to my limp amusement that the SNY update zipper–that little doodad at the bottom of the screen showing sports scores–has a sponsor. Yesterday, its sponsor was the Rums Of Puerto Rico.
 
I’d only had two beers at the time, but when something like that grabs my attention, sober or some number of sheets to the wind, I tend to paint all things with the same brush.  So the piece Mr. Fry read, covering an almost-endless, anguished search for a Rich Sauveur card, was sponsored by Topps.  (The photo is mid-rant.)
 
jason fry.jpgMs. Rose’s piece, like much of her great work detailing games and her experience as a game-going fan, would’ve been sponsored by the Mets Fan Local 162, if such an entity indeed existed.
 
caryn rose reads.jpgAnd Mr. Brand’s piece (near as I can tell, it’s not on his site, so buy the book already) was sponsored by Citi, seeing as how they were somewhat responsible for one of the biggest laughs of the night.
 
dana brand reads.jpgHe read of his experience at Shea during the last game there (from his new book; go here to pre-order), and of the numbers ceremony at center field, which ended when Mr. Met pulled down the last numbered card to reveal the Citi logo; he should’ve reacted “like Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live” when the crowd remaining pelted him with boos.
 
I’ll take his word for it. I couldn’t get tickets to the last game so I hunkered down with a good friend (an Indians fan) and her sister (an Indians/Mets fan) at Mercury Bar in Hell’s Kitchen–there was some good juice left in that place then–and minutes after the end of the game we found ourselves at Rudy’s down the street. Good juice in that place, always.
 
In fact, that experience crystallized for me my current phase of Mets fandom: we split a pitcher of Rudy’s finest, and whereas I’d spent late September 2007 alone and charmless, I spent late September 2008 flush with new marriage and new jobness.  There was all the desire in the world to add another pitcher to the pile and yet, we didn’t, coming to the conclusion that this would be the day we each exercised some self control in the face of maddening loss.  We were adults.
 
So they went home. I went home. Folded laundry, I think. Watched some football, I know. Put baseball in a drawer for a couple days, then came back when my head was clearer.
 
Of course, as I was thinking about all this last night, in the flash of a matter of moments, I caught on the Two Boots flat screen this representation of the current state of my head:
 
paul's head feels like this.jpgClarity is relative based on your proximity to, or length of time away from, an anthropomorphic sponge.  That image brought to you by Nickelodeon.  

Johan’s done for 2009; J.J. Putz is done for 2009 and fairly gone afterward; Billy Wagner’s gone. Even he who throws three straight balls to Pedro Martinez and is taken out mid-count is in New York for an MRI. So the Mets pitching roster is brought to you by the Hospital For Special Surgery and Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc., which is no doubt working hard to secure rights to Wagner-Papelbon I: The Melee At Fenway.
 
When Bobby Parnell is a starter this late in the season, and he’s arrived because Jon Niese can do a split but he can only do it once, you wind up with Sean Green on the mound.  Green tried real hard to give the game completely away, too.  Last night’s episode of Sean, You Almost Hit A Coupla Guys And No, Sean, Omir Santos Is Not Set Up Nine Feet Off The Plate was sponsored by Tums and whatever keeps me from performing the matter-energy conversion needed to transport myself to wherever he is and shake him like a Bond martini.

That was a long sentence with a couple of genre cues dropped in there.  Thanks for hanging in.

Gary Sheffield needs some Icy-Hot and any Met batting in the late innings of a losing game always appears to need some Red Bull.  Reading about Omar Minaya’s press conference as I rode the subway over the Manhattan Bridge made it clear to me some brand of ginkgo biloba should be stocked in the front offices.  C’mon.  You don’t remember what was up with your star acquisition back in March and April?  Are you mad, man?

The game was over in under three hours (L, 2-1).  Never blessedly; perhaps, though, for the best.

**

Some things I came away with: I grow more convinced that deep-seated Yankees hatred is generational, like what I hear when talking to someone who grew up w
atching the Brooklyn Dodgers.  I just don’t know anyone in my age group in New York who hates the Yankees with the passion those older than I do. 

As I’ve said, I have no beef with anyone’s beef.  But I’m on about something else here.  I won’t quote anybody (because my eyes were fixed on the game after the readings, and I’m no reporter), nor will I name names of those I heard discussing a seemingly unrelated issue.  However, there was the question last night, and it’s relevant with just over a month left and the Mets pitching rotation Swiss cheese: why do Mets fans stay?  Why do they stay and watch, after Art Howe, and after 2006, 2007, 2008, and soon, 2009?  Why, after the blunders and miscommunication, after the obstructed views and the paltry giveaways and the Draconian, dunderheaded security policies?  Why, after the Aflac this and the Lincoln Mercury that and the Rums of Puerto Rico and Geico and Citi and Just For Men?

I suppose that’s four questions, at least.   But all the same theme.  The answer given last night was, essentially, who knows? 

I guess that’s fine, and if I write that, you know I don’t fully buy it. 

When I lie awake at night, thoughts are rarely about the Mets, as I don’t work for them or base my livelihood on their ability.  When they win big or lose bad, my thoughts may stray.  When they’re in the playoff hunt, sometimes I’ll do the sort of mathematical gymnastics that always put me to sleep when I’m horizontal.  They’re the Mets.  I don’t analyze my need to breathe and I don’t analyze my need to eat.  I try hard not to analyze my need to have fun, or why I have fun doing what it is I do.

Milton Green: “Jack, we’re having a catch!”
Jack Donaghy: “Don’t ruin it, Milton.”
Milton Green: “Just like father and son!”
Jack Donaghy: “Did you hear what I said?”

My answer is not “who knows,” but “who cares?” 

Your answer may vary.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay for us to have different reasons for doing what we do.  We’re each of us our own special flower, and most of us residing in the concrete-and-steel, garbage-soaked, noise-polluted halls of 2009 Mets fandom city of New York.  We have, each of us, our own stories about how we came here, what we need to get out of this, what would trigger our eject button.  And, holy crap, do we have opinions. 

Keep David Wright out for the rest of the year.  Let him play. 

Put Carlos Beltran in a straitjacket.  He could still run in one and catch fly balls with his teeth–I say let him. 

Let K cards be taped to the electronic zipper board (this wail brought to you by Utz).  But they’re covering the Wise Potato Chips ad (this retort brought to you by Wise).

Barring the creation of some Mets fan union, which would send a representative to the table for discussion and a vote on any and all decisions affecting Sterling Mets, LP, I don’t see Metsdom keeping a unified voice on anything past, “Yay! They’re winning!” or “Damn, they’re losing!”  That’s New York for you.

And yes, that can represent any number of other cities and towns as well, but having spent extended time in a few towns and cities, I can say with reasonable surety that New York does it with a special sort of schizophrenia.

This is the place where people will bemoan the lack of police presence when they’re mugged with one side of their mouth and bemoan the “Disney-fication” of Times Square with the other.

By extension, this is a place where, currently, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by five-to-one, yet a staunchly Republican mayor was elected twice.

Bringing it back to baseball matters, this is a place where people will say, over and over, “I’m done watching the Mets; I’m done going to the games: they treat their fans horribly and their management is a wreck…” and yet, they’re there. 

They’re there mixed in with kids who are maybe going to their first game or couples sharing their first game together.  Mixed in with die-hards who buy the special non-media guide scoring book.  Mixed in with visitors from other cities.  Mixed in with those who just need to get away please for the love of God. 

A blind family has tickets on the Friday plan; I see them all the time walking up the steps to Section 530.  At the other end of my row, there’s an older gentleman who’s been sporting jean shorts since the weather got warmer.  Keeps to himself, barely claps, but watches the field intently.  There’s Big Man.  There’s the group three or four rows up who’ve made T-shirts worrying more about beer than the performance on the field.

Some who cry for escape actually manage some level of backbone and split, and that’s their prerogative.  I think the best of that lot are those who don’t think themselves missionaries, come to spread the good word of Life Without Baseball. 

But if they want to, they’re within their rights.  That’s New York.  As long as you don’t break a law or force me to break a law (which is against the law in itself), you can do whatever damn fool thing you want: boycott, desert, hang in when it’s ludicrous, whine about the beer koozie you didn’t get, or push real hard for a refund when you realize your view must pierce alternating layers of Plexiglas and steel railing.  Again, with justifiable beef or not, you may also try and rally others to your cause.

Your success or failure may change things or not.  But full participation or full agreement is never assured.  I’m quite certain I’ve heard from a few people who thought Vince Coleman’s firecracker stunt was funny.

You know all this.  I’ve said all this, in one form or another, repeatedly in the short life of this blog. 

What you need to remember, readers, is the following: just because you don’t agree with someone out there doesn’t make you wrong, and just because you choose when and where to engage doesn’t make you a bad or lazy person.

This is New York.  The Mets are New York.  Feel privileged to be a part of it.

I will now take a Craftsman-brand hatchet to my soapbox.

What’s unfortunate about that Omar Minaya/Adam Rubin flap is that the reporter became the story. 

When that happens, too many are pulled into the realm of the meta, and unless one has a firm grasp on (among other things) elements of post-modernism, semiotics, and the works of the Wachowski Brothers, the meta becomes too much to handle. 

“Some of us are world-class thinkers,” a college friend once wrote me.  “Some of us are bankers, and lawyers.  Some of us pump gas, some of us grow fat on the couch and collect a government check. 

“And some of us are potheads.”

With that, I urge you to visit this discussion of the Sheffield mess from yesterday, as sparked by Adam Rubin’s Daily News Mets blog entry.  If you follow blogs ravenously, I’m sure you caught Mr. Rubin’s take.

However, what’s evolved since 8:48a is a comment thread as long as my right arm (I discovered recently that my right arm is decidedly longer than my left).  Despite more-than-occasional name calling, I’ve found this comment thread to be not only delightfully PG-profane, but, in aggregate, a full cover on the matter of Sheffield and the matter of Rubin’s alleged lackeyism.  And on, and on, and on.

It’s remarkable people accuse the man of brown-nosing, even after he’s said on camera that his livelihood had been messed with.  Red pill, blue pill: does it matter?

I agree with most of Mr. Rubin’s take; I wouldn’t hold him just to
release him spitefully, but he’s being paid.  So he’s needed.  If
Sheffield wants to slip in the shower or sprain his pinkie toe, that’s
his business. 

I am not paid by the Mets or Adam Rubin, by the by.  I’m also not paid by the New York Daily News, I’m not advocating the use of marijuana or any illegal drugs.  I’m not trying to denigrate gas station attendants, nor am I advocating the use of fossil fuels in this dangerous political climate or given the nature of our fight to keep this planet from suffocating us all.  I’m also not saying the effort to turn back climate change should be a confrontational fight.

It’s at this point that, were I a cartoon, my head would inflate to six times its already-massive size, and pop like a balloon, leaving only scraps just above the knot.  Would the Mets front office hire a guy like me?  Late twenties; a profiler of their ineptitude; scraps for a head?

Mr. Minaya, I hereby lobby for a job.

Took the morning off, and now have just about forty minutes left before I have to head out.  

Fortunately, I spent about eight hours at the ball park yesterday and managed to grab some interesting photos that have little to do with the true joys of last night.  
So, yeah.  Flickr can go take a bath; here are shots from yesterday afternoon’s batting practice. Fred Wilpon, Omar Minaya, and Billy Wagner make an appearance at the end:
daniel murphy.jpg
I’m Daniel Murphy, and I stand in the infield with my arms slightly akimbo.
mike pelfrey.jpg
Mike Pelfrey walks on stilts.
pedro feliciano.jpg
Absence of a mole confirms this is, in fact, Pedro Feliciano and not Carlos Beltran.
jerry manuel.jpg
This is ALSO not Carlos Beltran.
And now, the Wilpon series:
fred wilpon.jpg
fred wilpon signs.jpg
fred wilpon waves.jpg
wilpon and wagner.jpg
wilpon minaya and wagner.jpg
wagner and minaya.jpg
wilpon and minaya.jpg
More to come on last night’s game, which started with polka music and only got more bizarre from there.

Sandwiched between Thursday night’s loss to the Dodgers (11-2) and Friday night’s loss to the Reds (3-0) came the trade to the Braves of Ryan Church for (wait for it) Jeff Francoeur.  No truth to the rumor that Omar Minaya also received a DeLorean from Atlanta GM Frank Wren, set to the year 2005.

The subtitle for this blog mentions its stats-lite leaning.  So I tell ya who paints a pretty picture of this is Ted Berg of SNY.  Find his analysis here.

I got the alert while walking down a staircase from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s roof garden to the glories of the building’s first floor.  Got the alert on my Blackberry.  Let out an immediate, “Whoa!  What?!”  This endeared me to the surrounding bluebloods.

I can hope that moving Ryan Church is part of some ridiculous master plan Mr. Minaya’s cooking up to get a better deal for a different player.  I can’t even form the hypothetical, though; it’s such an impossible consideration.  Who’s going to want Jeff Francoeur?  Or, excuse me, Jeff Francoeur and cash?

How ’bout this: maybe you go and get Jeff Francoeur and cash because you need to eat part of Alex Rios’s salary.  Alex Rios, in case you don’t know, is an outfielder (RF) for the Blue Jays, who came down to Earth as fast as I’ve been telling anyone who would listen two months ago they would (that’s almost a sentence).

Trade Francoeur for Alex Rios and Alex Rios’s salary, then add a pitching prospect or two, and get Roy Halladay.  Also of the Blue Jays.

That’s it.  That’s the way this makes ANY sense.  I’ll know I’m right if I’m awakened by Mets goons in a few hours, and dragged to the bowels of Citi Field and beaten soundly.  Or if the blog is hacked and the post is taken down.  I should print and mail this to a media outlet for my own security.  Or put it in a safe-deposit box.  AL pitching would eat Francoeur alive; that level of machination would be preposterous.  I’m not even going to spin my wheels on it anymore.

(But if that’s what happens, I’m telling EVERYONE I know that I called it.  Check the timestamp on the post.)

(UPDATE: Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse believes the cash was to cover the difference in salaries between Church and Francoeur.  Read that here, and thanks to Metsblog for providing the link

Alex Rios, by the by, makes $6.4 million this year, is halfway between Francoeur and Church in age, and has produced at a slightly-to-somewhat better rate than Francoeur has while playing in the AL East, where players know not to stretch borderline doubles into Neverland triples.  So there’s what makes the hypothetical next move tantalizing yet RIDICULOUSLY IMPOSSIBLE.  I hate that I just spun my wheels more on this.)

Wow.

Mr. Minaya went out and got a guy who’s hit three more home runs than who he replaced, and who hasn’t yet been exposed to the Mets medical staff.  As health care professionals, those guys seem about as competent as Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.  (You may find a staff photo of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem here.)  A note to Francoeur: wear your batting helmet at all times.  In the box, on the field, in the dugout, in the showers, at your nephew’s birthday party.  Always. 

Did Howard Johnson pull a Rick Peterson and declare that he could fix Francoeur in five minutes?  I can’t imagine Bobby Cox hasn’t already tried the only sane thing, which is to slap the boy upside the head and say, “STOP SWINGING SO DAMN HARD AT EVERYTHING!”  Bobby Cox strikes me as the kind of man who would try that first.

Nope, not understanding this here.  A severe comprehension shortage.  I thought last night’s line-up was bad.

I don’t even know how to cheer for Francoeur.  What do I shout?  “Frenchy”?  That seems rude.  I’d already broken in my “Church” to “Churchy” to “Chachi,” and was digging it.  Goddamn it.  Maybe I can stay within the “Ch”s, pay homage to The Simpsons, and call him “Chowdah.”

Too tough to explain.  That seems to be a theme, here. 

Time for bed.  Things are usually better in the morning.

*UPDATE 2: I reference CBS Sports’ MLB Players Page so often that I’m just going to put a link to it on the sidebar.  CBS Sports stats; Andy Rooney references.  I’m the oldest twenty-six year old I know.

On occasion, Metsblog.com does something straight-up funny.  Earlier today, their notes on the Mets game versus Baltimore on Wednesday read thusly:

Date: Wed., June 17 
Time: 7:05 pm
Mets: Not John Maine
Orioles: Koji Uehara
Where: Camden Yards

Setting aside the fact that the Baltimore Orioles appear to be starting a guy who may bear some relation to the communications officer of the Enterprise (I know, I know: Uhura, Uehara; Swahili, Japanese), the idea of the pitcher being “Not John Maine” tickled me.

Not for nothing, but Not John Maine could be Johan Santana or Roy Halladay or Zach Greinke.  Not John Maine could also be Chien-Ming Wang circa 2009 or Victor Zambrano circa whenever with the Mets or that redheaded guy from My Boys, who got tagged hard by the Cubs in an episode at the end of this past season.

Hell, not John Maine could’ve been Kris Benson, except, you know. 

(By the way, Kris Benson’s now a long reliever for the Texas Rangers [had to look that up].  By the way, Google image results for the search term “Kris Benson” brings up one image with Kris in the background and a whole heapin’ load of Anna Benson images.  By the way, I’m not complaining about that.)

Point is, by this evening it had been decided that the part of Not John Maine would be played on Wednesday by Tim “The Executioner” Redding.  Tim had recently played the role of Not Oliver Perez after coming off the disabled list. 

And, y’know, while he was on the disabled list, the part of Not Tim Redding had been played, not too badly, by Livan Hernandez.  Who beat out Timmy, and Freddy Garcia himself, for the role of Not Freddy Garcia (previously known as the role of Not Pedro Martinez/Not Orlando Hernandez).  And, in fact, John Maine and Livan Hernandez were swapped in the rotation for the Subway Series, to give Omar Minaya and the Braintrust the chance to bring up Fernando “The Double Executioner” Nieve.

So really, Tim Redding is playing the part of Not Livan Hernandez, who played the part of Not John Maine, but if we look at the starting rotation as was presented on Opening Day, Tim Redding in at number three means he’s playing the part of Not Oliver Perez (again).  We can forgive Metsblog for forgetting that Oliver Perez existed; we can thank them and wish we had that kind of selective amnesia.

(You will learn quickly that I am not a fan of Oliver Perez.  I could give a damn about his upside.)

But most of all, we can forgive Metsblog for having a hard time keeping all of the above straight.  Consider the nightmare that would ensue if one tried to diagram all that, and you would see the humor, too.  This rotation’s a mess:

  1. Johan Santana
  2. Mike Pelfrey
  3. Tim Redding
  4. Livan Hernandez
  5. Fernando Nieve

Uh… huh…

*Let’s do a little backseat Monday morning armchair Sunday driving:

I fault Perez’s bloated contract first and foremost, though I also fault Carlos Delgado’s option and Luis Castillo’s contract and all the talk about how at each point, the Mets front office had a reasonable case to make for each.  Nay, nein, and nyet; there are always possibilities, to bring it back to Star Trek, but you limit those opportunities when you commit $30.5M in a season to a past-prime infielder who squares to bunt on 0 and 2 and can’t catch a pop-up, a slugging first baseman whose hip I could hear ticking from the nosebleeds, and a left-handed pitcher with a near-terminal case of the Mondays.

Orlando Hudson is a serviceable guy with four more home runs than Luis Castillo.  He’s also making half as much and has just as many Gold Gloves, and his last is half as old as Castillo’s.  I have little to say against Carlos Delgado; I was convinced he’d get to 500 home runs before Gary Sheffield, bum hip or no.  But $8M, by cursory observation, would have gotten us Hudson and Randy Wolf (two more wins than Oliver Perez), and left us $22.5M to buy two more of each.  Or any other more reasonable combinations of hitters and pitchers and sluggers.  Oy.

In any event, we’re here now, which is the phrase I imagine keeps Omar Minaya in smiles and butterscotch candies (which are from the devil).  Complaining will only get a new GM, and I try not to concern myself with front office business, unless it’s good for a chuckle.  Today, when scratching the surface of a comment such as “Not John Maine,” it absolutely is good for a chuckle.  Not John Maine.

I’m not John Maine.  I throw right-handed and I think Jennifer Aniston’s hair is pretty, too.  I do crossword puzzles sometimes, and if I tried real hard I bet I could hit a home run before Mike Pelfrey could.  Why not me?  Why can’t me?  I’ll pack his lunch and take Koji Uehara to school.

Hell: shave his beard and Randy Wolf looks a LITTLE bit like Kris Benson.  You have to squint.

*Salary whatnots were researched on CBS Sports’ MLB Players Page.