Two articles in the MSM today - one from the inestimable Tim Marchman and the other from the unknown Joshua Robinson - take on the hostility Mets fans have been showing the home team so far this season. Marchman takes more of a definitive stance, using the word "boorishness" to describe the behavior of Mets fans past and present who have made something a sport of booing their own. Robinson's take is more genteel, lacking any particular conviction and makes the mistake of including a "Joe Fan" perspective at the end of the article.
The "Joe Fan" perspective, of course, is the sports equivalent of the "Man on the Street" perspective in news stories, where the hapless reporter is forced to walk among the unwashed masses and ask them about their reaction to the current hot story on the presses. It's the worst cliche in print journalism and the least useful perspective a newspaper could possibly provide its readers. In a world full of experts, learned scholars and paid-by-the-opinion consultants, what the hell do I care about what some mook on the street thinks about the news of the day?
Anyway, each writer taps into the vein of anger surrounding Mets fans and opine about what it means for the season at hand. There are a lot of potential explanations - a hangover from the 2007 collapse, apparent lackadisical play, perhaps even unrealisitc expectations from a fan base that sometimes wonders if a 162-0 record will be enough to win the National League East.
Marchman's take was typically brilliant: "Usually this sort of thing doesn't matter; the diligence and faith mentioned in baseball contracts extend to an expectation that players will do their best regardless of how fans at the home park behave, and they nearly always do. Members of baseball management, though, have no such clauses in their contracts, and those employed by the Mets in fact have a long history of overreaction to displays of fan apoplexy. (Note which jersey L-Millz is wearing tonight if you don't believe this is true.)"
For me, it's really more of a feeling of apathy than anger. Listen, we're still only 11 games into the 2008 campaign and I honestly had to check the standings to see what the Mets' record was going into tonight's game. I'm not worried about Reyes' slow start or Heilman's bullpen follies or El Duque's ongoing rehab problems. The apathy comes from a deep-seated conviction that this team will not, can not, win anything of substance while Willie Randolph is still the manager, no matter what shiny new toys Omar Minaya gives him.
There's always going to be that churning in the gut when Willie mismanages the bullpen, or forgets to double-switch, or publicly calls out his players for nonsensical reasons. Marchman, again: "Manager Willie Randolph, perhaps more importantly, has proved, if he has proved anything during his tenure in Queens, that the greater the pressure gets, the worse he runs a game." It doesn't just question my faith in this team's fortunes; it destroys it.
I wrote this toward the end of the 2007 season, with the Mets still clinging to that slim lead over the Phillies: "I will gladly trade an epic choke that would see the Mets miss the playoffs entirely this season if it came with a cast-iron guarantee that Willie would be fired the next day. He is that much of a detriment to this franchise's ability to win a World Series and I have no doubt that he lacks both the strategic acumen and the motivational tools necessary to win a championship.
"I have not felt this strongly about the necessity to fire a manager since Dallas Green, and even old Dallas knew how to light a fire under a guy's ass once in a while. Willie's players sleepwalk through defeat after late-season defeat and there is no sense of urgency around them, because there are no consequences to their failures."
There were no consequences to anyone's failures after last season. Tom Glavine, Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green all left, but the Mets had no intention of retaining them even before The Collpase. Guillermo Mota was traded to the Brewers in the first step of a shell game that ended with the exile of Lastings Milledge. Otherwise, the Mets planned to break camp with four of the same five starters, five of the same seven relievers and six of the same eight starting position players - only injuries got in the way of that.
Worst of all, the same man remians in the manager's seat. It's like steering the Titanic into an iceberg and being given the same model boat by the White Star Line to try again with. This, perhaps more than anything, is the source of the fans' discontent. It certainly is the source of mine.