Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Long, Slow Road Back

Look, I'm coming back.

Christine is right; try as I might, I just can't kick the habit of being a Mets fan. It's a part of who I am. It's a bond that cements a lot of my friendships. It's been a part of my life for 25 years, and I just can't bring myself to give it up.

The problem is, I simply cannot root for this organization right now. Rany Jazayerli's comments about another stupid baseball trade this week are appropriate here:

"Eight years ago this July, the day the Royals traded Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez, I came on Kevin Kietzman’s show and the first words out of my mouth were, 'I have never been more embarrassed to be a Royals fan than I am right now.'

I wouldn’t say I feel as embarrassed at this very moment as I did that day. But in every other way, this moment is perhaps the lowest point I have ever reached as a Royals fan. I have never been more disheartened than I am right now. I have never been more disillusioned as than I am right now. I have never been more angry than I am right now ...

(a lot of Yuniesky Bentancourt trade analysis that you do not care about)

And frankly, I’m not sure if I can take it any more. I’ve been a die-hard fan for 20 years now, and I’m not closer to seeing my allegiance rewarded today than I was 20 years ago."

That's exactly how I feel about the Mets today. I find myself diagreeing with just about everything this organization does, from the top down. This is going to sound arrogant, but I can't think of a softer way to say it - I know too much about baseball not to be fed up with the Mets right now.

I'm not a casual baseball fan; I spend at least two or three hours a day devouring whatever information I can about every team and player in this league, as well as the past, present and future of the game. I've been playing in Strat-o-Matic baseball leagues since I was a kid, which teaches you more about the game than non-players can ever imagine.

It's fair to say that I'm obsessed with baseball, and that obsession has helped me to develop my beliefs and opinions about player development, baseball strategy, roster construction - even less obvious things like the marketing and promotion of a franchise. I wish I was more knowledgable about weightier matters, but this is my passion and this is what I know best.

I have neither the time nor the patience to detail every area in which I find myself at odds with this franchise, so I will simply say that the only two bonds I still have to the Mets are history and geographical considerations.

It turns out that those are the strongest bonds of all.

But let me be clear - I'm rooting for this team to fail in 2009. Failure will bring humiliation - the only thing the Wilpons fear more than losing money. That humiliation, perhaps, will bring the change so sorely needed.

The first step is a change in basic thinking on the part of ownership. Until Jeff Wilpon gets it through his thick head that he has only ascended to his perch in life thanks to Daddy's ability to sell real estate, the Mets may never be able to put it all together. Little Jeffy sets the tone for the entire franchise right now - no thought should be more frightening to a Mets fan than that.

After Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya is the biggest culprit in this team's malaise - he built the team that infamously folded at the end of the last two seasons. He has to go and his replacement needs to be a man whose baseball knowledge is matched by his willingness to take risks, defy conventional baseball wisdom and stand up to ownership. Minaya has none of these qualities - and that is why he fails.

Jerry Manuel is less of a malignant presence to the Mets' fortunes, but his inability or indifference to fundamental baseball has helped create a sad, sloppy team that gives away games at a shocking rate. He is less deserving of a pink slip than Minaya is, but the simple truth is that Manuel simply isn't special enough to retain beyond this year.

Forget about the rash of injuries this season - the on-field product is the result of a flawed business plan that dates back to the Frank Cashen era and permeates every aspect of the franchise. The ownership consistently puts its trust in yes-men and not in the most competent baseball people money can buy.

The result? Poor drafting, questionable free-agent signings and a lack of vision in both the general manager's and the manager's office. It also results in a medical staff that is the butt of jokes nationally, that has consistently proven itself unable to keep players healthy or to properly diagnose injuries when they occur.

All that said, I'm still coming back. I took a break from my weekly column at Flushing University, because I think the site deserves better than what I've been giving them this season. I still visit every day and will probably start contributing to the message boards after the All-Star Break, to ease my way back into long-form writing.

The next step - changing the layout to reflect the true nature of this blog, even as I continue to root for a Los Angeles Dodgers championship in 2009. In the meantime, let me introduce you to some opinions about your newest Met, Jeff Francouer. At least he can be non-tendered after the season...

Baseball Think Factory's Transaction Oracle

"Ryan Church is a better baseball player than Jeff Francoeur. Ryan Church is overwhelmingly likely to always be a better player than Jeff Francoeur ... Ryan Church upgrades the Braves outfield. Ryan Church increases the chances that the Braves will win the NL East in any season that the team plays Ryan Church at the expense of Jeff Francoeur.

Jeff Francoeur downgrades the Mets outfield. Jeff Francoeur increases the chance that the Mets will not win the NL East in any season that the team plays Jeff Francoeur at the expense of Ryan Church ...

If you made a trade this one-sided with your little brother as a child, you parents would instantly negate the trade and send you to your room. It's like giving your little brother an empty can of Fanta for his Boba Fett."

Tim Marchman's Blog
"A couple of days on, I'm still not sure just what to make of the Mets' trade for Jeff Francoeur, a player so bad his name alone has literally been a running joke among savvy fans for a couple of years now ...

Much like the Chicago Cubs, though not quite so much, the Mets are less a ballclub than a mechanism for teaching children that life is all about frustration and failure. By deciding that possibly the worst regular in the majors was worth having on their team, the Mets have done their bit to preserve their status as such a mechanism, and this valuable social function is far more important than anything they might do along the lines of living up to their potential, playing baseball that doesn't make you want to hack off digits with a butter knife, etc."

The Hardball Times
"Look, everyone knew Jeff Francouer needed a change of scenery. But this? No one should have even remotely considered giving up anything of value—like Ryan Church—for Francouer. Heck, Francouer was highly likely to be non-tendered after the season ...

The Mets' perspective? I may not like the trade for them this season, but I can definitely appreciate it if the Mets are looking to the future: He's 25 years old and has a history of hitting the ball out of the park. Carlos Delgado isn't getting younger and the team is wrecked by injuries. The Mets have an offensive black hole at second base. Church may be a good complementary outfielder, but for the Mets to win in the future, they needed to take the risk for an All-Star outfielder.

The only problem with this is that Omar Minaya is another general manager who doesn't deserve to be but unfortunately will be for a few more years, a la Dayton Moore. The depth he's (not) built, the job he did in Montreal that is killing the ex-Expos to this day... Mets fans might want to hope for a second-half collapse even worse than the first two just to get Minaya out of there.

Of course, if they did, the Wilpons would probably just turn back to Steve Phillips."

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