METS THINK SMALL: Forget Reaching for the Brass Ring, You Might Strain an Oblique

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Jimmy:

Quick story: I returned home to Long Island after graduating college. It was not where I wanted to be, but I was broke. My plan was to work, save, and get out of there (which I eventually did). So I landed a landscaping job with an Irishman who lived in Bellmore, named Johnny Croake. Foulest mouth I ever heard, but never in anger. The way a contortionist uses his body, that’s  how Johnny exercised the F-bomb. Noun, verb, adjective, gerund, interjection, adverb. He was a master. For example, I remember Johnny saying this to me as the truck bounced along to the next job:

“Where’s me f’ing cup? Oh, f**k. I must have f**ked it out the window!”

As an English major, I was impressed. In three staccato sentences, spoken with an Irish lilt, Johnny employed the word as an adjective, interjection, and verb.

And it was not even nine o’clock. He was just getting started.

So, anyway. I’m getting up before the birds and heading over to Bellmore, the next town over, each morning. Most days I see my father, an early riser, and grunt a greeting. I work this job for a while. June, July, August, September. Stashing away money, plotting my escape, doing the job. Cutting lawns, mostly. Twenty a day. But the work was outdoors, and physical, and I  enjoyed the brainlessness of it all. The crew, the cursing, the pace, the great deli sandwiches. Besides, Johnny was hysterical.

At one point my father said to me, “I’ve been watching you get up every morning, getting yourself off to work each day. And I just want to say,” he paused, “good job.”

I was floored.

Here I was, a college graduate, doing the dumbest job on the planet, and my father was pleased with me because I showed the ability to set an alarm and go to work.

I realized, then, that the bar was set very low.

He was a father of seven children, and he’d seen a lot of variables come down the pike. By the time I arrived, the seventh and last child, his hopes and expectations had been throttled back. Waaaaay back. He hoped his children would go to work and keep jobs. You know, pay the bills, buy food. Survive.

I was a success!

I remembered that conversation from 30 years ago on Thursday night, when I read Sandy Alderson’s message to Mets season ticket holders.

The fifth paragraph concluded in a troubling manner:

“This off-season, we will explore every possible way of improving our club. Trades and free agent signings always seem to get the most attention, but helping our current players also will be a key to improving in 2014 and beyond.”

Helping our current players? What the hell? How about getting players who help us?

But it was the top sentence in the final paragraph that reminded me of Dad.

“Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to build a contending team of which you can be proud.”

A contending team? That’s the goal?! A team we can be proud of, like we’re mothers sweltering in the stands on graduation day, clapping while Sonny Boy gets handed his diploma? He graduated high school. The kid made it, along with 800 other geeks, freaks, brainiacs and future criminals. Great job!

What’s Garrison Keillor’s line about Lake Wobegone? “Where every child is above average.” Trophies for everybody. Isn’t that the world today?

What about, you know, grabbing the old brass ring?

Taking the bull by the horns?

What about . . . excellence?

What about . . . championships? The World Series? The arrogance and the daring and the determination it takes to aspire to be the best. Where is that?

Wilpon was in the room in 1986, but Doubleday and Cashen led the way.

Wilpon was in the room in 1986, but Doubleday and Cashen led the way.

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The bar for the New York Mets is set very low indeed. And if the current club jumps as high as it can, whoops, we still can’t get there. Not even close. We’re back with the Astros and Cubs. Our dreams are modest.

That’s always been my biggest problem with the Wilpons. It’s never been about excellence. It’s never been about being the absolute best. And there were times, seasons when with a move or two, they really could have put every contending team in the rear-view mirror. But there’s always been this sense that it would be, I don’t know, unsporting. Uncollegiate. Or maybe just expensive. This ownership group never aspires to lead the pack. There’s no Alpha dog in the bunch. Like Sandy said. The goal has been, and will continue to be, the same as it ever was.

It’s that Talking Heads song, David Byrne droning away: “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was . . .”

Letting the days go by.

They dream of running with the pack.

And maybe, after the kill, there will be some meat left over for the rest of us.

Because we’re starving for a team to be proud of. We’re hungry for a championship.

I wish management felt the same way.

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10 comments

  1. RAFF says:

    WOW! The Prosecution Rests. An overwhelming preponderance of incontrovertible evidence. Nice Job counselor.

  2. Patrick Boegel says:

    Reading that letter it might as well have said…

    “Remember just because money is coming off the books does not mean we have to spend it. It should be spent wisely, with the future in the mind.”

    Every time I hear or see words that came from the mouth of Sandy Alderson I am reminded of Kang the Alien would be politician/earth invader from the Simpsons Tree House of Horror VII

    “My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

    Just change “freedom” to “competitiveness”.

  3. “…and you may ask youself, well, how did [we] get here?”
    How, indeed.

  4. Eraff says:

    We’re staring at the 4th year in and the “C WORD” they’re using is……

    CONTENDER

    Their were actually a few mindless and hopeful “baseball idiots” (yeah…I actually assume that they’re full blown idiots!_) who talked about THIS team making a run during THIS season……. is their an argument that THIS Team is “almost” a contender?

    Two C WORDS—CHAMPIONSHIP….. CLOCK, as in ON THE CLOCK.

    This is like siting down with your 14 year old son with the 130 IQ….and he tells you that his educational goal, his PASSION, is to Finish High School. It’s bewildering.

    Does the organization have a strict dictate against EVER saying the word CHAMPIONSHIP?

  5. Eraff says:

    Wow—sorry about the “theirs” Jimmy!

  6. Eraff says:

    I’d really like an EDIT function—I’d like to be stupid, but with good grammar and spelling!

  7. Alan K. says:

    Great stuff Jimmy, could not have been stated better.

    The only thing I’ll add is that it remains to be seen how this message plays with the season ticket holders, the direct recipients of the e-mails and the Mets’ target audience. I suspect that this message wasn’t received very well and the Mets may very well be receiving feedback that anything less than an all out committment to excellence is unacceptable, and if the Mets aren’t willing to make that committment to their season ticket holders, those season ticket holders are not going to commit thousands of dollars to the Mets.and that they’re no longer going to be persuaded by polyannic platitudes about the potential of the players on the team, or getting to spend time hanging out with Mr and Mrs Met.

    • Michael Geus says:

      That’s a good point Alan, think of this as a trial balloon. Aim, and fire, season ticket holders, do not hold your fire!

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