Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Take me out to the ball game
Take me out to the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I never get back
Cause it’s root, root, root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s a shame
It’s one, two, three strikes you’re out
At the old ballgame
I thought of these lyrics this week, as the Mets swept the Phillies, in Philadelphia no less, and yet I saw much consternation among many Mets fans. The reason being, of course, that by winning this weekend the Mets might not have a protected pick in next year’s amateur player draft. Only the worst ten teams get the pick protected, and things are bunched up right now. This has led some fans to being concerned that the Mets are winning. Mets fans, mind you. Now I understand the rules, and I understand the standings, but I cannot join this movement. Yes, we are out of it, yes, we cannot make the postseason, and so, yes, losing has a benefit right now. I don’t care. There is a week of baseball left, one more week of actual Mets games. I’m not going to squander them.
Some seasons play out differently than others, and I have repeatedly pointed out that whether we win or lose a few more games does not matter. I certainly wanted Marlon Byrd traded, for instance, and was willing to accept the short-term consequences. But once a game begins, I want the Mets to win. Actively rooting against my own team is a line I cannot cross. Not that I criticize anyone else, I can surely see where they are coming from.
Last week when we had that big ninth inning comeback against the Giants, I started looking at the crowd. We know it was sparse, and we know why. But the folks that were there were standing, and I focused my eyes on that action, the people in the background, when the winning run scored. They were going nuts, and in the right hand corner I saw a little girl literally jumping for joy. She wasn’t worried about the payroll, or who owns the team, or a protected pick in 2014. She was at a baseball game and she saw the home team put on a show at the end.
I just can’t see that as a shame.
I disagree, Mike. But first, I’m going to quarrel with your language, “Actively rooting against my own team.” That’s not the dynamic. It’s more like quietly hoping they retain that protected pick; there’s no joy in the thing. I prefer they lose because I think it’s in the team’s overall best interest.
Not that the difference between a #8 and a #12 is all that great. The issue, to me, is the narrative for this off-season. I truly believe that “the story” changes dramatically if the Mets don’t have a protected first-round pick. Without a top ten pick, the price of a free agent signing — let’s call it Choo, for argument’s sake — becomes significantly more costly: A lost pick (and the budget money) on top of whatever the club would have to pay for a top free agent. You can already imagine Sandy explaining why it would not be prudent for the team to be in the market for a top free agent. He’ll show half-interest and demurely push away from the high stakes game. We’ll see an off-season of half measures and continued patience and a lot of finger crossing.
And thus we might see a new anthem: “Stay the course!”
In real terms, does it matter where they end up? I don’t know. I have serious doubts about the organization’s commitment to act. If they had a protected pick, however, they would not have the built-in excuse. It would strictly become about payroll, the team’s ability and willingness to invest. Once the lost pick enters into it, the debate gets murky.
I don’t particularly want to give up the pick, either.
Look: I want the pick and the free agent. I want both. The only way there’s a chance, however remote, is for the Mets to finish in the bottom ten. If not, it becomes either/or. And my guess is that the club would then keep the pick and go after only a couple of middling, mid-range (cheaper) guys. Which, again, would be consistent with the course charted so far.
Why change a thing, right?
Let’s go Reds. (We’ll get you next year.)
I understand why losing is slightly beneficial. I know the rules, which are clearly flawed for this situation to exist. I don’t care. I’m a Mets fan and I root for the Mets. The day I’m not interested in that is the day I’m done with the whole thing. Perhaps at some point that will be the outcome for me, but I’m not at that point yet. But it’s only been 50-odd years. In the meantime, I’m hoping to get one more great game this year.
It’s a long winter.