(By the way, "quintessential" is in "quotes" for a reason. I fully get Kahn's book and certainly appreciate it from the perspective it provides, especially from the historical perspective. However, a much better read that gets the Coop Seal of Approval would be Peter Golenbock's Bums, that gets far less press than it should. Grab a copy when you have a chance).
For the past few weeks, I have been without steady work and lots of time to think and do things I wouldn't normally be able to fully enjoy such as drink mass quantities during local happy hours and read baseball histories. I've recently been reading a book that chronicles the events leading up to, background and reasons why the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left New York in the late '50s.
I plan on doing a review on it when I am done (certainly this week), but if you are interested, it's called After Many A Summer by Robert E. Murphy (as far as I know, no relation to a certain other "Robert Murphy"). In any case, between reading this, how the landscape of baseball changed after the Dodgers and Giants left for Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, thinking of the Mets and their team now, how our current team does sort of embody itself after the late-40s and early-to-mid-50s Dodger teams (and not just because of our homage to Ebbets Field, Jackie Robinson and Fred Wilpon getting all horny over Brooklyn Dodger references).
In a paraphrase of some of the most memorable quotes of my generation: It's the team on the field, sillies.
The "Boys of Summer," in Brooklyn Dodger and not-to-mention baseball lore, wasn't just a hypothetical or whimsical name for the team that left Flatbush behind after the 1957 season: it literally meant "the core" of the team. Of course, these gentlemen represented the creme de la creme, the best of the best of their generation (and not just the best minds lost to madness). Some of the names thrown out if you will included but certainly not limited to: Jackie Robinson (natch), Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider (according to most, he was a better centerfielder than Mickey and Willie COMBINED), Ralph Branca, and Carl Furillo. Of course, legends of Brooklyn Dodger lore included not-so-ready-for-prime-time-players like Sandy Amoros and Johnny Podres (the two Dodgers who literally and figuratively preserved the 1955 World Series win for the Dodgers).
I know I'm not really educating y'all with anything new. After all, all one needs to do is look up on Google who the "Boys of Summer" are and you can easily figure it out.
But the books and history got me to thinking about where the Mets will figure into this, with their own version of "Boys of Summer." I believe that the core now will somehow be their own storied-version of New York National League baseball. Perhaps not now, perhaps not even in 2010 (but I hope so), but if the powers-that-be don't mess with them now, we might be looking at this period as either some sort of "glory days" or "team that could've been."
I think it's no question that the 2010 Mets core consists of the following: David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran.
D-Dubs and Jose are one-half of the infield but provide enough star power with their names alone. But are they the "infield of the future" with inflections of the past? They are young enough to still have their break-out years. Hopefully, it will be the same time, since I believe these two alone will help carry the team. David Wright has no qualms about letting it be known he would prefer to be a lifelong Met. And I have no doubt he will do that. However, the Mets do need to reconsider how Jose Reyes is valued to the team. "As Jose goes, so do the Mets." But what does that mean when his contract is up? Do the Mets pay up suckas? Or just be suckas and let him walk?
Johan Santana is a mercenary but without him, this team would be nothing, nowhere and on it way to nowhere, FAST. It's sad that in the first two years he's been here, the Mets have not been able to provide him with a team that is able to be an adequate supporting cast for a Johan Santana-type.
Without Carlos Beltran in centerfield, well, there's no discussion: Mets defense would be craptacular in the OF. He is this generation's version of Willie Mays (but he doesn't run like Hays), Duke Snider (the admirable player) and Mickey Mantle (star-quality without the damaged liver). Beltran, however, is some sort of a mercenary: he is not home-grown, but the Mets are the technically the second-longest team he's been tenured with. I hardly count the Houston Astros as one of his teams (although it did provide him with the pay-day the Mets gave him in his walk-year). And Mets fans are still lukewarm to him (I was too, but I came around on him last year...unfortunately he did not). Of course, with the advent of Fernando Martinez (and the Mets propensity to draft outfielders), perhaps when Beltran's contract is up, he will not be the "CF of the future." Something to consider as the Mets get competitive.
Honorable mentions for the "core" would be Mike Pelfrey (provided he visits a shrink), Jonathon Niese (I think this guy is balls-on, I have high hopes for anyone born the day the last Mets team won a World Series championship), and I would even say to a certain extent "Perpetual" Pedro Feliciano, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur could be included in this core. Francisco Rodriguez is an honorable-honorable mention, since I truly believe that after his contract is up, we'll have a home-grown closer taking over. To me, an old-fashioned baseball gal, I have a hard time including mercenaries (like Bay and Francoeur) in an all-core line up like that.
Future core could be theoretically Ike Davis, Reese Havens, F-Mart and Jenrry Mejia. Of course, Mets fans are not optimistic these players will not be packaged in a deal for some other team's mercenaries to provide us a "win-now" culture.
Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that the Mets have a core that could be on a level that of a 1947-1956 Brooklyn Dodgers. In fact, it's hard for any team to have that these days with the parity of larger-market versus small-market teams and inability to keep high-valued players to go to high-priced ballclubs.
What I'm saying is, the Mets have a good core and do not promote that aspect enough in its marketing scheme (according to many junkets, their only player is David Wright -- somewhat true in 2009, but hopefully not so in 2010 -- and pitcher is Johan Santana...erm, well, that's not totally incorrect). However, if you look back at that storied core in Brooklyn Dodger lore, 1947-1957 were the team's "glory years." They won only one championship, however.
The Mets could theoretically go through a period of 2004-2011 (from Jose Reyes' and David Wright's emergence as the "future" and until Carlos Beltran's contract is concluded) where they have won zero championships and have nothing to show for their incredibly high payroll and lack of vision for RIGHT NOW (except the proverbial "win now" culture, which has blown up in their face numerous times since 2006).
It saddens me that some of the best years of this team could be potentially squandered away, and not by a move out west. We could either be celebrating this year...or lamenting our own bittersweet version of "Boys of Summer" in their ruin.