Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reality Check

I had to laugh a few times today. See, my friend (and yours) Senor Solly out on the west coast posted something today that said something to the effect that the Marlins have once again eliminated the Mets. Then, Metsblog posted a t-shirt that the site The Apple made in honor of it, on the Elimination Day yesterday.

And I had to laugh. I know, it's funny that it's always the Marlins, isn't it? They are that pesky bug that won't die, the annoying little brother who will hold his finger a few inches away from you while saying "I'm not TOUCHING you," the let-me-at-'em-I'll-splat-'em annoying fucking Scrappy Doo.

But here's where I have to disagree. Trust me, I have plenty of sports teams that can make me cry with getting my hopes up only to dash them at the very end. Like last year, with my hockey team, the Bleeding Blueshirts (Rangers). They lost on the last day of the season BUT what they really lost was opportunity.

Lost opportunities. That's the theme here. The Mets didn't get eliminated by the Marlins. They did a fine job of doing that themselves.

Some fans think the Phillies are the Mets' worst enemy. Some still hate the Braves. I have an irrational anger towards the Marlins. I know the record against these teams, especially this season, is not a good one. But it would all be misguided.

The Mets' worst enemy has to be themselves. They are always getting in their own way. It's counterproductive and akin to shooting themselves in the foot. What saddens me is how much potential and promise there was at the beginning of the season. Then all fire just fizzled out.

This is a common theme that keeps repeating itself. And it won't get any better.

I think the only thing that can change them is a change from the top. I don't think a potential new General Manager should worry about trading Carlos Beltran or breaking up the "core" but rather seeing a better way to BUILDING around the team. Using the surplus of prospects for trades...after all, there is NO way they can all play. And a manager who can tell it like it is. I'm not even talking fiery, Bobby Cox-like or Bobby Valentine-type of big personality. We need a guy who can help cultivate this talent and bring it to the next level since it's obvious the "player's manager" types are not working.

So when we get upset at the Marlins, at the Phils, whoever, just remember...if you spot it, you got it. And what we "got" is a case of pointing the finger at the wrong dudes. The Mets have no one to blame but themselves. That's okay. There's a lot of lessons to be learned here. But let's not blame the Marlins for this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Leonard Bernstein

The Mets have been mathematically eliminated. This should be no surprise, and it's not, but it doesn't make it less sad. I had thought the team was so promising at one point in the beginning of the season, and then everything just fell apart.

I finally realized why I've been so edgy the last few years, especially in the last few homes games, though. As my friend Chap once said, the team has seen fit to ripping our collective hearts out and eating it right in front of us. Although she was pegged as being "melodramatic" at the time, I could not help but understand where she was coming from. See, it's bad enough that the season has to end eventually. The way the Mets had ended previous seasons just made a bad situation much much worse.

When we lost Shea Stadium though and got CitiField in return, it was hard for me to identify what was truly a "home." CitiField has become my home this year, and I have gotten over my nostalgia for Shea. It doesn't mean I don't miss the grande dame. There are some nights I feel like a toddler going through her Terrible Twos, stomping on the ground, holding my breath, saying "IwannagotoSHEA!" 2009 was just sad to me. I didn't have a home AND the Mets were just going through the motions. I think my attitude was shitty but then again, it seemed to be a result of my post-traumatic Mets disorder.

See, they are officially eliminated from any postseason contention after tonight. And that's okay. Being a lifelong Mets fan, or however long you've been one, we should be used to it.

I'm not upset about being mathematically eliminated. No, it's not that. It's that baseball season is ending. After October 3, there will be no more baseball for me. Rather, I will turn to Jets football and Rangers hockey to keep me warm in those winter months.

But now that I feel as though I can identify with CitiField, I can make a house into a home. And I welcome you all into it. In a few days, I plan on doing something I have not done since 2007. And that's go to every game in the final home stand at CitiField.

It's gonna be tough, frankly because I am old and can barely go to one game a week without it screwing me up. But seven games in a row? I must have a death wish.

It's not because I'll be watching baseball that doesn't matter. Because to me, baseball always matters. When it's still in season, of course. What matters is that I'll be with my friends and family and people I choose to call my family, which is the cornerstone to what makes My Summer Family what it is.

When the postseason goes on, I will watch simply because it's the closest thing I have to seeing the live real thing. Till it ends. Then I will have nothing except the Gang Green and Broadway Blueshirts. As my buddy Whit calls it, "Not-baseball season." The period leading up to Spring Training. But it's not the same. It's not my team. It's not my laundry.

It's not the end of the world as we know it, it's the end of the season of we know it. But I can enjoy the last few nights on this planet called CitiField for just a little while longer, if it can hold me over till April. It always seems to, though. So I'll just be sitting in blissful ignorance, counting down in my own selfish way what's left of my baseball season.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Dangerous Game

When I started blogging in 2007, I tried modeling myself after my blogspirations. Some of them still are around, others are not. One blog in particular I started following back in 2004, and the rigeur du jour of this particular site was to fire the then-Mets manager, Art Howe, coined correctly as "FireArtHowe.com." I thought it was hilarious, and one of the items the owner of this site would encourage is feedback and comments from his or her readers. Needless to say, the Mets fired Art Howe by the end of 2004, so the owner of the site had to think of another route to promote.

The name of the site was changed to "SelltheMets.com." However, by the end of the offseason going into 2005, with the hiring of Omar Minaya snowballing into so-called "Full Autonomy" to the pursuing and wooing of Pedro Martinez to nabbing that offseason's free agent crown jewel Carlos Beltran, the owner of the site also shut down SellTheMets, because (s)he felt it was inappropriate.

Well, I too felt that the Mets were on the right track. On the right track that finally they came to their senses and attempted to have a semblance that "baseball people" and not the ownership were calling the shots on the team, and that they were rightfully in their place, and that was behind the checkbook.

It appears as though old habits die hard and it's evident that once again, the ownership has gotten in the way of the success of the team and most of all, themselves.

Back at Spring Training, a friend of mine was working on a school project down in Port St. Lucie, and I agreed to be interviewed for it. He asked me, "If you (meaning: Coop) were the Wilpons, what would you (meaning: me, the Coop) do to improve the Mets?" And I said without a moment of hesitation, "Sell the team." I think it took him a minute or two to recompose himself, as I'm certain he didn't think I was going to come up with something that quickly. And say it with such conviction.

Whether it's truly a monetary issue, or just a habit of thinking they know better than those who are supposed to take care of the baseball operations, or simply a vanity thing (which is ALL they are about) the fact is the Wilpons are determined to run this franchise into the ground.

What is disturbing to me recently, I guess not so much recently but the habit of the usage of the press to pit the public perception against "underperforming" or those players who are out of favor with the organization to send the proverbial message. I mean, what does this exactly do? It makes the players unhappy, it makes their agents air their dirty laundry back out there not to mention doesn't make it appealing for other stars to want to play. Players will have their ups and downs. But it seems like if the Wilpons are spending the money a few things are bound to occur. One is that if they pay you, they play you (hypothetically speaking of course. They managed to run a 25-man roster with only 23 players in the thick of what could have been an interesting wild card race had they taken it seriously). Two is, if you don't perform up to expectation, they won't cut you but they'll cut your manhood down to size to the point that they hope it is YOU who leaves.

The third is, they tend to take what the public perceives about THEM (note: the ownership and not the team or players themselves), that they'll cut their nose to spite their face. Like I said earlier, it's all about vanity. It's always been about vanity.
`
I think it's clear that they are planning to part ways with not only Jerry Manuel at the end of the season but also reassigning Omar Minaya to some other part of the team (he has time on his contract, so he won't be fired outright). There is a lot of speculation on what to do to improve the team in 2011. Certifiably insane talk about "improving" the team.

Of course, I mean the crazy talk with trading players like Jose Reyes for prospects. Having a new General Manager come from within (like John Ricco) than getting someone in with a vision and bringing a new level of organizational culture to the Mets, and promoting the status quo. Or at the very worst, will "act" like things are changing, then it will be more of the same.

Why on earth if we bring someone in from the outside to be the General Manager (which is what they SHOULD be doing) and have them make crazy moves? I think it goes both ways. For one, they bring in a new fall guy and the Wilpons want to get rid of someone, let the "new guy" do it so their hands are clean. Then we can blame the "new guy" when things go wrong.

If we've learned anything as Mets fans, it's that from darkness comes light. How many down periods we've had as fans, it all leads up to something special and memorable. I have to believe that only good can come out of the inevitable change that is about to occur in the offseason. That is, of course, if Jeff Wilpon & Co don't do the obligatory Francesa visit on WFAN and "promise" change and not deliver it, or deliver enough of a little bits and pieces of it to keep the fanbase appeased and look like they're doing something and then, by not doing anything.

So what do I think? I think the Mets are playing some dangerous games, leading into 2011. It's a slippery slope, for sure. There's a right way to do things, and a wrong way. I am hoping that for once they figure it out all out and not shoot themselves in the feet once again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Death of the Season Ticket Holder?

I read an interesting article on CNBC.com today. Although it was geared more towards football season ticket holders, what with Personal Seat Licenses, thousands of dollars for the year itself, not to menti0n all the other incidentals for eight games a year, they suggested that the season ticket holder is going the way of the dodo.

And why not? We have convenienced ourselves so that we never have to leave the home. We can order groceries, order clothes, heck we can even have dry cleaning picked-up AND delivered. Of course, it goes without saying that with most people spending lots of money on in-home entertainment centers, if you can watch a sporting event and have a better experience doing so in the comfort of your own home, why the heck not?

It did get me thinking of the Mets and the state of their season ticket holder fan-base. Recently, it has come to my attention that the Mets are calling mini-plan holders one by one, offering them complimentary tickets to any remaining game of the season in a premium section (kicker being you have to physically pick them up at the box office, so no chance for resale and actually guaranteeing that someone will sit there).

I can't complain about my status as a season ticket holder. The Mets have given me some perks this year, including a complimentary Club Mets membership, 15% discount in the CitiField stores, allegedly some perk at Port St. Lucie, fees waived for Cyclones and individual Mets games purchases, and free stadium tours with a reservation.

Yesterday, I received an email that said that Saturday, October 2, I am invited to "Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day." Apparently, there are some events and specials for season ticket holders, not to mention giveaways and stuff.

I was a little shocked. They are sending a future email detailing what types of specials they will have. Saturdays are games I usually go to anyway on my plan, and this was to be no exception. So I was pleased with the gesture at least.

With this article I read today, not to mention the recent kind gestures to mini-plan holders, coupled with the effort the Mets are *finally* making with their own season ticket holders, I can't help but think...is this the way of the future? For season ticket holders in sports?

I mean, it makes sense. I would say a big reason for season ticket holders to begin with is the playoff options. Of course, with the Mets, this is usually not the case. But with football games, it's a minimal time investment but lots of money to fork over for the "gift" of being able to buy these crapshoot of games. My friend actually makes a killing on his Rangers season tickets -- he is able to sell a whole part of his plan to ticket brokers, then he "leases" out the rest of the season in packages (I'm a proud partial-owner in that). The supply and demand statistics support this since there are fewer seats, and fewer games to fill.

Baseball, to me, is a harder sell. For one, there are more games. Outside of rivalries and/or a hot ticket (like a playoff game or a Subway Series type of game), some games are a tough sell for the casual fan, let alone the die hard who may not have resources to go (meaning, transportation time, more so than money I feel those are two limitations for fans these days).

I also do like my friend in the Rangers tickets plans and lease out some of my seats. I sold packages of five, four and three games. I have been fortunate to have eaten two games (SO FAR) for this season. That's not to say I've been able to get face value -- more often than not, I am marking them down quite a bit just to move them. Again, there are so many games, you have to give an incentive to resell. As a for example, I have tickets to Tuesday's and Wednesday's game, and they are marked incredibly low. However, I fully anticipate eating them (providing I do not go to them myself...but I am not sure I can make both games just for the sake of going).

I don't see myself giving up my status as a season ticket holder, but I can't deny that I'd like to see changes being made. Most certainly, I would like to see the Mets give us some kind of "hometown discount" on full season plans. That way, when I need to discount tickets to move them or I simply can't make it, there is not a lot of pressure. I feel like my seats, for what it's worth, are fairly valued. I wouldn't mind another discount though (We were supposed to have "10%" but it was like a stupidly derived average and did not apply to many seats, mostly in the Promenade section).

It's been tough to be a Mets fan in the last few years. Not that it's ever easy -- if it were easy, we'd all be Yankees fans. If other sports are worried about their season ticket holder base, in popular sports that are pretty easy sells, then it's evident to me that Sterling Mets MUST be concerned about their future with loyal fans.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Backman is the Answer - What Was the Question?

I am not going to sugar-coat things. I LOVE Wally Backman. Was so disappointed when the Mets pursued Willie Randolph and not Backman, upset when Backman got a bum rap and subsequently was blackballed from baseball for a few years and happy when he finally got some redemption and a good baseball reputation, and was named Cyclones manager.

I am going to a Brooklyn Cyclones game tonight -- I used to go all the time, but Coney Island is kind of a pain in the ass to get to, but it's Labor Day weekend and the Other Half has not been to the I'm-Calling-It-KeySpan Park yet. And it's our time to give credit where due. Backman's team is currently tearing it up in the NY Penn League, and when a team is that young and hungry, it takes a special manager to be able to bring it all together.

That is why I am giving my hearty endorsement for the Mets to go after Wally Backman no holds barred in the offseason. I know this is the topic-du-jour these days in blogland, but come on. We all know Jerry Manuel is a lame duck (as TOH calls him, "Dead Manuel Walking"). Ken Oberkfell I think is still the best "tenured" coach in the organization, and if the Mets are truly going through the youth movement as evideced with the line up against the Cubs today, they need a manager who is going to guide them and try to get every ounce of potential out of them NOW, rather than this lackadaisical "let the players play" management we've had for two terms in Randolph and Manuel.

I wrote a piece a while back, calling out the on-field leadership on the Mets. People want David Wright to be the Captain -- I could not disagree more. He's a player who needs GUIDANCE. Why do you think Howard Johnson is still on the coaching staff: it's because David -- the "franchise part two" -- needs him there for a touchstone, whether he is helping the team or not. I liked Jeff Francoeur, I'm sure he's a really nice guy, but to call a guy with a .230 BA a "clubhouse leader...." I suppose I guess my point is, this team is in bigger trouble than we originally thought if HE was considered the leader.

My point is, I got in a lot of trouble by saying that players these days are different. It's very rare there are the Tony LaRussa's and Terry Francona's our there who get the respect of both the kids and the vets in the clubhouse. I grew up in an era where the manager had less weighting -- they basically just had to be a nice guy. Now, players these days are coddled since Day One. They win trophies in Little League for just showing up. You throw them into a mix in the clubhouse and they have no idea how to WIN.

Enter Wally Backman. Even Bobby Valentine to a lesser extent, but I think his brash attitude wouldn't gel with the team "unit" structured now, and "reunions" typically don't go as well as the first time. Backman has established that he can extract every ounce of talent on his team out. Backman knows how to win. He's not afraid to take shit from anyone. Put aside the fact he's a former '86er. He has a proven track record and if the Mets are truly going the youth route in 2011, we need a guy who was coached by Davey Johnson (and by all account, Johnson was the only one who was willing to give him a chance based on his scrappy attitude) and knows how to get the best out of his players and isn't afraid to push the envelope.

In other words, he knows how to win.

I hope they can right a wrong. Backman should have been the Mets manager in 2005. He can be manager in 2011. I hope for once, they get THIS go 'round right.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Damned If He Does

Let's not fool ourselves. The Mets have conceded the season.

Don't get me wrong. I know they are not mathematically eliminated (yet...) and I also realize that Jeff Francoeur is hardly a make-or-break player. He was a good dude by all accounts but couldn't hit worth a damn and couldn't adjust his approach to the plate after so many years, his cannon of an arm in the outfield wasn't going to save him from any criticism.

However, trading him for a dude with a worse OBP than his after four partial (operative word here) seasons in the majors in Joaquin Arias, coupled with most of the lineup being young guys suggests to me two things.

One is that they are saying without saying "wait till next year." The pink elephant in the room this season is outside of two road series in Interleague play and a rain shortened series in Pittsburgh, the Mets weren't going to do anything but mail it in for the rest of the season after not winning any road series.

Two is that...the farm system is not as depleted as we thought it was. However, with names like Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jenrry Mejia, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas in the lineup now, there are no future Strasburgs or Heywards there, but the good news is there is depth.

I've had some conversations with some people in the past about Omar Minaya, specifically, and how he has handled this time. Perhaps Ted Berg said it best the other day and suggested that the Mets "core" isn't so much fractured as it is that Minaya has done a poor job of building around them. And that's true. Paul LoDuca and Carlos Delgado were good pickups, but it was a misconception to think of them as long-term plans, which I think after the Mets went on a tear in 2006, Minaya started to kind of believe his own hype. He certainly wasn't alone. I certainly drank a lot of the Omar-ade back then too. Moises Alou was awesome to watch when he was healthy for the 50 or so games he played in 2007. Having him with no plan B suggests to me that Minaya got a bum deal when he was named GM in 2004. He kind of had to start from scratch but needed to jump at deals when he had them.

This is by no means a glowing report of Minaya, nor is it an indictment. It's just that I think right now his time is done as GM of the Mets. His scouting and drafting could be better, but we can't deny he has a good eye for talent. If I were Jeff Wilpon, I'd just "reassign" Omar Minaya within the organization, not demote him or fire him. As I think he might have some value left to the Mets. He's just not a GOOD GM for what he's been given. That has been established.

As for now, well, with the trade of Jeff Francoeur and the seeming loss of Jason Bay for the year (I doubt he'll return this season, and I won't blame him if he does not attempt a comeback), we got what we wanted. As of today, our starting lineup is Angel Pagan, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Mike Nickeas, Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia. Mejia is making his first major league start today against a team that's had it worse than the Mets have this year, his personal catcher is making the start over another young dude named Josh Thole. In other words, five out of the starting nine are "rookies" this year, and the Mets are playing the kids.

We are getting what we asked for, yet Omar Minaya is still damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Of course, we know now officially that the Mets aren't going to do anything except show up for the month of September, but it's the albatross of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Carlos Beltran that have his handwriting all over it that make his legacy as Mets General Manager memorable, for better or for worse.

As I said, this isn't a recommendation nor an indictment on Minaya. Just something I've observed. Carry on.