No matter how hard I try, I can't get too worked up about Al Leiter's supposed comments to Carlos Delgado. For the record, here they are from the original Toronto Sun article, a retelling of the Delgado saga that is perhaps thorough to a fault:
“Who better to discourage him from going to New York? … In New York you have seven or eight competing papers, TV networks and their affiliates and peripheral periodicals. It's fine when you are dealing and kicking butt.”
“[When you're not kicking butt,] it just chip, chip, chip, chips away at your resolve, cracking away your protective toughness. Every bad game it's like 'are you worried? … the manager says this … are you worried?' You begin to doubt yourself. That's why slumps in New York are so elongated.”
“Then, the guys on (talk radio) get on you, move it up another notch and everyone driving to the game listens. You get to the park and your home fans are booing you and after the game you say something stupid.”
Now, it's not as hard as it should be to make me outraged, and I join many Met fans in having had enough of Al Leiter for the next year or two — from all that's been said and written I do think he had too much influence on ownership and the front office, and I do think those were Al's fingerprints on Kazmir's exile to Tampa Bay.
But was what Al said really such an affront to Met fans? First of all, he isn't talking specifically about the Mets at all — he's talking about New York, and he basically said that with all the media attention, it's a tough town where slumps get relentless scrutiny, fans are unforgiving and dumb remarks made in frustration in the clubhouse get blown wildly out of proportion. Nothing inaccurate there.
Which leaves only one point of contention: Leiter billing himself as the perfect person to discourage Delgado from going to New York. Well, if you were the Marlins GM and suspected Delgado might have reservations about New York, which player on the roster would you tap for the job? Sheesh, it's not like Leiter signed a noncompete. I know our local sports pages like to stir up shit, but honestly — what part of “free agent” isn't getting through here?
I don't mind that New York is too tough a town for the Alomars and Cedenos of this world. But there is a New York mentality that sports stars who succeed here are therefore always and forever New York sports stars, and if they go somewhere else after their glory years, it's either a silly temporary thing for us to be smug about, or an affront — since these athletes can no longer play in New York, shouldn't they just retire? Apply that kind of attitude to the rest of your sports-fan life and hey presto, you're a Yankee fan.
Like I said, I do blame Leiter for some of this organization's dysfunction in recent years. While I was always interested to hear what he had to say about games or baseball in general (they miked him for a game in San Francisco last year and his comments about pitching decisions were riveting), when it came to civic and franchise boosterism I always thought I detected the sheen of snake oil. But I can't find a smoking gun in Delgadogate, and I've looked. I can't even find a gap in the tapes. On to the next controversy, please.