There are two topics with which I try not to overly concern myself in the course of a baseball season: many damn things written about the Mets by what we’ll call the non-fan media and every damn thing I hear about the Yankees whether I want to or not.
But it is Spring Training, the time of the season when we’re more at the mercy of those factors than at any other point on the baseball calendar. Once there are Mets games and such, we’ll have those to revolve around. Right now, it’s hard to ignore the noise and occasional stupidity that spring can bring.
Sunday was one of those days. Sunday is always one of those days. It’s the Sunday papers, my deepest-rooted source for trusted baseball perspective (well them and Metstradamus). The Sunday papers in February validate our imaginations. The Mets suddenly no longer exist only online or in the past. There’s stuff going on in Florida. There must be. Somebody’s paying somebody to cover it in a way we logistically can’t.
Sadly, some writers are just e-mailing it in. Take Mark Herrmann of Newsday, a columnist without a Sunshine State dateline on Sunday but obviously with space to fill. He had a half-baked idea for a piece that he stuck in the oven for maybe a quarter of the necessary baking time before grabbing his mitts and pulling it out. It wasn’t even warm on arrival.
It was one of those columns in which the writer’s initial concept comes up against facts that don’t support it, so he kind of bobs and weaves through his inconsistencies until he’s got 800 words in the bank. At least that’s what it reads like (which is all that matters in the end).
Herrmann’s topic was something about the Mets having a chance for a big followup year to 2006, specifically an opportunity to take a big step in New York. They’ve come so far. But they’re not the Yankees. But they are good. Or not good enough. And they’ve done the right things. But not enough of them. Except they didn’t do dumb things either. Something like that. Plus an inane and cheap shot at Moises Alou’s uncles. See for yourself.
When I read it Sunday, I was instinctively offended by the stale anti-Met conventional wisdom Herrmann was selling and the strange evidence with which he was supporting it. For example, the Mets don’t own New York because various Yankees apparently got heartier rounds of applause at the winter baseball writers’ dinner. I have no idea who all goes to the baseball writers’ dinner, an event that requires a pretty penny for admission. Not to resort to the hoary chestnut that the Mets are the team of the people and the Yankees appeal to the swells, but let’s assume that the baseball writers dinner demographic has a pinstriped tilt. For this particular function, more Yankees fans bought tickets than Mets fans.
We concede the black-tie vote and pledge to start saving now for next January.
More mystifying was Herrmann’s claim that when Carlos Beltran went down on called strike three last October 19, if we’re honest, we’ll admit we “said it was hard to imagine Derek Jeter letting that happen.”
We didn’t. Honest.
Technically, I can only rightly speak for myself, but I sure as hell didn’t. I’d bet whatever stray Mets Money I have floating around the house that not a single Mets fan of any value did. I’ll go out on a limb and add that any Yankees fans looking in, whether they were being the atypical good New Yorkers for a week, relishing our demise or simply licking their Tiger-inflicted wounds, didn’t either.
Who the hell thinks like that? This isn’t a gratuitous bash of Captain Fantastic and his mythic ability to hit five-run homers with the bases empty. Jeter does what Jeter does, but when you or I or anybody is watching the Mets play the Cardinals, nobody’s staring at his wrist and wondering What Would Jeter Do?
Except Mark Herrmann, apparently. Herrmann insists the Mets still have to use the Yankees as a “measuring stick” even though the Mets went further in last year’s playoffs and are defending division champions and have returned reasonably intact the cast that brought them to this level.
After years of not altogether unreasonable media-harping that every Met person needs to stop worrying about the Yankees…after achieving practical parity in the marketplace and putting a more recently successful product on the field…here was a credentialed baseball writer of significant New York tenure instructing Fred Wilpon and all us orange-and-blue schnooks that we still haven’t made it anywhere because we haven’t, by his measuring stick, made it here.
His proof? Beltran didn’t dive into the stands and tag Jeremy Giambi when he faced Adam Wainwright; somebody clapped loudly for Joe Torre in a tux; and we signed Jesus Alou’s nephew.
Like I said, my Met antennae were up and detecting an attack. So that — along with the generally dim quality of the logic — pissed me off. But given an extra day to dwell on it, I don’t feel that way anymore.
I’m pissed off because it’s an insult to be compared to the Yankees. An insult to the Mets. An insult to good taste.
Alex Rodriguez reported to Spring Training and turned his first media session into Mean Girls II. Except Lindsay Lohan comes off as more dignified in the tabloids.
Derek and I don’t have sleepovers anymore!
Derek and I don’t eat together like we used to!
Derek and I don’t talk anymore!
For the first time since he came to the big leagues, I actually felt bad for Derek Jeter. He’s gotta work with this guy? A guy who can’t just say, “we’re professionals and everything else stays in the clubhouse.” Or, better yet, “I gotta work the count more with two strikes.” Sooner or later the BS questions about who’s sleeping on whose couch will fade if you do your job. I have no idea who’s sleeping on David Wright’s couch and I’m cool with that.
Alex Rodriguez has Derek Jeter abandonment issues? I don’t want to know about any of this stuff, yet it leaks through all the Met barriers I erect. Why is this still happening? Don’t give me the Bronx Zoo theory. 1977 was a long time ago. This isn’t the Bronx Zoo anymore. That was at least novel for its time and those were relatively admirable characters who fed off each other and won. Now A-Rod’s worrying about who’s the straw that stirs the Cosmo? Geez.
If this is the byproduct of winning all those Mark Herrmann Popularity & Prestige Awards, then I don’t want it. I’ll take our very good chances for the coming year, our share of back pages for winning games, our network, our rising stadium, our falling stadium, our 3.5 million gate, our Alou, our Beltran, our team, our Spring Training that proceeds on a quiet baseball path. For decorum’s sake, certain Yankees and columnists might be wise to look to St. Lucie for their measuring stick.