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Who Let the Dogs & Ponies Out?

“After tomorrow, we do what all ballplayers do: we shake hands ’til we see each other next season. Then we go fishing or hunting, make some personal appearances, get to know the wife and kids again.”
Morris Buttermaker [1]

I’m all for accountability. I’m all for transparency. I’m all for proactivity. But sausage is not something I necessarily need to see get made. Just place it on a bun and get the Mets on a roll.

When did the Day After Media Blitz of Qualified Remorse become standard Met operating procedure? Didn’t they used to lose and simply go home?

Enough with the dogs and the ponies. Enough with the overblown pressers and inane interviews. Enough with the half-baked excuses and illogical alibis. Enough with the misguided Q’s and the flippant A’s.

Enough with the spin. Oh for god’s sake, enough with Jeff Wilpon’s and Omar Minaya’s and Dave Howard’s and Jerry Manuel’s spin. Enough with the Mets giving their all the day after the season is over. Enough with the Mets thinking they can win from a podium what they couldn’t come close to winning on the field.

You don’t win respect in a press conference. You don’t win credibility in an interview. You don’t win your fans over after losing their confidence along with 92 sullen baseball games. You can, perhaps, make inroads toward those concepts — as best you can away from the field — by demonstrating competence, sincerity and self-awareness. But the Mets didn’t do any of that yesterday.

They would have been better off staying home and shutting up.

The Mets issued two press releases Monday. One [2] announced Jose Reyes’s impending hamstring surgery (for which we all wish him the best of luck) and the other [3] outlined changes to the coaching staff. A fifteen-minute conference call limited to addressing follow-ups to those specific issues would have been appropriate.

Then, instead of parading a procession of dogs and ponies through the recesses of their collective thinking, the Mets should have hung up the phone; taken a few days off to fish or hunt; regrouped; and then returned to the work of remaking the Mets for 2010.

Stop trying to impress us that you’re on the ball by standing before cameras and microphones. None of us is impressed. None of us is encouraged. You make it worse the more you talk. You talk yet say nothing — nothing helpful, certainly.

We can’t make you make the right moves. We can’t set your trade and free agent agenda. We can’t direct your roster management or minor league development. We can’t dictate your budget. We can shout our recommendations until we’re hoarse (or type them ’til our hands cramp), but it’s up to you. We have to trust you to do the right thing. We have to trust the owner, the general manager, the head of business operations and the skipper.

None of you do anything to make us trust you, of course. We’re stuck with you. We’re stuck with your decisions. Don’t make them worse by explaining them. You don’t help your cause. You don’t cultivate our faith. You just anger us, sadden us, frustrate us.

Stop with the dog and pony show every time your season goes down in flames. Strive to make your seasons as flame-retardant as you possibly can. Don’t clear your throats unless you have something to say that will make you look good and make us feel better.

“I got a lotta time to hear your theories and I wanta hear every damn one of ’em. But right now I’m tired and I don’t wanta think about baseball and I don’t wanta think about quantum physics. I don’t wanta think about nothing. I just wanta be.”
Crash Davis [4]

I don’t know if Luis Alicea absolutely had to go. I don’t know what Razor Shines will bring to a new position. Perhaps Alicea was a liability and Shines is an asset. Perhaps these were the correct moves and tangible improvement will result by their respective dismissal and reassignment. I imagine a team that was as dim on fundamentals as this one was could use some fine-tuning of its coaching staff. I don’t disapprove of these decisions, nor do I approve of them per se.

The Mets elbowed Alicea and shifted Shines. They’ve got both Alomars ambling along. They kept Warthen, Niemann and Johnson. And Manuel’s still the manager. Is this is the prescription that’s going to cure a 70-92 basket case? I have no concrete idea. The pitchers pitched badly. Is that Dan Warthen’s fault? The hitters hit well with nobody on, dreadfully when it was time to drive runners home. Is that Johnson’s fault? What does a bullpen coach do exactly? Other than grow tomatoes back in Joe Pignatano’s day, I couldn’t tell you.

At some point next year, some announcer will reveal that some player says the reason he is doing well will be because he has been working on some aspect of his game with some coach. That will generate a positive vibe toward that coach. Then some other player will give up a home run or swing at a pitch out of the strike zone or throw to the wrong base, and we’ll wonder why that coach continues to be employed in his capacity. This is the way it’s always gone.

Thus, making the announcements regarding Shines, Alicea and the Alomars yesterday doesn’t tell us anything. When Jeff Wilpon huffs that the Mets’ performance in 2009 was totally unacceptable, firing or demoting a coach hardly makes it any more acceptable. Retaining Jerry Manuel as manager after the Mets experienced their second-largest one-year dropoff in wins (19, behind only the 22 fewer victories they racked up in 1977 versus 1976) doesn’t make their situation any more acceptable. Retaining Omar Minaya as general manager despite the overall deterioration of the franchise’s major league personnel since October 19, 2006 — building a team annually on approximately five stars and twenty question marks — doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

Nor does their saying anything make anything true. Dave Howard says very few fans expressed dissatisfaction with the obstructions at Citi Field. That’s not true, but if he says it, it’s good as the truth. Jeff Wilpon insists it was no big deal that the New York Mets obscured New York Mets history in favor of a Brooklyn Dodgers echo. That’s not true in that New York Mets fans noticed it and protested it, but it’s as good as the truth. Omar Minaya, who pretended the Mets’ collapses in 2007 and 2008 didn’t mean they were a deeply flawed competitive entity, acts as if injuries were all that was wrong with the 2009 squad. That’s not true…we saw with our own 6.3 million-plus eyes that it wasn’t true. But Omar said it, so it may as well be true.

All these untruths function as truths because those who decide our reality continue to spout them. You and I know different, but we don’t effect concrete change. We can stop buying tickets and wearing caps (even though Dave Howard says we should continue to do both, as both build character), but we know we’re unlikely to stop doing either or any of the associated acts of fandom. We like being Mets fans even if, yet again, we can’t stand the Mets.

I fell in love with this team forty years ago, right about now. On this date in 1969, the New York Mets came home to Shea Stadium and beat the Atlanta Braves to win the National League pennant. It was the second big thing I’d experienced the Mets clinching in less than two weeks. I didn’t know much about baseball, but I understood that what the Mets had just done was enormous. The next stop would be the World Series and the Orioles. It would be enormous, too.

I didn’t know who the owner was. I didn’t know who the general manager was. I didn’t know there were such things. I knew there was a manager, and he could do no wrong. I knew there were players, and they could do no wrong. Eventually I learned there was more to the Mets than them, that there was an owner, a GM, coaches, a whole organization. But they weren’t of interest to me. I saw their pictures in the yearbook, I saw their names in the paper now and then, but they weren’t why I was a Mets fan. I just assumed they were doing what they could to make me want to be a Mets fan even more.

That illusion would be shattered by M. Donald Grant when he shipped my innocence to Cincinnati and my naïveté to San Diego. Since then, I’ve assumed it’s in my best interest to pay close attention to everything owners and GMs say so I can better understand where my Mets are going. But I think I’ve heard enough from this owner and this GM and their accomplices. I think I know that what they say only brings me down.

Jeff, Omar… fix the team. Otherwise, just let me be.

More pointed and eminently thought-provoking takes on those who can stand to listen to these guys from Dana Brand [5] and Caryn Rose [6]. Dan Lewis [7] chimes in with a pretty reasonable wish list.