Our whole year builds up to these kinds of Fall Classic moments: we anticipate every move; we dissect every morsel of potential strategy; we hang on every word written and spoken in advance…and then, finally, the big event takes place.
For us Mets fans, offseason press conferences are our version of World Series games — except my cable system doesn’t hinder my ability to see them.
Sandy Alderson pitched Friday afternoon about as well as Matt Cain did Thursday night. Cain shut out the Rangers just as surely as I was shut out of watching him via traditional means. Alderson’s kind of pitching was different, but I found his start just about as stellar as Cain’s.
The bar was set a tad lower for Alderson than it was for the winning hurler in Game Two. Sandy’s mound was an offseason press conference. Talking a good game should be the easy part. That said, Alderson talked a very good game. “He talks a good game” is usually a putdown, but here’s it’s a compliment. The Mets haven’t talked a whole lot better than they’ve played the last couple of seasons. Talking a good game is all our new GM could do this Friday, and for October 29 when we haven’t had a Mets game since October 3, it’s all we needed from him.
As for Cain and the Giants, whether or not you’re able to see the World Series like a normal person, they might be telling us something interesting about our team, too.
When the World Series participants were set, it was noted approvingly that Michael Young was finally getting his big chance. Young’s been a Ranger since 2000. He was that guy whose first column of stats had been consistent his entire career — always TEX, never anything else — and one of those players who had played and played without ever having had his postseason ticket punched. No matter what team you root for in any given October, you always feel good for the Michael Youngs of baseball. He stuck with his team, he excelled in the shadows, now, at last, his day had come. Nobody has been a Texas Ranger longer, and from that perspective, nobody deserved a chance at World Series glory more than 34-year-old Michael Young.
Matt Cain, I was surprised to learn, is the closest thing the Giants have to Michael Young. Cain has been a Giant longer than any of his teammates, and he had never been to the playoffs before this year. Cain, 26, is far younger than Young and he’s only been on the Giants since August 29, 2005. You go back five years and two months before Cain began his current sublime postseason run and you’d find nobody from then who’s his World Series teammate now.
The Giants are being talked up as equal parts Cinderella and anomaly. They kind of came out of nowhere in 2010 — the Mets had a better record at the All-Star break — and much of their roster seems like it was thrown together on their last flight home from Colorado in September. There’s a sense of who are these guys? and how did they get here? to the team that’s two wins from bringing San Francisco its first World Series championship.
San Francisco’s answer to those questions are, as we speak, these guys are great and as long as they’re here, we don’t care. It’s a reasonable response given the Giants’ position at this juncture. They are a cache of live arms, a potential all-world catcher and, otherwise, whoever wandered in off the street. Or so it seems: Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff…two wins from a world championship.
If I were a San Francisco Giants fan, I’d be ecstatic right now. If I were a New York Mets fan with the New York Mets up two games to none in the World Series, I’d be the same — no matter who was wearing our uniform or for how long he was wearing it.
We all know the line about “rooting for the laundry”. When I first heard it, I thought it was clever as the dickens. Having heard it regularly since before Matt Cain was a major leaguer, I find it tiresome and misleading. We do not, I believe, root for the laundry. We root for what the laundry represents to us.
Sandy Alderson has already paid homage to the Mets as an “iconic” franchise. He’s right. They’re certainly iconic to us. The uniform is iconic to us. The name “Mets” is iconic to us. We long ago decided it meant something significant to the point of sacred to us. We want it to look that way to everybody. We’re tired of being the oddballs.
Whoever ratchets up the cachet attached to “Mets” is going to be all right by us. Sandy Alderson, who on Friday said he wants to attain and maintain a “standard of excellence” for the Mets, is all right by us right now because he’s willingly taken on this imposing task in our name. For his name on a paycheck, sure, but indicating — through his press conference and the interviews he did later — that we are never far from his thoughts, because we are his business.
“An underlying loyalty” is what he described Mets fans maintaining when he was on with Mike Francesa. “A desire to get back there [to] enjoy the relationship,” is how he reads our mood as it pertains being lovers of this team. “Make it safe again for Mets fans to be overtly supportive and happy” is his take on his responsibility.
Alderson displays both an intrinsic understanding of people like us and maybe reads a few blogs between phone calls (he’s been known to talk to at least one of them). I think he nailed the Mets fan miasma that has developed in the wake of everything has gone wrong in the recent past. If, as part of his due diligence, he watched any single home game from September, he no doubt comprehended right away that Mets fans’ underlying loyalty has been severely shaken, that we were not enjoying the relationship and that our support, if not necessarily covert, wasn’t exactly enthusiastic.
How does Alderson go about reviving the more dormant aspects of our passion, those which have been dulled by two years of dismal sputtering on the heels of two years of dramatic letdown?
By winning, of course. Winning will make us all feel better. Winning will bring new iconicism to the uniform, to the franchise and to our self-esteem. Seats will not go unfilled when we’re winning. Enthusiasm won’t need to be cultivated. It will emerge and it will roar the way it once did in these parts.
And how does Alderson get us to that point?
That’s the more difficult question, and for all the broad strokes (and narrow beseechments) we are all willing to offer, the only person who is entrusted to answer it is Sandy Alderson. That’s why they’re paying the man. But if he doesn’t mind a touch of fan interference, I’d be willing to remove a potentially perceived obstacle from his thinking.
Explore every trade that makes sense to you and, if you are convinced in your role as our grand baseball poobah that it’s the right thing to do, trade anybody you feel you have to trade. Your job is improving the New York Mets. There are no sacred cows grazing in Citi Field. Not after 2010. Not after 2009.
This is not an endorsement of trading anybody in particular. This is an endorsement of following through on what Sandy said to Michael Kay after he finished with Francesa, namely that there are no untouchables, and while the Mets won’t necessarily be shopping anybody around, they’ll be willing to listen — he’ll be willing to listen.
If I have to listen to Mike Francesa and Michael Kay, Sandy Alderson can listen to other GMs propose trades. He is empowered to turn down those he finds absurd or unhelpful, but I’d advise him to keep an open mind where anybody and everybody is concerned.
Alderson’s hiring is supposed to act as a hedge against unwise ownership interference. I’d like to believe that if Sandy Alderson had been general manager when this month started, there wouldn’t have been a story like the one generated by Jeff Wilpon calling David Wright and assuring him he could disregard the COO’s uncomfortable answer to a question the previous day about the Mets’ hypothetical willingness to trade him.
“I can’t imagine it. But if you’re going to listen to the new GM and he’s going to tell you (it will) bring back five pieces or something, then I guess you have to listen. I’m not saying we’re going to do it, but you’d have to listen.”
Logic tells you the Mets will not be trading David Wright this offseason and that they probably shouldn’t be trading David Wright this offseason. The only reason I could see for trading David Wright — or anybody — would be to improve the Mets overall. That would mean you’d have to receive in return a player or a package more valuable than the player who’s your best and most valuable player and you’d have to figure out a way to effectively replace that best and most valuable player in doing so.
I doubt that realistic possibility exists. David Wright is an upper-echelon player. The Mets receive outstanding production from him year after year, his contract is not prohibitive and he is not yet 28. Of the many issues that need to be addressed on the 2011 Mets, third base is not one of them.
But you can’t rule anything out at this instant. You just can’t. If Sandy Alderson were to be bowled over by an offer for David Wright, I’d want Sandy Alderson to stop and think about it…hard. If he were thoroughly — and I mean absolutely — convinced that such an offer would transform the Mets for the unquestionably better in the short- and long-term, I’d be fine with him trading David Wright.
Or Jose Reyes. Or Johan Santana. Or Ike Davis. Or, in theory, anybody.
I don’t think those are the players the Mets should trade. I don’t think trading those players would help the Mets rebuild. I can see those players being a part of a Mets team that starts winning again. But I could not, in all good conscience, say no, nein, nyet to anything reasonable before it is suggested, and I would not want Sandy Alderson to rule out anybody as untouchable.
There can be no sacred cows on this team. There can be no deference to the concept of fan favorites or existing marquee names. I’m as sentimental a Mets fan as you’ll ever meet, but I don’t want roster decisions ruled by misplaced sentiment. When everything is allegedly on the table, I don’t want the COO calling a player and telling him, “I don’t mean you.”
It would be particularly sweet to see the Mets win the World Series with Jose Reyes and David Wright leading the charge. They’ve been here longer without interruption than anybody else. We watched them rise through the system, we treated their debuts as milestones, we burst with pride as they progressed from rookies to All-Stars and we cheer them still. All things being equal, I hope to be at Citi Field some sunny afternoon when their numbers are retired in honor of their brilliant Mets-only careers.
Yet you know would be even sweeter than seeing the Mets win the World Series with Jose Reyes and David Wright leading the charge? Seeing the Mets win the World Series…in the relatively near future.
If that were to happen with somebody who’s not David Wright playing third base or somebody who’s not Jose Reyes playing shortstop, we’d be cheering our hearts out for that third baseman or that shortstop, just as Giants fans are cheering full-throatedly for their relative newcomers. Wright, Reyes and Carlos Beltran have all been Mets longer than any current Giant has been a Giant (Pedro Feliciano, a Met from 2002 through 2004 and since 2006, spent 2005 in Japan). Reyes is one of my all-time favorite Mets. I’ve liked Beltran immensely ever since we signed him. I have high regard for Wright. Their endurance is not incidental. Injuries notwithstanding, they’ve been the best Mets going for the past six seasons. They each strike me as swell guys and great competitors.
But if Sandy Alderson determines the Mets can make the World Series in 2011 by recrafting his roster via trading any or all three of them…and we actually make the World Series…and are in a position to legitimately contend for it on a regular basis for the next several years thereafter because of such trades…
…then fine. Do it. Don’t get hung up on sacred cows or sacred cores. If Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria were leading us to World Series victory right now from the left field side of the infield, I’d be telling you what swell guys and great competitors they are. If the longest-running Met on our World Series team dated back no further than 2007 acquisition Luis Castillo, I’d write 3,000 sentimental words praising his perseverance against all odds.
I’ll reiterate for those who may only see the words “trade” and “David Wright” in any of this: I don’t want the Mets to trade David Wright. I’m not advocating the Mets trade David Wright. I hope David Wright is at the heart of multiple Mets championship teams — him and Reyes and Santana and Davis and Beltran and a whole bunch of other Mets of whom I’m quite fond. But I simply do not want the Mets to not consider any and every possible avenue to improvement. They should reject any proposals they don’t like, but I just ask they keep an open mind and not feel beholden to preconceived notions of what can and can’t be done.
At a moment when Sandy Alderson looms as a bright, shiny, red button marked RESET, I’m an advocate only of can.