An unnamed spokesman for my favorite baseball team referred to a friend of mine as conducting a “desperate self-promotional campaign for relevance,” which is a shame. That’s no way for my favorite baseball team to act.
As for my friend, Howard Megdal, I will echo his sentiments regarding his new e-book, Wilpon’s Folly, and suggest the reader judge his work — and its relevance regarding the long-term fate of the New York Mets — by reading it. The “desperate self-promotional” charge is just ill-conceived noise on the part of the Mets. You’ve got a specific gripe, spell it out. Otherwise, declining to comment on a book whose findings and/or assertions bug you is a perfectly reasonable response.
I root for the Mets and I root for Howard, so with that conflict of interest stated, I will add that I trust one party more than the other where the best interests of the ballclub are concerned, and it’s not the people who own the Mets. Howard and I became friends because we both love the Mets. I’ve watched him write, report and, yes, campaign for the better part of two years motivated by that love.
It’s an important distinction to note Howard is a Mets fan who is a journalist, and not a journalist who stuffs his personal baseball affection in a blind trust while wearing a media credential. He is what they used to call an advocacy journalist. He has a cause. His cause is Met-promotion more than it’s Megdal-promotion. Howard wouldn’t be chasing this story if it weren’t crucial to him that the root cause of the current Met morass be resolved. If the Mets aren’t working properly, that’s his business as much as it’s anybody’s — the franchise-owners included.
I can’t consider anything Howard’s writing about Madoff-Wilpon without thinking about his prior book, Taking The Field, which is ostensibly about Howard’s tongue-brushing-cheek campaign to be voted general manager of your New York Mets in the summer of 2010. He made like Teddy White and gave us a perfectly lovely time capsule by which to remember his clever Quixotic effort to be elected to a non-elective office across what proved to be The Last Days of Omar Minaya. It’s all very charming — and his theories on franchise-building are all perfectly worthy of debate — but that’s not why you’ll want to read Taking The Field as preface to Wilpon’s Folly.
You’ll want to read Taking The Field for Mirabelle Megdal, the designated heiress to the Megdal rooting passion. The book is woven tightly with Howard’s heartachingly sincere desire to pass along to his baby daughter a franchise worthy of the fandom he is intent on cultivating in her. He played play-by-play tapes (Scully, not Healy) for her while she was in her mother’s womb; he rocked her to sleep with bedtime stories downloaded from MLB Trade Rumors; he immersed her in Citi Field culture well before she would be able to crawl let alone stand in the Shake Shack line.
Howard wouldn’t and won’t wait to guide his child in the ways of Mets fandom. Mirabelle’s not nearly old enough to pay a convenience fee, yet I imagine she already has an opinion on who should play second next year.
Give or take the accelerated timetable, Howard is like any Met-loving parent in that he hates the idea of subjecting a beloved offspring to multiple decades of championship-free baseball, but is going to take that chance anyway. More than anybody else I know, however, Howard is determined to figure out how to make the Mets less of a risky proposition for his kid.
Which is where Wilpon’s Folly comes into play. Though Howard plies his investigative skills and honest curiosity in an attempt to unravel the root of the financial mess the Mets have become, I don’t think this is any more the work of a crack reporter and writer (even if he is both) than it is a dad and Mets fan who wants a better long-term baseball situation for his daughter. To put it in the context of one of the stingingest political one-liners of the last century, he wants Mets fans to be better off tomorrow than they’ve been in the past four or so years.
Howard Megdal’s loyalty isn’t to the story for the story’s sake. It’s to helping to craft understanding and forge solutions on a topic that means a ton to him personally, never mind professionally. It’s to trying to ascertain where the money went and whose fingerprints are on what moves. It’s to ultimately positioning the Mets of Mirabelle Megdal’s rooting years — and all of ours — as something with a fighting chance to be a consistently winning proposition.
If that’s a desperate quest, then so be it.