- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Players Are People, Too?

We know best-selling author R.A. Dickey is a person as well as a top-notch pitcher, and we like that about him, because it gives us one more reason to find him, as he likes to say, trustworthy. If you’d like to discover more R.A. for yourself, as I did [1], he’ll be signing copies of Wherever I Wind Up at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center at Montclair State in Little Falls, Thursday night, June 21, 6:00 to 7:30 [2].

When you read Brian Costa’s profile of Andres Torres [3] in the Wall Street Journal, you’ll learn our slumping center fielder is a person, too. Costa explores Torres’s ADHD, which helps explain why succeeding at baseball can be extra challenging even for a person who is a gifted athlete. It’s more rewarding knowing Dickey overcame personal obstacles to become a stellar Met than it is understanding Torres is held back by personal obstacles and has been an unproductive Met, but person-ness comes with the territory.

If you’ve followed any Metsian doings on Twitter in the past 24 hours, you’ve probably noticed Jon Rauch being a person — a person trying to laugh off the attacks of, technically, other persons. Rauch is one of several Mets very active with social media interactivity, which is all very lighthearted and friendly when things are going well (or at least not going badly), but can emit toxic overtones when things are a mess. By Rauch’s own admission [4], the end of Sunday’s game, when he gave up a home run to Russell Martin, was a mess. Surprise, surprise, Rauch was the subject of loathsome Tweets [5] for his troubles. Rauch handled the onslaught not by checking out of Twitter when the criticism grew insanely nasty — as Josh Thole did last year — but by ReTweeting them to show, in every sense possible, he’s a bigger person than his most virulent detractors could dream of being.

Yeah, tattooed relief pitchers who give up walkoff homers are people every bit as much as soulful knuckleballers who are 9-1 and center fielders struggling with hyperactivity. Mets are people. (Rumor has it Yankees are people, too, but that can’t be confirmed at this time.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this revelation. We are party to uninhibited honesty from Dickey, insightful reporting on Torres and edgy but measured response from Rauch, and it helps us immensely in understanding we’re rooting for people, not names and numbers. Yet, let’s face it, this being informed and enlightened chips away at the barrier we had when we could sit back and mindlessly express our briefly considered opinion of who sucked and who sucked more. Not everybody worries about those barriers, as illustrated by the Tweets sent Rauch’s way, but for the rest of us, having to realize guys who screw up on “our” team are just people is a little bracing.

I’m charmed that many of my fellow Mets fans Tweeted to Rauch’s defense, telling him, in essence, you’re all right, you’re a good guy, you’ll get ’em next time, the jerks are just being jerks. That speaks to good fellowship and sportsmanship and decent humanity, yet I can’t help but suppress a grin because I know these good-hearted Mets fans, if they were not in some semblance of contact with a Met reliever who’d just allowed a Yankee to finish off a series sweep, would be muttering horrible things about Jon Rauch precisely because he’s a Met reliever who’d just allowed a Yankee to finish off a series sweep. But that’s Jon Rauch the Met. As Mets fans, we get mad at our Mets and impulsively declare them deserving of the most horrible of fates.

Twitter, however, has provided a sense of Jon Rauch the person…and maybe a taste of “knowing” Jon Rauch the Met. So, yeah, the Met who gives up a ninth-inning walkoff homer in the Bronx is going to inspire a little reflexive vitriol when he’s an abstract figure tethered to a 4.88 ERA. But good ol’ @jrauch60? [6] He’s a good guy! Get off his sizable back!

I totally get it. It’s one thing to harass a Met from the stands or the couch. It’s another to mistreat a person who plays for the Mets. Once in a while, when it’s not the bottom of the ninth inning and the score isn’t being untied by a person who plays in another uniform, I even plan to remember that.