Based on five decades of field research, I’ve reached this careful conclusion: Joan Payson, the original owner of my beloved Mets, probably did something really nasty with the devil atop the dugout at the old Shea Stadium.
How else to explain the Mephistophelean bill that has come due? We’ve had impossible collapses — there was 2007 and then, just in case you were in a coma and missed it, they repeated it in 2008. We’ve suffered strings of injuries strange and bizarre — you’ve never heard of a top prospect losing an entire season to an ankle sprain? Ike Davis, please report to the courtesy desk.
Michael Powell on government and politics.
We have professional hitters who bang their heads against fences and forget how to hit — see Church, Ryan, and Bay, Jason. We have professional hitters who really, truly, deeply cannot field — see Murphy, Daniel, who hovers apologetically about second base and runs left field fielding routes like a guy in desperate search of the men’s room.
We have David Wright, a carefree young stud of a third baseman who, in classic High Neurotic New York style, is in need of long sessions on a therapists’ couch to learn how to again hit home runs.
And we have — or had — Jose Reyes.
Dominican-born, a fleet gazelle of a kid with power to all fields, he was ebullient. In 2008, he hit .297 with 37 doubles, 19 triples and stole 56 bases. (Guess that collapse wasn’t his fault, huh?) Then he suffered a string of injuries and, although he’s at the still tender age of 28 and although he won a batting crown last year, we thought it wise let him join the Miami Marlins, a team that draws 1,186 fans per game and whose players wear stoner pastel uniforms.
Sandy Alderson, the team’s general manager, seems a likable sort, which perhaps explains the too-sympathetic murmurings from sportswriters in the wake of Reyes’s departure. The shortstop’s new contract, the writers opined, is too richly laden. He’s injury prone, they say. Sandy would have been foolish to match the Marlins’ offer.
I suppose if my surname were Wilpon, I’d appreciate Alderson’s penury. But as I don’t draw on the owner’s bank account, I am more inclined to get a touch attitudinal. Did a religious injunction prevent Alderson from trading Reyes last June or July, when he might have reaped a prospect or three? Isn’t that what so called Money Ball is about, using all of your lobes, frontal, back and side-door, to extract the best from a bad situation? Or did we need Reyes around to sell a few extra tickets in September, when — if memory serves — we were 78 games out of first place?
Which brings me to this Money Ball business. It was a phrase coined by the author Michael Lewis, as he described a run of a few good years and a few good trades in the life of the Oakland A’s. The Mets, we are told, should imitate Oakland — Imitate Oakland? Just checking. — and rebuild by nurturing prospects and rebuilding our farm system. We can’t afford, Alderson insists, to play with the big spenders, those guys from cool, richly laden cities like … Philadelphia.
The Mets have a beautiful cable contract and a new stadium built in part with taxpayer dollars. If the Family Wilpon naïvely entrusted too much of its fortunes to this Madoff, well, I feel their pain.
And I have a terrific solution. Sell, now, please. New York City may not be Philadelphia, but rumor has it we’re thick with hedge fund boys with zeppelin-size egos. Even discounting those who are the subject of federal investigations, quite a few would jump to buy the team, and so replenish the Wilpons’ coffers and our hopes all at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong. Being a Mets fan is like being born to a down-on-its-luck clan in the Scottish Highlands. We take pride in high pain tolerance. (My younger son, Aidan, once exclaimed that he wanted out, he wanted to root just once for a winner, like the Yankees; my older son, Nick, then 13, never looked up from his sports section as he explained that he would be forced to kill Aidan before this happened. So ancestral loyalties are reinforced.)
Then again, maybe I am too gloomy. Just this afternoon, I learned my Mets like to flaunt their dough and get back in the game. They are looking to re-sign Jason Isringhausen, who a decade ago was a terrific relief pitcher and now is a softball portly, mediocre 39-year-old. They also want to sign Miguel Batista, a 40-year-old who never was much of a pitcher.
No. I can’t do this. I’m going to take some chicken bones and goats’ blood to the site of old Shea and ask Mephistopheles to leave us alone.