Once upon a time…there was a first baseman who played in New York. He was adored by fans, admired by teammates and respected by those who competed against him. Known for his large hands and quiet disposition, Gil Hodges led the Brooklyn Dodgers to the NL Pennant in 1952. Hodges hit 32 Home Runs that year, knocked in 102, walked 107 times, compiled a .386 OBP and slugged at .500. And then, in the Fall Classic, on the greatest baseball stage of all, against none other than the hated Yankees, Hodges did the unthinkable: He went 0 for 21 in the World Series! It was arguably the worst October by a player of his caliber in the history of the game. Brooklyn lost in 7 games, losing Game 6 by a score of 3-2 and losing the 7th and deciding game, 4-2. Fans could have easily blamed Hodges for the collapse. They did not.
The following spring brought new hope, but Hodges continued struggling. One month into the 53 season, Hodges batting average was hovering at .200. Had he forgotten how to hit? What was wrong with the big first baseman? At 28 years old, was his career over?
And what did the fans do? How did they react? With encouragement. Hodges received hundreds of letters daily, good luck charms, gifts and yes, even a standing ovation every time he came to the plate at Ebbets Field. Father Redmond of St. Francis Roman Catholic Church uttered the famous phrase, “Keep the Commandments. And say a prayer for Gil Hodges.” Shortly thereafter, Hodges began to hit and there seemed to be no stopping him. The next four years of his career were statistically his best.
The point is this: Brooklyn fans supported their team. And their first baseman.
As Mets fans, we can not give up on our team and boo our own players. These are the New York Mets. A team from New York will always get booed a bit louder on the road than other teams. A team with a $130 million payroll will be subjected to more negative chants than say, the Marlins or the Pirates. Our players hear enough of that in Philadelphia, in Atlanta, in St. Louis, etc…They don’t need to hear it at “home.”
Yes, we are all unhappy with the way the team is playing. 2008 has been the most frustrating season in recent memory. Never has such a highly talented group of athletes performed so inconsistently. However, booing the players is pointless, immature, infantile and just plain wrong. Let the Yankee fans do that.
Fans may argue that they have the right to boo. They paid to get in and therefore can act however they want. But honestly, does that make any sense? If, as fans, we are unhappy with the product presented, then don’t go. If one is upset, disappointed or angry with the team the Wilpon’s and Omar Minaya have given us, then stay home. If you want to show your displeasure for ownership, they why spend money in the first place only to boo the players? People who are unhappy with American made products don’t stand outside the gates at a Chevy plant and boo the employees. Instead, they just buy a Toyota. Do the Wilpon’s care if the players are booed? Maybe. Maybe not. But they are making money as long as bodies are passing through the turnstiles. If one wants to show their unhappiness with the team, then show that to ownership where it hurts: the wallet. Stay home.
Perhaps there is an ironic twist in the Friday doubleheader. In game one, in Yankee Stadium, Carlos Delgado set a team record by knocking in 9 RBI’s in a single game. This occurred in The Bronx–Away from home. The second game of the doubleheader was played at Shea–At ‘Home.’ And Delgado followed up his record setting performance by going 0 for 2. Coincidence?
After 80 games, it is clear that this team has issues. Major issues. However, baseball is a team sport. To blame one or two players for all the shortcomings on this club is pointless and short-sided. Blaming Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo for all the problems on the 2008 Mets makes about as much sense as blaming Henry Ford for the high gas prices or accusing Abner Doubleday for steroid use.
The New York Mets are a team. We win as a team. We lose a team.