It was once said in a famous quote, “Only Nixon could go to China”. Back in the sixties the Communist states of China and the Soviet Union broke off their strategic alliance. Nixon saw this as an opportunity to gain a Cold War edge on the Soviets by warming up to the Chinese. It was quite unorthodox considering China was still an enemy state. Yet, Nixon was probably the most perfect figure at the time to initiate such a move, being the anti-communist that he was.
A controversial President and a controversial political decision which arguably moved China closer to a free market system, and more importantly, moved the United States out of Beijing’s nuclear cross-hairs.
So you’re asking yourself, what in Choo Choo Coleman’s name does any of this have to do with the New York Mets? To offer another famous quote,
“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster”- Sun Tzu.
The Mets need to look no further than the borough of the Bronx if they really wish to change as an organization, and we as fans need to take a collective step back, grow up, and acknowledge where the New York Yankees have clearly progressed far beyond even their own realizations.
Until the Wilpons do this, as difficult as it may be, until we shed the daunting weight of our pride which has landed us in the situation we are in today, nothing, absolutely nothing will ever change with the New York Mets.
With all great stories there are beginnings and many of those beginnings are rife with trials and moments of total ineptness and for some, illustrations of egomaniacal behavior. That’s the story of George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees.
It’s also the story of personal redemption, aided ironically by then Major League Baseball Commissioner, Fay Vincent, who suspended “The Boss” for life in 1990. It was said that Steinbrenner paid a bookie to find “dirt” on former Yankee Dave Winfield who was suing Steinbrenner for a breach of contract involving a payment that was meant for Winfield’s foundation.
It was the straw that broke the camels back for Vincent, a no-nonsense Commissioner unafraid of protecting the game and it’s history.
Steinbrenner by 1990 had earned a reputation of being a meddler. Basically a rich boy and his toy was a Major League Baseball franchise. His hiring and firing of Billy Martin, more times than one can comprehend , was as farcical as his constant micromanaging of his players grooming.
Yes he even had Don Mattingly suspended for having a goatee. The Yankees were THE joke of baseball. The storied franchise was becoming a living artifact all at the hands of its self-destructive owner.
Steinbrenner had three years to ponder the future of his team, and his place in baseball history. He was reinstated in 1993 a changed man or as New York Daily News reporter Bill Madden said, “ He got religion”.
No longer the impetuous meddler who would interfere with the day to day functioning of the team, instead he left that to Gene Michael then later Bob Watson and a little known assistant named Brian Cashman.
Instead of demanding young talented prospects be traded for high profile established players, the Yankees started to develop their home grown talent, the proof of which we see playing today. The money that he normally would be floating into the accounts of veteran talent was flowing into the teams’ Latin America, minor league and scouting system.
The foundation was being formed. The history being reset. Patience was the key along with the unwavering almost rabid desire to be the best in everything.
“It” was the mindset that greatness was the moment you put on the uniform, and the responsibility to the memory of those who came before you.
History is our greatest teacher but only if we are willing to open our eyes to it and accept the truth. The Wilpons as I have often said, have a gem in their care that is the New York Mets, yet they treat it and it’s fans with the snobbish disrespect that only an outcry of an off-season could begin to chip at.
Proof being the aesthetics of Citi-Field and it’s initial over emphasis on the Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson. Last year to walk into Citi-Field and not walk out feeling you went to a Met game was as demoralizing as the state of the teams’ play. Luckily the Wilpons learned this lesson and turned Citi into the home of the Metropolitans by way of the Mets Museum. It’s a start.
By no means am I saying the Wilpons should try to make the Mets into the Yankees. Emulation is not the goal. After seeing the Yankees receive their rings on their opening day this past week it dawned on me how far apart both teams are.
I know many of you will kill me for all I’ve said here and that’s fair. I’ve been a Met fan since my father and grand father took me to Shea when I was 5 years old. I will always be a Met fan, my bias is to them I admit. However I call it like I see it and I give credit where credit is due. My allegiance may be to the Mets but I’m a fan of this great game first.
The Wilpons have an opportunity to change this franchise for better like no other owner this team has had before. A beautiful new stadium, envied television broadcast rights, and a loyal fan-base are at their disposal. They aren’t perfect but neither was George Steinbrenner. The blueprint to the future is there for the viewing. That’s if the Wilpons are willing.
To quote Sun Tzu,
“ If ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril”.
Let us not be ignorant any longer Mr. Wilpon, history is patiently waiting to be written.