“You judge a player not when he’s going good, but when he’s going bad.” – Keith Hernandez
Hernandez said that Friday night, as the Mets were taking on the Phillies in Philadelphia. Truer words couldn’t have been spoken and I believe you can correlate that advice and replace a singular player, with a team. A team can show you it’s true colors when it’s collective back is against the wall.
Take the Phillies who have been hit tremendously by the injury bug this year – losing key players at times such as Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and recently Ryan Howard. Yet as difficult as it has been for them, they fight on and have found ways to win whether through relying on each others talent or pure guile.
The same can be said of the Boston Red Sox who’ve seen Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Cameron and Kevin Youkilis fall, just to name a few. Yet they too fight on- 14 games over .500- and deep in the hunt for the American League Eastern Division with the Yankees and Rays.
Now look at the New York Mets. Look at the Phillies and Sox. Look at the Mets. Back to the Phillies and Sox. It reminds me of that childhood game on Sesame Street- One of These Things is Not Like the Other- and the Mets seem to be that glaring option that stands out in a most disappointing way.
Mets nation has grown accustomed to this defeatist, status quo mentality that has permeated the organization from top to bottom over the last few years.
George Orwell’s novel 1984, a literary classic, bemoans and illustrates a world in which freedom and hope are gradually destroyed and eventually overcome with totalitarianism and fear.
Orwell’s vision of our future, a bleak and depressing diatribe, mirrors in many ways where the New York Mets are now; where company group-think is the law of the land and reality plays no substantial part in decision making. It doesn’t have to be this way.
For the Mets, their point of demarcation came in ironically 1983, when Frank Cashen’s plan to rebuild a Mets franchise that was left in tatters prior to his arrival, started to yield gradual results. The team started the season led by manager George Bamberger and ended with Frank Howard. Davey Johnson, managing the Mets triple A team, the Tidewater Tides, was earning his stripes and the attention of Frank Cashen.
They had aging future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who once again showed the Baseball world why he was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. His record of 9 wins and 14 losses, didn’t remotely do justice to his quality of pitching that year as his ERA was a respectable 3.55 for a team that lost 94 games. Interesting when you look at today’s team and see what Johan Santana means to the Mets.
Cashen, in an attempt to at the very least, express to fans that the Mets were no longer sitting on the sidelines while other teams signed free agent talent, took a chance on Cincinnati Red George Foster in 1982, trading for the 33 year old and signing him to a 5 year $10 million dollar contract, which was quite rare at the time. Foster’s best season’s were behind him and in the time he spent with the Mets he never quite filled the role Cashen had envisioned. Ironic how with today’s Mets, Jason Bay seems to fill the role of George Foster.
The Mets however had a bright future on its way, solidified by Cashen’s realization that pitching is the key to success, and you just can’t have enough pitching. Ron Darling, a young talented Ivy Leaguer was acquired from the Texas Rangers along with Walt Terrell for the popular Lee Mazzilli.
Later Cashen would send Terrell to the Detroit Tigers for third baseman Howard Johnson. Little by little, Cashen was doing what many thought would be impossible- restore the New York Mets franchise and earn back the respect from the fans, lost over the years of neglect.
On May 6th 1983, the straw the would stir the drinks of many a New Yorker made his debut- Darryl Strawberry. The rest is Met history. Later in the 1983 season Frank Cashen was essentially handed a star for little in return.
Having rubbed manager Whitey Herzog the wrong way for years, Keith Hernandez- clutch hitting, defensive superstar first baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals- was traded to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Slowly but surely Cashen was piecing together a franchise that would redeem not only it’s fan’s loyalty but perhaps more importantly, redeem it’s own pride.
As fans it’s our birthright to be critical of our team as much as it is to be supportive. It’s not a matter of being negative or positive but a matter of being realistic in light of what we’ve seen from the 2010 New York Mets. Is this group of Mets, a pre-cursor of great things to come as the 1983 team was at one point? This Sunday, for the first time since 1990, the Mets fielded a team with 7 players who were homegrown talent.
Can we find it in ourselves as Mets fans to once again, see the silver lining in spite of the realization that the usual suspects are still calling the shots? Can we really embrace the franchise mantra coined by the great Tug McGraw, “Ya Gotta Believe” when every time we want to believe our faith is rewarded with arrogance and stupidity from the powers that be?
Not from this Met fan. Enough is enough.