I watched an episode of the Simpsons not too long ago as they parodied Moneyball (the movie). It left me wondering whether some of these sabermetric gurus really believe they have the data to invent and reinvent winning formulas by selecting from hundreds of traits and hand picking numerical outliers? Professor Frink of course was the brain behind Lisa’s reliance on statistics as she took over managing Bart’s little league team with great success, but Bart recoiled at the sudden lack of fun and eventually got himself benched for hitting a home run. It was funny, especially the cameo by Mike Scioscia where he convinced Lisa to put Bart back in, but the show made a good point. Where has the fun gone?
R.A. Dickey was fun. Jose Reyes was a one man Dominican festival with fancy dreads and even fancier shave patterns — whizzing around the bases like a bolt of orange and blue with three claps at the end. Dickey climbs mountains and names his bats after Lord Of The Rings weaponry (Orcrist was my favorite) while parading around in a Darth Vader outfit, how fun is that? Oh and he has been making hitters across the league look about as foolish as a Gashouse Gorilla trying to hit a Bugs Bunny slow ball at the Polo Grounds.
Sadly that fun has been exiled forever to frigging Canada (where all the fun seems to go), all in favor of … prospects, ugh. Beyond launching a formal diplomatic protest for the theft of our fun, we should consider the fascinating inversely proportional relationship that fun has with misery.
As you eliminate fun (F) from a given baseline standard (X), your chances of seeing an uptick in misery (M — which can also stand for “Mets”) increase exponentially, (X – F = +++M). Now, fun and misery are a truly inverse function because it is also true that if you eliminate misery your chances of experiencing “fun,” are markedly improved. An example of this of course is our northerly expulsion of Holy-Soft-Grounder-To-Short-Thole and Nickeas of Ridethepineus, which left us with a gaping hole in our misery index.
The Met front office and our fearless GM Sandy Alderson (on whose forehead you could comfortably land a Harrier Jump Jet), will preach patience and the value of delaying gratification, and (like Lisa Simpson) the importance of sticking to the formula. Now I’ve never been good with delayed gratification, not that I would soil my pants at Applebee’s because I can’t wait to use the restroom or anything, but I do tend to have more than my share of cookie dough and I’m terrible with peaking under the wrapping paper at Christmas time.
I’m like many New Yorkers. We don’t have a lot of patience and we need to win now, we deserve it damn it! We don’t understand this man Alderson with his dual meanings (that don’t really mean anything half the time) and witty tweets and his genius geek monkeys with their giant brains following him around in expensive suits.
We don’t understand why he would stand idly by while the imbecile child of a diffuse and equally imbecilic owner would allegedly slander our Cy Young award winner to a nefarious media operation called “The Post.” We don’t understand why this fine upstanding GM would fail to address comments denigrating our excellent young first basemen named IKE who we LIKE, saying only “it would be difficult to replace 30 homers.” We don’t understand his “box of chocolates” retort when Reyes felt unloved (that was just plain mean albeit funny to be sure). We don’t all have an Ivy League education Sandy! Alderson is, well, he’s kind of a jerk sometimes, while at other times he’s like this cold, calculating, ruthless, military commander.
What Mets fans need to understand is that beneath all the polite talk and fancy degrees this man Alderson is (gasp!) a major league General Manager. That role, historically, has been occupied by some of the sleaziest two-faced backstabbingest opportunistic bottom-feeding hustlers this side of Pawtucket.
Consider for a moment that their job is to collect, trade, and pedal human beings (and their respective abilities) in constructing a group of individuals that can defeat opposing groups in a contest of strength, agility and coordination … A contest that involves the throwing and striking of a small sphere with a rounded club while a line of players takes turns attempting to run a diamond shaped course for points (and for millions). The premise is surreal when you think about it.
Historically General Managers have been men who have risen through the minor league ranks traveling on buses through B-list cities in a haze of cigar smoke and scotch. Many of them were failed players, maybe some were coaches, even worse some were lawyers, but most at some point served time as scouts and scouting directors. Their culture is one of agents and talent evaluators. It is a dog-eat-dog business where many a dream is dashed and many a wholesome youngster is sent home to Iowa with a busted shoulder and a useless pair of cleats. Baseball GM isn’t exactly the occupation that comes to mind when I think “high moral standard.” From Ban Johnson’s collusion attempts to Comiskey’s miserliness to Frazee’s disregard for the fans to Landis’ racism to McGraw and O’Malley … these guys were shysters, hypocrites, and profiteers; they are the definition of unscrupulous. How about Grant and Phillips more recently? Dirtbags.
Sure baseball has changed, the suits are more expensive the degrees are more prestigious and there’s a lot more money getting thrown around (and a lot more math), but let’s not presume to admonish the leopard for his spots, it comes with the territory. If it’s true that teams do sometimes end up reflecting their leaders, so much the better — especially if Alderson can institute a sense of cold calculating ruthlessness in a Met squad that for too long has been too damned nice. He entertained offers for Dickey from the Yankees for crying out loud! We need to remember this is a man with a military background who served a tour in Vietnam. The military’s model of organizational efficiency (stemming from the fact that they undertake incredibly difficult missions on massive scales under incredibly adverse conditions) is the perfect proving ground for anyone endeavoring to try and turn the Mets around. Sure it’s not the Normandy invasion but it’s up there.
It takes some intestinal fortitude to run a baseball team in New York. While a nice guy can maybe become a GM, the role, particularly when executed successfully, involves a lot of nastiness. For the record I don’t believe Alderson had anything to do with slandering Dickey, mostly because it’s bad business and the business end of the operation is Alderson’s strong suit. Why didn’t he debunk it? Why should he? If the story was some fabrication or (more likely) a rant derived from a phone conversation with Jeff Wilpon, speaking to it — even to refute it — only adds to the story’s cachet. Why reduce yourself to invalidating the ramblings of a witless silly person?
As for his aversion to veteran free agents, Alderson knows his high-priced veterans out-earn him and may even have more clout than him in some circles, so he focuses on creating a core of prospects and under control young players who he can do with as he pleases while saving tons of cash. If Sandy Alderson can create a winning team by building up a rabid core of cheap fanatic youngsters, he effectively undermines the lucrative nature of free agency — he proves that stingy small market methods work in big markets too.
It can mean an awful lot of money back in the pockets of owners, but the economics of all this are irrelevant to me. I just want to see what happens after he rebuilds the farm because that’s been the recipe for both Met world titles to this point. So far Alderson has been keenly efficient and almost single-minded in that regard, going after right-handed power arms with durable profiles, and +++ character guys. Like any Met fan, in the end I just want the Mets to win, and I want them to sustain it for once. That’s really all I care about, because winning is a lot more fun than its inverse (which is losing).
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We welcome Matthew Balasis to the Mets Merized Online community. I’ve already had the opportunity to read some of his writing, and I can promise you that you’re going to enjoy his passion for the team as well as his insights and opinions which he presents in his own unique and entertaining way. Plus he becomes the fifth Veteran (U.S. Marine Corps) on our team! Please welcome Matt to MMO! – Joe D.