The Mets haven’t done many things right in the last half decade, and God knows they’ve paid the price with plenty of bad press and a sorely tarnished image. Have no fear… I’m not about to resurrect all the bad memories of the last five years and point out every single thing that has gone horribly wrong. On the contrary, this post is about what the Wilpons have always been very good at…
Whisper Campaigns – The timeless art of using the media to spread rumors designed to discredit a person and sway public perception.
In the Mets’ case the goal is to persuade the fanbase to turn on a player while dividing and conquering the base itself with the greatest of ease. A wonderfully diabolical scheme that never fails.
The Wilpons by no means invented whisper campaigns, but they have turned it into an art form and perfected it to the point of effortlessly steering the opinions of their fanbase with such surgical precision.
And while the fanbase is ultimately the weapon of mass destruction in these campaigns, the players they choose to discredit are always the unsuspecting targets and innocent victims. They never see it coming. The always inevitable outcome is quite simple; a trade, a release, or letting the player walk as a free agent.
We’ve seen these whisper campaigns before as Met fans, and one only has to go back to Tom Seaver, the first Met player to incur such an underhanded attack.
However, that campaign was poorly executed and the fanbase was never swayed against their beloved ace, aptly nicknamed The Franchise. Oh sure, the Mets traded him anyway, but the team was vilified for it and eventually was forced to sell the team. It seems M. Donald Grant could have used a few lessons from current owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and general manager Sandy Alderson.
In the last two years, we’ve seen Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes fall victim to this seedy practice by the Mets. But I must say that the whisper campaign that was waged against R.A. Dickey, was by far their most monumental achievement of all time.
The trap that was set was ingenious from the very start, inviting Dickey to play the part of an Elf at the team’s Holiday Party held on December 11th (remember that date). For a goodhearted, family oriented man like Dickey, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring a smile to the faces of 300 children who were all from families that were effected by Superstorm Sandy. It was the perfect Hollywood script.
With the Holiday Party still ongoing, the attack was launched with a few shadowy tweets on Twitter that the Mets were unhappy that R.A. used the function to gain traction in negotiations for a new extension. In truth, he simply answered questions that the Mets already knew would be asked of him. Dickey, honest as always, answered every question without any evasiveness. However, the battle lines had been drawn, the media was enlisted, the front office had received their marching orders, and the war was on.
I’m sure you all love those polls on MetsBlog just as much as I do. On November 19th, in one such poll, the readers of MetsBlog voted 66% in favor of not trading R.A. Dickey and signing him to an extension instead. I was one of those who voted in the majority with well over 10,000 votes tallied.
One day after the Mets Holiday Party, ONE DAY, MetsBlog ran another poll and this time the results were shocking to say the least. Only 28.4% of those polled still wanted to re-sign Dickey and not trade him. In less than one month, the entire fanbase flip-flopped and the majority now wanted R.A. Dickey gone – Cy Young Award and all.
What a coup for the Mets. A precision attack with the most optimal results they could have hoped for. With one bold strike they swayed the entire fanbase and got the majority of them to see things their way.
This was a stroke of genius, unseemly yes, but a stroke of genius nonetheless. Mets ownership and management know just how to push our buttons and they do so time and time again. This says as much about Met fans as it does the team’s ownership and management.
I’m not saying we believe everything we read or hear no matter how untrue, but these whisper campaigns always seem to do the trick and the proof is in the pudding, or in the Mets case the putting.
On November 19th, were you all as enthusiastic about trading R.A. Dickey as you are today?
Happy Holidays, R.A.. May your next Holiday Party be a thousand times more joyful and a thousand times less disingenuous as this one was for you. Go win yourself another Cy Young and a World Series ring too while you’re at it, eh…