There are many adjectives that are used in conjunction with the 86 Mets. Confidence. Arrogance. Swagger. Obnoxious. But they were good, damn good. And they knew it. That’s a far cry from the 2013 Mets.
However, it’s not just wins that count. It’s playing as a cohesive unit. It’s playing as, no pun intended, a TEAM. And that is something this club does not do. You don’t have to get along off the field. You don’t even have to like it each other. But when you’re on that field, you play as a team. You fight as a team. The Jordany Valdespin situation shows in glaring fashion how incredibly dysfunctional this “team” is.
The 86 club was a bawling and brawling brazen bunch of ballplayers chasing women and partying. But there were exceptions. For all intents and purposes, Gary Carter was an outcast. He was a family man, religious and clean-cut. Heck, the guy was so pure he did a commercial for Ivory soap. Mookie Wilson was one of the longest tenured players on that club. Yet, he graciously accepted becoming a platoon player with Lenny Dykstra. Or moving to left. But yet, they won. 108 times. The 4th highest win total in the last 50 years.
That club had issues. No doubt about it. Darryl referred to Wally Backman as a “(expletive) redneck.” In his 1985 book, “Bats,” Davey Johnson referred to Dykstra as “an ***hole kind of guy.” When they were posing for their team picture in the spring of 1987, Keith Hernandez and Strawberry came to blows about seating proximity to Davey. What is this, 3rd grade? But yet, on the field, they pulled together.
After being chided with chants of “Daaaah—ril” in Fenway, Straw answered back. In the 8th inning of Game 7, it was he who hit a towering blast off of Al Nipper that was the final nail in the Sox coffin. And then he strolled around the bases in probably the longest HR trot in history. Confidence. Swagger. The following spring Nipper beaned Darryl. And the dugouts promptly emptied. Who else but the Mets could get in a bench-clearing brawl in spring training? Straw was not overly popular with some of his teammates. But they immediately came to his defense. Why? Because that’s what teams do. That’s what winners do.
When Valdespin gets set-up by his manager to get plunked, what do the 2013 Mets do? They sit on their ass. And then rub salt in the wound by condoning the actions of the Pirates.
This is a team?
Baseball is filled with players that did not get along off the field. But yet, they pulled together and they won. The Oakland A’s of the early 70s bickered constantly. Yet, they won 3 straight World Series. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent loathed each other. But they put their differences aside and gave their team 2 division titles and 1 pennant over 6 seasons. Ruth and Gehrig were polar opposites who disapproved of the other’s lifestyle. Yet, the Yankees of the 1920’s and 30’s seemed to do okay. And how about ‘The Bronx Zoo’ of the late 70’s. Those guys not only clashed off the field but on the field. And in the dugout on national TV. When Reggie Jackson wasn’t avoiding being punched by Billy Martin, he was getting into it with Thurman Munson. Talk about a dysfunctional mess! But yet, the Yankees won 5 divisions, 4 pennants and 2 World Series over a 6 year span.
The Mets, meanwhile, bicker amongst themselves. Then, go out and lose.
Did Valdespin act bush league by hitting that HR and then showboating on a very small scale? Did he act inappropriately for a rookie? Personally, I don’t give a damn. He’s a New York Met and as such he should be defended by his, pardon the pun, “team” mates. Terry Collins set him up to get beaned. I guess we should be thankful Collins allowed him to wear a batting helmet.
Had any other rookie done that they’d be praised for trying to light a spark on a team where no spark exists. Last season Bryce Harper played with arrogance rarely seen in a rookie. And although Valdespin is no Harper, I don’t recall Harper getting blowback from his teammates. He gets praised while Valdespin gets violently slammed in the face by John Buck. John Buck who is on his 4th team in the last 5 years. John Buck who will be riding the pine once D’arnaud arrives. Can you imagine back-up catcher Ed Hearn violently slamming a pie into the face of Lenny Dykstra? I can’t either.
Kevin Mitchell was a rookie in 86. Does anyone think had Mitch been purposely beaned like that, the Mets would not have retaliated? Tell me Bobby Ojeda wouldn’t have had someone kissing the dirt the next inning. In 1969 Wayne Garrett was a rookie. Garrett was unassuming and quiet. But can you imagine Gil Hodges setting up Garrett to get beaned? I can’t either.
Why should we expect the 2013 Mets to fight the other teams in the NL when they don’t even fight for each other?
You can clearly see the dissension on this “team” by some of the quotes of Valdespin’s “team” mates.
Latroy Hawkins: “What, now we’re supposed to get into a fight for that?” First of all, I didn’t even know Hawkins was still in the majors until the Mets found him on the scrap heap. Secondly, to answer your question, Latroy, yes. Yes you are.
Marlon Byrd: “The Pirates did what you’re supposed to do. We would have done the same thing.” With all due respect, Marlon, I disagree. When was the last time the Mets protected one of their own and retaliated?
If the Mets are going to lose, at least lose with some dignity. Losing is one thing. Being a doormat is unacceptable.
And to David Wright, you’re the captain. Avoid the politically correct statements and settle this in the clubhouse. You’ve got that “C” on your jersey. Now act like a captain. I can’t imagine Keith or Gary or John Franco allowing this to fester. Isn’t it David who said, “You play for the name on the front of your jersey, not the one on your back.”
One vivid memory of 86 was the all-out bench-clearing brawl when Ray Knight decked Eric Davis in Cincinnati. Dugouts emptied…except for one player. Former Red George Foster sat on the bench and watched the Mets fight his old team. And although Foster was the 2nd highest paid player on the team (and yes, an outcast even before), GM Frank Cashen had no problems immediately getting Foster out of New York. Why? He realized that Foster was not a team player.
Thank goodness Alderson was not the GM in 86. He would’ve kept Foster and gotten rid of Ray Knight.
And ask yourself this: What’s easier to imagine—a guy like Valdespin fitting in with the 86 Champions…or a guy like Keith Hernandez fitting in with the 2013 Mets?
So, to Valdespin, I say, hang in there. Your time here is probably limited. The fact that you’re exciting, try to light a spark and want to win, is clearly not in synch with the 2013 Mets. Management wants everyone to be nice and quiet. We don’t want to upset anyone else in the league.
Shhh. Heaven forbid someone gets mad at us. So, sit tight, Jordany. We’ll probably get rid of you like we did Beltran or Pagan. You know, two ex-Mets who escaped this madness. Two ex-Mets now wearing or pursuing World Series rings. Yes, World Series rings, something Terry Collins can only view on Google Images.