When my dad taught me about something called Baseball in 1973 and introduced me to a team called the Mets, it was life-altering for this 7-year old. I’d learn to write cursive, get out of second grade, and eventually, when I grew a little taller, I’d replace Rusty Staub in RF. My whole life was planned out.
As I fell in love with the Mets, I developed an unbridled hatred for the Yankees. When visiting one of my grandmothers in the Bronx, we had to drive right past their stadium. In the back seat of my parents’ Plymouth, I shielded my eyes. I wouldn’t even give them the courtesy of acknowledging their existence.
The Yankees were colorless, uninteresting. They were even more icky than girls! Roy White, Chris Chambliss, Elliot Maddox, Graig Nettles. BORING! (And who the hell spells their name G-R-A-I-G anyway?) The Mets had friendly names: Tug, Rusty, Buddy, Kooz, Felix the Cat.
By the 80’s the Yankees were irrelevant. New York was a Mets town and like I’d done as a little kid, I didn’t even bother acknowledging their existence. They were unimportant.
By the mid ‘90s, I was older and realized ‘hate’ is a strong word. It wasn’t really their players I ‘hated.’ It was their fans sense of entitlement, the way they acted as if they deserved to play into late October and the way George Steinbrenner attempted to buy a pennant year after year. While I was no fan of Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill or Scott Brosius, how can you not love Derek Jeter? Who amongst us won’t miss Mariano Rivera?
I’ll continue to root against the Yankees, something that’s entrenched in me since childhood. However, I no longer hate their players. Nor do I detest the management style in which their front office operates.
After seeing the Wilpon’s and Sandy Alderson in action, they’ve done the impossible: They’ve made me gain respect–yes, respect–for the Yankees.
Is it wrong to try and buy a pennant? Yes…I guess…maybe. On the other hand, why not? Baseball is a sport and the purpose is to win, to reward your fans with a championship. If it takes outspending other teams, then so be it.
Late October every year, the same scene plays out. Commissioner Bud Selig presents the World Series trophy to the manager, GM and owner of the World Championship club. I don’t ever recall a celebration where the commissioner presents a trophy of any sort to a team with financial endurance, the team that accomplished the most with the least. The reason is simple: That doesn’t matter.
Question: Which 2 years did our Mets win the World Series?. Now, a follow-up: What was our payroll those 2 seasons? Yea, I have no idea either.
When I think back to 1986, I recall Mookie hitting a slow roller along the bag. I remember Jesse Orosco down on his knees smiling broadly. I can still see Ray Knight knocking Eric Davis on his ass, Gary Carter making a curtain call after going deep and the majestic beautiful swing of Darryl Strawberry. I don’t have any memory of what our payroll was.
In the end what matters is winning. Winning at, no pun intended, any cost.
Granted, both NY clubs have spent billions of dollars over the past two decades. And granted, the Yankees have spent far more than us. But ask yourself which fans have had a more enjoyable run since the mid ‘90s? Which team’s fans are optimistic about a championship and which team’s fans are biding their time? While one fanbase spends October cheering their team in the post-season, the other fanbase is counting down until April.
In the last 19 years, the Mets have won zero Championships while the Yankees have captured five. The Mets have made the post-season 3 times in 19 years. The Yankees have made the post-season 17 times in 19 years. It’s evident one organization wants to win and one wants to…well, I’m not really sure.
Baseball is a game, But it’s also a business. This is accepted in The Bronx but not in Flushing. There’s an old business adage that says, “If you want to make money, you must spend money.” The Steinbrenner’s realize this. The Wilpon’s don’t. It’s a very simple concept. The Yankees spend money to improve their product. Fans support the product by going to games and buying merchandise. This, in turn, puts more money in the owner’s pockets so they can turn around and further improve their product. The Yankees acknowledge that to keep their customers coming back for more, they must offer a good product. In Flushing, the Wilpon’s continue to ask us to support a sub-par product. It’s apparently okay for them not to spend their money—as long as we spend ours.
A couple weeks ago, the Yankees allowed their most productive hitter, Robinson Cano, to walk. Literally, within hours, realizing the need to keep their product relevant, the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury. Talk about a ballsy move. And if that wasn’t enough, added Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, too.
Many Mets fans blame our woes and financial struggles on Bernie Madoff and the frugal Wilpon’s. While the Steinbrenner/Cashman team is determined to run a profitable and successful business, provide their customers with a solid product, the Wilpon/Alderson team runs their business about as efficiently as Countrywide Mortgage.
When Alderson took over the GM role, he asked for patience. He had a plan. He had no money, but he did have a plan. He would rebuild this team from the ground up. We’d need to develop the rookies, restock the farm system. Sandy’s plan would make the Mets relevant again.
The Mets have no money. The Mets have no money. The Mets have no money. But suddenly, the Wilpons found $138 million for David Wright. Hmm…that’s convenient.
Alderson has insisted that he is looking long term, looking at the big picture and wanting to keep the Mets significant for many years, not just one or two. That’s thought-provoking considering this winter’s transactions.
I applaud the moves our GM made. The 2014 Mets appear to be slightly better (on paper anyway) than the 2013 Mets. But the transactions of this winter completely contradict what Alderson’s been selling us.
For an organization that is focused on the future, that is determined to be relevant for the long haul, the Mets handed over $60 million for a 33-year old outfielder and $20 million for a 270 pound 41-year old pitcher. For a team that is crying poverty and focusing on “the future,” how does management justify handing over $80 million for 6 years to 2 players whose average age is 37? That doesn’t sound like a long-term goal.
The future? Two years from now, Colon will be gone and Granderson will be patrolling Citi Field’s cavernous outfield on 35 year-old legs—probably looking to return to the AL so he can DH.
The ineptness and incompetence of this front office is mind-boggling. They tell us one thing, then do something else. Their actions contradict their words. They cry poverty and talk about the future, then hand over $80 million for 2 players past their prime. They allow Jose Reyes, citing they have no money, only to then find the money when it comes to keeping David Wright 10 months later. This front office is inconsistent. This is a business that has no direction, no goal. And no plan. Is this any way to run a baseball team? To run a business? Is this the way you attract customers?
The acquisition of Beltran, McCann and Ellsbury may not turn the Yankees into champions. But it might. Meanwhile, Mets fans would be ecstatic to get back to 500.
After seeing the Wilpon/Alderson team operate for years now, I’ve gained respect for the Yankees approach—their approach to winning, to staying competitive, to keeping their customers happy by providing a good product.
I’m no longer a little kid hiding my eyes in the backseat of my dad’s Plymouth. I no longer hate Yankee players or loathe Yankee management. If anything, I long for my team to take that same approach to winning. I’ve realized, too, that girls are no longer icky…but the Mets front office sure is.