Jason Fry, over at Faith and Fear in Flushing, has written a piece that encapsulates the current feeling I’ve heard from many, many Mets fans as well as anything I’ve read. Full disclosure: he cites some of my reporting in the piece. I absolutely believe the piece would move me as much whether he’d done that or not, but the financial realities play a huge role in what he has to say.
There’s a part of Fry’s piece that is disconcerting to me, and it is this: that accepting my accurate reporting has made it dispiriting for Jason to root for the Mets. Jason, of course, is intelligent enough to understand that whether I reported on the state of ownership’s finances or not, it is this reality that is the fundamental problem, not reporting that brings it to light. (I seem to encounter the occasional person on Twitter who believes otherwise, that reporting how broke the Mets are represents a bias, as if I’d be doing any reader a service by pretending they aren’t broke 50 percent of the time to appear evenhanded.)
The Mets couldn’t have afforded Jose Reyes last year whether I wrote about it or not. And the difficulties they are having even coming up with a payroll to match this season’s has everything to do with financial mistakes of ownership. I’m just the messenger, and feel pretty good about that “don’t shoot” cliche.
But I recognize that because I was on this story early, because I wrote a book about it, and because I believe that it is impossible (or, at least, irresponsible and incomplete) to discuss personnel decisions of the Mets without framing them within the reality that money is exceedingly scarce, I represent this state of affairs itself to a fair number of people. Frankly, this would have been incomprehensible to me even two years ago, before I dug into this story and determined how destructive ownership’s short-term and long-term debts would be on the baseball team’s ability to compete. Nor has it changed a lifelong condition I doubt will ever change: that I doggedly hope for better things for the New York Mets.
But I think the part of Jason’s piece that really hit home most was this one:
“My kid, raised in a rabidly blue and orange household, increasingly doesn’t watch at all. He’d rather read, or play with Legos, or do anything else. I don’t bother arguing — watching Andres Torres once again forget how many outs there are isn’t exactly going to make him back into a fan. Joshua goes to sleep under a framed picture featuring shots of Reyes and Wright. We haven’t replaced the Reyes picture, because who would the replacement be? When Wright is also an anachronism, I suspect the picture will just come down, with no replacement at all.”
This followed a paragraph in which Jason, who let’s remember, started a blog devoted to the Mets with Greg Prince on his own time, talked about how he’s found other things to do with his time. Shannon Shark over at Metspolice, again, another person who was inspired to start a blog about the Mets, has described himself as having “checked out”. And it isn’t any wonder why.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m the last one watching. I do, of course: it is my job. It wouldn’t be fair to say I watch with the same level of enthusiasm, though I make sure to pay the same level of attention. The extent to which watching the Mets feels like work shouldn’t inspire sympathy from anyone, as I feel extraordinarily lucky to have the job. But for someone who spent his life rooting for the Mets, it feels impossible that this could be true.
It wasn’t long ago that the Mets inspired the kind of pleasure that transcended a game. The high from the New York Mets could come from reading about them, or even listening to “And We Say… Let’s Go Mets!” by Lucas Prada, an inexplicably favorite song of my wife’s. I still tear up when I hear highlights from the Bobby Jones one-hitter, or Lenny Dykstra’s home run drop behind the right field wall to end Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS, because I remember where I was (my living room for Dykstra, Shea Stadium for Jones), and who I hugged (my father, both times), and how we talked about it afterwards. How we still talk about it, without new memories to supplant or complement them.
I used to get frantic text messages or emails from my father in the press box, seeming to hold me responsible for a poor decision on the basepaths or from the dugout. He simply doesn’t watch much anymore, and he’s been watching since before the beginning (he’s a Duke Snider Brooklyn Dodgers fan, originally).
And yet, despite all that I know and have written, despite the daily respite of the Mets on television or radio having become something de rigeur or worse, I can happily report that I enjoy taking my two year old daughter to Citi Field. It is the last bastion of baseball pleasure for me. The desperate situation simply hasn’t eliminated the pure joy in that; it certainly helps that she seems to enjoy it as much as I do. (Greg, of course, has elegantly addressed this feeling on FAFIF today.)
So Jason, I was going to write you an email, but I might as well write it here instead. Take your son to Citi Field, and enjoy the now, if you want to shake off that feeling of despair. At least, that’s what I do, no matter how much it feels like a busman’s holiday.
And my goodness, we’re Mets fans. Ownership could change hands anytime; the financial pressure is as ever-present as it was prior to the Madoff settlement. How soon is the great unknown. That’s no reason to assume it won’t happen. Remember that thing we’ve gotta do.
And even if it doesn’t right away, the 2013 Mets could pull a 2012 Orioles. That they aren’t particularly likely to do so doesn’t change the fact that it might happen. Anyone who says they know for sure how the 2013 season will turn out is no more right than a person who is utterly convinced that the Mets will win 95 games in 2013 or that Fred Wilpon will own the Mets forever.
There will always be something to cheer. In my memories, I don’t tear up when I think about the pleasure Anthony Young’s first win after a long losing streak brought me. But the memory exists, and it makes me smile, even chronologically centered within the Bleach, Fireworks and Show You The Bronx Era.
And today is even an anniversary: on this day in 1996, my parents drove me to visit my grandparents, and stopped at a bakery near the house to pick up dessert. I stayed in the car; Todd Hundley was due up. Shortly thereafter, Hundley set the record for most home runs by a catcher, as I excitedly explained to my returning parents, my mother carrying a pie.
1996 was pretty demoralizing, with Generation K getting decimated by the realities of pitching prospectdom and Dallas Green’s tough love. Unlike 2013, which simply looms as a year when the Mets are unlikely to contend, we can look back at 1996 and know they didn’t challenge for the National League East title. Still, my memories of that year aren’t devoid of fun, and no matter who plays for the Mets in 2013, or how little those players get paid, I know the same will be true of next year.
Bring your son, I’ll bring my daughter. There will be plenty of good seats available. And we can dream of better days ahead.