Mets Final Weekend, Oktoberfest, Piazza

It’s here. The last weekend of Mets baseball before it slinks off into the off-season of unsubstantiated rumors and financial allusions.

 

I’ll be at two of the games. Tonight, the Mets are doing their Oktoberfest. I get a cool glass Mets boot stein, which is worth the admission to the event, but I’m not hopeful that they’ll have anything special in terms of beer. There are so many local Oktoberfest beers to choose from, and even some Anheuser-Busch InBev ones like Spaten, but chances are they won’t be specially acquiring beer for a small event on the final Friday of the season. Perhaps if the Mets were to clinch a playoff spot one day, we can rally them to add fall seasonals to the selection. Either way, I’ll write up my thoughts next week.

 

I’ll be rooting for the Mets. I know that seems to  be a contrary opinion these days, as many are obsessing over the Mets losing to get a better and/or protected draft pick. Not me. I root for the Mets to win, and I don’t cherry pick one specific aspect as the only path towards competitiveness. Sure, getting the protected pick makes things easier this offseason, but one pick who may or may not ever play in the majors some years from now is not going to make or break the Mets.  Certainly not enough for me to root against the Mets winning. The Mets might not target, or acquire, a free agent that requires sacrificing the pick. Draft picks are a consolation prize, not a goal.  It ignores the short term enjoyment for the long term projections, something I never agree with. You can sacrifice the present for the hope of the future endlessly, and never get there. It feels too similar to the idea that you should lose as badly as possible as much as possible until you’re in the best position to get really good, really fast. That seems too much like the Marlins methods for me to like.

 

Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame Sunday, and I’ll be on hand for that too. Maybe the baseball Hall will get around to the same thing next year, but until then we’ll honor him as a Met because he’s one of our greats. They really should be retiring 31 too, and I’m not really sure why they aren’t. (And there’s a case for 15,16 and 17 as well) At least we’ll probably get another chance to honor Piazza next year when he’s inducted and then maybe the Mets have a retired number ceremony.

 

And then that’s it. The players go home. Citi Field goes dark. We start counting until pitchers and catchers.

 

The Islanders first game is next Friday.

 

Is It Time For a New Generation of Mets?

As I sit here wondering if the Mets will extend Reyes’ contract, and how I hope David Wright and Jose Reyes spend their long successful careers only with the Mets, I started thinking the bridge between different Mets generations.  In my eye, generations are roughly defined by the ‘core’ or the handful of top players on a team that stay together for a couple of years.  You had Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo and John Franco leading us into David Wright,Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.  There was an overlap, or bridge, between these two generations as some of them played together.  One midseason story line was even when Wright would, or should, move ahead of Piazza in the batting order.  What if the bridge between generations was not so obvious?
We are Mets fans because we love the Mets.  We love the Mets because we are Mets fans.  It’s emotional, fanatical, and probably illogical, but it’s what we do.   We have an emotional connection to the team, and to the players.  We all know that you “root for the laundry” and that it doesn’t matter who is wearing the uniform because if it says “Mets” on it, we want them to succeed.

There is talk out there about breaki

ng up the Mets core: If the Mets haven’t won with Wright and Reyes, maybe they are part of the problem and not the solution.  How would the fanbase, the one that includes the millions of fans not on Twitter or in the blogosphere, react to the Mets rebuilding?  Would fans actually be excited for a team that had Tejada at shortstop, Zach Lutz at third, an outfield of Lucas Duda, Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis with a rotation led by Niese, Gee and Meija? Especially if it took that group 2-3 years to really start to show any talent, if they do at all.  Perhaps Mets fans are too used to a group of players getting only one or two shots at the postseason and now mentally preparing for the next groups opportunity.  

Fans may enjoy a prospect or two, especially one that’s doing well, but watching a group of players lose consistently while going through the growing pains of trying to be a great major league baseball player is not what sells or excites fans.  Half of those guys probably won’t stick around long term in the big leagues, certainly not with the Mets, and they’ll make mistakes and boneheaded plays and go through slumps that will not enamor them to fans.  We love the team, but rooting for lovable losers is not what being a Mets fan is about.  For every fan that loved Ty Wigginton while he

was a Met there are a hundred or more that love Benny Agbayani because he was a part of a run of success.  Rustyjr of The Real Dirty Mets Blog asked for reader submissions of their top 50 Mets of all time, and has been counting down the tabulated results.  If you’re paying attention you’ll notice that the list hardly follows any statistical reasoning.  Ray Knight comes in at #37 for example despite his numbers across a mere 254 games with the Mets not being anything amazing.  Perhaps his baseball-reference sponsor has some insight:

“What a worthy ’86 Series MVP! He embodied those championship Mets. Who can forget his fire, his jubilation scoring the winning run on Buckner’s error?”

We cling the players that come through for us in big moments.  Endy Chavez made an unbelievable catch in a key moment of the biggest Mets game of the last decade.  For his Mets career he was at best a serviceable 4th outfielder and an amazing defensive replacement, which aren’t usually the guys that go down in history and get remembered.  Endy’s catch is immortalized in the left field gate at Citi Field and in the fan walk outside, and it’s one of the few parts of the building that has never been criticized by fans.  We form bonds and connections with these guys, and while winning makes them all look nicer, sometimes it’s just the emotion and effort of one player or series that makes us love them.  Endy’s catch was in a losing effort and Robin Ventura’s memorable Grand Slam Single was the last win the Mets would get in that series.


Would fans really pay to see a team of prospects?  My guess is no.  If the Mets fail to put a winning team on the field again in 2011, it won’t draw any more fans in August and September if they trade off every piece they can at the trading deadline.  While the removal of players that we have a negative association with may sound like a good idea, It doesn’t actually create more interest in watching that players replacement.  Sure there might be a boost in attendance if a fire-balling starter is doing well, or some rookie outfielder is smashing home runs all over the place, but those things will be passing novelties as most Mets fans find entertainment elsewhere that season.  Some cit the early 90s as some of the worse Mets seasons in history.  The ‘86ers retired, moved on, got into trouble and were no longer Mets. There were a couple of flashy prospects here and there that didn’t really pan out.  There was some brief excitement with Generation K, which shows us that a philosophy of “We might be pretty good in a couple of years!” is not a selling point.  There was no clear bridge to the next eneration and a lot of Mets fans in the 90s noticed that there _was_ still winning baseball in New York.  I wonder what the younger Mets fans that are in love with Wright and Reyes would do if they were no longer Mets in the next year or two?