Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Mets... get out of that New York state of mind
After the Mets lackluster 2009 season, I wrote a blog post that said they should dismantle the team.
I urged them to trade away veterans and play young kids. Yeah they would stink for a few years. But I argued that they were going to stink anyway. Why not stink with young kids for a few years and put together a new young Met team that fans could embrace?
I made the point that the Yankees hit bottom in 1990 and by 1994 were pennant contenders and 1996 put together the greatest sports dynasty since the Big Red Machine.
I made the case that it was time to discover their Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.
And I came across resistance.
And I heard a familiar refrain. "You can't rebuild in this market."
"You'll lose the fan base."
"Fans won't accept a loser."
So here we are two years later.
Two more losing seasons. And they are the WORST kind of losing seasons. The kind where the team is old hurt and boring. The kind where they are irrelevant and going into this season (which would have been the third year of a rebuilding process) they are banged up and can't realistically aim any higher than fourth place.
And oh yeah, their ownership has entangled the team in an embarrassing financial scandal.
So I have having a conversation with Jason Keidel of WFAN in New York.
He lives breathes and defecates New York sports and knows it better than I'll ever know it. We were talking about the Mets attendance woes and wondering about their prospects of drawing as many as 2 million fans without Reyes and with Wright hurt.
I said "The Mets HAVE to rebuild."
And he pulled the same line. You can't rebuild in New York. You'll alienate the fans. The fans won't come back. You can't act like a rebuilding team with the Yankees in the same market... etc etc etc.
So more of the same?
For a New Yorker to say "I won't accept a loser" is as much to the point as someone laid off from a job saying "I won't accept being unemployed."
It doesn't matter what you accept. The reality shows something very clear. The Mets have had three straight 4th place finishes and three straight losing seasons since moving into CitiField.
Does ANYONE see them having a winning season this year? Finishing ahead of Philadelphia, Miami or Atlanta?
The fan base is already alienated. They are already disillusioned.
And the Yankees ARE better.
No amount of putting your hands over your ears and screaming LA LA LA LA LA will suddenly turn the Mets into contenders, make the fan base thrilled and over take the Yankees.
There's a reason why Jose Reyes skipped town and it wasn't all because of the dough. If YOU wanted to win, where would you rather go? A team loaded with young talent and excitement for the new season?
Or a bloated old team with no hope for contention?
The Marlins know a thing or two about rebuilding. Yeah they do firesales and put a team on the field that probably has a lower payroll than the Yankees AAA team from time to time. Then they emerge with an exciting team filled with stars.
And they have matched the Mets in World Series titles.
And when the time comes, they rebuild.
Ahhh... but there is the rub! That's Miami. In New York you have to feed a beast of tons of money and unreasonable expectations on return. No wonder the Wilpons fell for the Madoff scheme.
I may have left Manhattan 7 years ago, but I witnessed first hand New York sports for a decade and a half and saw a disturbing trend with two and now three once proud teams.
I saw the euphoria of the Rangers Stanley Cup and the Knicks Finals run of 1994.
Madison Square Garden was a magical place filled with amazing memories and teams that even this Native New Englander couldn't help but root for.
The Knicks were THE unifying team of the Tri State area and Rangers fans rejoiced in a way that I never saw again until the Red Sox won in 2004.
Then those teams got old.
So what did the franchises do? They didn't rebuild. Why? Because New York DEMANDS a winner. So they made cosmetic changes bit by bit trying to keep the team at championship caliber.
And what happened when the Rangers picked up Fleury, Lindros, Bure, Kovalev, Jagr and Holik? They missed the playoffs EVERY SEASON between 1998 and 2005. Often times they were the most expensive team in the league, but by the spring, they were playing golf.
The Knicks in the post Ewing years have had one disgrace after another. The likes of Antonio McDyess, Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmello Anthony have all shown up. The result? 2 playoff appearances since 2001, both first round sweeps.
The spring of 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2010 saw zero playoff games in Madison Square Garden.
It doesn't matter if New York fans would accept a losing team. They had two.
Would the Rangers and Knicks have been better off playing young kids those years and building up a winner from within instead of constantly pushing their chips in the center of the table?
The results of that mindset has been a grand total of two post September 11 playoff series wins in Madison Square Garden. (The Rangers won first round series in 2007 and 2008 before being dispatched.)
The New York mentality is an addiction. MUST WIN NOW!
What good does that do if you aren't winning now?
A little cosmetic change here and there can lead to an ugly result. Do you think Jocelyn Wildenstein said "I'd like to look like a freaky cat lady?"
No she made little change after little change.
The Knicks and the Rangers avoided rebuilding and tanked an entire decade!
The Rangers finally are climbing back to elite status but the Knicks are still barely a playoff team.
The Mets are doing THE SAME DAMN THING!
They are taking the Knicks and Rangers model from the 2000s and said "I'll have what they are having."
Why? Because they are New York!
The ironic thing is New Yorkers seem to embrace hometown players above imported stars. New Yorkers seem to love players who play hard (like Jeremy Lin, Victor Cruz and Nick Swisher) above famous guys cashing big checks.
If the Mets were loaded with young kids who might not be contenders but offering hope for the future, I think that team would capture more fans attention than the current ER unit wearing blue and orange in Queens.
It has taken the Rangers nearly 2 decades to put together another team that will make a run at a title. The Knicks are nowhere near it.
Don't let New York pride get in the way of what you need to do, Mets.
New Yorkers are tough and resilient and have a good B.S. detector.
New Yorkers will only accept a champion?