Sunday, April 26, 2015

Top 10 Reasons the Mets Are a Joke

Note: This was written before the Mets won the 2015 National League Pennant, and before Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame and the retirement of his Number 31 was announced. Other than that, it's all still valid.

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So the Mets beat the Yankees yesterday, 8-2. Matt Harvey (4-0) had his good stuff, and CC Sabathia (0-4) picked a fine time to not have his after pitching superbly in defeat in Detroit earlier in the week. Mark Teixeira hit a home run off Harvey in the 7th (his 8th of the young season), but that was hardly enough.

The series concludes at 8:00 tonight, with Nathan Eovaldi pitching against Jon Niese.

Yes, Harvey put the Mets on top yesterday, evening the series.

Do the Mets' idiot fans think that this changes anything? Yeah, they probably do.

Well, it doesn't. The Mets are still a joke, and nothing is going to change that anytime soon.

Top 10 Reasons the Mets Are a Joke

These are in chronological order. Not in order of lameness. Trying to put them in that order could take about 18 innings.

1. The National League. The main reason the Mets even exist is because fans of the stolen New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers could have a National League team in New York, alongside the American League's Yankees. They specifically wanted a National League team.

What the hell is so special about the National League?

"Well, Uncle Mike," you might say, "the NL doesn't use the designated hitter. It's real baseball." The Giants and Dodgers moved after the 1957 season. The DH didn't come in until 1973. So that wasn't one of the reasons at the time.

The NL is older. It was established in 1876, to the AL's 1901. Is that really important? Not by 1957, it wasn't; it certainly isn't in 2015.

The NL integrated first, beating the AL to it by a few weeks, April 15 to July 5, 1947. The NL got lights first, beating the AL to it by 4 years, 1935 to 1939. The NL had teams on radio first, although television was about even.

Somehow, I don't think that's what erstwhile Giant and Dodger fans meant from October 1957 to April 1962, when they had to get by in the New York Tri-State Area with just the Yankees.

Then there was the Continental League, which was announced in 1958 as debuting in 1960. In the end, it was a bluff, designed to get the established leagues to expand, which they did. If the CL had happened, and a "New York Mets" had debuted in it at the Polo Grounds in 1960, I don't think the former fans of the Giants and Dodgers would have given a damn that it didn't have official NL identification, or even the NL's blessing.

I think the real reason is that these people just hated the Yankees. Why? Because the Yankees (nearly) always beat them? From 1923 to 1956, the Yankees played the Giants and Dodgers in a combined 11 World Series, and won 10 of them.

Getting the Mets didn't help: They've now played each other exactly once in the World Series in 53 seasons (52 if you don't count 1994 as it didn't reach its intended conclusion), and the Yankees beat the Mets in 5 games.

So it wasn't all about the National League. They were just too chicken to admit, "We hate the Yankees."

Also, look at the other teams that lost teams in the 1950s:

* The Braves left Boston, leaving the city to the AL's Red Sox. Did New Englanders demand a new team in the NL? No.

* The Browns left St. Louis, leaving the city to the NL's Cardinals. Did people in the Mississippi Valley demand a new team in the AL? No.

* The Athletics left Philadelphia, leaving the city to the NL's Phillies. Did people in the Delaware Valley demand a new team in the AL? No.

These places just accepted that turning a "city" into a "metropolitan area," as inner-city whites moved into the suburbs -- some because they could afford to go to a nicer place, some because their neighborhoods were turning black and they didn't want to get called out on their racism by their neighbors -- meant that these places could no longer afford to support 2 teams each.

New York could afford to support 2 teams. Indeed, there's been times, even since 1957, when it looked like it could afford to support 3 teams. (That may have been the case as recently as 2008, but I don't think it's the case now, judging by home attendance at both Yankee Stadium II and Citi Field.)

But there was nothing special about the National League then, or now. Nor was there anything unacceptable about the American League, then or now. And if you think the DH makes the AL unacceptable, then you're an idiot who needs to enter the latter part of the 20th Century, because, apparently, getting you into the 21st Century is too much to ask. (I've mused on the stupidity of the Hate-the-DH argument before.)

So the fans who would be Met fans weren't devoted to the National League. They were just hating on the Yankees. I'm fine with that -- as long as you freely admit it, like the American League teams do. (Hell, on September 5, 1977, desperate for attendance as they'd fallen far out of the AL East race, the Cleveland Indians held "Hate the Yankees Hanky Night." It worked: They got 28,184 fans waving hankies at the Yankees, and they swept a twi-night doubleheader.)

Or maybe these ex-Giant fans and ex-Dodger fans just wanted a team in the NL so that their old heroes could come back and see them. The problem with that is, by the time the Mets arrived in 1962, most of their old heroes were retired -- or, as they saw when Gil Hodges and Duke Snider actually became Mets, should have been retired.

By the time Shea Stadium opened in 1964, there were no more Brooklyn Dodger heroes still playing (Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitched for the Dodgers before the move, but didn't become stars until after it), and the only New York Giant hero left was Willie Mays. And he had already returned to New York to play the Yankees in the 1962 World Series.

2. Blue and Orange. The colors themselves, while hideous, aren't really the problem. It's the reason for them. The Mets' founders said that they were combining the blue of the Dodgers and the orange of the Giants. It made sense. When the Islanders were founded 10 years later, the also used blue and orange, and, like the Mets, they still use them today. (They even kept the color scheme while wearing those ridiculous "Gorton's Fisherman" jerseys in the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons.)

Except... When the Knicks were founded, they used blue and orange. That was in 1946, 16 years before the Mets first took the field. Were the Knicks trying to combine the blue of the Dodgers and the orange of the Giants? No. The colors worn by the baseball teams were completely irrelevant.

New York City was founded by the Netherlands, as New Amsterdam, in 1624. The Dutch flag of the time was blue, white and orange. The City's flag used the same colors. It still does, unlike the current Dutch flag.

And the Knicks were named after the title character in Washington Irving's 1809 satirical novel A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich KnickerbockerFrom that point onward, "Knickerbocker" became a slang term for Manhattanites, and the caricature of "Uncle Diedrich" was modified for the Knicks' 1st logo. So it made sense that the Dutch colors became the Knicks' colors.

(A previous New York-based pro basketball team, the Original Celtics -- aside from the name, there was no connection to the later Boston franchise -- even had a star player named Henry "Dutch" Dehnert, although he was German, "Deutsch," rather than descended from the Netherlands, "Dutch.")

That the combination of the Dodger and Giant colors could be used for the Mets was nice, but let's not pretend that they weren't already being used by a New York team that had reached its sport's finals 3 times -- although they wouldn't win their 1st World Championship until after the Mets, and even the Jets, had won their 1st.

3. Shea Stadium. Beyond the delays that meant that "the William A. Shea Municipal Stadium" wouldn't open on Opening Day 1963, or in mid-season 1963, and was mere hours away from not being ready on Opening Day 1964...

It was billed as "the greatest baseball stadium ever built." It wasn't. Not by a long shot. Not by a center-field-at-the-Polo-Grounds-long shot.

Oh, sure, it wasn't nearly as cramped as the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field were. And it didn't have ridiculous dimensions like those 2 parks. And, unlike both of them and Yankee Stadium, it wasn't in a ghetto, and it had plenty of parking, and it didn't have support poles blocking your view.

What it did have was seats that were properly angled for football instead of baseball, upper-deck seats that might as well have been in another Borough, back rows of decks that had overhangs from decks above them that cut off your view of fly balls (a worse obstruction than Yankee Stadium's support poles), nasty wind that made a Met game in May as cold as a Jet game in December, and those planes taking off from nearby LaGuardia International Airport. (The ones taking off would go right overhead. The ones landing went on a different flight path, behind center field.)

Also, it was a lot harder to get an express train from Manhattan to Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. Whereas the D Train's express from 59th Street/Columbus Circle to 125th Street (bypassing 7 local stops) made getting from Port Authority Bus Terminal to Yankee Stadium 5 stops, and about 25 minutes even with the switch from the A to the D at 59th, to get from Port Authority to Shea, you had to first go through that dank, nastily-inclined tunnel connecting the Port Authority and Times Square subway stations, then get the 7 Train, and 9 times out of 10 it wouldn't be an express, so you had to make 19 stops! And it takes 35 to 40 minutes, considerably longer. Even the express makes 9 stops.

Shea, and now Citi Field, always had better parking and better food than Yankee Stadium, old and new. That's it. The stadium itself was never better than Yankee Stadium, even in 1973, when Yankee Stadium was a 50-year-old uneasy relic with thick support poles in the ever-nastier South Bronx, and Shea was a multicolored suburban palace. The original Yankee Stadium was a baseball park that hosted football; Shea Stadium was a football stadium that hosted baseball.

4. The Reaction to Losing Tom Seaver. Yes, it was awful the way he was pushed out by M. Donald Grant and his grinning lackey in the press, Dick Young of the New York Daily News.

To be fair, Young was a strong advocate for black players, and for a new team in New York, either through the Continental League or MLB expansion. That was before he, like Frank Sinatra, got grumpy and conservative in his old age.

Yes, Seaver deserved better. Yes, you, the Flushing Heathen, whatever else I can say about you, you deserved better than to have "The Franchise" taken away from you in that fashion.

But... come on. Babe Ruth left the Yankees in 1935. Joe DiMaggio retired in 1951. Mickey Mantle retired in 1969. Reggie Jackson was not re-signed in 1981. Mariano Rivera retired in 2013, and Derek Jeter retired in 2014. On none of those occasions did Yankee Fans react like a child who had been told his dog was "taken to a farm upstate."

There were 2 times when Yankee Fans did react like that. The 1st was for Lou Gehrig in 1939. Except he actually was going to die. The 2nd was for Thurman Munson in 1979. And he actually did die.

Great players leave. Great players come to take their places. Grow up.

Besides, it's not like having Seaver would have appreciably helped the Mets from June 1977 to September 1982 anyway. He would have made the difference between the Mets being horrible (which they were) and the Mets being merely mediocre and not as good as the Yankees (which they already were from April 1974 to June 1977). He would have given Shea a few thousand extra fans every 4th home game. That's it.

5. Retired Numbers. Yes, the Yankees have too many. I get that. We should give guys like Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada plaques for Monument Park, but don't retire their numbers. Fine, Met fans, go ahead and make that argument. Especially now that you have your own team hall of fame in a room off the Citi Field rotunda. (Actually, the Mets have had a team hall of fame since 1981, but it's only since 2010 and the opening of that room that it's been on public display.)

But the Mets' retired-number policy isn't much better than the Yankees'. It just stinks in the other direction.

Retiring 37 for Casey Stengel made sense for the Yankees: He managed us to 10 Pennants and 7 World Championships. It made no sense for the Mets to do it: He did nothing for you. He made you laugh? Then why haven't numbers been retired for Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart? Or, for that matter, for Marv Throneberry, Frank Taveras, Oliver Perez? Or even Steve Somers, Joe Benigno and Doris From Rego Park?

(Yes, I am aware, they never wore numbers for the Mets. They can share Number 66, in honor of WFAN.)

Retiring 14 for Hodges made sense, as he was the manager who won your 1st title. Retiring 41 for Seaver made sense, as he was your greatest player ever.

But keeping 24 semi-retired for Willie Mays, a decision made by founding owner and former Giants part-owner Joan Payson, is ludicrous: He did next to nothing for the Mets. Not retiring 8 for Gary Carter, especially once you knew he was dying, was really crummy. (Although Bobby Murcer died of the exact same thing, and the Yankees also had lead time on that, and didn't give him a Monument Park Plaque while he was still able to attend the ceremony, and still haven't, 7 years after his death.)

And, certainly, 17 should have been retired for Keith Hernandez. Who made the decision that it shouldn't be retired? Who does this guy think he is? Whoever he is, he hasn't done as much for the Mets as the man who can answer that question, "I'm Keith Hernandez!"

And if Mike Piazza was so great, how come 31 hasn't been retired for him? Are you waiting for him to be elected to the Hall of Fame? That wait wasn't kept for Stengel, Seaver, Mays, or Hodges (who, unfairly, is still not in the Hall).

(And if you think Piazza's not in the Hall of Fame because of his personality, well, that would be understandable... but that's not why he's not in yet.)

6. The Dynasty That Never Was. Under the current 3-divisions-plus-wild-card setup, putting the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central Division, the Mets would at least have won the NL Eastern Division every season from 1984 to 1990.

Instead, under the setup we had then, with only 2 Divisions, and only the Division Champions made the Playoffs, they won just 2 Division titles, riding a lot of postseason luck to winning the World Championship in 1986, and blowing the NL Championship Series to the Dodgers in 1988. That's it.

Face it: The 1986 Mets were not that good. Yes, they won 108 games in the regular season, the most won by a New York team between 1961 and 1998, and still the most ever by an NL team in New York in 139 seasons. But, statistically, they didn't match up well with any of the great Yankee teams, or the title-winning Giant and Dodger teams. Even the '69 Mets were better, statistically speaking.

Granted, it wasn't just drugs and booze. A lot of those guys (including the substance abusers) got hurt, and missed time for reasons that had nothing to do with drugs, performance-enhancing and not. But if the 1980s Mets were as good as you think they were, why only the 1 Pennant?
The competition was good? Yes, it was. So was the competition for the 1996-2003 Yankees, and in 8 seasons they won 6 Pennants and 4 World Series. In just 8 seasons, they won 50 percent more Pennants and twice as many World Series as the Mets have ever won in 53 seasons. And the 1990s Yankees had to survive 1 more postseason round than the 1980s Mets. If the Mets had to win a Division Series just to get to the '86 Houston Astros, would they have won it, or gotten derailed? Look at all that talent the Atlanta Braves had in the 1990s, and the NLDS and NLCS that the statistics say they should have won, but didn't.

If the 1986 Mets had to play the 1998 Yankees in a World Series, it wouldn't have gone the full 7. It's not like the '86 Mets could, like the '98 Yankees, call on David Cone, who didn't arrive in Flushing until '87.

But Met fans still hold up the '86 team as exemplars of "Baseball Like It Oughta Be." That's because it remains their last title. But the way they went through the season, acting like Animal House in polyester? Maybe it was effective, but it wasn't anything "like it oughta be." And, starting the next season, it wasn't nearly as effective as it should have been, either.

The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies (who, like the '86 Mets, featured drunken bum Lenny Dykstra) are hailed as beloved, successful slobs. But ask a Phillies fan what meant more: The 1993 "Macho Row" Pennant, or the 2008 World Series title. He'll tell you 2008. If the 1999-2000 Mets had been good enough to go all the way, they would have been far better as role models than the 1980s version. Though Piazza and Armando Benitez would have fit in well in '86.

7. Bernie Madoff. Say what you want about George Steinbrenner, and he did some rotten things and made some boneheaded decisions, but he never would have been fooled by Bernie Madoff.

What's that, you say? George got fooled by Howie Spira? That's because Spira had something George was a sucker for: A hard-luck story. Something Madoff didn't have. And getting fooled by Spira didn't cause George to lose millions, forcing his team into 6 years of mediocrity. (True, there were 4 such years, but it wasn't due to a drop in George's finances.)

8. Sportsnet New York. SNY could have been a great sports network. And, I'll admit, while it's not as good as YES, it's a pretty good sports network. But comparing it with YES, it falls well short.

Showing classic games? Most of those wouldn't register as "Yankees Classics" if the Yankees had done the exact same thing.

Focusing on Johan Santana's no-hitter? All that does is allow people to see that Carlos Beltran's line drive was a clean, fair base hit, and that the "no-hitter" was bogus.

Showing regular-season wins by the Mets over the Yankees? You don't see too many Yankee regular-season wins over the Mets on YES' Yankees Classics -- although you do see 2000 World Series replays.

Also, where's the Met equivalent of Yankeeography? Then again, they did do a 50 Greatest Mets, whereas we don't yet have a 50 (or 100) Greatest Yankees program.

Then there was that "broadcasters' challenge," the radio guys against the TV guys. It was shocking to see how little the Met broadcasters -- including former players like Hernandez and Ron Darling -- knew about the team for whom they broadcast. Even Gary Cohen, who should know better, came up well short. That was embarrassing.

9. Citi Field. You guys had many years to plan this. Years to figure out how to get it right. And, I have to admit, nearly everything about it is an improvement over the Flushing Toilet. Except the planes: I think the noise from the planes might actually be worse.

But it really isn't all that different from some of the other 1990s and 2000s ballparks. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Jacobs Field in Cleveland. Coors Field in Denver.

And it doesn't have any spectacular features. It doesn't have the warehouse like Camden Yards in Baltimore, or the river view like Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, or the view of the downtown skyscrapers like PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Even the minor-league parks in town can top it on that score: MCU Park in Brooklyn has a view of Coney Island's landmarks, and Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island has a few of Lower Manhattan and, as someone put it when it opened in 2001, it looks like the Statue of Liberty is playing a very deep center field.

But the most annoying part of Citi Field is your beloved Shake Shack: It has lines that cause fans to miss an inning or two. That sort of thing was supposed to be left in the 20th Century! The 1st time I went there, the game went to extra innings at 1-1, and I missed both runs while on line for Shake Shack!

(The shakes are pretty good, but not good enough to make anybody echo John Travolta's line from Pulp Fiction about whether a milkshake is worth $5.00.)

The most embarrassing thing about Citi Field is the name. And I'm not even talking about naming it after a hated bank. It was understandable: Citi bought out Chemical Bank, which bought out Manufacturer's Hanover, which was a big sponsor for the Mets (and, for a time, the Yankees, too). It's a part of your heritage, just like Kahn's hot dogs and RC Cola. (Although you seem to have abandoned those.)

But "Citi" can be rhymed. Some fans, reflecting the "Flushing Toilet" nickname for Shea Stadium, call the new park "Shitty Field." I prefer to call it Pity Field, because the Mets have mostly been pitiful since it opened. But the name was just too easy to parody. The Met organization should have known better.

But then, if they knew better, they would not be the Mets. There's always going to be a little bit of 1962, a little Marvelous Marv Throneberry and Clarence "Choo-Choo" Coleman, in them.

10. "Take Back New York." Tell ya what: Beat the Yankees in a World Series. Then you can say that you've taken back New York.

Until you do, nothing you do will mean you've taken it back. Even if you pull off another "miracle" and win the whole thing this season, it'll still be 27 to 3.

You talked about taking back New York in 1999, and you couldn't set up the real "Subway Series." You talked about taking back New York in 2000, and you lost the real Subway Series. You talked about taking back New York in 2006, the one season since 1988 that you've actually gone further than we have, and you choked. You talked about taking back New York in 2007 and 2008, and we know how those seasons ended. Don't we?

Now, you're talking about "taking back New York" again. Based on what, exactly? David Wright? He disappears every September. Matt Harvey? He'd be the Yankees' 4th starter. Jacob deGrom? He'd also be the Yankees' 4th starter. How ya gonna take back New York with a 36-year-old Michael Cuddyer as your cleanup hitter?

No, "Take Back New York" is a joke. The Mets are a joke. Have been for most of their history. Have been continuously since 1992. Still are. Will remain so for the foreseeable future.

And I haven't even mentioned Chico Escuela. Or Spider-Man. Or Sidd Finch. Or Bobby Bonilla. Or Steve Phillips. Or the marijuana situation of a few years ago. Or Warm Bodies, the film suggesting that zombies inhabit Citi Field -- at least zombies are looking for brains. Or Sharknado 2. Or Jeff Wilpon firing a woman for being unmarried and pregnant.

Or how Jack Klugman would have been better off visiting Shea Stadium in character as Dr. Quincy, to perform an autopsy on the team, that he would have if he'd visited in character as Oscar Madison of The Odd Couple.

The Mets are a joke.

(Even after winning the Pennant last season, the Mets spectacularly failed in the World Series, blowing leads in all 5 games, including the 1 they won anyway. The Mets are still a joke.)

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