As most fans know, The New York Mets have done little to improve the quality of the team taking the field for the 2018 season. Other teams haven’t done much either, so we’ll give them that. But why add insult to injury by introducing their version of “Send in the Clowns”?
The Mets are making a huge mistake if they think substituting entertainment for quality play on the field and winning is going to appease their fan base, or what’s left of it. Reports of a reunion with Bartolo Colon aside (don’t worry, it’s not likely), the Mets announcement that Tim Tebow has received an invitation from team brass to Spring Training says more about the nature of this organization than their inaction this offseason ever will.
We’ve invited nine players to major league #SpringTraining including: Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Kevin Kaczmarski, Patrick Mazeika, Drew Smith, Corey Taylor, Tim Tebow, David Thompson and Adonis Uceta. #Mets
— New York Mets (@Mets) January 19, 2018
Look, this is not about Tim Tebow, who wishes only to become a major league ballplayer, a goal I would assume many of us had at one time or another. By all accounts, he is, indeed the All-American Boy. And there’s no need to embarrass the man who will turn 31 by season’s end with a recounting of the less than stellar stats he’s put up while reaching only the Class A level after two years with the Mets. But in case you unfamiliar with those numbers, you can find them easily on ESNY’s brand new Player Profile Page.
No, this is about the New York Mets, who continue to belittle their fan base with the idea that fans need to be entertained with outside intrusions on turf that should be reserved for players who can contribute to the team today. Tebow is a distraction, but what’s even more confounding is the Mets organization aiding and abetting the ruse, just to, as George Steinbrenner used to say, put asses in the seats.
What’s next? Can we expect the Mets will sign Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry to one-day contracts so both can play together again on one of those dog-day afternoons in mid-August, designed by the team marketers to pack Citi Field?
Older baseball fans will recall Hall of Fame executive, Bill Veeck who proudly took the idea of entertaining fans who came to see his team play to heart. And it’s unlikely anything the Mets can do, including the must-see game of the year on July 8 when the first 15,000 fans will receive a Yoenis Cespedes shin guard (only one?), will ever come close to the shenanigans of Veeck.
No, with Veeck we are talking about the “Master of Showmanship” who once asked all fans attending a game to bring their disco records to the ballpark so they could be burned behind second base. Here, Veeck explains his thinking, and in particular why he thought it was a good idea to hire a dwarf to stage an at-bat in a live game.
Will the Mets ever go that far? Can they? Would they dare?
But it doesn’t help matters much when Met’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Wilpon, broke an interminable silence today indicating that he’s sorry for his sins, but hang in there because it ain’t over til it’s over. Or something like that. Laura Albanese covered Wilpon’s press conference for Newsday and came away with this thought from Wilpon:
“I understand the fan base’s frustration, and we have the same frustration,” he said at Citi Field. “There’s nobody going out there trying to not win, and not putting the best person in the absolute best position to win . . . The [payroll] that we start with is a target at the beginning of the offseason and it usually goes up from there. I suspect we’ll be in that same situation this year as well. It might come before the season, it might come during the season.”
Does he (really) “understand” the frustration of Mets fans and writers like myself, who sometimes feel like we are doing cartwheels and back-flips to stay in touch with this team?
And then, the dutiful servant, Sandy Alderson, chimes in with this and what are we left to think?
“We’ve probably added as many players as anybody and probably committed as many dollars as most teams — not all teams, but most teams,” he said. “We’ve also taken a sort of wait-and-see [philosophy] as well . . . We’re happy with where we are. We’re not sure where we’ll end up, but we’re not done looking, we’re not done investigating, we’re not done listening.”
You would never – ever – hear anything of this sort from Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs, or Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman of those hated Yankees. You wouldn’t even listen to it from the former general manager of the Mets, Frank Cashen, who had the you-know-whats to build an organization from the ground floor up, with no excuses in-between.
It’s days like this that set me back to the reality of what the Mets are today as an organization and franchise. Most days, I try to ignore the circus under the tent, looking forward to the crack of the bat and seeing Noah Syndergaard making hitters look silly and Amed Rosario taking the next step toward stardom.
And not to have to watch Mickey Callaway try to squeeze an at-bat in every spring training game for Tim Tebow at the expense of another player who has more baseball talent, just so Bill Veeck can shout from his grave, “Way to go, Mets.”
It’s upside-down thinking and the ruse continues to hurt not only the brand of the team but the 25 players in the clubhouse who will try their darndest to make something of this season, in spite of the all the ballyhoo from the front office.