One Year Forward, Two Years Back

By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

Expect the unexpected with this team this year.  I have no idea if the momentum they’ve been carrying will hold them over the entire year, but I will say this…it’s fun to watch while it unfolds.

It’s only May, which is why I tend be a little more on the realistic side on waiting in out.  But it’s fun to watch the young guys duke it out, rather than watch overpaid veterans who don’t care loaf around while the rest of the team suffers (and the fans become lax).

But this is the Mets 50th anniversary.  Coincidentally, I attended a 50th anniversary conference at Hofstra University a few weeks back.  Between actually going to Mets games and the hockey playoffs, I’ve barely had time to condense my thoughts.  The conference was a mix of celebrating the past, present and future of the team.  But mostly, the past part was curious.

There was a panel celebrating some of the 1969 Mets (and you better believe Coop worked every single one of them to get on the podcast), and most of the panels that focused on the past emphasized the great 1980s run they had, and with little emphasis on the late 1990s (but the stuff on the 1999 and 2000 was also spot-on, and made me analyze how things could be much different had Timo Perez just bloody RAN).  Heck, I could have provided a position paper on the 2006 Mets, but I didn’t think to submit it…

My point was, after the 1980s…the Mets operated in such a predictable fashion, and we’re still seeing ramifications of this operation to this day.  It took the conference and a presentation to really wrap my head around why the Mets would have smatterings of success, only to have so many periods of downtime, that they would be more associated with the down years than most good years.

So why were the 1990s and anything after 2000 and prior to 2006 so uninteresting for the narrative and education of Mets fans that it was almost completely ignored. Granted, a lot of the history from that time period is uninteresting.  But the reasons why are multilevel.

Right now, the Mets are focusing on building from within, and looking to either move or live with the contracts of Jason Bay, David Wright and Johan Santana.  Last night, we saw the likes of Jonathon Niese keeping the Mets in the game and close, with Jordany Valdespin getting his first hit as a very clutch home run to break a tie in the 9th, and against the Phillies’ new closer, Jonathan Papelbon.

Ha.

Schadenfraude aside, I feel what I took away from these panels is that the Mets have a tough time overcoming their mistakes, or rather play the “wait-it-out” game with their mistakes.  Dating back to Bobby Bonilla (and believe me when I tell you…his contract terms are not as bad as they once were) in the ’90s to most recently Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, the Mets made it a habit to break out the checkbook for subpar talent, or talent that made its mark elsewhere and in years prior, only when they didn’t perform, they typically let them hold back the team.  Or rather, give them an excuse to.

Conversely, a team like the Yankees basically ate a lot of AJ Burnett’s contract when he didn’t perform and made Kei Igawa the highest paid minor league pitcher, like, ever.  And their mistakes tend to be swept under the rug.  Throw away the success, they never let it be an excuse, the failure of a big league player.

When I hear fans complain about Terry Collins when he doesn’t have a lot to work with, when I hear people bash Sandy Alderson for not spending money (when realistically, he doesn’t have much wiggle room to work with), it’s clear that the past isn’t taken into consideration.  We’re not talking just Omar Minaya.  It’s Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine (though to be honest, he traded Bobby Bonilla the first time, and should be applauded for at least getting a warm body back for him), Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette and lastly the ownership that refused until it was much too late that they made mistakes along the way.

So now what?

Instead of taking that infamous one step forward, and two steps back, the Mets are now forced to use their resources from within.  So maybe they’ll finish .500 this year, or they’ll finish over…they may even finish just below.  But this is progress from last year, and could stand to beg our patience while waiting for this to develop into something special, profitable and successful once again.

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