Opinion: Despite Five Years of Losing and Drama, Going to a Met Game Remains Amazing
Author’s note: This article was inspired by a wonderful and touching piece by my esteemed colleague Gonzo Will who recently wrote a great article about attending Met games with his father and his son.
I will openly admit to being thoroughly disgusted with Met ownership and management. The Wilpons have become dishonest absentee owners and I feel that Alderson’s reputation as a GM has proven to be wildly overblown. Aside from relatively minor short-term successes with scrap heap MLB signings, the only (potential) successes he has had thus far are a few trades with teams in “win-now” mode who were willing to overpay for Beltran and Dickey and possibly Byrd and Buck.
The team remains utterly mediocre, unable to win at home, and is a loss today away from losing more games than the previous year in each season of Alderson’s reign.
Regardless of one’s point of view, while the team is not as bad as Miami or Houston, it continues to present a very unsettling picture moving forward.
I went to my annual game with my dad and my brother yesterday. I was born in 1966 and went to my first game in 1970. All I remember from that day is that there were billions of really tall people there and all of the men were wearing suits and hats. I started going to games regularly in 1976; at least one every year with my dad. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of games in the late 1970s. History records those years as some of the darkest in Met history. For me, those games remain among my best memories of growing up. And yes, that’s why Dave Kingman remains my 3rd favorite Met after Keith and Seaver.
I love my dad. I am blessed that he is 76, in great health, retired from a very successful career, and still happily married to my mom—for 52 years and counting.
My younger brother and I live almost 200 miles from NYC now (we grew up about 20 miles west of Manhattan) and due to that and our extremely busy lives, we now go to just one game every year with our dad. We drive down to NJ and pick him up, then either have lunch in one of the Citi Field clubs (which are very nice; especially the amazingly well-conceived and surprisingly good Acela Club) or tailgate, and then we take in a game with a drink or several in hand.
I remember when I was a kid the thrill of dinner at the Diamond Club or the Grill Room, seeing pictures of great Mets from all eras on every wall, the excitement of seeing Ralph Kiner on his way to the booth, and viewing the 1969 World Series trophy—and later the 1986 one. I remember walking up the ramps and through the concourses at Shea, and that the first view of the field was inexplicably exciting—the vast green expanse, the huge tiers of seats, the thrill of being right there as some of the world’s best baseball players were warming up—OK, OK, back then those players usually were on the opposing teams, but bear with me here.
There’s something about that feeling that remains with me as a 47-year-old kid. After all, as Larry Andersen once said, “You are only young once, but you can be immature forever.”
It was about 70 degrees yesterday, clear blue skies, absolutely perfect weather. The Mets fielded a team with a chubby over-the-hill starting pitcher, and aside from Wright, Murphy, and maybe Lagares, a bunch of mediocrities. But I must admit that Lucas Duda—while remaining a weak offensive player who has a clear allergy to hitting w/RISP—has been much better as a 1B than expected.
The Brewers really stink. Their pitchers are wild as can be, they are sloppy in the field, their lineup is not much sounder than the Mets’, and they also have guys stealing 3rd with two outs.
The Mets played their usual horrific offensive game. Collins once again made an obviously awful move, not intentionally walking the #6 hitter with men on 2nd and 3rd in the top of the 10th, and of course the batter lined a single to right. He’s a bad manager no matter what his defenders think. Two years ago when we went to our annual game against the Cubs, the Mets were up by one in the 9th, Parnell was in, the Cubs had men on 2nd and 3rd, Collins did not walk Aramis Ramirez with 1st base open and 2 outs, and of course Ramirez got the game-winning hit.
But recently Collins walked the #8 hitter in the top of the 2nd with two outs in a scoreless game with KC, clearing the pitcher from leading off the 3rd. Terrible, indefensible, weak managing from a terrible, indefensible, weak manager.
But you know what?
It was a great day.
Every time we go it is a great day. Because baseball is great. Because I love the Mets. Because love of the Mets is one of the central elements of my relationship with my dad and my brother. Because following the Mets through the infrequent highs and all-too-frequent lows is in my blood and always will be.
And this is why it is important to remember that through the Wilpon lies and mismanagement, through Alderson’s continued lies on their behalf, through Minaya’s years of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, through the team becoming one of the true laughingstocks of American sports, through the events that have led to the Bizarro World happenstance of the Mets making a salary dump trade with the playoff-bound Pirates, that, as Tripper Harrison would have said, “It just doesn’t matter.”
No, it really doesn’t. Not when you are sitting in Citi Field, on a beautiful 70 degree day, watching the team you have followed since childhood, with your dad who has followed them since before their first game in 1962, and with your beloved little brother, sharing overpriced drinks.
We were lucky enough to be five rows back from the home plate end of the Met dugout, and the ballboys tossed every single ball the umps threw out of the game and every recovered foul ball to kids in our area. I mean, dozens. It seemed that almost every kid there got a ball. Every kid who did was there with family. Every kid who did went home with a souvenir they will treasure for years and years. Every kid who did went home with a priceless memory of time spent with loved ones and went home with a ball used in an actual Major League Baseball game.
The smiles on the faces of those kids dramatically illustrated the true meaning of attending a baseball game.
And many of those kids will probably love baseball and the Mets their entire lives as my dad, my brother, and I have and will continue to.
And not one of those kids could care less about the obnoxious lunatic Internet fringe and their whining and wailing about David Wright. Who did of course weakly ground out twice with the bases loaded. In front of a crowd wearing more Wright jerseys than jerseys of all other players combined. In front of a crowd who cheered Wright's every move and realized that while those ground outs may have affected the result of the game somewhat significantly, they did not affect their enjoyment of the day one iota.
And not one of those kids could care less about Fred or Jeff Wilpon.
No, I am not bi-polar as TRS—someone I truly respect—has suggested. I just have room enough in my spacious and mostly vacant cranium for competing ideas on many subjects.
I am tremendously disappointed in the Wilpons and Sandy Alderson, and I am 100% sure that Terry Collins on his best day is an average manager if that.
But what happens on the field where the players play and in the stands where the fans watch occupies a different universe from the one occupied by deceitful owners, an overrated GM who has not seen a winning season in over two decades, and a manager who was chased out of the two cities where he previously managed MLB teams.
The field and the stands are what ultimately count.
Yes, 1986 was glorious and that squad remains my favorite of all of the teams I have watched in decades of following the Mets, Dolphins, Nets, and football and basketball teams from Dartmouth (my dad’s alma mater) and the U of Vermont (mine), and the Mariners and U of Washington football (my adopted teams in the 1990s when I lived in beautiful Seattle).
But the games I went to in 1979 and 2009 and yesterday were great too.
Because they were baseball.
Because they were the Mets.
Because they were amazing days with family.
Countless Americans have shared days at baseball stadiums for over a century, bonding and forming lasting memories while watching baseball.
This simply must override the issues of winning and losing and bad ownership and management—at least in the eyes of those who have life’s meaning in its proper perspective.
Yes, we all want the Mets to win. But getting too worked up and angry over Wilpon financial failings or Alderson’s moves--as I have been guilty of on occasion--is simply missing a large part of the big picture. Ultimately, baseball is simply entertainment. Yes, it is big business, but it remains entertainment. But a special form of entertainment that is so closely intertwined with American parents and children sharing memories which last a lifetime in so very many cases.
Yes, Yankee fans have had a lot more great memories of success in the last 20 years than we have.
But you know what?
I have loved my days at the ballpark over the last five years every bit as much as any Yankee fan has.
I think it was the First Lady of Met Blogs MF4D/SRT who has written that “Bad Mets baseball is better than no Mets baseball.”
As Joe D. of MMO wrote this week, some people could learn a lot from fans like SRT.
Life is too short to let off-the-field actions or inactions overwhelm the essential nature of enjoying being in the stands and enjoying what happens on the field.
And that is important to remember.