Now, I realize writing a column called “Why I hate Mets fans” on a blog about the New York Mets may seem, well, stupid. I myself must be a Mets fan, right? So do I hate myself? What’s up with this?
I have just reached a breaking point with Mets fans. It started last year, when Shea Stadium became at times a very unpleasant place to play. Unfortunately, that wasn’t for the road team, but the home team, which was often lustily booed for the smallest of miscues. Never mind the fact that the 2008 Mets won 48 games at home, good for almost 60% of their home games. But the team got off to a lousy start, and coming off of the collapse of 2007, this was unacceptable. Even players like Aaron Heilman, who were admittedly lousy, deserved more leeway than what they received (by the way, Heilman pitched hurt the entire year and, now healthy, has gotten off to a great start in Chicago).
Fast forward to April 2009. The Mets are off to another slow start. This slow start has come after the second straight late-season collapse, so Mets fans seem even testier than usual. Of course, we’re talking about a sample size of 21 games, or roughly 13% of the long season. It’s the equivalent of giving up on an NFL team after 2 games after a 1-1 start, or giving up on an NBA or NHL team after 11 games after a 5-6 start. This is a very, very small part of the schedule, with a lot of baseball left to play.
And yet, Mets fans with an undeserved sense of entitlement are now filling Citi Field with boos for the team’s best player, the face of the franchise, David Wright. It’s bad enough booing fringe players who aren’t any good; I’ve never understood the point of booing your own team unless they demonstrate a noticable lack of effort. You do not boo your team’s best player, ever, period. That is just classless and it embarrasses me as a fan of the Mets. David Wright may be the best player that has ever come through the Mets’ minor league system, a franchise cornerstone the likes of which this team has never seen before. You do not boo that player. If you boo that player, you are saying, “I don’t care about the great things that you have done in the past, you just struck out in this largely meaningless game and you are an asshole!”
David Wright isn’t playing to his full potential; I would be foolish to say otherwise. That said, I wouldn’t say he has been actively bad; he’s hitting .280 with a .372 on base percentage and a .390 slugging percentage. His power is way down, which is where the problem lies. We can’t even blame that on Citi Field, because four of his six extra base hits have been at home. He’s not making outs at a high rate, which is a very good thing. His “clutch” stats don’t look like much right now, but despite foolhardy sports talk radio hosts and newspaper writers who say otherwise, Wright has always been a fine player in the clutch, as good or even a little bit better in those situations than in meaningless ones. The problem is, folks tend to remember the failures much more than the successes, and that game against the Cubs with the tying run at third and nobody out still runs through the heads of many fans.
It’s this reactionary BS that has caused a rift between me and a large segment of the Mets fanbase. I’m not doing a jig over the slow start, but I’m not losing my mind over it, either. This is a good team. David Wright is a good baseball player. So is Carlos Beltran. So are Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Ryan Church, Daniel Murphy…even Luis Castillo is playing well at the moment. Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball right now. While John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and even Oliver Perez are not pitching well, they aren’t so old or far enough removed from good seasons to where we shouldn’t expect them to get better. I’m not making excuses for the team at all, I just think this has been a bad month and they will rebound and play better ball; there is too much talent for them not to do so.
Yet the negativity that surrounds this team makes me sick. It’s like the perfect storm; take Mets fans living in the shadow of the latest Yankee dynasty, throw in a rabid New York media all-too-willing to throw gasoline on a fire to sell a few newspapers or radio ads, and add back-to-back heartbreaking ends to the season, and it seems that Mets fans have been pushed up to a new level of insanity. Honestly, it’s embarrassing. There are good, passionate fans out there, but they seem to be getting yelled over by the knuckleheads who just want to hate. All that does is make Mets fans look like the worst fans in baseball, a fanbase that doesn’t deserve to witness a championship team, and a fanbase who no player in their right mind would want to play for. It makes me feel embarrassed to wear my Mets jerseys, because I don’t want to be lumped in that segment of Mets fans.
It’s these sort of slow starts where Mets fans become obsessed with things that just don’t quantitatively help win ballgames, like hustle and grit. Do people really think that the superstars on this team don’t hustle? Jose Reyes had his issues with hustle last year, but Jerry Manuel nipped those in the bud and now I rarely, if ever, notice him failing to run out a ground ball. Mets fans want to try to figure out a reason why so much talent isn’t winning, with answers ranging to “the team has too much talent – who’s going to bunt guys over???” to “this team doesn’t care if they win or lose!!!!” both of which seem absurd when you really think about them.
How did the Mets manage to find not one, not two, but twenty-five separate guys who don’t care if they win or lose all at once? What are the odds of that even happening? You don’t become an elite, major league caliber talent without a drive to win every single game; lack of effort tends to weed players out by the major league level, if not shortly thereafter. As for “too much talent,” that’s ridiculous. The team hasn’t been losing because of a lack of sacrifice bunting; heck, Jerry Manuel has already bunted far more than I’m comfortable with, since I hate one-run strategies. Trust me, in the annals of baseball lore, there has never, ever been a problem with teams having too much talent. Ask fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals if they’d rather have too much talent or no talent; those guys are all a bunch of scrappers because most of their players stink.
There’s basically one reason why this team isn’t winning ballgames right now; the starting pitching after Johan Santana stinks. John Maine is the only starter with two quality starts. Oliver Perez has been dreadful, Livan Hernandez is utterly finished, and Mike Pelfrey is struggling through injury and command issues. Hopefully, this will improve, because the offense has been largely very good so far. But that’s the reason. The hitting has been good, the bullpen has been largely good (although I am concerned about Putz’s velocity and strikeouts both being down). The starting pitching has stunk. At some point, either Ollie, Maine, and Big Pelf are going to have to get better, or changes are going to have to be made. Simple as that.
To answer my above question, no, I do not hate myself. But it’s hard to consider myself a fan of the New York Mets when so many Mets fans are letting negativity run their perception of this ballclub. I haven’t been happy about the way they have performed, but I have not once thought of booing another player on this team, and if I was going to start (after smacking myself in the head with a hammer a few times), I don’t think I’d start with David Wright. He’s done too much for this ballclub to be deserving of such treatment. I may be a fan of the Mets, but I’m no Mets fan. If you’re content to boo the team’s stars because of your own frustrations with the team, then feel free to call yourself a Mets fan. Just know you make those of us who don’t wish to be party to such negativity hang our heads in shame for being associated with the likes of you.