A Mets Fan Weekend

I’ve been a Met fan for about forty years. During that time, I’ve lived in New Jersey, West Virginia, the Berkshires, Boston, and Chicago. And I’ve never stopped following the Mets. I’ve been a camp counselor, waiter, disc jockey, social worker, hospital administrator, consultant and business strategist. And I’ve continued to follow the Mets. I’ve gotten married, gone to graduate school, had three kids, lost hair, gained a waistline, sprained my back and am about to buy bifocals. Still, the Mets have remained my passion, the filler of my spare time.

I used to subscribe to Mets’ newsletters and Mets’ Minor League newsletters. When I received my weekly Sporting News, I always first opened it to the Mets’ column. Same thing when I read Baseball Weekly. Baseball America, too. I now subscribe to the daily New York Times (actual paper!), mostly to read about the Mets (I know, strange choice). I’ve bookmarked all the New York papers and blogs. I try to read them all.

I can’t recite all the Mets by names or stats (that old age thing again) but I will remember them if you prompt me. I thought Bud Harrelson was the new Roy McMillan, and John Milner was going to be the next Met superstar. I supported Don Hahn in center and Joel Youngblood in right, just cause they were Mets. As the Met 70’s show grew stale, I learned to follow the minor leagues instead. I was upset when they traded Jody Davis to the Cubs. I marveled at the years Lenny Dykstra and Dwight Gooden enjoyed in Lynchburg. I thrilled to the Strawberry watch.

I’m the sort of person who trusts other people (except the current Presidential administration, but that’s a different story). I believed Casey Stengel when he said Don Bosch was the future of the Mets. I trusted that they actually needed a third baseman, and Jim Fregosi could fill it. I believed that Tom Seaver was unsignable. I trusted that Juan Samuel actually could learn to play center field. OK, that isn’t really true. Like most Met fans, I hated the Samuel trade cause I loved Dykstra. But the point is that I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on some level. I’m not a cynical person.

And I have paid for my naivete again and again; this weekend, I paid through the nose. When I first read about the Mets’ trades on Friday, I honestly didn’t know what to think. I knew they were close to getting Benson, but throwing Justin Huber into the deal? What the? And then…

And then…

Let’s step back and talk about this a bit more dispassionately. You know Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief? (I told you I was once a social worker) Denial and isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance –the five stages a person typically experiences when dealing with a terrible loss. In a baseball sense, they describe what happened to me this weekend.

It went like this:

Denial: When I first read that the Mets were thinking of trading Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, I figured it was the media blowing smoke. Just didn’t believe it at all. The Mets had been in the Benson hunt for a while — offering Wigginton and Peterson — and I could have lived with that. When I read the Pirates were holding out for a third minor leaguer, I figured a low B prospect would get it done. Either that, or the Mets would walk.

The Mets had learned their lesson, I thought. They aren’t really in the race this year. They know they need to hold onto good young players. They know.

Anger: Let’s come back to that.

Bargaining: That’s what I was doing with this post. I was rationalizing. I was trying to understand what they were thinking. There must be reasons, I thought. They must know something I don’t. Huber is homesick and has Mackey Sasser disease. Kazmir has a bad elbow and warts. Something.

Benson and Zambrano must be better than 4.00 pitchers. They have great stuff, I thought. Rick Peterson is a genius, I thought. I bargained with the Mets’ front office in my mind.

But thanks to the Internet, I was forced to face reality. Undoubtedly, the Mets have some inside information the rest of us don’t have. But for these deals to make sense, they must have A LOT of inside information we don’t have. And I now have to say; I doubt that’s true. More likely, they talked themselves into thinking they know something we don’t. And, in a space of fifteen minutes, they pulled the trigger on two bad ideas.

Anger: Now I’m angry.

Some folks are saying that the Mets made these deals to compete for the title in 2004, which would be obvious folly. I actually think the Mets made these deals for 2005, not 2004.

The Tale of Purnal Goldy, A Ballad of Us All
Purnal Goldy's career showed great promise, before life and one bad game called him home.

You see, the Mets had a dilemma. They were going to stink in 2005. They were looking at a pitching rotation of a couple of old guys, at $10 million each, Steve Trachsel (’nuff said) and I Don’t Know. Jae Seo hadn’t developed. Neither had Aaron Heilman, nor some farmhands we were counting on a few years ago: Grant Roberts, Pat Strange, Jeremy Griffiths, Tyler Walker, Neal Musser, Ken Chenard, Ken Pumphrey, Nick Maness. Bob Keppel is still a question mark. The Mets hadn’t done a good job filling in the rotation with young arms, and they had committed huge dollars to old arms.

So they decided to do something about it. They decided to trade away their top prospects for some prime-age arms now. They traded the future for the present. Unfortunately, they traded away 2006 and beyond for 2005. They totally gave away bargaining leverage by undervaluing their minor league talent. They gave up a lot for a guy they could have signed in the offseason as a free agent. They believed “best arms available in this market” meant “best arms.” They lost their perspective.

Depression: I can’t talk about it.

Acceptance: The sad thing is, acceptance will come. My Metmania is beyond my control, built into my psyche. Eventually, I will have to accept this loss, just as I have accepted others. I have learned to deal with losses and mistakes, only to watch my team make more mistakes meant to correct the earlier mistakes. It seems that this is the essence of being a Mets’ fan. Yes, sooner or later I will accept this mistake, too, and I will move on.

Or, maybe it just didn’t happen…

References & Resources
Here’s the positive spin. I plan to keep reading this over and over.

Dave Studeman was called a “national treasure” by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Follow his sporadic tweets @dastudes.

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