Adam’s Soapbox: Insulting Our Hard-Working Players
As you open up this webpage and begin to read this piece, you no doubt will be expecting another reaction to Fred Wilpon’s roasting of his own franchise. And while I firmly believe his comments were deplorable, inappropriate, and generally lacked class, this piece is directed at my fellow Mets fans instead.There have been players in this team’s recent history who have earned our disgust and sometimes even our “boo”s through lackadaisical play and poor personal decisions. Players that come to mind are Oliver Perez (the post-contract gut), Francisco Rodriguez (the father-in-law punching), and Luis Castillo (out of shape, “the drop”). However, there are also several players who have consistently worked their hardest and played their best to make this franchise as good as it can be, even with its clear lack of talent. These are players who ignore the franchise’s drama, avoid making disparaging comments, and always put their best foot forward for the team and for its fans.A couple such players are Jose Reyes and David Wright. Both with immense talent, they have led this team for the past several years, helping the Mets almost reach the World Series in 2006. They continue to make this team a fun one to watch, and although Reyes may make an occasional base running flub, and may be gone by the end of the season, I think we all have tremendous respect for both Reyes and Wright as ballplayers. This is why it was such a hard pill to swallow when Fred Wilpon says of Reyes “he’s had everything wrong with him” and of Wright “not a superstar.” It’s easy to criticize Wilpon for these comments, and he deserves all the criticism he gets. However, let’s not let ourselves off so easily either.Mike Pelfrey has pitched his heart out for this team for several years now, and has never done anything proving otherwise. He’s always been in shape, always tried to improve his game, and has never said anything disparaging to the media or done anything embarrassing in his personal life which affected the team. It is well known that Pelfrey lacks the mental fortitude of some of his pitching counterparts. That is not to say he is any less intelligent than other ballplayers, but simply more easily rattled. Unfortunately, Pelfrey’s long-time psychologist passed away earlier this year, and we’ll never know what affect that truly had on the pitcher.Like any human being, Mike Pelfrey has character flaws. However, his pitching-related “flaw” is inherent, and not at all the result of a lack of focus, intelligence, or work ethic. This is why it pains me to see my fellow Mets fan brethren calling Pelfrey a “mental midget” time and time again. I find this to be extremely disrespectful toward not just a ballplayer on our team, but also toward a fellow man in general. I cannot for the life of me determine why Pelfrey deserves to be personally insulted for his semi-melt down in the 7th inning of a ballgame.Certainly, I am not saying that we cannot criticize his effort or him as a pitcher. Pelfrey’s lack of consistency has been worrisome for several seasons now, and the team may be better off with a more consistent starter in the future. And yes, his tendency to be rattled fairly easily (though surely not as easily as Oliver Perez, who would’ve melted down in the 1st inning last night after allowing the home run) will rightfully cause us to question his overall effectiveness as a pitcher.But to call a 27 year old ballplayer who tries his best at all times a “mental midget” is insulting to my view of humanity and is as classless of an act as an owner calling out his own team’s ballplayers. This piece is not simply about this one term or this one ballplayer, but it is a call to all Mets fans to respect our players as we wish to be respected ourselves. We need to constantly assess our criticism of players, and keep it focused on how the game is played, rather than personal attributes of a player. I see no wrong in saying that “Willie Harris sucks at baseball” but I would take strong offense to someone saying “Willie Harris is an idiot and a bum.” I would hope my fellow fans can see the difference in those two statements, and continue to keep our fan base as classy and stoic as possible. Thank you.