A friend of mine, a co-worker, has a nephew who had the proverbial cup of coffee as a September callup for a major league team last season. The young man, a relief pitcher, came to camp this year with an outside chance of making the big club if he had an impressive spring - he didn't. He has been sent back to AAA which disappoints his family greatly.
My friend is a casual baseball fan, not like us crazy-in-the-skull ones that read blogs (or write for them in my case) and/or play Strat-O-Matic in multiple leagues. I explained to him that baseball and the other major sports are the closest we come to a true meritocracy. With the exception of teams gaming the system by holding top prospects (like Noah Syndegaard, Javier Baez, George Springer and Byron Buxton) down on the farm a few extra weeks or months, for the most part teams come north with their best 25 guys. And that is as it should be.
But I can think of two places where the meritocracy breaks down.
The Mets have had Jay Horwitz as their PR director since April of 1980. Now I have mixed feelings about writing anything negative about Jay since he seems like the most likable character since the Pillsbury Doughboy. Knocking him is like spitting on the American flag or slaughtering puppies. It's just something one shouldn't do.
Let's be honest, though. Can you think of a sports team that has worse public relations? Can you think of an instance where you can say, "Well the team certainly handled that well. I admire them for that."? GOD NO!
The latest thing was the blowup between their studly injured starter Matt Harvey. What the pitcher is guilty of is wanting to stay and be part of his team as he rehabs from Tommy John Surgery. And he bravely wants to overcome the odds and try to pitch during the 2014 season which is an unlikely but laudable goal. The team comes down on him like he was trying to detonate an atomic weapon in the clubhouse.
This is the team that fires Willie Randolph in the wee hours in L.A. This is the team that hired, and for a long while supported, Tony Bernazard. This is the team that made no real effort to retain their popular and talented shortstop Jose Reyes. Meanwhile it made it a priority to retain David Wright. And even in that there is a hint of racism. Why was one AllStar discardable and the other irreplaceable?
I'm sure you all have your own personal beef with the way the team handles itself. Has it not lied repeatedly in describing its financial health and ability to maintain a reasonable payroll?
It makes me wonder about the PR director.
Here are my theories:
(1) The owners and management realize that they are grade-1 f*ck-ups and that no one could possibly create good PR from their actions. So, at least, have a PR director that everyone likes. Nothing can help and this wouldn't hurt.
(2) Jay is doing a bang-up job because if we knew all the things the front office has actually done we'd be even more down on the team than we are right now - if that is even possible.
But let's leave Jay for a moment and view another area where the meritocracy is absent: owner Jeff Wilpon.
Ah, sweet nepotism, thy name is Jeff.
Other than being born Wilpon has this guy ever done or said anything that makes it look like he knows what he's doing? The Mets likely would still have a AAA team in Buffalo if he hadn't peed in the water near Niagara Falls. Everything I've read indicates that he was such a boor that Buffalo wanted out ASAP.
I don't entirely include papa Fred in this diatribe. In a kind of Gordon Gekko "Greed Is Good" kind of way he sinewed himself into partial and then total ownership of the team. This says nothing about his skills as a baseball owner but we can give him props for knowing how to turn a minimal investment into something that should pay off big. Of course, it's hard to ignore his being in bed with Bernie Madoff, which is one of the primary reasons why the Mets are in the pitiable state that they're in.
So while the team will try to take its best 25 guys to CitiField next week the meritocracy only extends so far.
Larry writes a humor column for us at The Real Dirty Mets Blog once or more per week. You can follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@dr4sight
There he comments on the teams that drive him crazy: the Mets, both NY football teams, the NY Rangers, and the Knicks.