So, you may have noticed the cobwebs around the Gotham network of sites and podcasts lately, the bad news is they may stay that way for awhile, but the good news is, I have a new job.
That’s right. A real newspaper, one that’s been around since 1893, making it one of the longest continuously published newspapers in the country. I’ve been there since May 9, and am having the time of my life. Busy, but happier than I have been in my career since leaving Associated Press in 2006.
So bear with me for awhile, let me get my feet wet in Jamaica Bay, take a few walks on the rebuilding boardwalk, and have a few pops at Healy’s Pub (hey, it’s ok, they lost their “e” somewhere, maybe I’ll help them find it), and before you know it, things will be back to normal.
Until then, you can read The Stoop, my new sports column in The Wave.
When I was a young boy growing up on E.39th Street in Flatbush, most of my days were spent on wondering if the Mets dealing Tom Seaver to the Reds was somehow my fault. Perhaps if I had spoken directly to M Donald Grant, I could have told him that Doug Flynn would never hit a lick, Steve Henderson was simply not good enough, Dan Norman a suspect, not a prospect and that Pat Zachry was made of paper mache.
Why the passion? Blame my dad. After his first two sons showed little interest in sports, let’s just say that when I started to mime swinging a bat at two years old, he knew he’d have someone to watch a game with. Not that he loves me any more than he does my brothers or sister (he doesn’t; he’s a great dad to all of us), he just knows that when he wants to know who the Mets are planning on using as their left-handed specialist, he knows who to call. Otherwise, I’m just one of his four kids. That’s fine with me.
Maybe one of the reasons that my father is such a good one is because he grew up with nothing at all.
Ron Healey spent most of his childhood at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys. My siblings and I don’t know much about those days for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that he likely doesn’t remember them too fondly.
Most of what I know about his times there are the good things; playing ball with his buddies like Hank, Sep and Sarge, and getting to – on the weekends – go to their houses from time to time for a taste of a real home. I’ve often wondered what that must have been like, having to go back to the darkness after a glimpse of the light. But to his credit, and my everlasting gratitude, he never complained about it, never was consumed with bitterness about it, and sure as hell never took it out on any of us. He was adamant that his kids would have everything he didn’t.
For him, not being far from the shadows of Ebbets Field was an escape from loneliness. Cheering for his Brooks was probably the greatest joy he experienced during those dark days. It was during those rare afternoons of getting to go to a game that more than likely turned mere fandom into baseball fever.
He handed down that wonderful gift to me, the love of the Great Pastime, and it’s the main reason you’re reading these words right now.
Whether it was his story of running into a young, athletic “guy who looked like a ballplayer (Willie Mays) so we ran after him and got his autograph” or his taking me and my buddies (when he really couldn’t afford to do) in the 1974 Dodge Dart (Special Edition) to see the dreadful post-Seaver Mets of the late 70’s, I was hooked and hooked early.
My dad’s a Mets fan these days (and has been since the Dodgers left Brooklyn), and he still won’t read (or says he doesn’t) read anything I write about the Yankees. “I hate the Yankees,” he says, quite matter-of-factly, as if it were a natural state. “I want them to lose every game they play.”
It’s quite possible he might not read this, but I suspect that even if this piece was about the Bombers, he’d sneak a peak to see what his “Markito” has written.
We still talk as much baseball as we ever did. He probably watches as many (if not more) games than I do, and given the fact that he’s a dead-ringer for Terry Collins, the Mets manager, I think he roots for the Mets just a little bit harder lately.
I don’t love my dad because we share a love for baseball. I love my dad because he went from being an orphan with nothing, to loving and supporting a family all of his life. He was a rough and tumble street kid that was never ashamed to hug his kids. Despite having a really good city job, still went to night school to get his degree from Brooklyn College, because he wanted to instill in his children the value of a college education.
I could go on and on. But all I really want to say is, Happy 75th birthday, Pop. You’re the best.
And thank you.
I am always doing things I can’t do — that’s how I get to do them. ~ Pablo Picasso
Before you roll your eyes at the headline, just give me a few minutes of your time to explain.
I am the host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball”, which airs each Saturday at 10am-1PM ET on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio channel (Sirius 210 / XM 87). And I think is the best show you haven’t listened to yet. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing it. If you know me, then you know this isn’t simple egoism. If you don’t, all I ask is your consideration.
I hear and read and of complaining about sports radio these days, and frankly, almost every time I do, I say, “Well, have you heard my show?” Almost nine time out of 10, I get the same reply, “Well, i’m really not into Fantasy Baseball.”
I’ve been doing the show from the SiriusXM studios in New York City for three years now, and with each new co-host and each new baseball season, I remain convinced that our product is as good — or better — than any all-baseball programming that’s out there.
If self-confidence doesn’t sway you, or the simple love of the American Pastime isn’t going to get you to listen, let me appeal to your sense of helping out a guy who’s worked his butt off trying to make it as an independent publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster since leaving Associated Press in 2006.
I’m a big believer in the marketplace determining the success of anyone in media, but I don’t have the deep pockets of a corporate entity to hire a PR firm to promote myself or my show. So I’m hoping you folks, once you listen, will help promote the show for me.
If you’re a SiriusXM subscriber already, all I ask is that you give the show a shot.
If you’re not a current SiriusXM subscriber, please visit the Going 9 Baseball home page. If you click the “SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio” banner on the top, it will send you to the “Subscribe” page of SiriusXM. By using that banner, Going 9 will get the credit for a new subscriber, which gets the host and his show more exposure. It would be much appreciated.
I know it’s been a challenging time for a lot of people. many of us who are unemployed or underemployed and simply can’t afford another monthly bill. If that’s the case, try to sneak a listen on a friend or family member’s SiriusXM radio or mobile app. I would greatly appreciate it.
In the meantime, you can visit our website, our Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @MHealeySports.com to keep updated. I also hope you’ll take the opportunity to give us your feedback on the show on the Facebook page as well.
Thanks so much. I really think you’ll enjoy the show.
PROGRAMMING NOTE – This week, Going 9 Fantasy Baseball will air on Sat Feb, 23 from 11am-2pm ET. Also there will be an additional show on Sunday Feb. 24 from 4pm-7pm ET.
“Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” which is about to open it’s third season on SiruisXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87) is looking for a Co-Host!
If you think you have what it takes to help our awesome audience how to draft, develop and WIN their Fantasy Baseball leagues, this is an excellent opportunity to do so with the country’s biggest stage for Fantasy Sports; SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio!
Interested candidates should send a resume, writing samples and a head shot immediately to email@example.com.
(This story first appeared in the Early Season 2012 issue of Gotham Baseball magazine. You can read the entire issue here MH)
“I’m aware of the fine nucleus the Mets have. They just missed winning the pennant last season. And I feel I can do my part to help them win a championship.” – Gary Carter, speaking to reporters after the December 1984 trade that sent him from the Montreal Expos to the York Mets.
“As easy as the trade for (Keith) Hernandez was, the trade for Gary Carter was much, much, much, much more difficult,” Cashen told Newsday’s Steve Marcus. “It took about 10 telephone calls and a couple of face-to-face meetings and was done over a period of a couple of months before I could finalize the deal. He [Expos GM John McHale] didn’t want to do it. I thought the possibility of getting him was slim and none. We needed a hitter and a catcher and he fit the bill completely. I hung in there for a long time, much longer than you do for an ordinary kind of trade.”
It was an extraordinary trade for an extraordinary player who would prove to be the crucial to the team’s 1986 World Series championship. He was the perfect guy at the perfect time. A “Captain America” type personality, a Gold Glove defensive catcher, and a MVP-caliber power hitter all rolled into one.
It’s hard to remember a more exciting time to be a Mets fan. Following two consecutive Rookie of the Year campaigns by Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and an unlooked-for 90-win season by Davey Johnson’s 1984 club, the Flushing Faithful were thinking World Series for the first time in a long time.
And true to form, the Kid delivered the goods immediately
Carter’s Opening Day game-winning home run off of St. Louis reliever Neil Allen, a former Mets All-Star who had been traded for Hernandez two years earlier, raised the stakes at Shea Stadium to epic proportions. The drama of the blast (we didn’t call them walk-offs just yet), was matched by the upraised fist and the first of many passionate curtain calls “Kid” would be asked to grant for the rest of his tenure as a Met. And no one did a curtain call quite like Gary Carter. Pointing to the right side of the Shea Stadium crowd, then to the left, punctuated by a “YES!” fist pump, it made the fans love him even more. It also drove opponents nuts. Mike Lupica, the award-winning sportswriter from the NY Daily News didn’t really understand the hate back in 1986, especially for Carter,
“Gary Carter? Sure. Carter is a ham. He always has been. It`s his nature, he can`t help himself. Home runs send him into this high-five frenzy. This is news? This is bush? Carter waited a whole career to get a stage like Shea. He`s supposed to be Ted Williams all of a sudden?”
His best year for the Mets would be that 1985 season, but while the Mets would win 98 games, they would lose a tightly-contested NL East race to the Cardinals. Carter would be an All-Star from 85-88, but injuries and the team’s dependency on both his cleanup bat and handling of the pitching staff, would wear on his body. It was the last days of baseball before PEDs, and only through sheer will was Carter able to battle through. He was already 31 when he donned the blue and orange, so a long stint in New York was never in the offing. His knees had already been surgically repaired twice before coming to Gotham, and would be worked on three more times before he left. But it always was the quality of his Mets career that is remembered, not the quantity.
Carter would touch a lot of lives during his career, including my own. In the summer of 1986, it became apparent that my sister Nicole would need a kidney transplant. My dad – a huge Cary Carter fan dating back to his Expos days — was the donor, and when the Mets were taking on the Astros in the NLCS, we spent most of that postseason watching the games on hospital TVs. After the World Series, in which Carter did more than his share, my father wrote a letter to Gary telling him about our family. Not long after, both my dad and my sister received autographed pictures of Carter with personal messages attached, as well as an invitation for my dad, mom and sister to meet Gary at Shea Stadium. They did so during the 1987 season, and my family could not have been more touched by the personal way the All-Star catcher spoke with my sister. We had loved Jerry Grote and John Stearns in our house, and that guy Piazza surely was appreciated, but the Kid was the king.
He was reduced to a shadow of his former self in the 1989 season, hitting just .183 in 50 games for the Mets. He would spend his last three seasons as a decent backup catcher for the Giants (1990) and Dodgers (1991) before ending back up with the Expos in 1993, where he finally said good-bye to his playing career.
Carter had never won a World Series for the Expos, but the organization – despite whatever previous animosity had existed – not only retired Carter’s number, but threw him a big party to do so.
I caught up with Gary in 2001, when I was covering the first-ever season of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Carter had spent the last few seasons with the Mets as a roving catching instructor, and was in Brooklyn that week working with the Cyclones catchers.
After interviewing him for a piece I was preparing about Brett Kay, the young Cyclones catcher, he and I had a few minutes to chat. In what turned into an almost 45-minute conversation, I explained who I was, and thanked him for his kindness to my family. Instead of saying “Oh I remember” or some other phony platitude, he simply asked how my dad and sister (she had just received a second transplant, after a second transplant, this time from my brother), were doing. When I told him that my dad was great and my sister was doing even better, he grabbed me by the shoulders.
“That is amazing,” Carter said. “God bless your family, and God bless your sister.”
Later that year, Gary would be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. However, he was still waiting for his well-deserved induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame when it was announced in the winter of 2002 that he was 129 votes shy of getting into Cooperstown. It would mark his fifth straight year of eligibility, and with the declining health f his then-84 year old father Jim, Carter was – rightfully so – starting to get a little exasperated, especially when his wife – who had planned a huge surprise party for what most people predicted would be the year he would be inducted. Yes, he deserved the honor, but he wanted his father there to see it happen.
Jim Carter lost his wife to leukemia when Gary was just 12 years old, a devastating loss for both of them. Gary would raise millions of dollars during and after his baseball career to fight the disease as a tribute to his mom, and his burning desire to have his dad at his induction ceremony was foremost in his mind. To be waiting this long, many surmised (including this writer, who wrote a column wondering that same thing for the Associated Press that year), seemed unfair. Imagine what it felt for Carter, who was watching his then-84 year old father’s declining health before his eyes, trying to be democratic about the lack of support from West Coast writers who failed to vote for Carter time and time again. The same people who voted in Carlton Fisk into the HOF, first ballot no less, didn’t see fit to put Carter in the same class.
Consider this, Carter batted .262 with 324 homers and 1,225 RBIs, while Fisk batted .269 with 376 and 1,330 in 203 more games. Carter was an 11-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves and one World Series ring while Fisk was a 10-time All-Star, won one Gold Glove and no rings.
A year later, Carter did get in, but while his father would live to hear the news, he didn’t last long enough to see Carter inducted. It was a crushing blow for Carter. But as he had always done before, he grinned, dealt with it, and moved on with his life. He was ready, he felt, to do something special.
In 2004, Carter angered some folks when he honestly answered some questions about Art Howe’s job status as Mets manager, saying he would be interested in the job if it was offered. The person who asked the question knew Art Howe was still the Mets manager, though it was pretty clear that he was a goner. So, when Carter, in his always honest fashion, said what was on his mind, he was vilified. Lying, it would seem, is the preferred stance in these matters. That fact remained that Howe was a dead man walking and everyone in New York knew it. It was time for a radical shift in philosophy.
In 2004, the entire baseball operations department, enabled and divided by ownership – was an absolute mess. Fred Wilpon, now the principal owner, was never comfortable with the hiring of Jim Duquette as the GM. Duquette, one of the best liked people in baseball, wasn’t a “star” in the elder Wilpon’s eyes. The son, Jeff Wilpon, had always championed Duquette as the person who had the combination of great baseball relationships and a healthy respect for statistical analysis (it was Duquette that pushed for the Mets to hire Rick Peterson and make him the highest paid pitching coach in baseball). Fred had tried to get Omar Minaya, once a trusted assistant to the now-deposed Steve Phillips, to share the GM duties with Duquette, an arrangement that both rejected. So instead, to “help” his “untested” GM, Fred Wilpon went to his old pal and scouting legend Al Goldis to serve as a “superscout” and assistant GM. The public meltdown of Duquette’s choice as assistant GM, Bill Singer (Singer was fired after making ethnic slurs and mimicking Dodgers assistant GM Kim Ng at a baseball function in the off-season), was bad enough, but his replacement, another legend, Bill Livesey (the man who helped build the Yankees farm system under Gene Michael), was the man who drafted Victor Zambrano for the Tampa Bay Rays. If you’re a Mets fan, you know that the June 30th deadline deal that sent Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Zambrano is still known as “Black Friday”. It would prove to the biggest backlash of criticism of the Mets in years, and it had gotten considerably worse since Wilpon had taken over sole ownership of the club in 2002. It would be the third straight season of below .500 baseball, despite the NL’s highest payroll.
It was already a dysfunctional organization — chaos reigned supreme — and it was ownership’s fault. Accountability was (and still isn’t) a Wilpon strong point, but everyone knew – especially COO Jeff Wilpon – that hiring Art Howe in the first place was a awful mistake. He was aloof from his players, ill-equipped to handle the New York media, and lacked the kind of personality that would have allowed for fans to support him despite his lack of tactical skills.
Carter as Mets manager made sense to a lot of people, even after his “insult” to Howe, including former Mets pitcher, minor league coach and now former broadcaster, Bob Ojeda.
From the Daily News:
“(Ojeda) was aware that Carter was quoted last week as saying he’d like to manage the Mets, a faux pas that likely will hurt his cause … (but) he believes that Carter would be an ideal fit, even though he has no managerial experience.
“I don’t believe it takes a tremendous amount of experience when you played the game at that level for 20 years, especially as a catcher,” Ojeda said. “I really think Gary could pull it off. And he has the stature the Mets need right now. I’ve seen him get ticked off and step up and tell people what he thinks, They need leadership over there because right now the team on the field is a reflection of the front office – there’s no strong or clear leadership.”
There were those in the Mets front office that agreed, and told Gary to “sit tight, and we’ll get something done soon.”
Unfortunately for Carter, the sudden hiring (and demotion of Duquette) of Minaya was the worst thing that could happen to his major-league managerial aspirations. For one, like his old boss Phillips, Minaya wasn’t keen on 1986 Mets. For another, Minaya’s new assistant GM Tony Bernazard, wasn’t keen on personnel he couldn’t control. It didn’t take long for Bernazard to alienate much of the organization after his hire, but as he was the right-hand to the apple of Fred Wilpon’s eye — and soon a liaison for Jeff Wilpon — he was going to get most of the incumbent front office exiled anyway.
Even after Minaya’s hiring, many in the organization felt that Carter was going to be a coach on the new manager’s staff . When that changed, so did his immediate future. Despite spending years as a roving instructor in the minors, and despite being in the Hall of Fame, the Met with a World Series ring earned as a Met wasn’t offered a Mets major league job.
Instead, he was offered a job Minaya thought he would refuse; managing the Low-A Gulf Coast League Mets. He would win Manager of the Year in 2005, taking the GCL Mets to the championship round. The next year, he would win MOY honors again, this time in the full-season A Florida State League, winning the FSL championship with the St. Lucie Mets. Current Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese pitched for him on both of those clubs.
“The one thing Gary stressed to us was team,” Niese told Newsday. “He said individual goals were meaningless. He said the name on the front of the uniform was more important than the name on the back. That’s what I’ll take from my two years with him.”
Carter knew that with the Mets having won the NL East in 2006, he wasn’t going to be the Mets manager in 2007. But he also knew that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. It was no secret that Jeff Wilpon was furious about the heavily-favored Mets’ loss to St. Louis in the NLCS, and blamed Willie Randolph for the loss. To be fair, while the Mets’ offense and bullpen struggled in the seven-game defeat, Randolph made some very strange managerial decisions with both his bullpen and in-game machinations that played a role in the team’s demise. Add in the fact that Randolph and Bernazard despised each other, and an organization that was in complete upheaval, Carter wanted to know where he fit.
Carter was told by Bernazard that the organization wanted him to manage the 2007 season in Binghamton. It was a promotion they said, and another step closer to the major leagues. Carter, whose knees had now been through five different procedures, had enough of the minor leagues. He knew all about the empty promises that had been made to Ken Oberkfell, who had managed several years in the minors for the Mets as well. The former infielder who had won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 1982 had been a successful minor league manager at several different levels and, like Carter, had won his share of accolades, including a Manager of the Year award, But “Obie” had never even gotten an interview when Minaya decided to hire Randolph. So, when the Mets wouldn’t make any promises that he would be the guy to replace Randolph (and it was when, not if), when the time came, he declined the offer. When he said he’d be happy to return to St. Lucie, they informed him that Frank Caccitore had been already given the job.
From The New York Times:
“How do you not take a promotion if you want to manage in the major leagues?” Minaya said. “We gave him an opportunity and we offered him more money and a more high-profile job and he turned it down. What more could we do?”
Carter said that Tony Bernazard, a team vice president, told him there were two reasons the club wanted Carter to go to Binghamton: to follow the players he had coached in Class A and to learn how to use the double switch, a move usually made when relievers enter a game.
“I said, ‘Tony, I played 18 years in the major leagues and you’re going to tell me I have to go to Double-A to learn how to do the double switch?’ ” Carter said. “I can do that in my sleep.”
Jeff Wilpon will understand, thought Carter, so he contacted the Mets’ COO who had followed around Carter as a teenager. The younger Wilpon suggested Gary look for work elsewhere.
So much for loyalty.
So Carter tried to get hired by both the Dodgers and Rockies, but both jobs were given to someone else. Then the 2007 Mets blew a 7 ½ game lead in September and missed the playoffs. If the Mets didn’t get off to a great start in 2008, then Randolph would be gone. So Carter took the manager’s job for the Orange County Flyers in the California-based Golden League. He proceeded to win the 2008 championship and the steered the Long Island Ducks to the Atlantic League playoffs.
The Mets were playing uninspired .500 baseball in May of 2008 and Randolph would soon be a goner. Carter took one last shot and called old friend Jay Horwitz to see if he had any shot at getting the job. Then Carter made a mistake he would regret for the rest of his life, he told the whole truth and nothing but the truth during an interview to “The Mike & Murray Show” on Sirius Satellite Radio. He admitted the call to Horwitz and said the Mets could use a person with his experience.
He never worked in affiliated baseball again; for telling the damn truth.
“I learned that things can be taken out of context,” Carter told reporters when he was hired by the Long Island Ducks. “There was no intention whatsoever to undermine anybody. I was simply asked the question, “would you be interested?” Of course I would be interested in any capacity because that is where my passion is. If it’s not with the Mets, I would like it to be with maybe somebody else.”
Hall of Famer Gary Carter, exiled to the independent leagues by a .260 career hitter in Bernazard who had never served as a scout, instructor, coach or manager at any level in the minor or major leagues, believed he had no other recourse than to “campaign” for the job. It wasn’t like Gary had any real shot at the job this time, so to make a big deal about it seemed petty.
Yet everyone did.
“I’ve always been accommodating and it’s hurt me because I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve,” Carter told the Times during a contentious interview following the hiring of Jerry Manuel. “They throw me under the bus and two weeks later, (Willie’s) fired anyway. Yeah, so I’m the one to blame.”
In 2009, Gary Carter would find peace in baseball and combine it with his greatest passion; his family. Palm Beach Atlantic University needed a baseball coach, and with Kimmee Carter serving as the team’s softball coach, it was an easy “yes’ for the Kid.
Ray McNulty, writing for the TCPalm.com, couldn’t understand, like many of us, why Carter was taking a job at a Division 2 college.
So this is what it has come to for Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who managed successfully in the minor leagues but can’t seem to get back to the majors — not as a manager, not even as a coach.
This, apparently, is the best he can do.
And that’s as sad as it is ridiculous.
“Not even many D-I schools in this nation have a Hall of Fame baseball coach,” said Lu Hardin, president of PBAU, where the baseball team compiled a 24-67 record the past two seasons.
No D-II school should.
But Carter lives in nearby Palm Beach Gardens. His daughter, Kimmy Bloemers, is the school’s softball coach. And, at age 55, after 19 major league seasons as a player and six years as a minor league manager, this was another chance to stay in baseball.
Maybe his best chance.
And that’s as sad as it is ridiculous.
Perhaps the worst part about the loss of Gary Carter was the Wilpon / Katz ownership not giving Cary Carter a last chance to say goodbye to the fans that loved him. One last chance to thank the man who helped them win their last championship. One last curtain call for the best of the 1986 Mets, the best damn team this franchise has ever had.
They chose not to. They chose to posthumously honor him. With a patch and a big sticker on the outfield wall.
Gary Carter deserved better.
Are you a gunslinger, Healey? If you are, you better get ready.
Readers of this blog are fully aware of where I stand on any and all Mets-related issues. I’m proud to say that one of my loudest critics, the folks at MetsPolice.com, have nominated me for a Mazzilli Award.
Gunslinger of The Year
The Gunslinger of The Year is awarded to the most fearless and feistiest of Mets fans….
Now let’s look at the field for moment:
Mike Silva? Far more concerned about barking at Craig Carton as the Sports Media Watchdog.
Tom Watson? A good follow. An intelligent man who sees the big picture. Yet, he has a fatal flaw. He has defended, more than once, the purveyor of the “Mets Fans are Rascist” club; Vinny Martino of the Daily News.
CoreyNYC? A loyal Mets fan, one of the most loyal I’ve ver known. Despite daily battles with him, he’s more than once asked me to join him at a Mets game for beer. Yet, he gives aid and comfort to the Wilpon ownership group and their minions, including the Daily News.
Finally, there’s Howard Megdal. I respect, admire and am a great defender of Howard Megdal. We have worked together. We have broke bread together. I regard his work covering the Mets as a daily must-read. But this post is not for a statesman, not for a Editor-in-Chief. It is for a gunslinger, and no matter how much I enjoy the man’s work, you cannot bring a foam finger to a gunfight.
So I urge you to visit MetsPolice.com and cast your vote. I’ve urged you all to Choose the Mets. Now I ask you to choose me, the best and only clear candidate for Gunslinger of the Year.
Recently, a comment I made on Twitter after reading about how The Wilpon Ownership Group (or TWOG as I will refer to them from now on), irritated some folks. As I conversed with some fans and colleagues on Twitter, I realized there was a blog post building in there. Now, several days later, the response is pretty much what I expected. Some folks agree with my stance, some don’t. There’s a group of folks who I never expected to agree with me, did so, and there were others, who usually agree with me, chided my decision to call my fellow Mets fans “schmucks” for buying or renewing their season tickets for 2013.
Do I regret calling new or current Mets season-ticket holders “schmucks”? Nope. I feel badly for the small group of fans that were offended, but I’m not taking it back. There are family members, good friends, business partners (including the Mets), and colleagues all included in that group I targeted and my relationships with those folks can — for the most part — survive a little name-calling. They’ve been called worse, so have I.
One of my favorite responses was a direct one to this blog:
what if your kids are dying to go to a mets game. Should you be a crappy father so that you can make a statement to the owners, and avoid being called a SCHMUCK by you?!
Well, as I declared before the 2012 season, my “Choose The Mets” decision would include a single game, the Lynbrook Little League outing, which was a fundraiser. That was it. Somehow, my children still love me.
Also, let’s be clear, this isn’t about winning or losing or being cheap. It’s about good faith, it’s about the truth and it’s about being taken advantage of. This isn’t about not rooting for the Mets any more or looking for another team. It’s about choosing to love the Mets and let TWOG know that we are not stupid and refuse to accept this farce you are laying on us.
When you buy a season ticket, it is a transaction that tells TWOG that you believe in what they are doing. Whether you want to accept it or not, it’s the best endorsement you can give them. So you can blame it on your kids, you can blame it on your friends, you can blame it on your love for the Mets, but it still makes you a schmuck.
To paraphrase Will.I.Am. “In this context, there’s no disrespect”. When I call you, the new or current Mets season ticket holder a schmuck, it’s because you are sending mixed message every time you sit in that seat. Empty seats forced Charles Shipman Payson to sell the team to Doubleday Publishing in 1980. If you the Wilpons gone, it’s pretty simple. If you want the team to stop being a laughingstock, again, it’s pretty simple.
I want accountability, I want to end inefficiency I want the professional baseball team that I root for to respect my intelligence. So I am willing to stay away. I am willing to risk being loathed publicly by calling people out for being part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Because I Choose the Mets, not TWOG. TWOG has had more than enough chances to screw up my team.
The tradition continues on April 3rd, 2012, as I will host a LIVE Fantasy Baseball draft at Strawberry’s Grill in Bayside, NY.
Tuesday April 3rd is going to be a party all day long in the grill! SeatCrew will be on hand giving away Mets tickets. Bloomberg Sports will be joining us to give away FREE Front Office 2012 log-ins during our Fantasy draft.
We’re kicking things off during the Yankees/Mets Exhibition game at Digital Domain Park at 2:10 PM. Come for our lunch special, stay for the $10 pitchers.
At 5 PM we’ll be playing baseball trivia with tons of prizes and giveaways.
Next up, Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball will be hosting our Live Fantasy Baseball Draft (7 pm start). The league will be a head-to-head, 5×5 mixed league with owners picking players in a snake draft. Grab a beer, a bar stool and meet the teams from SeatCrew and Bloomberg Sports to snag Mets tickets and Front Office 2012 log-ins, respectively.
Mark Healey is the Editor-in-Chief of Going 9 Baseball and the host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio. He is also the Founder of Gotham Baseball magazine, and has been covering NYC baseball since 1998.
It’s bound to be an exciting day in the grill! For dinner reservations during the draft, reservations are highly recommended. Call 718 517 8787.
A couple of things:
To compete in the league, you must not only tqake part in the Fantasy Baseball draft, you MUST be in attendance. And in case you were wondering, bring a laptop or other mobile device so you can draft your players.
There is a $50 entry fee for the league, $25 goes to the Prize pool and the other $25 is being donated to the Gary Carter Foundation. If you are just attending the event and wish to donate something to the Gary Carter Foundation, Darren from The7Line.com will be on hand selling hi special Gary carter T-Shirts as well)
An important part of my job, it seems to me, is that by covering a MLB club as an organization, rather than as a 25-man roster, I will have fuller understanding of the decisions the major league club makes. It’s fairer, in my mind anyway, to judge the end results of any given club’s execution in this manner.
Like the professional ballplayers they cover, some writers gain this type of perspective by starting their careers in the minor leagues, covering the Single-A to Triple-A clubs of the team they will eventually cover. Why more writers aren’t trained this way, I’m not sure, but when the result is people like Adam Rubin, the former longtime New York Daily News beat writer for the Mets – who now works for ESPN New York – it’s a pretty good argument.
Despite nearly a decade of comprehensive coverage of the Mets, Rubin is best known for his exclusive news-breaking stories that exposed former VP of Player Development Ton Bernazard’s long-criticized management style. Even more noteworthy, Mets GM Omar Minaya questioned Rubin’s integrity in the presser to announce the Bernazard firing, making the Wharton Business school graduate wonder if he would ever be able to cover the team again.
Now, before you start thinking, “here goes Healey with another Bernazard-bashing column”, I bring this up for a reason. First of all, I also began my career providing “organizational coverage” of the Mets, and have done since 2001. During that time, I have seen three regimes in action, so I have some perspective in this area.
Secondly, it is my contention that the Mets’ system, as it is viewed today, might have a better reputation simply because of the removal of its former overseer.
SI.com Jon Heyman called the newfound respect and promising performances of youngsters Ike Davis, Miguel Tejada and Jenry Mejia in Spring Training “one of the top stories of spring training”. While it’s true that these prospects are giving hope to many Mets fans that the club’s long term future might be more promising then it looked six months ago, Heyman also states “it’s too late to give ex-Mets exec Tony Bernazard his job back, but if removing his shirt and being impolite once or twice were his only faults, firing him seems like a bad call now.”
Let’s leave that aside for the moment.
Heyman is not the only pundit giving the Mets system better grades of late.
“It’s fashionable in New York to bash their system, but productive international scouting continues to bail out their draft efforts, which are repeatedly hamstrung by ownership’s refusal to exceed slot in the first few rounds.” – Keith Law, ESPN
Law ranked the Mets’ system at #15 among MLB clubs, an improvement over the previous winter, when he ranked them #17. Not a huge jump, but when you consider he upgraded his ranking after a full season of play, rather than a few meaningless ST games, that’s a fairer opinion.
Other observers were less than optimistic about eight months ago.
“… The hard facts are the Mets’ farm system is among the worst in baseball. All you need is to look at what has transpired this year where the best the system has been able to offer in the face of all the injuries are Argenis Reyes, Nick Evans, Wilson Valdez, thrice-released Angel Berroa and Fernando Nieve, a March waiver claim from the Astros. “ – Bill Madden, July 23, 2009 NY Daily News
As with most issues, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Perhaps the person that puts it best once worked in the Mets minor league system, and has dealt with them on a adversarial basis since leaving a few years ago.
“Do they have good players in their system? Sure. (But) having talent is only one part of the equation. Developing that talent … getting it ready for the majors — and preparing the kids for life in a big city with a team that is expected to win are others. The Mets have to prove they can do that on a consistent basis.” – Former Mets minor league employee, now an AL team official.
Several folks we spoke to talked about Bernazard and his staff’s inability to determine which players would benefit from being rushed through the system and the others that needed extra seasoning. Others maintain that Bernazard’s constant presence in minor league clubhouses interfered with some of the minor league skippers’ ability to delegate authority and maintain discipline.
Finally, said a former Mets scout, it was Bernazard’s background as a “Player’s Association guy” and a “glory hound” that doomed him, and created much of the criticism of the Mets system.
“It was more a disorganized mess than a lack of talent. If you didn’t agree with Tony about a player, he either dismissed your opinion, or tried to fire you. If any of the managers wanted to fine or discipline one of Tony’s guys, there’s be hell to play and a visit to remind the (manager) just who was the big man in town. You have to remember this guy worked for the union when he retired, not for a ball club. He was used to getting patted on the back by players and their agents for helping them in negotiating with clubs. He never had to work with the baseball people in the trenches, where ego and bravado is quickly dismissed as “horsebleep”. When it comes to it, Tony wanted everyone to kiss his ass, and refused to kiss anyone else’s.
Could despising one guy be responsible for trashing a whole system? It appears so. Outside of one player agent, nearly every single scout, baseball official and team executive I spoke to in recent years had negative things to say about the Mets, their system, and Tony Bernazard.
Lots of “extremely difficult to work with, or for”, or to meet with halfway”, and yet no one ever offered the “but the system is in good shape.”
Even to biggest of Bernazard critics, of whom I am one, can see the Mets’ farm system is no longer a joke, that’s for sure. But if Bernazard’s only infractions have been shirt removal and f-bombs at security guards, he’d still have a job. Also, it’s hard to imagine new Minor League coordinator Terry Collins or Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones manager Wally Backman having been hired if Bernazard was still around.
However, if you’re going to give him the heat for being his own worst enemy, you also have to recognize that the system does have talent, and he is at least deserving of some of the credit for that.