So maybe I’m a bit late to jump in on the Fred Wilpon discussion. And yes, the sooner the talk goes away, the better. But I don’t have anything to say about the impact of Wilpon’s comments on player performance, or on the Madoff lawsuit, or on Sandy Alderson’s negotiating leverage. It’s all been said and said again. What I can tell you is how it affects me.
In every sport, there is a tacit agreement between a team and its fans: I, the fan, give the team a) my money for tickets, jerseys, and concessions, and b) my unwavering loyalty, and the team gives me — well, what, exactly? Does the organization owe me the best team money can buy? A championship? A consistent contender? A stadium with plenty of leg room and a helmet cup for my ice cream?
As a Met fan, here’s what I feel I am owed at the very least: Respect. Respect for the fact that I put my heart, soul and wallet into the team; for the fact that I’ve watched almost every game, from my couch and from stadium seats, during my 19-year life; and for the fact that I care. Lately, I’m not feeling that respect.
I don’t doubt that Fred Wilpon loves the Mets, nor do I doubt that he wants them to win as badly as anybody. I don’t even doubt he’s a “good guy.” However, he is acting purely out of self-interest, and not in the interest of the team he loves and the fans who live and die with that team. Why was Citi Field built as a shrine to the Brooklyn Dodgers? ‘Cause it brought Freddy back to the good ole’ days. Why won’t Wilpon sell a majority stake of the team? ‘Cause it’d cost him too much pride. And as for the recent articles, clearly Wilpon’s sole purpose is to try to exonerate himself in the $1 billion lawsuit he’s facing. These actions all may benefit Fred, but in the process, he has dealt his team and its fans — he has dealt me — painful blows.
In the New Yorker article, Fred Wilpon criticized, in my mind, three out of a select few people who are not part of the reason the Mets have been a disgrace — both on and off the field — ever since Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. There’s been the ’07 collapse, the ’08 mini-collapse, the 3 A.M. Randolph firing, the Minaya attack on Adam Rubin, the Bernazard, Radomski, and Samuels debacles, and, most importantly, two straight years of terrible baseball.
The positives of the recent past? Not much aside from a role-model, five-time All-Star third baseman; a shortstop with blazing speed, a rocket arm and a smile that alone puts butts in seats; and a very-much-worth-the-money outfielder who had incredible seasons from 2006-08 that rival any three-year span in Met history. These are the people Wilpon chose to antagonize.
Many of the negatives should be considered Fred’s responsibility (it’s his team), and they are all things that would drive any sane person away from the team. But therein lies the problem. There’s no sanity in being a fan. My loyalty has its roots in family tradition and weekend trips to Shea when I was five. At this point, it’s beyond logical explanation. I’m afraid that no matter how the Mets treat me, I will keep watching, paying, and caring. I’m not alone, and in recent years the Mets have exploited that fact. They’ve been poorly run, have made bad baseball decisions, and have failed to compete on the field. They owe their fans so much more.
Certainly, if the Mets don’t start to treat their fans better, some will begin jumping ship. But more than that, they will continue to let down the ones who can’t jump ship — the ones who are in it for life. It’s time for the Mets to give those fans the respect they deserve.