12/23/10

The Team-to-Fan Commitment: An Open Letter to Mets GM, Sandy Alderson

3 comments
By David Rubin

In the past few years, Met fans have been split over which player to sign, or whom to trade for, or whether or not the manager should be fired. Right about now, Omar and company would be putting all of their eggs in one free agents' basket, focusing on a single player until a resolution was reached, one way or another. It wasn't the best strategy, but it was what we had at the time. If a Jason Bay, for example, would have decided to stay with Boston or take another team's offer, we would have been without any major free agent signings last off-season (some would say, in hindsight, that this would have been a good thing.) Good, bad or otherwise, there would have been movement, sound, fury, even if it all amounted to nothing or almost nothing...and now, all we hear is the sound of our own voices, rising when we hear of the Brewers acquiring Greinke... saying "I told you so" when we hear that move resulted in a rush for ticket sales in Milwaukee...enraged at the thought of facing the "Philthie Phour"...


We have a new General Manager and front office staff. We have been brought into (and bought into) their decision-making process, through honest and open dialogue. We are told that there is a plan being formed, and that it's centered around creating an ongoing contender, from within. We are told that there will be money to spend when current contracts (to the tune of approximately $60 million dollars) come off the books. We've been told a lot of things, and we have no reason not to believe anything, in light of the quality of the human beings we are hearing this from. Sandy Alderson, JP Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta are three of the finest minds in the game of baseball, and deserve the benefit of the doubt, moving forward, as they rebuild- on the fly- an organization more in need of long-range planning then any of us would care to realize. At the end of the day, however, what we are, whether we write about it, blog about it, scream about it or comment about it, is, at heart, a fan...and what a fan wants, above and beyond everything else, is HOPE...hope that a new year will bring a better team...hope that our team will do everything within their power to field the best players possible each and every day...hope that, somehow, this will be the year that we regain the glory that comes with being the "best"- with winning the World Series. Right or wrong, we identify ourselves with our teams, and, by extension, the outcome of simple wins and losses. No one wants to be thought of as a "loser" and everyone wants to be tagged a "winner"...and sadly, too often, we fail to simply enjoy the quest and get lost in the outcome. That's because we are fans, and there IS no "right" or "wrong" involved- there's our team, and then there's everything else...and logic and reason usually get thrown to the side in favor of pure emotion.

The following is an open letter, to Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson and his staff, written from my heart...from a writer, from a blogger, but, most of all, from a fan...

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From The Desk of: A New York Mets Fan

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Dear Sandy Alderson:

Welcome to the New York Mets. So far, you've been a breath of fresh air, as you've brought honesty and transparency to your role, and as a fan I greatly appreciate that. You've been a man of your word- you let everyone know, right up front, that you wouldn't be involved in the free agent market this off-season, and you've been true to your word. It was a hard thing to hear, knowing that other teams around us would improve immediately, while we essentially sat on the sidelines, planning, but Met fans are mostly very intelligent, and certainly incredibly passionate, and will, for the most part, give you the benefit of the doubt when names like Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford end up plying their "trade" elsewhere.

However, in giving you said benefit, a contract has been made- an "implied" contract, but a contract none-the-less. We, the fans, will support your efforts to rebuild the organization, and will continue to love our team while you continue to do your job. We may not come to the ballpark as often; we might not purchase as many jerseys, t-shirts, bobble-heads and caps, but we will watch the games on television, listen on the radio, and occasionally head over to Citi-Field. We WILL root for the team, as long as they play hard, try to be competitive, and at least appear to be headed on the right path. You won't get as much of our hard-earned money as you have in the past, but we also don't have as much of it to spend these days anyway, so don't take it as a slight on the job that you are doing. But you have to do your job, too, which is the (often unenviable) task of re-casting the Mets as perennial winners.

Look- most people don't like going to the dentist, but we know we need our teeth in good health in order to live well. We also don't like paying for the "privilege" but again, we know it's a "necessary evil." As fans, we also don't like hearing that our team is in a "rebuilding" mode; call it what you want, but at the end of the day, when names like Lee, Uggla and Werth are added to other teams in the division, and our role-call simply includes the likes of Paulino and Carrasco, we know that lofty expectations are a thing of the future, if not the immediate future.

But there's one thing that you have to always remain aware of, something that has greatly effected my life as a fan, and my life overall, and something that you are now facing for the first time. Each year will be someone's last year of life, and that means it will also be their last year of being a fan. Fandom is only a small part of who we are, but it's a meaningful part, especially when everything else around us, the fixtures of our lives, have been thrown into chaos. We look to each game as if it represented a battle for life and death itself; of course, after the outcome has been writ, we go on with our lives, with the great gift of knowing that tomorrow is another day and with it comes another game, another shot at redemption. Except when it's not...

At the end of the 2007 season, when the Mets blew yet another opportunity at greatness and just couldn't find a way to keep their ship from listing, after the anger and embarrassment faded, or at least dissipated a bit, most of us knew that we'd have the '08 season to get back at those hated Phillies, and show New York that there were 2 great teams in town once again. For me, that off-season marked the changing of my life, not for the better, as I knew that my dad, fighting too many illnesses to name, might not see the light of another season. We hoped he'd recover- we DEMANDED that he'd recover- yet, in our heart of hearts, we knew that the odds were stacked way too heavily against him.

In January of '08, after flying back to New York from Los Angeles for about the 5th time in 2 months, it seemed as though the Mets were on the cusp of acquiring Johan Santana, a superstar pitcher and amazing competitor- just the sort of player a fan could love, and perhaps another, albeit small, reason to hang around for, to live another season for so as to marvel at the work of a true "artiste" on the mound. I can still remember telling my dad that the Mets were about to acquire Santana. He was a patient at the Rogosin Institute/New York Presbyterian Hospital
, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and I had just journeyed over to the Mets team store in mid-town, to buy a few Met trinkets to put at his bed-side- a Reyes bobble-head, a small pennant, and yet another t-shirt, but there wasn't much room for such things and only the bobble-head stayed.

My dad had regained consciousness, and as I sat next to him, I told him the good news, that the Mets were about to acquire Santana, and I remember the face he made- as if to say, "don't B.S. me, I'm in the hospital, so don't try to make me feel better by making up such a story" kind of look. I assured him that it was true, that a deal had almost been completed, and he smiled, a deep, peaceful smile, and told me that he'd better get well soon so we could grab my brother and catch him pitch, just the three of us, as we had done so very many times before. Sadly, it wasn't to be, and my dad passed shortly after the Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers. I made a promise to my dad, though- and I flew to Florida that spring, catching the last 2 spring training games, as well as the first 2 regular season games, and indeed, I saw Santana throw his first pitches as a Met, along with my best friend, Jon Elfenbein, and I brought a photo of my dad with me, even though I knew he was at the game with me, in spirit. Jon had also lost his father a few years prior, also a huge Met fan, and he knew all too well the feelings I was going through at that time because he felt, and still feels them, too.

As a fan, it was very exciting to see Santana in a Met uniform for the first "official time", and I was grateful to have been a part of the crowd on that day. I was also grateful to be rooting for a team that was willing to commit the kind of money it took to sign a top-flight player like Santana to a long-term contract. However, the overwhelming thought going through my mind, and one that hasn't left me since, is the fact that, in the final baseball season that my dad would ever experience, after having lived through so much, the final team he saw was that of a loser- and not just a loser, but one that had everything to gain right in the palm of their hands, only to blow it in the final weeks of the season to a team that clearly wasn't their better in talent but ended up being their better in character and determination. That's a hard pill to swallow.

Obviously, I'm not the only person to have lived through this, and the Mets and baseball in general are but small parts of our lives. Small, but important, and something that, when times are hard, we grasp at in hopes of gaining some small, hard-fought victory, which, in essence, would validate our support, and ourselves, at least for that one day.

I know that, just a few short weeks ago, you, too, lost your father to a tragic accident. I know the pain that comes with knowing that he won't be there anymore to validate the work that you do, to cheer you on when even the kindest of fans have turned against you, but most of all, to simply talk to or just know that he's around, that he'll be there when you DO bask in the glory that comes with a job well done, or one of your children reaches a milestone, or you simply want to hear his voice again when you're at your lowest ebb...

Every year, fans pass away, and new fans are born. That's the way of the world, and you can't always win for each and every one of them. That's our reality - just ask poor Cubs' fans all over the world. Again, I'm simplifying this, because as I've said, being a fan is only a small portion of who we are- but it's the part of us that you are most concerned with, and this is, after all, a blog about baseball, and the New York Mets. That being said, when the Mets as a team decided not to enter into the free agency game this off-season, the chances are, for a number of fans, the last team they'll ever know is either the one that vastly disappointed this past season, or one that may very well disappoint us once again in 2011. That's the reality that you inherited, and that's the reality that you are moving forward with- one laden with over-paid players whose performance certainly isn't commensurate with the monies they have and will receive.

Mr. Alderson, you've already learned that you've inherited one of, if not THE most passionate fan-bases in the game of baseball, if not in all of sports. We might yell and scream on the surface, because it's frustrating to see a team like the Phils' being able to throw out the likes of Oswalt, Halladay, Hamels and now Lee every fifth day; but even when we're screaming on the outside, on the inside, we're dreaming of the day when a Mejia or a Harvey or an Urbina joins the rotation, and we have a "stud rotation" of our own to root for once again. We yell and grow frustrated when Crawford and Gonzalez become Red Sox, and all we can do is get excited about acquiring someone else's players who couldn't make it on their 40-man rosters via the Rule 5 draft; on the inside, we're relieved, to an extent, that we won't be on the hook to players like Perez and Castillo anymore.

You're an incredibly bright person - you already know that you're playing to the rational part of our minds, the quieter part, while outwardly having to deal with the slings and arrows of our barbed comments. I applaud you for not backing down to peer pressure that comes with being in charge of a team in the largest media market in the world. I also advise you that, when the time comes, when the Perez's and Castillo's of the world are no longer part of our lives, and money has, indeed, been freed up, please don't take the easy way out then, either, and continue to ignore the critics and cynics while you march down the path to building this organization into a perennial contender. It's hard to resist the temptation of a big bat or a 98 mile-per-hour fastball, but it's a LOT worse to be locked into a mode similar to that which the team finds itself in right now, neither a contender nor a total exercise in futility.

I'm sorry that your father won't be around to witness the success that you're going to bring to this once-proud franchise; I'm sorry that my father won't be here to witness it, either. I'm also sorry to each and every fan who lost (or will lose) a loved one, for far many and greater reasons then simply the lack of witnessing a winning baseball team. The outcome of baseball games do not determine life and death, but they do offer us an escape from life and death, and that's an awfully large burden to carry. That's the double-edged sword of being a devoted fan- we figuratively "live and die" with our teams, and often our moods are dictated by that day's outcome. Rooting for a losing team is certainly more fun then not rooting for any team at all; but the words "losing" and "Mets" have been synonymous for far too long, and for the sake of Met fans everywhere, I truly pray that you will have the strength, fortitude, fortune and foresight to build the winning team that so many fans so richly deserve.

I know it will be a continued, uphill battle to make this happen, and you have a LOT of people behind you, pushing that boulder up the hill with you. I pray that we all live long enough to at least be around to witness another World Series victory in Queens, sooner rather than later.

Wishing you a happy, peaceful, and family-filled holiday season.

Yours in Baseball,
Sincerely,

David J. Rubin
c/o Mack's Mets
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To all of our readers, I wish you all the best this holiday season as well. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Festivus for the Rest-of-Us, and a Happy and Healthy New Year!!! May we all have a far more prosperous and successful 2011!!!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was one of the best written pieces I've ever laid my eyes on.

Bravo to you, Mr. David Rubin!!!

I can only hope that Sandy reads it, but even more hopefully, that EVERYONE associated with the Mets reads, and heeds it.

Manage, coach, and play to your utmost ability, and who knows?.....

Maybe Christmas 2011 will come about 1 1/2 months early for the fans....

Mack Ade said...

David.... !!!!

Your Mom is online again.... !!!!

David Rubin said...

Mack- my mom wouldn't know how to post a comment here any more then I would know how to drill for oil!!

ncb1gdod- your comment made my day! I wish the post was as good as your praise! Hope you keep reading- Mack and I have some great things planned for 2011!!! And thanks for your support!!

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