This week in Port St Lucie, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon handed out orange shirts with the "Underdog U" symbol in blue on them. While many fans and media thought it was considerate and a good rally cry for a highly underestimated team, some players did not embrace it too well. One such player was David Wright.
Wright said "I don't really like using the whole Underdog thing. I don't really like playing that card. I think it's just a way to remind everybody in here that the outside expectations aren't the expectations that we have for ourselves".
I tend to agree with him. More importantly, this is wrong on a much bigger level. Is Wright accurate in his statement? Yes. The expectations outside of the immediate team is a bleak one. Apart from a small faction of overly optimistic fans, the vast majority of Mets fans believe this season will be a total wash.
This is why the players really don't pay much attention to the media and fan chat boards. They must remain focused on the task at hand. There is a bigger issue at work here, however.
These shirts were given out by management. What does it say to the players that the management that got the organization in so much debt that they had to let Jose Reyes walk and cut payroll down under the $100 million mark perceives them as underdogs?
It is this same management that put them in this predicament in the first place. Had they not been foolish with their money, they never would have been in the situation. Now they have embraced being the less fortunate ones and expect their players to do the same?
They should be telling the players they believe in the roster they have without conjuring up some rally cry gimmick. It should be enough to let the players recognize the task at hand and go from there without a word from Mets brass either way on the subject.
Let Terry Collins make the season beginning rally speech and slogan. That's his job. He's the manager. Jeff Wilpon, as COO, your job is to try to help get the team out of debt. Period. Stop trying to be the source of inspiration for a team that is already disgruntled with the hand that you have dealt them.
If this team is a collection of underdogs, it's because of the Mets ownership. The bank doesn't tell the family they just foreclosed on that they should be thankful they are homeless because, after all, now they get to enjoy the fresh outdoor air.
As the source of grief, you don't try to put a positive spin on things out of guilt or whatever intention you decide to blame it on this week. Have some common sense and let the players play and the coach give the rally cry.
You just write the checks and make sure they don't bounce. Maybe if they did that in the first place, this team wouldn't be underdogs.