Unlike the off-season when hope springs eternal or the post-season when people are focused on the best of the best showing what they can do, the tail end of July often brings out the worst of baseball fans. Debates nowadays concern things like mortgaging the future, replenishing the farm system, devaluing someone on an expiring contract and inflating the security of people who have years of team control left via the collective bargaining agreement. No matter what is done there are some people who will condemn it, others who will celebrate it and others who have already given up on baseball and are looking for who to draft on their fantasy football teams.
Can we all just take a collective breath, step back and get nostalgic for a moment? Do you remember the days when you were first learning how to swing a bat, how to catch a ball, how to steal a base and how to hit the cutoff man who, in turn, can nail the runner at the plate?
Do you remember the sickly sweet smell of the flat pink piece of bubble gum in the package, and the joy that came from reading the stats on the back of the card? How about those little cartoons with trivia about the player? Do you remember those checklist cards that let you track who you had and who you still needed to complete your set? Do you remember the rookie cards highlighting fresh faces that may or may not help your team compete now and in the future? Do you remember back when it was more important to get the cards of your favorite players on your favorite team rather than the prospective value they will have if you preserve them in a plastic sleeve so that 30 years into the future you can brag that you have a Johnny Knucklehead rookie card in mint condition?
Frankly, I remember playing games with the baseball cards, flipping them, trading them and even (horror of horrors) putting them into the spokes of a bicycle wheel to simulate the sound of a motorcycle.
I’m not here to debate the merits and deficiencies of the Player’s Union or the greed of the owners. I do know, however, that ever since the Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith milestones in baseball, the fans subtly shifted from rooting for players to rooting for laundry. The fungible nature of players as resources means you no longer feel the same kinship to the individual player. You remain loyal to your team and become hypercritical of what they do with their roster when it seems they are putting profits ahead of winning. Edwin Jackson has been on 14 different teams (thus far!) and former Met Octavio Dotel played on 13. It didn’t used to be this way.
So let’s step back before this afternoon’s trading deadline, forget about the merits of what package Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler or Edwin Diaz might net, what salary relief a Todd Frazier or Wilson Ramos transaction could bring, and instead just enjoy the fact that the Mets have won 6 of their last 7 games without Yoenis Cespedes, without Jed Lowrie, without Brandon Nimmo, without Dom Smith and with a clearly diminished Robinson Cano and Jeurys Familia. Celebrate the fact that an All-Star pitcher was just added to the roster. Whatever happens, happens. We have no control over it. The person the Wilpons entrusted to make the deals is the only one who does and nothing we say here is going to move the needle at all.