The New York Mets in 2012Marls and I pitched a handful questions at each other, then each answered every question. Here goes:
1) How many games will the Mets win this year?
Marls: I hear a lot of bitter Met fans say this team will be lucky to win 60 games. I guess that could happen, given the level of competition in the division, but I actually like this team. They are not going to challenge for the wild cards unless Johan Santana returns to Cy Young form, Jon Niese takes a huge step forward, and Mike Pelfrey stops sucking. Doubtful, especially the third one. That being said, they should score some runs and could surprise some people. I think the absolute everything-falls-into-place high end is 85 wins. On the other side, if every other team in the division is as good as advertised, 65 wins.
Igor: Best case: 86 / Worst case: 69 . . . I've been trying in vain to predict the Mets' win total for nine years now, and I seem to aim high every time. Interestingly, Marls and I were of like minds on this one. I just can't fathom how an organization could ignore the correlative relationship between a solid rotation and team victories for 10 years. Starting pitching has been on the wish list for eons, but let's go get expensive closers and left fielders.
I think 78 wins is a sound guess. But what do I know?
2) Rooting for the Mets is a lot like . . .
Igor: . . . being H.M., the patient we learned about in Intro to Psychology freshman year. H.M., you see, was an epileptic sufferer in the 1950’s who underwent surgery to remove several parts of his brain in an effort to curb the affliction. As it turned out, nearly all of his capacity for turning short-term memory into long-term went with those pieces of brain. (Go watch Memento.) There were numerous examples of what he could no longer remember or do post-surgery, but the one that got Dave, Hightower, and me scolded in class was how, as Professor Nezlek put it, H.M.’s favorite uncle passed away, and “every day his family would explain to H.M. that his beloved uncle died, and every day H.M. would cry as if he were hearing it for the first time.” The sheer sadism of that family telling H.M. about his uncle on a daily basis, or even responding with the truth every time he asked, had us 18-year-olds in stitches to the point of being barked at in class. Seriously, ease up on the guy a day or two along the way and just lie to him . . . who are those bastards, the Manson Family?
H.M. died three years ago at age 82, in all likelihood still waking up thinking he was 27, and probably freshly grieving the loss of his favorite uncle. For me, though, the beginning of every new Mets season has begun to feel like H.M.’s morning nightmares. Hope springs eternal and all that crap, but the start of another 90-loss slog always begins with optimism. As it wears on, the disappointment that inevitably, inescapably arrives somehow seems to surprise me. I’m H.M., crying in my beer every day in May about Uncle Mr. Met. Somewhere around Memorial Day, I snap out of it and become Bitter Old Man, remembering everything that came before and kicking myself for believing.
Right now, though, I’m euphoric.
Marls: . . . um, nothing else. The easy answer here is some trite response like “getting kicked in the balls” or “wizzing into the wind.” Instead, I tried to think of another team where fandom was similar to rooting for the Mets. Sure, you can find many teams with a history of futility. But very few of them have the Mets' unique attributes that make rooting for them such a nut punch. The only thing I could come up with is rooting for the Clippers. Big market team, history of futility, marquee team in the same market with obnoxious fans . . . yep, just like rooting for the Clippers. Then I remembered that that Clippers are actually good now . . .
3) What's the worst trade or signing of the last 10 years?
Marls: Thank God this question is limited to the last 10 years. The organization has a proud tradition of trading talent for mediocrity (the Ryan Express for the Fregosi Flop), and signing all-stars that quickly turn into has-beens. While watching Jason Bay’s talent disappear and Mo Vaughn’s bicep explode was depressing, this one was easy. Igor has already documented in this space the precipitous fall of Roberto Alomar, so I won’t rehash it; however, the speed at which a future Hall of Famer’s skills deteriorated the moment he touched Flushing soil is mind-boggling. Unlike most of their deals, everybody thought the Mets got a steal, which they did -- except that it was Mike Bacsik. [Ed. Note: Igor doesn't agree with that last part.]
Igor: Hands down. Oliver "Twist My Vas Deferens" Perez.
3 years, $36MM.
Year 1: 66 IP, 3-4, 6.82 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 6.40 FIP, -0.8 WAR
Year 2: 46.1 IP, 0-5, 6.80, 2.07 WHIP, 6.99 FIP, -1.1 WAR
Year 3: Uh . . . the Mets released him, and he spent the season in the Nationals’ AA
Those numbers speak for themselves, if you count the sounds of retching and screaming as speaking. If you recall, Derek Lowe was the pitcher the Mets almost signed when they opted for Perez. Lowe wanted (and got) an extra year and a few more millions. And he was seven years older, purportedly. So the Mets got Ollie, his control problems, and his attitude. The hated Braves, meanwhile, got Derek Lowe, his control, and three years of this:
Year 1: 194.2 IP, 15-10, 4.67 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 2.6 WAR
Year 2: 193.2 IP, 16-12, 4.00 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 2.7 WAR
Year 3: 187 IP, 9-17, 5.05 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 2.5 WAR
Ollie was way more interesting! Mets win!
(The Braves, by the way, gave up on Lowe this winter and traded him to Cleveland – paying $10MM of the salary in doing so. Lowe is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA. Oh, and Ollie is middle relief for the Tacoma Rainiers now. Yesterday he got four outs while allowing three hits, three walks, and two earned runs. His ERA is 5.68, which seems low.)
What a train wreck.
4) You're going to get drunk and watch a Mets game with 5 current or former Mets players or coaches. Name them, and why.
Igor: Mike Piazza – We’ll drink some Pabst and discuss 9/21/01, as well as how two studs like us each managed to be graced with a pair of daughters, plus the coolest Phoenixville Phantom we both knew.
Casey Stengel – A must. I'd like his take on the teams of the last ten years, and if any of them are eerily familiar.
Mookie Wilson – Just because he's Mookie, plus after a dozen Rheingolds, I want him to tell me if he really thinks he would've beaten it out.
Wally Backman – The man's been shafted when it comes to managerial positions, but this was a no-brainer.
Keith Hernandez – I'll buy him whatever he was drinking in the clubhouse in Game 6, and we'll play Strat-o-matic with the '86 cards. I'll bat him 7th and hope he makes an error just to razz him, but he's a 1, so he won't.
Others in consideration: Kong; Frank Cashen; Le Grand Orange; Dee-Dub; Ed Kranepool; Nails, once he's out of the clink; Mr. Met; Gil Hodges; HoJo; Messy Jesse; hell, any of the drunks from '86 except Kevin Mitchell, who might kill us all. Maybe Doc and Straw for late-night fun. And Robby Alomar, just because it's always fun to have that one guy that everyone makes fun of the whole time.
5) Which member of ownership/management/coaching staff would you fire today if you could?
Igor: Too easy. Anyone named Wilpon. It has come to a strange point with Mets fans and their favorite team’s ownership: we thought we were disgusted after years of shady buffoonery, and then, like Keyser Söze, the Wilpon family showed us what men of shady buffoonery really are. The Madoff thing has taken me from merely annoyed and frustrated to wanting to wash my hands of these old, dirty bastards. Honestly, given the events of the last couple of years, they’re now lower on my totem pole than Daniel Snyder. Does anyone realize how difficult that was to achieve???
And they’ll probably still own the Mets when I die.
Marls: Who to pick? Freddie Wilpon? The Mets' crack training staff that turn groin pulls into season-ending injuries? Nope, not even close. I would fire Jay Horowitz. Horowho? Jay Horowitz, the Mets head of public relations who has been with the team for over 30 years. This guy has made a career out of second-rate promotions, bad press conferences and ill-timed announcements. Cute and homespun may work in Seattle, but in NY it comes off as hokey and bush league. To make matters worse, the team whose name shall not be spoken has the best well oiled PR machine in the biz. The Bronx nine has a fight in the clubhouse and it was because they were fighting over whose Bible to use for their morning prayer. Meanwhile, the Mets go to Walter Reed hospital to visit some veterans, and it is used as an example of their fractured clubhouse. Mike Piazza wants to call a press conference to let everybody know that he’s not gay… Jay will set it up. The only spin the Mets organization is able to develop is that of Joan Payson spinning in her grave.
6) Write a limerick about the Mets.
Rooting for this team is a curse
Each year they manage to be worse
It’s unlikely they’ll play ball
Late into the fall
Cause’ Bernie stole the Mets’ purse.
There once was team called the Mets
Whose finances were riddled with debts
To get off this gurney
They need to call Bernie
But not Bernie Madoff . . . Bernie Goetz
There once was a man named Omar
Whose teams rarely did go far
He breached all our trust
Signing bust after bust
Until Selig came in and said no-mar.
There I was, there I was in the Congo
Or maybe it was up in Toronto
But my nightmare was vivid
And man, was I livid
We'd signed another pitcher named Armando
For this team there is no panacea
Often they give me diarrhea
This pain in my gastro-tract
Is partly because of the fact
They're still paying Bobby Bonilla
7) How many Mets games are you going to watch this season?
Igor: Live: 1-2, if I’m lucky. Marls and I are planning a weekend beer and baseball event at some point, one that has at least a 40% chance of us actually doing.
TV: [Ed. Note: I had a paragraph in here about how I was going to forgo the Extra Innings package this year. I deleted it. 6-3 and just baseball, period. Too good to save $200 for something more prudent.]
Radio: Listened to the end of a Mets game the other afternoon on my AtBat app on my phone. Technology, Igor is hot for you.
Marls: I will watch or listen to probably 100 games this year. I am a glutton for punishment. If they fall out of contention, I will not pay attention as much but the game will always be on.
8) What's your most depressing moment as a Met fan since 2001?
Igor: Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, as described here. What depresses me most about that game is that it's the unequivocal apex of a sharp parabola, the salad days sandwiched between slices of multi-grain suck. It bummed me out completely, and those were the best of times.
Marls: Easy. June 12, 2009. I was sitting in the stands watching ARod’s pop up settle into Luis Castillo’s glove for the final out of the first subway series game played at the house that Big Stein built. While the home team and eventual World Champs were the much better team, at least tonight I could savor a small victory. 10 seconds later, I was watching Castillo futilely chase after the ball as two runs scored and I was subjected to a loooooooong subway ride home on a train full of drunken fans who relished the opportunity to eruditely explain why they Mets were an inferior ballclub. Not good times. Like Igor, I was at Game 7 in 2006. I was also there the night Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run to eliminate the Mets in 1999 against the Braves. This was worse.
9) What former Met who's still in the league do you kind of root for?
Marls: I will root for Carlos Beltran wherever he goes. I thought he got a bad rap here in NY. Granted taking a called third strike in 2006 was not the best way to endear himself to the fans. However, the fans treated him worse than they treat Jason Bay. The guy carried them in 2006 and put up really good numbers for a good chunk of the 6+ years he spent in Flushing. He played an awesome centerfield and did not rock the boat. Sure, he was not an outspoken leader and he was part of the collapses of 2007 and 2008, but Met fans treated him like he shot their mom. If he had played at the same level in the Bronx for those same seasons, some douchenozzle would be trying to explain to me why he and Mattingly both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
Igor: (a) To some degree, Jeff Francoeur. Could not stand the dude when he was a Brave, but when he became a Met I began to like his style – even (especially) the free-swinging part. (b) But for as long as he remains in the league, my favorite non-Met will be Endy Chavez. As is said of Dave Henderson in Boston, if they go on win it all that year, he’s an all-time legend. As it went, too many people forget. Not anyone who was there, though -- Marls and I remember.
Which one do you root for terrible things to happen to?
Marls: Does playing in the Mariners’ minor league system count? If so, I hope Ollie Perez gets run over by the team bus after getting VD from a Tacoma hooker.
Igor: (a) Jose Reyes, for obvious reasons. (b) Dan Wheeler, because I am an ass and his brief pants-wetting with the Mets should be shared by all!
10) What other MLB team do you hate the most and why?
Igor: The Braves. I mean, the Phillies and their fans can go to hell, and the Marlins have always pissed me off (never moreso than now), but the Braves are #1 on the list. I mean, the Cardinals have been irritating me since the White Rat’s teams of the 1980’s, but the Braves just get my goat. I mean, the Yankees and Red Sox can just merge into one macro-megatron-billion-dollar bandwagon of unlikable, bloated blather called the New Englork Yanksox; despite their hatred of each other, their fan bases are now the two hugely fat guys on motorcycles in the Guinness Book of World Records. Can you tell them apart?
But really, it’s the Braves. Maybe it will subside after Chipper retires, but I doubt it. F them.
Marls: I don’t like the team in the Bronx and I really dislike the Phillies, but in the end, that is really just because I find their fans obnoxious. I really don’t hate the players on either one of those teams. Strangely, I think the team that I hate the most is the Marlins.
- Jeffrey Loria
- Taking Reyes
- Eliminating the Mets in 07-08
- The cab accident
- Multiple world championships for an apathetic fan base
- That goofy statue in centerfield
11) Which current Met(s) give you hope?
Igor: Lots, but many of them are the same kind of hope we had for John Maine, Nick Evans, Brian Stokes, Anderson Hernandez, Fernando Nieve, etc. Not even the Lastings Milledge, Alex Escobar, Fernando Martinez types, just guys who you see and say, "Hey, this kid's better than we thought. He could be something." And then not.
Pelfrey to a degree, but Jason Bay, of course. Bay, it seems, has become one of those guys that the Mets had before and after their best years. Like Jeromy Burnitz, and, to a lesser degree, David Cone. We're Forrest Gump. We get Jenny when she's too young to marry and when she has a terminal disease, not when she's rocking out in the 1970's.
12) Make up stupid nicknames for 3 guys on the roster.
Jon “Oscar Thug” Rauch
Mike “Darling” Nickeas
Dillon "O.M." Gee (though I just saw others have come up with this one as well)
Josh Thole "and Tonic"
Lucas Duda . . . Dude . . . uh . . .
Kirk "Freshmen Are" Nieuwenhuis "Cool"
13) Pick a television sitcom past or present that most resembles the 2012 Mets and explain why.
Marls: There were so many possible answers to this one. In the end, I went with "Too Close for Comfort." They both have a big name who is good and sometimes great, but in reality is unable to carry a team/show (Ted Knight, David Wright). Then here is a guy that sucks, everybody knows he sucks, and yet somehow gets star billing (Jason Bay/Jim J. Bullock). They have a cast of nice role players that do some good things but aren’t enough to get you really excited about them (Lucas Duda & Ike Davis/ The Rush Girls). In the end, after you have watched an episode/game often you just want that time of your life back.
Igor: I went with "Arrested Development." The incompetence and repeated undoings at their own hands are painfully similar to those of the Bluth family. Every problem flows down from the top, of course, with Fred and Jeff Wilpon occupying the George and Lucille characters. David Wright is our Michael, the good guy protagonist with a few flaws who looks absolutely great as surrounded by the people around him. In truth, the teams of the last few years would have been more appropriate, with Tobias Castillo and Gob Perez joining Buster Bay in the futility. There's hope for the future, with George-Michael Niese and Maeby Murphy, but in the end, someone in this group will inevitably be groaning, "I've made a huge mistake."
Bonus Question - Fill in the blank. The Mets' good start to the season ________.
Marls: . . . illustrates the reason it pays to have adults in the front office. While the 2012 Mets are still short-handed and will likely fall out of contention by late summer, the quick start reminds me that building a real baseball team is nothing like fantasy baseball. For too many years the Mets mortgaged the future by selling off the farm system and investing in over-the-hill free agents. My hope is that the Madoff issues which forced the Wilpons to reduce payroll and hire Sandy Alderson will be similar to Steinbrenner's early 90's suspension that let Gene Michael build the core for the Yankee dynasty to come.
Igor: . . . isn't fooling anyone. We know what comes next. Except maybe this time . . . maybe, just once . . . you never know . . . [repeat ad nauseum]
Well, there you have it. 50 years of the New York Mets. Most of them dreadful and embarrassing. Here comes another one!