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Where Have All The Pond Scum Gone?

Mike SteffanosTuesday, August 29, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I've got a bone to pick with this team. Things are going so well right now that they're harder and harder to write about. The team is good, the manager is good, the GM is good, and life is good ... I'm getting bored just writing this.

The team was good in 1986, too, but they were so good at antagonizing the other teams I suspect if blogging was around back then we would have always found something to talk about. Other than the 2-week feeding frenzy on Paul Lo Duca's personal life (Wow, do professional athletes really cheat on their wives with young, willing groupies?!) you can't even find much nastiness floating around there -- even in other National League cities. Case in point, this article from the Denver Post:

At 11:30 a.m. at Shea Stadium recently, approximately an hour before first pitch, nearly half of the New York Mets were hanging around their lockers. Jose Reyes was sorting through mail with a smile. Catcher Paul Lo Duca and a few relievers watched an NFL game on a big-screen TV. Starter Orlando Hernandez swung a bat, practicing his golf swing. Pedro Martinez hobbled through with his boot and cracked a few jokes.

Clubhouse commotion is common in the big leagues. What separates the Mets is their clubhouse communication. The barbs fly from each side of the room. No one is spared from Latinos to Anglos to blacks. This didn't happen by accident.

Beginning in spring training, the Mets have organized team dinners away from the field to build chemistry and create a bond necessary to thrive in a carnivorous media market.

"I give that a lot of credit for bringing everybody together," said shortstop Jose Reyes, arguably the game's most exciting player. "It's helped us get to know each other, so that when we are on the field we don't worry about anything but winning."

Well, the team that eats together now feasts together. The Mets have devoured opponents, standing alone as the one National League team capable of making American League bullies perspire as the season creeps toward October.

If that same reporter had wandered into the Mets clubhouse 20 years ago, it's hard to believe that he would have written a nice complimentary story of a tight clubhouse. The 1986 Mets were a close-knit team who believed in each other, but they also fought a lot, both against the other team and amongst themselves. They may have endeared themselves to Mets fans, but they certainly didn't delight anyone else with their charms. That team was so disliked in their era that other National League fans who go back that far still haven't forgiven the Mets franchise for unleashing Hernandez, Dykstra, Strawberry, Davey Johnson et al on the world.

I loved that team, and I always will. At 27, I was a contemporary of most of those players, and I understood the things that drove them. No Yankee apologist local sports columnist will ever convince me that it's wrong to continue to celebrate that team and their terrific achievement. Still, I have a confession to make. I don't regret at all that the 2006 Mets are not a clone of that 1986 team. At times during that magical season twenty years ago, I would get weary of the circus sideshow of arrogance and mayhem that followed that team wherever they went. I rather appreciate the businesslike attitude of this club, and the quiet way they go about their business.

I believe the current Mets team has every bit of the swagger and confidence of that 1986 bunch, but they just don't need to throw it in the face of the whole rest of the world. In the same way that we loved those '86 Mets because they were us, and every bit a part of that era, this current club seems reflective of who we are now. The events of recent years have cured us of that obnoxious swagger most of us had in the 1980s, but it's been replaced with a quiet confidence that no matter what they throw at us, we'll be able to handle it and keep going. The 1986 Mets were the right team for their era; the 2006 version is the right team for now.

MetsBlog: Trachsel or Maine?
Matt weighs in on who might start games in the playoffs.

My own personal gut feeling on this is that Maine will have to significantly outperform Trachsel over the last month of the season, and by that I don't mean just pitch better -- which he is already doing. The temptation is to go with the experience in the playoffs, and we all know Trachsel isn't really a bullpen option. I think Maine will have to perform really, really well to bump Trachsel. Another factor in this, of course, is how well El Duque comes back from that tired arm.

It's an interesting debate, and with so little else to obsess over, I'm sure we'll all be talking about this as the season winds down.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Reardon Saga
The sad story that began just after Christmas last year has come to an end:

When former major league relief pitcher Jeff Reardon robbed a jewelry store the day after last Christmas, he was legally insane, a judge ruled Monday, agreeing with a defense attorney that Reardon's judgment was impaired by a mix of medications prescribed to help him recover from the death of his son and a recent angioplasty.

Circuit Judge Stephen Rapp reached his verdict immediately following a 45-minute trial, sending Reardon home without a criminal record after finding him not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

... The former relief pitcher, who helped the Minnesota Twins win the 1987 World Series and is in the top 10 on the all-time saves list, was facing a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted of robbery.

There was no testimony in the nonjury trial, which Reardon requested. Defense attorney Mitch Beers told Rapp the incident was bizarre from the outset. Reardon's note to the store clerk was in handwriting that wasn't even Reardon's, Beers said. Though it demanded money and jewelry, it was also polite.

... Prior to the incident at the Palm Beach Gardens store, the only hostile act Reardon ever committed in his life was hurling fastballs in the major leagues, Beers told the judge.

Reardon was taking 12 medications, ranging from mood stabilizers to anti-psychotics to antibiotics, when he walked into the store at The Gardens mall and handed the clerk a note demanding cash and jewelry.

Rapp made his ruling after hearing that four psychiatrists, including two who were court-appointed, concluded Reardon was in a mentally altered state on Dec. 26.

Take the "7" Train: Review of Little League, Big Dreams
Shari has a review of Charles Euchner's latest book posted. I'm about halfway through it myself, and have to say I agree with her positive opinion of the book.

LoneStar Mets: Awards
With so little left at stake for the Mets in the regular season, Dan is getting a jump on handing out post-season awards.

Metstradamus: Calling All Computer Gurus
The soothsayer is experiencing some problems with a balky laptop. One of you geniuses out there give him a hand so we can all get our daily fix again. Otherwise I'll have to try to be funny, and I warn you that won't be pretty.

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Continuous Mets Coverage:
Hot Foot

Comments (6)

Excellent post Mike- I couldn't agree more. with one exception-is it that there is no disagreements in the clubhouse or is that we live ins such a politically correct media microscopic world that a show is put on for the reporters and tons of tv stations there days?
There has to be some fire to drive this team to the success that it's having-and that doesn't come from living in a candy-land , everything is coming up roses existence all the time. I
I have a feeling there is more going on behind the scenes between the players good and bad-they are just smart enough to deal with it when the cameras and the reporters are gone.

Shari -- any team that I ever played for tried to keep all disagreements within the team. So I agree with you that there's stuff going on, but it's going on in private. You can't stick 25 people together every day without some B.S. going on.

1. Mike, Traxx is hardly distinguishing himself tonight. He is as slow as ever. This particular performance asks the question' Can Traxx get the ball past hitters?' He can move the ball around but once he puts it into the meat of the strikezone it gets hit.

2. Willie is on record as not being a big Traxx supporter.

Sorry for my hiatus as I was moving into my dorm room, but as usual, the post was really insightful. I think the different leaders on this team are the main reasons for them acting dissimilarly from the '86 squad.

As for Maine/Trachsel, other than that string of two starts that nearly made me take back what I said originally, you know my stance. I'd rather have the cocksure power pitcher starting in the playoffs than the creaky veteran losing the touch on his finesse.

Finally, I had no idea that the Reardon story was happening. I was born in '86, and I tragically lost one of my best friends last October (God rest his soul). Besides that it might have been the single worst thing that has ever happened to me, the funeral was an outpouring of the deepest pain I have ever witnessed in people, and I think that losing a child or close relative or close friend so far before his time is the worst hurt in life. Truthfully, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, and I could positively believe that the event coupled with a series of such serious meds could bring about insanity in anyone. Sorry to end on such a bummer note...

Reardon story now thats a human curiousity tale...who was supervising his medication?? I mean what incompetent physician/psychiatrist would have a normally sane man on 12 meds without continually observing for any contraindications? I ask are there walking time bombs out there? Wait a second... what am I, slow? The answer is... any and every Doctor and his office. Just imagine how many hopped up and drug addled ex athletes are walking around about to hold up an armored car or a 7-11 for a big gulp. Wired for sound, these pain killer popping, anti- depressant, mood elevating, drug- saturated ex Linebackers, goalies, and professional wrestlers et al, are only one more Zanax away from a full psychotic break. Its like a bad "B' movie like "Attack of the Zombies". This might only be the tip of the iceberg...

Mikalpalyn -- I agree with you that Willie seems impatient with Trachsel at times in his post-game comments, and does not seem to be a big fan. That was a hard game to watch when Steve was pitching.
Matt -- Welcome back. That Reardon story was a very moving one. I've lost people close to me and know exactly how you feel.
n8genius -- I guess it was quite an unusual reaction, but my girlfriend who is in the mental health field was a little surprised that his meds weren't supervised better.

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