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Tough Town

Mike SteffanosFriday, August 24, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Last night's game, which I attended with Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing, had all of the elements of an all-time classic except for the ending. The juice in the ballpark when Marlon Anderson hit that home run was amazing. The Mets improbably battled their way back into the game twice, and almost did it again against Heath "Boo Hoo, My Time in New York Was a Living Hell" Bell in the tenth. As disappointing as Wagner and Heilman were in letting that get away, it was a strong inning from Schoeneweis and a beautiful 2 inning stint from Pedro Feliciano that almost brought home a win, so the bullpen wasn't quite an absolute disaster.

Unfortunately, baseball is a bottom-line game, and the bottom line is that the Mets are still struggling to find a way to win consistently at home. The Mets are an outstanding 38-26 on the road this season, but only 33-29 at home. If the Mets had been able to put up win totals at home similar to their road numbers, they would be looking at a double-digit lead in the division right now. Then again, of the three NL east contenders, only Philadelphia (34-27) is really taking care of business at home. The Braves are 34-31 at Turner Field and 32-31 on the road.

Even though I was thrilled to death of the club's effort last night, my pride in their fight is tempered with my worries about their inability to fatten their record at home. The bullpen problems can be greatly alleviated by a couple of guys getting hot (see the Cardinals in 2006) and the starters like Maine and Perez getting straightened out and going deeper into games again. The problems at home are more worrisome, however, as it almost seems like this club is relieved when they hit the road.

Last night I witnessed several players being booed by a segment of the fan base for performing badly -- Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine, Billy Wagner and Aaron Heilman. Delgado and Heilman in their respective ways have struggled mightily this year, but I've never heard any credible source question their efforts. Wagner has virtually held this bullpen together during a trying season until his recent struggles. Tom Glavine had 5 strong starts in a row between his debacle in Dodger Stadium and last night. What exactly were these fans booing?

It's hard to say who it was exactly who was booing, as there were few in my section joining in. Still, it was loud and there were plenty taking part in it around the ballpark. Perhaps this pervasive willingness to boo performance where there is no corresponding lack of effort at Shea Stadium is part of the reason why this club performs better on the road. It creates a negative atmosphere that certainly doesn't enhance execution.

Yes, New York has always been a tough town, but booing players in this manner is a relatively recent phenomenon. I just don't get it, I honestly don't. As a Mets fan I go to Shea Stadium to cheer on my team, as I believe the majority of fans still do. At times I get disheartened and disappointed by the performance of the players. It's tough to watch Glavine when he is getting squeezed by an ump and not executing, and the parade of 3-0 and 3-1 counts was maddening by the third inning. Still, I never doubted that Tom was giving everything he had to stop the bleeding. I'm an adult, and I can separate disappointment from legitimate anger. Why would I boo him?

These are strange times in some ways. Some change is good, but booing like last night is not a positive thing. But then again, we live in a society where some bloggers feel that it's appropriate to distastefully gloat about their happiness when a player is injured, just because they want to see someone else playing. I'm glad that I don't know these people personally, as I can only assume that idiots like that have bodies buried in their back yard.

While I think it is fair game to disagree with moves by managers and GMs, and will not hesitate to call the team on a lack of effort, our sports culture has moved beyond these things and into a demanding form of poor sportsmanship that has no tolerance for failure. Players are not permitted to slump, managers are second-guessed for every move they make or don't make, and GMs must "win" every off-season, trading deadline or even each individual deal.

If Omar doesn't trade for the player I wanted, I don't try to understand that he might be looking at a bigger picture than what happens tomorrow. I take his failure to make a deal as a personal affront, because it is my right to root for a champion. If the manager doesn't play the guy I want, I question why he "hates" my player -- because that must be the only reason he chose the other player, right? And when I go to games, I boo the crap out of any Met that dares to suck in my presence -- and if they don't like it, they should get out, because this is a tough town. And I wonder why they don't win at home...

Padres 9 - Mets 8 (10)
Played Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tom Glavine (Last 5 Starts)
Season (27 Games)162.181781737555184.321.4016-11

View Tom Glavine's Full Season Stats

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (6)

Mike, I've noticed this phenomenon more and more as the season goes on. The best explanation I have for it is that these people are not just fair-weather fans, they're not even really fans. Going to a game is just something to do. They don't go to the House of Evil because it's in the Bronx and the perception is that it's far away, even though it's 15 minutes from Grand Central. (It's also considerably more expensive, and harder to get tickets.) It's just another thing to do. They know [] this much about baseball, and without knowing someone's record for the season, or even understanding what's going on, they boo. i think you're giving them too much credit by trying to analyze why they boo. they don't know. they're not getting what they paid for. it's like people who go to see a concert and then get pissed when the performer doesn't play exactly the songs they wanted to hear.

that's the best explanation I can muster.

MG, you know more about baseball than people I know who are as old as I am. I think baseball is something that some people "get" and some never do. As for the rest, I suspect you have a point.

I don't like to indulge in trade proposals, at least not for veteran players. Which is just fine since so many other folk plow that turf so frequently that my lack of production goes unnoticed.

But I do like to perview the array of unused, frequently unproven players, players that are generally to be had for the asking, and speculate on what would happen if my team picked up this guy or that guy for a song.

It's real easy to look good in this line, since one remembers touting Lew Ford or Brian Roberts or Jack Cust, and tends to forget that he included Calvin Pickering in the discussion.

Anyway, I'm thinking the Mets are going to have to do something, possibly several somethings to pick up the offensive production at the first base position next year. And I suggest one small move that would give us decent insurance at that spot: Justin Huber.

Y'all remember Justin. Well, he is languishing in the Royals' system, trying to keep his head up against the deafening indifference I suppose. This year he started out slowly, has recently gotten hot. I don't care; the man can hit. The Royals have lost interest, just as they muct have with Gotay. As of now he would cost the Mets approximately nothing.

And then, whether or not the team decides to go with Delgato again, there would be a non-disasterous fall back plan that might actually prove much more than that.

Interesting idea. I admit to being surprised that he never stuck with KC.

Mike, I think we are much closer in age than you think. :) But as a lady, I'll take the compliment.

MG - I certainly meant the compliment, but trust me -- I'm at the age where I refer to some mountains as "kid"...

All kidding aside, what I meant was I know guys who have followed baseball for close to 40 years, as I have, and really don't get the game. You do. Most of the rest of the stuff you'll pick up as you go along is just trivia.

One of the (admittedly many) things that bugs me about WFAN's Chris Russo is that he tries to come off as someone who is an "expert" on baseball, yet all of his observations are superficial and often wrong.

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