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A Hatchet Job and a Departing Lefty

Mike SteffanosFriday, October 26, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


Sorry for the delay in getting this posted. I had put quite a bit of time into a longish post that I finally realized wasn't going anywhere. Not the first time that's happened to me, but it's always somewhat frustrating. Anyway, after reading what I've written I decided to toss out everything except for the following two items. Please excuse if they seem just a tad disjointed, as they were originally only part of a longer piece.

I'll start doing some sort of season post-mortem material next week, and then we'll tackle some of the hot stove stuff.

Rickey Henderson
I have received e-mails and comments -- both approving and disapproving -- from folks who see me as someone with a vendetta against the press. Nothing can be further from the truth. As an ardent fan and blogger, I depend upon the fourth estate for the material that fuels my thoughts and writings on the Mets. I respect the job they do for the most part, but they lose me when they feel the need to criticize fans or take a "holier than thou" stance on an issue.

They have a tremendous power to shape opinion in the way they slant stories, for instance creating the impression that Rickey Henderson was constantly in the clubhouse playing cards while the season came crashing down. Putting aside a realistic debate on his qualifications as a coach, I believe there was a very cynical, manipulative aspect to these stories that involved pushing the buttons of Mets fans (Rickey and card playing) to elicit a response that would garner attention and readers that was out of proportion to any real facts in the matter.

Mets fans would do well to keep in mind that the single most important objective of the press these days is to get you to read their stuff. Sensational items that evoke a strong emotional response from the reader are much more effective in this regard than well-reasoned, thoughtful writing. Frankly, if I had the sort of well-paying, prestigious and perk-filled job that depended on manipulating your emotions, I would do it, too. As a reader, you would do well to maintain a healthy level of skepticism towards everything you receive from the media. The writer or columnist you're reading has his own prejudices and agenda that affect the way he slants his material. This, of course, also holds true about bloggers like me.

Look, I honestly can't tell you whether Rickey did a good job or a bad job as a coach for this club, but for instance, I find it hard to scapegoat him for Jose Reyes' second-half struggles, which actually pre-dated Rickey's hiring. I don't believe at all that Henderson playing cards before the day's work began affected anything, and I don't believe the people who chose to write about it felt that way, either. They were just yanking your chain.

Again, this is no endorsement of Rickey as a coach, but I simply refuse to be manipulated into scapegoating him for a disappointing season.

Tom Glavine
I'm on record that I believe it's time to say goodbye to Tom Glavine. While I still feel a pitcher who can give you 200 innings close at close to the league average quality is valuable, I think it's pretty obvious that Glavine's heart is elsewhere, closer to his family. I even wonder if this might have something to do with his struggles at the end of the season when his family was back home in Atlanta. Obviously that's something we'll never really know.

By the way, my feelings have nothing to do with how badly he pitched in those crucial last 3 starts. What they point out to me, however, is that teams that know how to approach Glavine can hurt him when he is pitching with less than his absolute best stuff. They just wait him out, spit on those pitches off the plate and make him throw strikes, and then hammer them.

My honest assessment would be if Glavine did return, he'd likely be their fourth or fifth best starter next season. I think other options should be pursued. I respect Glavine for the decent job he did in New York, including a couple of really solid years. I think if he doesn't retire he should pitch in Atlanta where he really wants to be wants to be, and where he would have pitched in 2007 if they made him in offer. Time for the Mets to move on.

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 (7)

Your comments on the newspaper sportswriters brought to mind a little aside Bill James slotted into his Historical Abstract, second edition. Namely, that "professionalism" ranks right up there with phychology and socialism as the great disappointments of the Twentieth Century.

He speaks, among other examples, of the sports writers, whose insistence on being viewed as journalists rather than as newsies created a distance between them and their subjects, from which the final product suffered. My best example is otherwise: I think of the Marx Brothers, who insisted that they were workers doing a job, doing it damn well, and sneered at any notion that they were artists. Did the Marx Brothers manage to entertain us better than some of those suffering souls to the creative process on the silver screen today? I think maybe yes.

Amazing, but true, how a small change in one's perspective can change the whole process.

I see Marcus Giles is a f/a, is he worth a shot? or sign castillo.

I agree with you on Rickey, but Rickey makes an irresistable story for the media so I can't blame them too much. The media's role doesn't take Omar's granting of visible, permanant responsibilities (as opposed to spring training baserunning coaching or roving instructing) to Rickey out of the realm of the headscratching.

In my opinion, the dangers of his well documented Rickey-first approach to life are at the most tangible and at the least symbolic; I will not be persuaded that giving Rickey such regular access to young players was a "safe" move. I don't think coaching appointments should come with so many risks. Ah well, at least he resisted the urge to instinctively steal second from the coaches box as I often felt he would.

dd - I can't really fault them for what they do, it's just the reality of the media today, particularly in a competitive market. On the other hand, I think they do somewhat emulate the Marx bros., if only unintentionally.
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Al - He hasn't really had a good offensive year in 3 or 4 seasons, and his defense isn't that great. I'd pass.
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IMFM - For a guy that's supposed to be selfish, he was always well-liked on any team he was a part of. Like I said, I can't speak to his effectiveness as a coach, but I doubt he was any sort of negative influence.

The proverbial axe has to fall for someone for the sudden change in the Jose Reyes' game, right or wrong. You can make the claim that Reyes' approach and production deteriorated coincidentally with Henderson's arrival as coach, just as you can make the claim that it's silly to blame a 1st base coach for the prolonged slump of a young player.

The truth is none of us know what really happened in that clubhouse, and none of us ever will. But after a major disappointment like the Met fans just endured, the team has a responsibility to make whatever changes it can for the improvement of this team, both on the field and in the eye of the public. Ricky has to go.

I am a sportswriter. It is not a high-paying job. At all.

Salman - I don't believe in change for the sake of change, although I wasn't making an argument about Rickey's worth. My point specifically was about the way the media created an impression that he was playing cards when he should have been coaching.
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Adam - My point was more specifically about columnists. In any case, highly paid is relative. If you are working for a major NY area paper and covering pro teams, you are certainly have more money and prestige than sportswriters in small markets such as my local CT paper. My point was that in a highly competitive market such as NY, I would do what I had to do to keep people reading my stuff, too.

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