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Mike SteffanosWednesday, October 17, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

From MetsBlog I found a link to a Lisa Olson column in the Daily News about Kaz Matsui with the inference that Mets fans are unhappy with Kaz' success in Denver. Olson is definitely not one of my favorite columnists, as she is emblematic of a growing trend in sports journalism to paint all fans with a broad brush for the actions of a loud and sometimes obnoxious minority. In this case, she is referring to Mets fans who went over the top taunted Matsui and some who apparently (although I never witnessed this behavior) used some racial slurs and gestures. I suspect the number of fans who Olson witnessed, "[mocking] Matsui by pulling back the corners of their eyes and spewing racist nonsense" was quite small, but reading Olson's piece might lead you to believe there were many.

Actually, Kaz' descent from a signing that was going to help revitalize a moribund franchise to whipping boy for a disgruntled fan base had as much to do with the current reality of media coverage in a hyper-competitive marketplace as any latent racism lurking in the hearts of the fan base. The media jumped on Matsui fairly quickly as a convenient way to tap into the frustration of Mets fans.

After Steve Phillips was shown the door in 2003 and the last vestiges of the 2000 NL pennant winner was dismantled, there was precious little major league ready talent in the system. The Mets weren't about to spend much on free agents, either, after some really poor decisions in that regard over the previous off-seasons. After badly mishandling a chance to score points with the fan base by signing Vladimir Guerrero that off-season, Matsui was heralded by the team as the major signing among a group that also included Mike Cameron, Braden Looper, Karim Garcia, Shane Spencer and Todd Zeile. Too much was made of an infielder that hadn't played in the U.S. yet, and to compound this the Mets had promised Matsui the shortstop job already held by the one significant young talent they had at the major league level, Jose Reyes. Granted, they wouldn't have signed Kaz without this move but, in retrospect, this may have been the biggest mistake of all.

When Kaz had some problems making the throw to first base early on, he had Mike Piazza, Todd Zeile and Jason Phillips getting the bulk of the playing time at first base. Only Zeile approached competency at the position. Almost every poor throw became an error, whereas a good 1B might have bailed Kaz out. Fans grew frustrated, and both the print media and the ever-present sports talk radio personalities seized on Matsui's struggles as a way to attract ears and eyes. Make no mistake, this had a lot to do with the perception surrounding Matsui. They also fueled the flames of discontent against Mike Cameron, who was struggling with a wrist injury for most of the season. Remember how badly Cameron was booed at times that season?

The talent and terrific personality of Mike Cameron eventually turned that around, but Kaz wasn't as fortunate. Along with Braden Looper (who happens to be white, Ms. Olson) Matsui became the symbol of dissatisfaction among some elements, and that never went away. As bad as it got, though, the majority of Mets fans were pulling for Matsui to succeed -- not making taunts, racial or otherwise, at him. Unfortunately, people like Olson don't seem to understand the simple truth pointed out in this space over and over -- the minority who boo (and taunt) make more noise than those who don't.

I never cease to be amused by this kind of self-serving self-congratulatory rubbish from some of those in a media that has a great deal to do with the much less kind and gentle sports reality we live in today. This is a media that includes such types as Wallace Matthews, whose only reason for existence is to work the most rabid of the faithful into a frenzy. If those in the media feel it is unfair to assign the blame for the actions of the few onto the many -- welcome to the club. We've shined a light on Olson's disingenuousness before in this space, and will continue to defend the vast majority of Mets fans who are neither as racist nor classless as some in the media insist on portraying us.

I have about 200 emails to answer, so if you've emailed me and haven't yet heard back, I promise I am not ignoring your email. I also promise to get to some of the book reviews that have languished for months.

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 (4)

The joy of owning your own home, the american dream and stock in home depot.who knew. IF??? Joe Blanton or Dan Haren is available this winter. what would it take from the Mets to be possible and would you do it?


Thank God for you bloggers that are here to refute the garbage that is coming out of the mainstream media rags these days. It's all about selling papers for them now and they could give a $hit about us fans. There no longer seems to be even one mainstream writer left who has the brass ones to stand up to their corporate masters. This is what we get when a few rich people own all of the news media. Someday soon I hope, it's guys like you and the other bloggers that will become the mainstream. Keep up the good work.

This article bothered me alot...

I booed Kaz... he deserved it...

He stunk at 2nd, was nowhere near acceptable at the plate, was always hurt, and didnt come close to living up to his contract.

However, when he comes back to NYC... I will give him a nice applause in his 1st AB... because he deserves it.

I am glad he is having a good time and is winning. I know alot of people that couldnt make it here in NYC in many different walks of life. it doesnt make em a bad person (maybe it makes them a better person...), it just makes em a person that isnt cut out for the pressure of the big city.

He can enjoy the run to the WS and hopefully his ring. I will pull for him and I am sure it will be a fun ride for him.

However it would be nothing close to the ride he could have had if he played well here and helped us win.

As we all know Mike , it isn't easy playing for a New York ML Club . Besides performance on the field , dealing with an anal retentive media that constantly disects your game is even to much for the toughest of dispositions. In regards to Kaz though , comming over here from Japan to play in the Majors for the first time , he should of exspected that kind of attention from the media types weither or not he played good or bad . I for one was truely disappointed when his game was sorely lacking , and the Organization finally felt compeled to show him the door . As for the Negative fan response he had after struggling on the field during his time here , well , it happens to the best of them to , and players that sign here just have to learn how to deal with it I guess. I do wish Kaz well during the rest of his ML Career , and hope he maybe remembers the few good times he had in New York before he left . ( Some of those exciting Lead Off Homers ) .

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