By Mike Steffanos
There is little doubt in my mind that the Mets get more than their share of unfavorable and downright negative coverage in the local media. To some extent, the organization is to blame for this -- for a team that competes in the media capital of the world, they can be remarkably clumsy with the fourth estate. In a like vein, Willie Randolph has been his own worst enemy when it comes to his treatment in the press. His job is hard enough, and his stubborn unwillingness to play the game at times only serves to make it harder.
For all of that, sometimes there is something that I find written about the Mets that is almost mind-bogglingly bad. There is a reason that the popular web site Fire Joe Morgan, with their slogan "Where Bad Sports Journalism Comes To Die", exists. Today Bob Raissman's piece in the Daily News bothered me on so many levels I don't quite no where to begin.
Basically, Raissman's premise for writing this piece was that the Mets as an organization are insulting the press and the public by "spinning" their injuries this spring. If you read this article with any objectivity you're hard put to find any logic behind it. Rather, it is simply an excuse for Raissman to rail with a bizarre insincerity at the Mets organization.
It angers Raissman that Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya are putting the best face they can on the injuries that have become a big story line of the Mets training camp. I'm not quite sure why he would expect the manager and the GM of a professional baseball team to handle this any other way. Perhaps it makes sense to Bob Raissman that Willie and Omar should have frank and open discussions about their concerns for this team, but that's not how it works. Moping and hand wringing do not make things better, but rather ensure failure. In sports, it is what it is -- you have to try to win with what you have.
Raissman wants to convince us that we should be insulted by what the Mets are saying, but frankly it is his article that insults my intelligence. By choosing to pander to the worst instincts of a team's fanbase, Raissman has descended to the bottom feeding level occupied by the legendary Newsday columnist Wallace Matthews. Let's take a look at some of this:
Last September, when their free fall was on, Randolph, Omar Minaya, and Wilpon Incorporated were pushing sunshine and lollipops. With enough injured players to fill seven rooms of gloom, the same cast of characters now acts as if it has that tiny lottery dude, "Little Bit of Luck," under contract.
If the Mets organization is delusional, fine. Randolph already has worn out the "if it was a week to go in spring training, I'd be very worried" line. If this happens to be some kind of stiff-upper-lip strategy designed to put up a strong front to the media while soothing the ticket-buying public's fears, it's not only moronic, it's already an abject failure.
Yesterday, any number of baseball columnists picked it apart, chronicling the depths, and consequences, of the Mets' injury epidemic. None of them was buying the party line that it's too early to panic. Their analysis was blunt. It carried a who-do-you-think-you're-kidding tone. Unlike sports talkies, who are paid to cry wolf, the writers' words had legitimate impact.
First of all, Raissman drags in the obligatory reference to last season's collapse to set the mood. Then he dismisses Randoph's premise that we're still some distance away from the start of the season as if it's meaningless -- but the simple truth is that there is still time for this team to get ready for the season. And that last paragraph quoted above is simply ridiculous. The idea of baseball columnists as some sort of impartial and irrefutable tribunal is laughable to all of us who have read pieces by some of these guys and wondered if they were huffing aerosol fumes while they were writing them.
What's the point here? Does Raissman feel that Minaya and Randolph should have given some sort of grim press conference conceding the season because of injuries? The truth is that all we know right now is that Moises Alou and probably El Duque will not be with the club when the season starts. Many guys are coming back over the next few days. Bottom line, though, is that it is the job of Willie and Minaya to win with what they have.
What really is disturbing, and what essentially takes Raissman's nonsense from the harmless category of inane drivel to malicious garbage is this bit near the end:
Another can of media worms is about to be opened. It won't be long before inquiring minds start poking around to see what kind of offseason fitness regimen the Mets ran for players - young and old. Maybe there will be a list (weights included) of who showed up in shape and who didn't.
The story becomes even meatier considering the fascination with Joe Girardi's desire to field the best-conditioned team in baseball. Already, Girardi's obsessive fitness philosophy has been contrasted to Joe Torre's laissez-faire approach. Look for comparisons to be made between Giradi's drill sergeant routine and Randolph's slant on strength and health.
The Mets' manager already is on the spot. He does not need more media baggage. Randolph is point man/target on this subject of injuries. If the wounded don't start walking soon, those questions will continue - day after day. Maybe one of these days, Randolph actually will offer a straight answer.
Even if the truth pushes him closer to that ledge.
Wow, what garbage. What do strength and conditioning have to do with Beltran, Delgado, Castillo, Easley, Padilla and Sanchez coming back from surgery? What did it have to do with Marlon Anderson and Ryan Church colliding? How about El Duque's bunion? Does any team really control the off season workouts of their players? If some Yankees get hurt are we going to question if Girardi is working them too hard, or is this the obligatory "the Yankees do it better" dig we always seem to find in this sort of story?
This is truly evil stuff that Raissman is doing here, and he simply should be ashamed of himself. If he really believes there is a story with the conditioning program of the Mets he should make a legitimate case rather than slinging mud and innuendo indiscriminately. People's jobs -- whether Randolph or those who handle the Mets strength and conditioning -- shouldn't be the target of reckless cheap shots such as these.
The Mets are an old club, and they need to get younger. That really can't begin to happen until next winter. In the meantime, they will have to deal with the injuries and overcome them. There are plenty of legitimate questions to be discussed with this team, we don't need this type of irresponsible junk muddying the real issues. We as consumers should demand more than this. Shame on you, Bob.