By Mike Steffanos
Since early on in the history of my blogging career I have received my share of nasty emails and comments. It comes with the territory -- if you're going to share your thoughts about a subject that people care about, you really shouldn't be surprised when a reader takes it personally.
Early on I had a tendency to either defend myself or answer back with something snarky, but after a while I just learned to ignore them. Every once in a while, though, I receive some criticism that I take more seriously.
I received an email over the weekend from a reader who has sent me some reasonable, constructive criticism over the years. While the email was rather long, in a nutshell he felt that my trying to maintain a positive perspective towards the Mets was somehow an endorsement for the team perpetrating some sort of fraud on the fans. The Wilpons were trying to field a team on the cheap, and I was willingly drinking their Kool-Aid.
Well, of course I disagree with that assessment, but that doesn't mean that I dismiss it out of hand. I respect the person that it came from, and I happen to believe that questions like these lead to rather healthy self-evaluations.
I would point out that I was pretty tough on the Wilpons in a piece earlier this spring. Like my correspondent, and I'm sure many of my readers, I've grown really tired of the way the Wilpons have run this club. I have no doubt that it is the inability of ownership to put the right people in charge of this club and then let them do their jobs that have created the mess we are in today.
I, too, am tired of an endless cycle that features scattered brief moments of success amidst endless direction changes. Rooting for the Mets is like being Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. Instead of waking up every morning to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" we Mets fans wake up to a press conference announcing another regime change and promising a brighter future. Then the alarm rings again and we're back in the same place.
Look, in a perfect world I started an Internet business in the mid-90's, sold it for billions of dollars and bought the Mets franchise from the Wilpons. I hired good baseball people and demanded that they formulate a solid plan for long-term success, implemented that plan and followed through on it. By now the Mets franchise would have a couple of fresh titles and the reputation as a smart, well-run organization. Bob Murphy stadium's 60,000 seats would be sold out for every game.
Sadly, though, the internet billionaire thing never happened, so none of the rest did, either. After another all-too-brief run of success the Mets are again at the brink of a new era, and again they are asking fans to buy into a new vision for the future. Why should we believe it this time?
Since I don't own the team, and no one that matters asks for my opinion, I could only judge things by what I see. What I've seen from this new ownership looks to me like someone is finally in charge who is capable of making short term decisions while adhering to a larger, more long-term plan.
It seems to me that Sandy Alderson has taken the hand he was dealt and played it about as well as could be expected so far. Even though he was not my first choice as manager, to my eyes Terry Collins seems to be correctly addressing on the field issues that made last season hard to watch.
The results from nine games played so far have not been lovely, but they haven't made me want to drive my pickup truck into the quarry, either. If the whole season goes like these first nine games, it will not be a success, but there's a lot more baseball to be played.
Alderson acted quickly and decisively when the bullpen floundered out of the gate, and that impresses me. Whether the moves bring about improvement is, of course, another question, but I like the willingness to shake things up.
The press has been pretty negative towards this team so far, and that's probably based as much as anything on the low expectations the Wilpons have created with their failures, foibles and financial follies. I do find it somewhat remarkable, however, that sweeping judgments are being made based on a mere handful of actual games.
I'm going to continue to look for reasons to hope -- both for better days ahead and more watchable baseball this season. As a fan, I'm grateful that I am finding those reasons in the early going.
With better management over the past few years, this might have been a season of contending for a championship. I regret that it isn't -- there just seems to have been way too few of them in my baseball lifetime. I hope that 2 or 3 years down the road I'm not waking up to "I Got You Babe" again while the Mets are stuck in neutral. For the first time in a while, a better outcome seems possible.