Over the course of many years, Esquire magazine ran recurring cover photos of the late former President Richard M. Nixon with the headlined question, "why is this man smiling?" The New York Mets baseball team has the distinction of having put the first mascot ever in major league history on their field, in the person of Mr. Met. Mr. Met has a huge head in the shape of a baseball and Mr. Met is always, perpetually, permanently, smiling.
Just as with Esquire's query about Nixon, it begs the same question not only of Mr. Met specifically but of Mets management generally -- because going into a seven game series this weekend against the surging 28-18 first place in their division Atlanta Braves (at home) followed by a four-gamer against the first place in the AL-East and cross town rival New York Yankees (also 28-18), there's not a whole lot for Met fans to be smiling about.
The Mets are at 17 and 27 -- which believe it or not is not the worst record in the National League (that honor goes to the Miami Marlins) but it's 10.5 games behind the Braves and the flipside of the Yankees' record in just about every respect -- and that includes self-respect. It's hard for Met fans to have self-respect when this weekend's series was preceded by a three game sweep by the visiting Cincinnati Reds (29-18) who know how to pitch, catch and hit the ball.
In the last two seasons, as hobbled as the Mets were, they at least gave fans some excitement for the first half of the season. In 2011 they hovered around .500. Last year they were several games over .500 for most of the first half before their inevitable collapse. This season the Mets collapsed after the first month. Fans were highly upset that management dealt away Cy Young Award-winning pitcher and fan favorite R.A.Dickey. The year prior they dumped Jose Reyes. Signing David Wright to a long-term contract is just not enough. Having one great pitcher in Matt Harvey is also not enough when in a five-man starting rotation four guys can't be banked on and when you have a bullpen that routinely has the worst ERA in the majors and can be counted on to routinely blow games when the Mets have leads going into the seventh and eighth innings.
Monday through Thursday is baseball "color war" week in New York. The games are also known as the 'Subway Series." The Mets face the Yanks for two games at home on Monday and Tuesday and then travel to The Bronx to play the Bombers on their home turf. Unfortunately for Mets fans, their record against the Yanks is a dismal 36-54 with a lot of the pain coming in the last few years. In 2012 the Mets went 1-5. In 2011, 2-4. In 2009 also 1-5. And let's not forget that 1-4 World Series in 2000. (http://ultimatemets.com/oppteams.php?ThisTeam=19)
Given the depressed state of Mets fans, it is highly likely that the majority of fans in the stands at CitiField will be pro-Yankee. Met fans have been selling their Subway Series tickets in droves online and hordes of Yankee fans have been snapping them up at a discount to revel in the anticipated clobbering and potential humiliation of a Mets team that can barely be called major league.
In a two-team town like New York, playing like Miami, Milwaukee (18-27) or Houston (14-33) is just unacceptable. New Yorkers define themselves (well, a lot of male New Yorkers anyway) by their team allegiances. You're either a Jet or a Giant, a Net or a Knick, an Islander or a Ranger, a Met or a Yankee. Fans need to know their team are contenders not perennial losers. Met fans have gotten to a point where they'd be thrilled just to have a .500 season, let alone a post season. Yet management allows the Mets to get worse and worse and to fans it appears they don't seem to care.
A case in point is that of first baseman Ike Davis. In 42 games and 143 at-bats going into Friday, Davis is hitting at .147. There are pitchers with higher batting averages. In fact, Mets ace Matt Harvey is batting .150. Last season Davis couldn't hit a whiffle ball for the first half before bouncing back just when the team didn't need his bat in the second half. This year he's batting even worse if that's possible. His defensive fielding has been challenged as well. Yet management sticks with him most days in the starting lineup. Why is a guy with a .147 average starting most days in the majors? This is a metaphor for Mets management apparent apathy towards the 2013 season and their fans.
So for the Met faithful, the Subway Series game to be at will be Tuesday when Matt Harvey and his 1.93 ERA and 5-0 record will be on the mound to give the Mets a fighting chance. But for the seven games coming, look for the Mets to only take two of them and look for the rest of the season to careen downhill further from there into misery and irrelevance.