When Mets owner Fred Wilpon channeled former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in the May 30th issue of the New Yorker Magazine, he did what his team hasn't been able to do in three years: get me interested in the team again.
As a 40-year-old woman who lives in New York City, I am a lifelong, die-hard Mets fan who has, like many, suffered through the terrible pains of the teams' recent collapses. In particular, the game Tom Glavine pitched to end the '07 season was so heartbreaking that I had to wean myself from watching my favorites Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in the booth for SNY for the entire '08 season.
Even though I was old enough to remember the incredible '86 world championship I have since learned how hard it is to repeat the magic of that season. For the past three decades, I have studied team stats as if I were studying for an exam. In college, I was so obsessed that my roommates refused to get cable so that I wouldn't be able to sit and home and watch the game every night.
I even blindly followed the Dallas Green tenure, including when his pitiful team lost 100 plus games in 1993. During the 90's my heroes were Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, the man with the best swing in baseball. Watching him hit homeruns was like getting the best present ever on your birthday.
I was in the bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium in 2000 when Mike Piazza hit the grand slam off of Roger Clemens. I didn't care what the repercussions were from the nasty drunken bleacher creatures as I cheered wildly for Piazza's redemption against the pitcher who inexplicably threw a bat at him.
When I first read Wilpon's disparaging comments about his players: David Wright, "really good player, really good kid, not a superstar"; Jose Reyes "not getting Carl Crawford money" (when he becomes a free agent); Carlos Beltran, "65 - 70 percent of what he once was", I was strangely excited. Yes, Beltran was indeed the player who let three strikes go by with his bat stuck on his shoulder in the '06 NLCS. Yes, he helped end another tearjerker of a season in which the Mets were favored to make it to the World Series. However, maybe this very public poking was just the spark the team needed to band together against a common enemy - albeit their owner - and enable them to play with a fire and a passion they have sorely lacked in the past three seasons. At times, it has appeared that they play as if they don't care. Therefore, I haven't cared.
Wilpon has been sabotaging the team in one way or another for a long time, either through signing expensive, bad free agents or keeping trouble makers on the team. (Also see: the Vince Coleman and Brett Saberhagen firecracker debacle in '93.) It seems the owner has finally gotten tired of that shtick and has succumbed to taking a page out of the Boss' playbook of picking on his players through the media.
Don't look now but the team has a 15-14 record*. Not bad. No one can deny this bunch is now playing with more intensity, despite the myriad of injuries that has kept their star players on the bench. Jose Reyes is on fire and hopefully is playing himself into a new fat contract in the Big Apple. The team is in the wild card hunt heading into the All-Star break in just a few weeks.
As a fan, I've found my passion again, watching almost every game, and pouring over box scores each day. I think all the true Mets believers should send Mr. Fred Wilpon a big thank you card for reviving interest in his seemingly left for dead team. I may even go back to Citi Field for a few games this season and buy a few $12 hot dogs so he can pay off his debt faster to new minority owner David Einhorn.
*Through June 24, 2011