Saturday, May 28, 2011

Director's Cuts: The Last (Unpublished) Word on the Mets-iest Week Ever

What is this blog? Is it the place where I share my feelings about the state of Our Contemporary Pizza Situation with an audience of dozens? Yes, it is (and that topic should not be confused with The State of Our National Pizza Conversation). Where I type thousands of words attempting to connect two admittedly disparate jerkweeds, whose only real commonality is that I don't like them very much? That, too. But what is that? A blog, I guess -- a bloggy ol' blog, and one done by a writer who types quickly and realizes rather more slowly the distinctly bloggy folly of just banging away on random stuff. So it fits. But does it serve a purpose?

Not, like, ontologically or in some world-historical sense. Blogs don't work that way. But I've sort of wondered what exactly this blog is supposed to do for me. It's not a clean-and-easy-to-read real-time portfolio, or whatever I envisioned a year or so ago when I started it -- there is far too much Papa John Schnatter on here for that. And I haven't really followed through on the puppy vids thing as well as I should have -- that had real promise, and it pains me to know that those who read this blog have never seen Cleo with short hair. (She looks like a spazzy lamb!) But!

But, as a place where I put things that get bumped from publication at various venues and then don't really fit anywhere else, I suppose David Roth, The Writer could have some utility. I did this a couple weeks ago with a piece I wrote for New York Magazine about the death of Osama Bin Laden and a certain idea of Barack Obama, and it worked -- there wasn't anyplace else for it, and I liked the piece, and there it was. Internet in action! And I'm doing it again today, with another piece that got bumped from New York. This one's about a topic nearer-and-dearer, being as it's about the New York Mets and the ridiculous -- and ridiculously Mets-y -- week that they just had. I would've put it up on Can't Stop The Bleeding, but Gerard has covered the story really awesomely well all week, to the point where this would just be redundant. That's the problem, or a problem, with print-mag timetables. This sort of looking-back-at-the-week-that-was thing works okay when you only get a magazine once a week, in your mailbox. But in internet time, I might as well have written this whole thing on a cave wall. At any rate, same story as a few weeks ago holds here -- I'm happy to have gotten a shot at writing it, and I'm happy to be able to have a place for it to... be here, on this particular cave's wall, for study thousands of years hence? Yeah, that'll do for now. So, then, as part of this blog's new identity as a Prose Graveyard/Kill-Fee Redemption Center, I give you:

Our Uncle Fred

You've got your tragic-sense-of-life cypto-fatalists, and you've also got your grumpy masochists. But neither those groups nor the many others that combine those two ur-approaches to being a Mets fan, could actually have been all that surprised by what qualified as one of the strangest weeks in team history. At the conclusion of a week that began with Mets owner Fred Wilpon dumping on his team's best-paid players in The New Yorker and ended with hedge fund manager David Einhorn buying a minority share of the team , Mets fans find themselves back where they started, if perhaps a bit blearier and grumblier for the trip. The fatalists and masochists both have strong cases, of course. But in the end, last week's Mets-iest of weeks amounted to little more than a high-word-count analogue to the waves that periodically roll through the stands at CitiField – some unmotivated and not-unstupid noise and motion, some mild annoyance in response, and then, once the inevitable and inexplicable recedes, just another night at the ballpark.

Sure, it was startling when Wilpon admitted to Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci that his team was "bleeding cash" and cruising towards a $70 million loss on the season , or when he offered the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin an ultra-frank on-the-record assessment of stars Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran that displayed the sort of nuance and sophistication generally associated with WFAN callers who have to be asked by Mike Francesa to turn their radios down. But while Wilpon's underminer-y employee evaluations – call it his Fred from Rosyln moment – drew plenty of attention, they comprised just a few hundred words of a 10,000-plus word feature in which Toobin confirms just about everything Mets fans have ever suspected about their team's owner.

That Wilpon is a nice man who was probably too tuned-out to question the return-on-investment he received from former friend Bernie Madoff, or that he is the sort of billionaire who delights in telling you how many siblings he had to share his childhood bedroom with, is ultimately no more surprising than the fact that he regards his Flushing employees with the jaundiced peevishness of a hyperactive fantasy baseball GM. In the same way that Donald Trump's brief, bellowing presidential campaign re-revealed the short-fingered vulgarian so many keep forgetting that he is, Wilpon's WFAN-grade baseball-guy patter served as a reminder that not every great real estate fortune is the result of wide-ranging perspicacity. Some people are just luckier than others, and some people choose to be Mets fans.

And for us, the ones in the stands or listening to Keith Hernandez sigh his way through SNY broadcasts? Well, we're free to ponder whether the 43-year-old Einhorn – whose minority ownership deal likely includes right of first refusal should Wilpon ever sell the Mets – could be a finance-dude-turned-owner like Tampa's Stuart Sternberg or Boston's John Henry , a pair of comparatively hands-off types who built winning teams by hiring and trusting forward-thinking young executives. We're free to subject Wilpon to the same sort of scorn we always have, nail him for his muddled and meddlesome macro-managing or roast him for reliably displaying both thriftiness and spendthriftiness in all the wrong instances. And of course we're also free to get up and leave, or change the channel, or even see if our souls and stomachs could take being a Yankees fan. But if we haven't done that yet, it's tough to imagine one more goofy week – or one more thunderously meh, intermittently charming Mets team – changing our minds.


  1. "Short-fingered vulgarian"

    Thank you, Prose Graveyard.

  2. Can't totally take credit for that one, John -- Graydon Carter and Spy came up with that like 25 years ago, and Trump has just kept on making it better ever since. But you're welcome, of course.