Some fans equate rooting for the Mets with suffering. While not one of those people, I still don’t like to miss a chance for an article idea. So, let’s start with a quote from someone who truly suffered, Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, who also was a neurologist and psychiatrist who aligned with existential analysis. He said:
” Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
So, as a Mets fan, how do you deal with that space? Right now the stimulus is a team that was expected to win 90-plus games that ended up losing 92, instead. So, what’s a proper response that would allow us growth and freedom?
The easiest answer is that the response should be not to invest so much time caring about a professional sports team. If we were to choose this path, we would have the freedom to pursue other, more noble activities, which would certainly lead us to growth. Yet somehow I doubt that many of us will choose that particular option. After all, we’re still invested in sports as an escape from other adult activities. And it’s my firm belief that escape is both worthwhile and necessary.
It may not be the exact opposite approach but my belief is the next easiest answer is just to complain. And it’s important to note that not all complaints are equal and not all complaints are unjustified. The point here is to identify the act of complaining when it’s nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to everything that ever comes up. The manager’s a jerk, the GM’s lazy, the owners are cheap, the players aren’t good enough, the training staff’s a joke. And so on. There may be some truth in every one of those statements. But when all you ever think about and say are those things – how do you live with yourself and the constant negativity?
Maybe it goes back to escape. Maybe it’s better to be relentlessly negative about your favorite sports team than it is about your adult relationships. After all, you can’t just go on and on and on about how horrible your boss is or how awful your spouse is and what rejects your relatives are who watch a particular cable news network.
If so — if that’s what works for you to eliminate a potential real-life meltdown in your personal life — then I get it. In return, my hope is that you understand that when a person turns to sports as an escape from real-world problems and all that he/she is met with on a daily basis is never-ending complaints without any counter-balance positive opinion, man it’s crushing.
Look at it this way – the Mets went 67-92 and it was a bad year. If a season with a .432 winning percentage is bad, what’s it like to others when your positive expressed thought percentage is less than .100? Do you think it’s in the realm of possibility to get that positive expressed thought percentage (at the very freaking least) in the .200s? Surely that would be enough to still allow people to complain about things that should be complained about and still have something left over for complaining for the sake of complaining, right?
Would you describe a person with an 80:20 ratio of negative comments to positive ones as hopelessly naïve? It wouldn’t seem to be the description of someone afflicted with the Pollyanna Principle. This particular complaint ratio should certainly allow you to keep your street cred, right?
So, let’s get back to Frankl and stimulus-space-response.
It’s fair to say that we are confronted with a very negative stimulus. Now, what should our response be that doesn’t ignore reality yet still allows the chance for growth and freedom? How shall we best use the space?
Perhaps it’s important to review what we know, beyond the very negative stimulus that confronts us. First, it seems like we should acknowledge that at best we have imperfect information. It may appear Sandy Alderson is lazy but perhaps he and his team are contacting every agent and GM out there, trying to move heaven and earth to improve the team. Quit laughing – not one of us knows for sure.
Second, it seems like we should realize that individuals at this level generally aren’t idiots. Instead, they act in what they perceive as their own best interests, which we hope aligns with the best interest of the team. Terry Collins looked to World Series winner Jim Leyland for advice on how to run his team and followed that advice. That doesn’t make him an idiot
Finally, we should differentiate between one-time mistakes and repeated foolish behavior. You have to try new things to improve and not everything you try is going to work. When Noah Syndergaard went out last year on a crazy fitness regimen, he did it in the belief that it would help him to be a better pitcher. He deserves criticism for a decision that looked bad at first glance and was proven bad by the results. But he doesn’t deserve to be crucified because he’s gone out and completely revamped his training methods. He’s not repeating his mistake.
So, let’s look at the Mets’ response to the negative stimulus of the 2017 season.
1. They removed a manager who apparently wasn’t on board with the front office and replaced him with a guy who’s had great success managing pitchers, allegedly the strength of the team.
2. They put in a long-range plan for their top farm system club, eventually bringing it closer to home and in what should be a more natural baseball environment.
3. They removed their head athletic trainer, after overhauling how they handle/report injuries internally during the year.
4. They’ve moved to solidify the bullpen, signing a guy who was great last year to a two-year deal. He doesn’t have an extensive track record of success but there are reasons to believe last season wasn’t a fluke.
5. The GM listened to the advice of his new manager and pitching coach and stopped shopping one of his pitchers looking to rebound from injury.
That seems like a pretty good start. Hopefully they add an equal number of positive things to the ledger before the 2018 season starts in earnest.
Is it all positive? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. But before establishing your response, use the space to look for growth and try to go beyond the knee-jerk reaction of mere complaining. Especially since it’s still two months before the start of Spring Training.
Yes, payroll should be higher and count this as a complaint. Someone, I believe JP, asked why Alderson was willing to lobby for more funds for last year’s payroll but seemingly hasn’t done that this year. That’s a great question for someone who actually has access to ask Alderson questions.
But until the point that someone asks and we get clarification, let’s assume that he did and got shot down or he hasn’t because he knows that the owners aren’t going to give him that hall pass after it failed when they did it for 2017.
So, for our purpose of striving for growth and freedom, instead of complaining about the payroll and going no further, our mindset should be – What can we do with the payroll that is available? Is the answer to be like a teenager in a strip club for the first time who spends all of his money on the first girl he sees?
That’s an answer and it’s among the possibilities that it’s the right one. There’s an argument to be made that this team needs an ace and instead of trying to solve four problems with four mediocre answers that they should go all-in on one great answer.
To me, it’s always been both more interesting and more rewarding to ask what we can do given our options than to just throw your hands up in despair and point out that the options are too limited because the owners are too cheap.