Oh, Gods and years will rise and fall
And there’s always something more
It’s lost in talk, I waste my time
And it’s all been said before
While further down behind the masquerade the tears are there
I don’t ask for all that much I just want someone to care
That’s “Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert, perhaps the greatest pop song that’s remembered (or even heard of) by the fewest people around. Oh well. The last line in that stanza sums up things pretty well. It may be a love song but it can apply to a baseball blog and it certainly applies to how fans relate to players and management of a sports team.
My first thoughts that management didn’t care was with M. Donald Grant in 1977. Grant cared but not about fielding a successful team for the fans. He cared about money and relative status between players and execs. My first thoughts that a ballplayer didn’t care was with Richie Hebner. Maybe Hebner cared a lot but that’s not the impression he gave off in 1979.
There’s no doubt that other players, managers and execs didn’t care before that – those are just the ones that stand out to me.
We all get exasperated by guys who don’t perform particularly well. But at the end of the day, our quibble isn’t with the player, it’s with the manager who keeps writing his name into the lineup and the GM who won’t acquire a better player.
Doug Flynn was a guy that infuriated me back in the day. But there’s no doubt that Flynn was giving it everything he had. The anger back then should have been directed at management that allowed a guy to get 2,269 PA with a 57 OPS+ in a Mets uniform. That’s just horrible and indicates a level of not caring that we should never tolerate again.
At the end of the 1980 season, Wally Backman came up and put up a 115 OPS+ in 110 PA. He was back in the minors for 1981 so that our buddy Flynn could be the starter. Flynn put up a .222/.247/.292 line. Flynn was gone the following year and second base was split among Backman, Bob Bailor and Brian Giles. Backman had a 115 OPS+, Bailor had a 79 and Giles had a 63. Guess which one was the guy who played 145 games for the Mets in 1983? Yep, it was Giles.
In early June of 1983, manager George Bamberger resigned and famously said, “I’ve probably suffered enough.” To this day, it’s unclear to me if that meant he cared or not. Can you suffer without caring? Can you care and quit and leave the job to someone else? Regardless, we should be grateful that Bamberger resigned. Frank Cashen was unlikely to fire his pal Bamberger. And when Davey Johnson became the manager in 1984, he installed Backman as the club’s second baseman.
In this century, there probably hasn’t been a guy who cared less than Frank Francisco. The quibble with Francisco wasn’t necessarily his performance in games. After all he was 22-25 in Save chances in 2012. Rather it was when he was injured the following season and displayed no urgency in his rehab or his return to the majors.
Andy Martino reported in the Daily News that Jenrry Mejia, “had Frank Francisco advising him to stay in Port St. Lucie and collect his big league D.L. money, rather than work to return and be optioned to the minors.”
Some people felt that Rafael Montero was doing the same thing in 2015. Apparently, Terry Collins was one of those people, as Collins made a trip on an off day to St. Lucie, where Montero was rehabbing, to essentially yell at him. This point of view never made sense to me. Francisco had already made more than $20 million in the majors when he pulled his rehab stunt. Montero had made nowhere near that much.
And history has proven that Montero cared. He put in the work to recover from his shoulder injury and last year he posted a 2.48 ERA and a 0.966 WHIP with the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, Francisco got a minor league deal with the White Sox in 2014, put up a 12.27 ERA and a 2.727 WHIP in four games and his MLB career was over.
As we look to the 2020 season, one would be hard pressed to point to a player on the Mets as one who didn’t care. Can we say the same thing about management? Will Brodie Van Wagenen insist to his rookie manager that Robinson Cano remain in the lineup if he repeats his poor start from 2019?
We all want Van Wagenen to care more about the Mets than he cares about his former client in Cano.