Now there’s a rumor out there in cyber space that if the Mets don’t re-sign Jose Reyes that their payroll will dip under $100 million. Which means no impact players will be added in the offseason and a strong likelihood that at least one of their two non-tender candidates will be cut loose. Let’s pretend for a minute that they decide to keep Mike Pelfrey and cut ties with Angel Pagan.
The Mets Opening Day lineup, depending on the health of Johan Santana, could look like this:
Besides a depressing top of the order, what jumps out to you about the above lineup? To me, if Reyes and Pagan are gone – it definitely means the end of Los Mets. There’s only one Latin player in this lineup and Tejada hardly has the star power that the Mets trotted out back in 2008.
The Mets took a lot of grief over the marketing phrase Los Mets. But it made no sense to me why people were complaining about the racial makeup of our stars. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the National League was the stronger league because its owners were quicker to employ (if not embrace) blacks. Scan the All-Star team rosters from a year – I’ll pick 1965. Here were the first four batters for the NL: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Dick Allen. And Ernie Banks hit sixth.
In the AL the first four batters were Dick McAuliffe, Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Rocky Colavito. This is not meant to disrespect the AL All-Stars – Robinson and Killebrew are in the Hall of Fame. But the NL had white All-Stars who would wind up in the Hall – Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, along with two others that should be in with Pete Rose and Ron Santo.
But the AL was fighting with one hand behind its back. The AL All-Star roster had three American-born blacks (none of which made the Hall) while the NL All-Star roster had nine, seven of which ended up in Cooperstown.
Bringing this back to the Mets – ask yourself: Who were the team’s stars during its first two decades of existence? Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman are undoubtedly the first two to jump to mind. Perhaps next you mention Bud Harrelson and Ed Kranepool. The biggest African-American star of the first two decades was Cleon Jones. And they got rid of him when he was found with a white woman in a van.
When it came to race, the team that I grew up watching could have been an American League franchise.
Now let’s be honest – a lot of those teams didn’t have white stars either. And you can certainly point to some of the late 70s and early 80s Mets and find African-Americans like Lenny Randle or Steve Henderson or Elliott Maddox. I do think it’s interesting that the three previously mentioned names were all acquired via trade and were not homegrown.
Compare that with the 1986 championship team. The two biggest stars – Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry – were both homegrown black stars and first-round draft picks.
I want my team to embrace stars from all nationalities and races. Right now my team needs a dynamic leadoff hitter and the one we should get (Reyes) hails from the Dominican Republic. We also need pitching and I don’t care if it comes from the heartland or a big metropolis. I don’t care if it comes from the U.S. or overseas. I just want them to be good players, perhaps ones that can become stars.
If Reyes does go and it is indeed the end of Los Mets, I’ll miss that era. All of us will just have to hope that Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia, Brandon Nimmo, Cory Vaughn and Zack Wheeler can develop into the team’s next batch of stars.
I want my team to have stars, regardless if they look like me or not.