Opening Day is a week away. Some of the cobwebs have been cleared from the Mets’ financial picture, there have been a couple of revelations on the field, the pitching rotation is lined up. It’s time to unfurl the bunting and have the Shea family prepare the floral horseshoe. As has been widely reported, the team’s fortunes look decidedly bleak and for the first time in recent memory, the drums need to be beaten to sell Opening Day tickets.
Towards that end, General Manager Sandy Alderson made a stop yesterday (3/28) with sportstalkradio’s Grand Panjandrum, Mike Francesa himself. Francesa has hosted or co-hosted the pioneering, number-one sports talk show for 21 of the 25 years WFAN in New York has been in existence. His is the voice that gets the most attention. And he knows it. Big Mike is a Yankee fan of long standing, and has never made a secret of the fact that his interest in the Mets is purely mercenary. Whenever he’s accused of “hating” the Mets – which is patently obvious from his snark – he always says, “I want the Mets to do well: it’s better for the station.” So when Sandy arrived on the air, the expectation was that Francesa would treat him with his usual mix of overdogism and haughty disdain – as he’d been doing since Alderson took the Mets’ job. Instead, Big Mike surprised me: a series of respectful queries, showing that for once, Francesa had done his homework. For his part, Sandy answered in his usual frank, straightforward manner. He was as honest as he could be about his team’s strengths and shortcomings, areas where he was concerned and areas where he was confident. The main thing I came away with was Sandy’s statement that he thought the team was “in a period of ascendency.” I took that to mean there wouldn’t be a fire sale this year, especially if the Mets are surprising the general populace.
I listened in the car on the way home from work and was truly impressed with both sides, and feeling more sanguine about the Mets’ prospects than I had since last July. I couldn’t wait to get home and look online at Metsblog.com, since I missed the beginning of the interview and I knew there’d be a recap. After I read it, I thought I would check out the comments. I wasn’t sure I had heard the same interview as the commenters. The general tone was, “Sandy’s full of crap. He’s just spouting the Wilpon line. How can he expect so much from this team? Sandy’s on crack.”
So there’s the damage. No fan, save for the neophyte, believes anything that emanates from Flushing anymore. Rebuilding the trust that’s been broken appears a truly Herculean task. If the team can get off to a hot start, by some wonderful good fortune, a great deal of ground in that area will be made up. Like everything this offseason, it comes down to the phrase, “Winning will make the difference.” Never was there a truer truism. Winning will remedy the attendance problem, seeing as there’s no flashy trade on the horizon and we’re well past the point of signing a difference-making free agent. If this fan base is going to be energized, it’s going to have to happen the old-fashioned way: some good ol’ country hardball and some W’s in the standings. Sandy and Mike agree.
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