August 7, 2020

Monday Mets: Stop The Press

As the Mets try to figure out the source of their issues, the variety of excuses and lack of progress is causing their demanding fans to lose hope, quickly.

At this point, you are likely well aware of the prolonged hitting slump in which the currently find themselves. There are all sorts of statistics that prove what we can easily see about how bad it’s been. The one I find particularly frustrating is that the Mets have not scored in more than one inning in a single game since June 1st. That means that feeling you get after they’ve scored, that they’re not going to score again for the rest of the game, is justified. That’s terrible. That’s not just a recipe for losing, it’s a recipe for an irate, impatient, and sometimes irrational fanbase (more on that in a moment).

During this period, the Mets have tried to pinpoint the roots of their problems. They’ve blamed injuries, weather, Matt Harvey, and most recently, the pressure of playing in New York (more on that in a moment as well). And while they haven’t verbally blamed the underperformance on the fact that some players might not be as good as the team needs them to be, the fact that they released Adrian Gonzalez last night is proof that they’ve at least noticed this.

Side note: Dear Adrian Gonzalez, thank you for trying, thank you for being better than most people had expected, unfortunately it wasn’t by enough to justify keeping you on the team. I look forward to catching you on MLB Tonight sometime in the near future, although I guess you might have a couple clutch hits left in you. You seemed like a nice enough guy. Good luck wherever you go.

Now where was I? Oh, hitting, or lack thereof. Whatever excuses the Mets players, coaches, management, even some fans, are coming up with now, won’t really matter much when the team starts hitting again. And, oh yes, they will hit again at some point. I’m reasonably sure they’re not this bad. I think. When they do start hitting though, we’re just going to hear that they were pressing to hard during the slump and that things changed when they slowed down their approach and stopped pressing. So, seeing as how that’s the case, what if I just make the suggestion that they stop that pressing now? In my four decades of watching baseball, a lot of baseball, I can’t remember a single instance in which a hitter said, “Fortunately I was pressing, so it was easy to get a hit.” Listen, if trying too hard is really a thing, and if it’s really the thing that ends up being blamed in the end, then just don’t do it. As Tim Ryder wrote earlier this week, it’s  probably about time for hitting coach Pat Roessler to make some adjustments to the team’s approach, perhaps this is it.

As long as we’re discussing the press, I feel a desire to address the comments for which Mickey Callaway was roasted early in the week. According to most articles about Callaway’s postgame press conference last Sunday, here is what he said: “Let’s be honest, this is a tough place to play. It’s tough on everybody. If [Mets players] were in Cleveland or somewhere else, maybe they wouldn’t feel that pressure. But you are playing in New York.” When things are not going well, the media in New York, as well as in some other cities with passionate fanbases, uses a quote like this as an invitation to try to scare away the coach, player, or even upper level management.

Some coaches know how to rolls with this: Davey Johnson, Joe Torre, Bill Parcells, they may not have been “media darlings” but they knew how not to let the media beat them. On the other side, there were coaches like former New York (Football) Giants head coach, Ray Handley, who compounded his team’s struggles by getting eaten up by New York reporters. For Handley, as rough as that was, it was also the early 1990’s, before the internet became a dumping ground for opinions dressed up like facts.

So when Callaway, made a comment that was so easy to take out of context, it wasn’t just reporters trying to sell newspapers that exploited it, it was websites trying to sell ad space. Most of them managed to omit the rest of his quote, which was, “We do play in New York. We have passionate fans that want to see a good ballclub out there, so we have to do some things to get over that and make sure that we’re focused every second of the day that we’re out there.” Sadly, by Monday night, headlines like “Callaway Blames Losing On Playing In New York” were all over the place. I think I even saw one like that on The Weather Channel. Unfortunately, Callaway’s point, which was valid enough, was easily missed: Because New York is full of such passionate fans, there is an extra push to succeed, even beyond just personal and team-oriented goals. And right now, the Mets feel that pressure and want this so badly that they’re, you guessed it, pressing.

This does not mean that the Mets fans should suddenly become easy going. And obviously the local media (and even not-so-local media) will not change their approach either. Instead, it’s yet another reminder that the Mets should stop “trying so hard”, stop getting in their own way, and just play baseball. And score runs. And maybe win a few games in a row.