Just as an open letter is the surefire mark of amateurish sportswriting, the same is true of owner-fan dialogue.
The Wilpons, strangely, have decided it prudent to become pen pals with their fans as their search for the Mets’ next general manager trudges on, keeping the doting public abreast of who is in and who is not via e-mail blast. Surely this is the brain child of the latest in a long line of public-relations geniuses to have graced the offices of first Shea Stadium and now Citi Field.
Look, I get it. Fred, Jeff and Saul Katz are trying to mend fences, to heal relationships they fear may have been irrevocably damaged during the past four seasons, regrettable campaigns by any account. They’re positing themselves as humans, regular guys who exchange e-mails with each other and their fans. They’re the mom-and-pop brand to the Yanks’ Evil Empire.
Except, they’re none of those things. They are, to invoke the parlance of our times, what they are: exceedingly wealthy owners of a Major League Baseball franchise. I don’t begrudge them that; in fact, I encourage them to embrace it and get on with the business of achieving what we (as in fans) are all here for, which is enjoyment and winning.
I don’t care about mea culpas and public image, and I suspect none of my brethren in Mets misery do, either. What I want is a strong sense of promise and hope, rooted firmly in a faith in a competent general manager. Eventually, of course, I want some wins on the damn field, too, but I’m smart enough and realistic enough to understand that those may not arrive in abundance in 2011, so for now, I’ll settle for some semblance of, you know, direction. I don’t care about e-mails, nor promises of culpability, nor assurances of empathy.
I hate to reduce this to a Yankees vs. Mets thing, because that’s an impossible standard for even the next-most-successful franchise. The Bombers are in a league of their own, especially with respect to World Series titles. But here’s one thing the Mets could easily ape of their brothers from the Bronx, and it would cost them essentially nothing: Professionalism. The Yanks are above the fray. Some say they’re boring, and that’s not without a small measure of merit, but if the alternative is, say, K-Rod punching his father-in-law after a game, I can deal with vanilla, which says nothing of the Amazin’s as a perpetual on-field folly.
But back to the Yanks: They don’t answer to anyone. The fans line their pockets and the media hypes the machine, but that’s it. Frankly, it’s quite apparent they’d rather not fraternize with either faction at all, which isn’t such a bad way to run a baseball organization. They don’t cave to popular opinion. I, for one, long for that quality out of my team.
How many less-than-rational (to be kind) Yankees fans wanted Alex Rodriguez flipped for Joe Crede, for example, after the Bombers were bounced unceremoniously from the 2006 postseason (during which the revered Uncle Joe Torre dropped A-Rod to No. 8 in the Yankees lineup)? Remember that? Yeah, Brian Cashman basically said, “This is why you’re fans and I’m the GM.” And how did that work out? Approximately 180 homers later, pretty well, methinks.
A more pertinent example: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert penning a Dear John like a spurned love after LeBron James bolted Cleveland during The Decision. A lot of people liked the humanness of it, the sense of unbridled disclosure. This guy bleeds Cavs (whatever color they wear), they said. You know, if I were a Cavs fan, I wouldn’t feel so hot about my team’s chances for recovery. I’d think, “This guy isn’t concerned with getting my team back on track. He’s preoccupied penning crybaby e-mails that are every bit about him and his damaged ego, and very little about his despondent fan base.” Gilbert, at that moment, needed to pull up his boot straps and handle his disappointment with dignity, not a Comic Sans tear fest.
As for the cosmetic, sure, there’s no problem with ownership being “in touch” with its fans. I say, install a suggestions box at Citi Field. All opinions are welcome on matters of the blueness and orangeness of the corridors, the number of banners on display and the taste of the ballpark hot dogs. There’s nothing wrong with catering to your customers on those pressing issues.
Otherwise, I’ll break from my own axiom up above (the one about hacks) and deliver an impassioned plea to the Wilpons: Cut it out with the e-mails, fellas, and stick to the business of hiring your GM and getting your organization on track. I hope you’ll respond with (prudent) action rather than lip service and e-mail. Besides, my inbox is overflowing with enough spam as it is.