There is nothing more dispiriting to a baseball fan than to see a favorite team toss
helpful players overboard with two months left in the season.
Wait, what about those tickets I bought for three weeks from now? Does that mean we don’t have a chance this year?
Of course, baseball fans are smart enough to smell the reek of failure – particularly the demanding patrons of the Mets and Yankees, who can figure stuff out for themselves.
The Yankees are trudging along last in a very tough five-team division – enough to make The Boss up there in the sky (you know which Boss I mean) toss a thunderbolt of rage at the people running the Yankees. (Actually, the Boss is responsible for the current owner and the current general manager of his team.)
The Yankees have been followed by rumors of jettisoning unproductive players with two months to go in this season. A player dump? So very un-Yankee.
But the other New York team is making the Yankees look downright successful and stable. I am talking here about the Mets, who, as I am typing this Sunday evening, have jettisoned their best active reliever (David Robertson) and one of their best starting pitchers, Max Scherzer, after he staged a tantrum because the Mets had dumped Robertson.
Let’s face it. The Mets would not be in this mess if Edwin Diaz, the best relief pitcher in the majors last year, had not torn up his knee in a celebration dogpile in the World Baseball Classic. Everything bad the Mets have done – let us count the ways – stems from that horrible moment of destructive joy.
Robertson is a useful late-inning pitcher – good enough to give Mets fans hope in the late innings this year. When Robertson was dumped, Scherzer forced his trade for a prospect.
That really stinks – for Mets fans. But the Mets – and the Yankees – and most teams have played that game over the years.
I have to inform New Yorkers: this is not all about them.
The nicest thing about this season is the high standing of the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds in their respective years. I have soft spots for both – the towns, the teams, their distinctive colors and uniforms – and would love to see them in the World Series.
Meantime, the two New York teams are struggling. Too bad for fans who committed their hearts and their dollars.
Mets fans can wail about the departure of Robertson and the egomaniacal master, Scherzer, pacing the dugout between innings, or babbling on his days off.
But historically, the Mets have benefited from other teams dumping somebody. (Donn Clendenon, upgrading the 1969 Mets the day he arrived.)
Remember 2015? Of course you do. The Mets brought in Yoenis Cespedes, who tore up the league for two months and helped the Mets reach the World Series. Good move by the front office. Of course, some other team (Detroit) had dumped Cespedes to the Mets his fourth team in two seasons.
Fans hate it when it happens to them. One of the most demoralizing dumps I have seen was in 1992, when the Mets were clearly not going to win anything. So the brass dumped David Cone, a charismatic competitor with a 13-7 record for a mediocre team, who then helped Toronto reach the World Series and, three years later, helped the Yankees reach the league finals.
Mets’ fans groused, insisting that Cone should have remained a Met. Of course, the Mets had picked him up for a reserve catcher after the 1986 World Series.
“Wait til you see this kid,” wise old shortstop Rafael Santana told me on opening day.
Other teams have traditionally picked up highly useful players, I remember when my Brooklyn Dodgers acquired Sal (The Barber) Maglie in 1956, and the main concern was whether Maglie and the Dodgers’ centurion right fielder, Carl Furillo, could co-exist in the same clubhouse, given their long Manhattan-Brooklyn feud.
The Barber and the Skoonj bonded over some Scotch in a hotel room, and made Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi look like the genius he was sure he was, and Maglie helped the Dodgers reach the 1956 World Series.
That other New York team, the one in pinstripes, has a history of acquiring useful parts from bottom-feeders, most notably their Kansas City cousins. In 1964, the Yanks were negotiating for a long-time antagonist, Pedro Ramos, a pitcher who was often challenging Mickey Mantle to a footrace. The Yankees could not manage to get Pistol Pete until after the Sept. 1 deadline, but he helped them into the World Series, when he was ineligible to pitch. (He never did get to race Mantle.)
Fans are still waiting to see what kind of deals can be done in the final hours before this year’s 6 PM deadline on Tuesday.
However, the Mets’ blight hangs over Queens like the gritty odor of a Canadian forest fire.
Maybe Edwin Diaz will be back, intact, next season. To some of us sad-sack Mets fans, that seems like a long time. A very long time.