Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday's Musings on Sports - Are the Mets the End of Western Civilization?

Mets fans have not had much to cheer about lately. The team reached its peak in 2006 when the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Mets fans will remember that Carlos Beltran stood with the bat on his shoulder and looked at a called strike three when he had a chance to win the series for the Mets with one swing of the bat.

The following two years, Mets fans suffered through collapses as the Mets blew Division and Wildcard leads late in 2007 and 2008. These were not just blown leads of a game or two, these were epic collapses where the team just could not seem to get out of its own way.

And then there were the lean years... From 2009 to the present, ownership has made bad investments (in more ways than one) and headlines about the team have usually been negative. From Omar Minaya challenging players to a fight, to K-Rod beating up his father-in-law, to Johan Santana blowing out his shoulder (twice), the Mets have been a train wreck that their loyal fans just can't look away from.

The 2013 version of the Mets is not a world beating team. Given ownership's lack of desire to spend any money on this team, the only thing that fans can cheer about is the development of young talent which the Mets have either drafted or traded established players for. Other than David Wright and Daniel Murphy (both home grown) the Mets do not have any hitters that an opposing pitcher needs to worry about. In one game against the Braves last week, the Mets started four position players who were hitting below the Mendoza line.

But while the Mets ownership refuses to spend money on the team, they have no problem tacking hidden fees onto the tickets they just can't give away. As detailed in Big League Stew (click here for the article and the Hardball Times (which can be found here, "a $20 ticket might seem like a good deal, until it becomes a $30 ticket thanks to "convenience fees," and "order processing" and other fees that don't get names." In the Mets' case, there is an adjusted convenience fee which ranges from $1.00 to $23.00 per ticket depending on the price of the ticket. And then there is an order processing fee of $6.00 which is added to each order. The net result is that four $15.00 seats for the Mets game on July 4th game will cost you $75 dollars instead of the ticket's face price of $60.00 and that's if you want to sit in the cheap seats. And if you went for the field box seats special deal at $50.00 per seat, four seats would run $232 instead of $200.

But even with Mets ownership's utter disdain for its fans and refusal to invest in the team, the players have not thrown in the towel. Over the last week, the Mets have played a number of close games against good teams and remarkably won six out of nine games during the stretch. These games included a near no-hitter from Matt Harvey in which he struck out 13 batters, the debut of Zack Wheeler in which he threw six innings of shutout ball, another six innings of shutout ball from Matt Harvey and back to back 4-3 wins over the Braves and Phillies where the bullpen uncharacteristically shut the door on the opposition. 

But what started this chain of events was a come from behind win against the Cubs where the Mets seemed all but dead. When the Mets won on a walk off home run by light hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis (currently hitting a robust .119), the team mobbed him at the plate. This prompted an overly sarcastic comment from usually reserved Bob Costas who remarked that this was another sign of the end of Western Civilization.

While Costas apologized for his remark the following day, I wonder whether his comment was unintentionally prophetic in more than one day. The gemara in Sotah states that in the end of days, chutzpah will run rampant. Given people's attitudes towards one and another and the flaming retorts which seem to come from everywhere, you can definitely say that chutzpah runs rampant. Even from sportscasters who cynically critique the joyful enthusiasm of a team which was starving for something to cheer about.

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