In a move that came as news to no one (except maybe Jerry Manuel), the Mets announced on Monday they were in the market for both a new manager and a new GM. Reactions varied among the fanbase, but there was almost universal agreement that this move was a good one, or at the very least necessary.
The mood among the writers was somewhat different. If you monitored Twitter yesterday afternoon when the news broke, you would have been treated to testimonials about what great guys Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are. Dave Lennon of Newsday praised Omar as a "class guy." Steve Popper of the Bergen Record thought "it's in bad taste to revel in people being fired." And Jon Heyman said (in separate tweets) "i really like jerry and omar, great guys, really good baseball people...i dont like the revelry...i'm seeing by some regarding dismissal of minaya and manuel."
I found the press's reactions especially odd because for a good chunk of the season, many Mets beat writers openly mocked both the on-field play and the front office moves of the team they covered (not without cause, mind you), and for weeks have spoken of both Jerry and Omar as dead men walking. And yet, when the axe actually fell, most of them articulated regret and lectured fans for expressing joy over their departure.
It points to a fundamental disconnect between sports scribes and the fans they (presumably) write for. It's a divide that's essential for the job. Reporters must be impartial, and while no one is truly unbiased, I think 99.9 percent of them truly try to be. Not to mention, a reporter who was a rabid fan would be insufferable. A reporter simply can't be rah-rah in the way a fan is. But when this separation becomes more pronounced at times like these, I can't help but feel condescended to. As if the reactions most fans had -- which ranged from relief to jubilation -- were simply because we're all blood-thirsty savages too stupid to know any better.
I understand why writers would feel bad about the firing of Jerry and Omar. They spend more time with these people than their own families, often in closed quarters like clubhouses and airplane cabins. They travel with them for months out of the year, have meals with them, hang out in hotel lobbies waiting for the airport shuttle together. Do this for long enough, and you develop a We're All in This Together mentality, especially when suffering through seasons like the Mets have had in recent years. (The phrase Stockholm Syndrome springs to mind.) For the same reason, many writers lamented the trade of Jeff Francoeur, even though he too was terrible at his job.
This is natural. The writers can feel any way they want. They can even believe that Jerry and Omar did a good job, for all I care (although nobody I read in the last 24 hours went quite that far). But I don't appreciate being told that I can't be happy about their departure.
I look upon my relationship with the Mets as an investor. I invest a lot -- financially and emotionally -- into that relationship. All investments come with risk, of course. But I don't think it's unreasonable to want some return on that investment--if not a championship, then steps in that direction, or some glimmer of hope that the team has some kind of plan. At bare minimum, the team should be entertaining. That is the absolute least I should expect from something that, at the end of the day, is entertainment.
Under Jerry and Omar, the Mets failed to achieve even the most modest of these goals. Were they the only reasons why? I can't say that. But they're also clearly not capable of making things better, so I have no problem demanding that they hit the road.
They might be great people, as many of the writers insist. Personally, I doubt this. Jerry had a habit of picking fights in public with players he didn't like (Ryan Church, Ramon Castro). As for Omar, he lost me during last season's surreal Adam-Rubin-is-angling-for-a-job episode, which I still can't believe actually happened. And under his watch, the Blame Beltran Brigade tried to railroad one of the best center fielders in the game for Machiavellian reasons. Whether or not Minaya was directly responsible for this, he let it happen. To me, these are not things that Good People do.
But let's say I'm wrong. Let's say Jerry and Omar are fantastic people. I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, their qualities as human beings run a distant second to their qualities as baseball people. I don't need them to watch my kids or give me a ride to work. I need them to run my favorite baseball team, and they were bad at that. If I bring my car to a garage and the mechanic screws it up even worse than it was before, do I keep bringing my car to this guy because he's such a nice fella? Or do I find someone who actually knows how to fix a car?
It'd be nice if I liked everyone associated with my favorite team, but I labor under no delusions that this would make the team any better. Mike Piazza once compared meeting Rush Limbaugh to meeting George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Gen. MacArthur, and the Pope. Whatever the exact opposite of that is, I believe that. I also believe this may be one of the dumbest things ever said by a grown human. I still love Mike Piazza the player, because he was really good at baseball for my favorite team. That's all I ask of a baseball player: be good at your job. Unless they do something truly heinous (think Michael Vick or Brett Myers), I don't care about anything else.
Jerry and Omar were not good at baseball. That's why I wanted them away from my favorite team. It's just business, guys.
Some writers played the "men are losing their jobs" card, to which I would first say, "If they didn't want to lose their jobs, they shouldn't have sucked at their jobs." And let's get serious. These men are not auto workers or miners. They got paid a lot of money to work in baseball. Considering the very small fraternity of the game, they'll find well compensated jobs somewhere; Omar might even get to stay with the Mets in some capacity, if he so chooses. If we're going to shed tears for job loss, let's do it for the millions of ordinary folks who are out of work right now. Cry a bit for people who have to worry about feeding their families, then we can sob for Jerry and Omar.
If some fans were a little over-the-top in their don't-let-the-door-hit-ya-where-the-good-lord-split-ya sentiments, can you blame them? What about the Mets over the past four seasons should lead to sympathy for anyone responsible for shaping the team? What kind of equity do Jerry or Omar have, other than some writers telling us they're nice guys?
Maybe nothing will change with the next regime. Maybe the Wilpons really do pull all the strings and every subsequent administration will just be window dressing. I can't know what will or won't happen next. I do know that under Omar and Jerry, the Mets transformed from a World Series contender to a laughing stock. Both men paid the price for it, and I refuse to feel sorry that they're gone, no matter how many times Jon Heyman tells me they're super guys who deserve better.