Omar Minaya has come to the lame duck portion of his schedule. Jeff Wilpon is flying from city to city, either second-guessing his general manager or setting up interviews for his replacement. Fans are openly heckling Minaya as he flies in coach. This year, the team didn't even need a late-season collapse to become irrelevant. The writing seems to be on the wall.
Does Minaya deserve better? The heckling thing in particular struck a chord with me, perhaps because web writers ply their trade and are victim to comments that are often unwarranted (that would never happen at AA, though -- you guys are the best). I felt sorry for him in that moment. Does he deserve to be openly mocked?
On one hand, maybe the fact that we writers are subject to the same open criticism should argue that yes, he deserves whatever response his stewardship of the Mets has engendered. This train of thought says that all of us do our jobs in the public arena, and we are always a wrong decision away from public feedback about our performance. I might get a comment pointing out that I'm a dumbass for making an error in my judgment, a trader might get dressed down for a poor decision, a carpenter might get yelled at for cutting his two-by-four an incorrect length. These things all happen.
Maybe the bug in my blanket is the fact that he is still the leader of the team we root for. Minaya may be a bad leader, but he's our leader. Then again, this is the type of reasoning that keeps us from questioning our leaders in Washington, the type of reasoning that is anti-progress really. If he's our leader, we can criticize him, mock him, applaud him as we see fit. Those are our rights as fans.
This is no democracy. The Mets are a business, and he is an employee. We don't know how many poor decisions he was a part of. We've seen examples before of general managers and good front office men being over-ruled by overzealous owners wishing to make splashes or reward players that have remained with the organization. We cannot know exactly how bad Minaya was, and yet we feel we can tell him how bad we feel he is to his face, in public.
Then again, since this is no democracy, Minaya is the figurehead we can blame. We cannot blame ourselves for voting him into place, nor are we to blame for any of the decisions the Mets have made. If he is responsible for the day-to-day machinations of an organization in which we are invested, he is opening himself up for all the ups and downs that come with that organization. He is in the media's eye.
And that relationship between Minaya and the media has been poor -- his departure may be ugly. If only he hadn't attacked members of the media for doing their jobs, he might actually be in a different place when it comes to future media coverage of his ouster. What those hecklers in the plane on the way to Wrigley actually represent is real, honest customer feedback.
How often does Minaya fly coach? How often does he ever get feedback straight from the fans? The team's record can be explained away because of injury or poor play -- if only everyone had been better, or healthier, then the team would have been fine. Even a cheer or a boo at the park can be blamed on the players and their performances. If criticism in the media can be explained away as well, and Jeff Wilpon has been a fan of his in the past, then maybe Minaya has never really felt this sting before. Maybe he's just explained all previous criticism away.
The hecklers gave Minaya direct criticism aimed straight at the GM and his decisions -- "I would have traded Jeff Francoeur three months ago" is not something he can laugh off or blame on others. He acquired the player with statistics like these, he put up those same statistics, and he was part of the reason why this team didn't magically turn into a contender.
The heckler who said "I bet they flew Mike Jacobs in business class, at least," seems to be on to something -- the Mets are preparing Minaya for the end if they won't splurge on a first class ticket -- and it's a little tough to see someone at the final stages of his job. But, in the end, this is the bed Minaya made, and since he is in a high-profile role, he's open to such criticism. We can still wish him well while hoping the next guy will do a better job, because we're fans of the Mets before all else.