(Bumped from FanPosts. --Eric)
"It's as though we were made for each other. Beauty and the beast. Of course, if anyone else calls you a beast, I'll rip their lungs out." - The Joker
"I stands what I can stand, and I can't stands no more." - Popeye
I'm not sure at what point I looked at the 2011 edition of the Mets and thought to myself, "Self, this could be a halfway decent team." There was a part of me that almost felt ashamed at such moderately optimistic sentiments. After all, this is an organization that has caused me no small amount of heartburn over the years, and especially the last two. Had I lost my senses? The Mets not sucking? I would have to withdraw from the AA community for such senselessness.
And then, in dribs and drabs, I noticed people making similarly semi-optimistic predictions for the forthcoming year. I wasn't alone! I could come out of the closet and proclaim my convictions that the Mets were not completely awful What joy!
But then there's that entity know as the mainstream sports media.
Two years ago Sports Illustrated boldly predicted the Mets would win the World Series. Now they're picking them dead last in the division, behind a team that boasts Livan Hernandez as their "ace." And they're certainly not the only ones. Most "insiders" are picking the Mets to finish at or near the rear, struggling to win anywhere close to 81 games. Jayson Stark, in a column so bizarre and poorly written that I can only explain it away by assuming that Stark ingested heavy doses of cough medicine before writing it, dismisses the Mets and places them among the dregs of baseball. If you flip on talk radio here in DC you'll here other "insiders" writing off the Mets, taking it for granted they are certainly a franchise doomed for years of suckitude.
The consensus isn't unanimous. Peter Gammons recognized early on that the Mets could have a deep lineup that will keep the team floating above .500, but he's pretty much out there on an island.
So who cares? The Mets aren't going to lose or win even one more game because most people are expecting them to finish last or near last. And really, who are we to complain about the MSSM's pessimism when we've all engaged in our fair share of it?
There are two reasons why I find this consensus talking point so frustrating, one specific to the Mets and one more general. First of all, I think that like the dysfunctional family, we have no problem ragging on each other, but we dislike it when outsiders dare to critique us. We're a family of a sort, and no outsider is going to bash us, even if some of their criticisms are warranted.
But more than that, the main reason this groupthink is so annoying is that it is indicative of the lazy, unoriginal and thoughtless "analysis" that has become such a hallmark of the mainstream sports media. At the same time we hear how awful the Mets are gonna be, we're fed a steady diet of Phillie worship. "Oh, they've got the big four. They are unstoppable!" Yes, pay no attention to the fact that their lineup is a porous mess containing a legion of past their prime former stars, and that their best every day player might miss a significant amount of time due to injury. Keep talking about the big four and ignore an entire element of their team.
But these memes are repeated because journalists are too lazy to do the sort of digging that little stat nerds like us do. All you have to do is just perform some basic research on the rosters of each team in order to get a sense of how good they'll be. I'm not asking these writers to spend each hour of the off-season digging into every nook and cranny of every organization, but when chump bloggers who don't even do this for a living have more familiarity with each team, then what does it say about the professional pundit class? If you hear the name Lucas Duda and all you can say is "Ha ha, what a funny name," then you aren't doing your job. Yes, he does have a funny name. He also happens to be a fairly decent prospect who could be a useful role player on the Mets. But most of the guys ragging on the Mets have no idea who he is, and so they'll just write him off as another useless piece for a bad team.
There's also the laziness of just assuming that because of the financial concerns involving the ownership group that automatically means that the team on the field will be bad. Yes, the Wilpons have messed up royally and are probably on the brink of being forced to sell the team. But why does that signify that the Mets won't be any good this year?
Now I don't want to come off as saying that any pessimism surrounding the performance of this team is wholly unmerited. It's not unreasonable to forecast this team as a sub .500 team, especially if there are injuries to any of their established stars. But so much of the negativity towards this team isn't based on a rational evaluation of the merits of the roster and the players that are assembled. People are just picking up on a meme and aren't interested in doing their own research or going beyond the groupthink.