The Thing About the Hats

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Angel Pagan #16 of the New York Mets wears a FDNY cap during batting practice before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on September 11, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

We were so close to escaping the 9/11 memorial efforts at Citi Field unscathed.

The 9/11 memorial ceremony was really quite charming and sincere. Depending on your tolerance of Bobby Valentine, the ESPN national broadcast was largely more tolerable than you'd expect for such a momentous occasion, two after-thought teams on the marquee, and the competing programming by the neighborhood Jets.

For what it was, it was fairly innocuous and digestible and the Mets and Cubs had followed suit by playing a decent game of baseball until the clock struck midnight and the former reverted to a pumpkin

And yet, there just had to be a scrum about something. Right on cue, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin recalls a pre-game controversy that grew fast and furious about how MLB put their foot down in a rather insensitive way regarding the hats adorning the home team:

NEW YORK -- New York Mets players considered violating a Major League Baseball edict prohibiting them from wearing hats of various New York City first responders during Sunday night's game against the Chicago Cubs, but ultimately opted to adhere to the order from the commissioner's office, player rep Josh Thole said.

MLB denied the Mets' request to wear the baseball caps despite the policy.

News of this spread like wildfire in the moments leading up to yesterday's game, with fans fuming with frustration and punctuating their pain with the #wearthehats Twitter hashtag. It became heated, with those efforts going mostly for naught as the Mets players ended up wearing their New Era-sanctioned caps for the game itself after wearing the iconic FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority chapeaus during the pre-game ceremony.

This isn't going to be a thing, is it?

I was going to let this go until I read two tweets by R.A. Dickey about the situation this morning:

For all those upset that we didn't wear the hats, I understand your anger. However, they physically took them from us after the ceremony.

We had conspired to wear them but we got found out and MLB got involved. 

My first thought about the decision-making process that transpired in the Mets clubhouse must have involved the pedigree of the players making the decisions. The team's player representatives, Josh Thole and Tim Byrdak, are a young catch and journeyman reliever, respectively. Except for the few obvious "leaders" like Dickey or David Wright, they're representing a band of misfits and retreads that are presently playing in hopes of someone inviting them to a Major League Camp next spring. These are the types of guys who need to toe the company line for fear of their professional careers. I can't fault them.

I then recalled a boneheaded and misguided article from last month by the New York Post's Phil Mushnick about how moving the game to 8 p.m. in the first place was unjustified and merely an ESPN tactic to tugs the hearts and minds of sports fans away from the Sunday Night NFL broadcast. Mushnick was a dolt for arguing that, considering this game had been on the books at 8 p.m. for months.

But it led me to think about the commercial ramifications of the Mets wearing hats that MLB couldn't sell. They'd rather sew an American flag to their own caps than let the players wear someone else's logos -- even if those logos weren't for profit and were a one-night-only exception. Fine, it's at least consistent even if the player-indoctrinating NFL had let their players express themselves with unique cleats and what not.

Then I noted a sentiment by Rubin that at least clarified the Mets management perspective:

Finances, by the way, clearly had to be a major reason behind the MLB mandate. The hats the Mets did wear, standard looking except for an American flag patch on the left side, are being sold by MLB for $36.99. (Made in China, too, by the way.)

Yes, yes. SELL THE TEAM!!! TRAID DA CORE!!! Wakka wakka wakka. It's no secret that these Mets do owe a debt of gratitude to MLB for going lenient on the club during the Wilpons' dire financial straits. One only needs to look at the last days of the Montreal Expos to see what could happen if MLB took an active role in overseeing the operations of the Mets.

The Wilpons and Bud Selig get along. That's better than the alternative.

Then I read Dickey's tweets and felt a pang of disappointment. They wanted to wear the damned hats. They were willing to incur MLB's  "wrath" (i.e. a likely not-insignificant fine) to wear the hats. They realized this game, those three hours (or four, time stood still once as Jason Bay with one out and Jason Pridie with two failed to drive in the winning run with bases loaded in bottom of the ninth) would matter more in spirit of the day than the result in the box score.

As the MLB hate parade kicks off in earnest and is sure to carry you through the afternoon drive of your local sports radio station, I ask you to please think this argument through before weighing in. If this goes awry, if the bile spewed at Selig and his marketing team becomes too venomous, this will hang around our necks like Walter Reed did just two seasons ago.

Yesterday's transgression was an unfortunate decision by MLB, not the Mets. We shouldn't let that decision detract from the spirit of the day's remembrance. And if each and every one of us has taken away one lesson from the events that forever changed the way we go about our daily lives, it's this:

There are far less trivial matters to concern ourselves with than what the Mets wore on their heads and why they wore it on a September Sunday evening that most of us didn't stay awake to see through to the end anyway.

MLB messed up, but far greater things have already happened to honor and remember the lives lost and emerging heroes to make this a life-or-death decision.

Let this one go.

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