It was easy to get upset when the Mets signed Alejandro De Aza a few days ago, particularly in light of rumblings that the team's plan may be to use him as Juan Lagares's platoon mate in center field. There are real concerns about the signing, not the least of which is De Aza's ability to play center field; but even leaving aside "baseball" issues, the timing of De Aza's signing was quite bad.
A day earlier, Howard Megdal published a widely circulated article that revisited and re-affirmed the Wilpons' financial limitations. Anyone who pays attention to baseball has long known that the Wilpons lack the resources to invest in their payroll on a level that is commensurate with either the market they serve or the fiscal realities of the sport, but Megdal's article helped bring it back to the solid forefront of people's minds. It was a bit like sprinkling gasoline on a fire. Fans and baseball writers had stood by uncertainly as the Mets, fresh off a World Series appearance, headed into the offseason with several enticing opportunities available to improve the team. They watched eagerly as the Mets courted Ben Zobrist, and then they watched with a different feeling altogether as he signed a contract with the Cubs—at contractual terms that fell short of projections and seemed eminently beatable. Then, with nary a peep from the Mets, the Cubs pounced to sign Jason Heyward.
No one gets a ring for winning the offseason, but the Cubs, in two quick moves, emphatically strengthened their already-excellent roster. They came out looking like a scary team next year, and like a franchise, moreover, that wants to end a century-old World Series drought. The Mets, for their part, looked like also-rans.
Surprisingly, there were undertones of resiliency throughout #MetsTwitter. Some fans self-soothed in the form of chest-thumping about the 2015 NLCS and the strength of the Mets' pitching staff going forward. Despite the disappointing news, there was a sense among fans that not all was lost—that the Mets still had a chance to be great in 2016. After all, we are still mere weeks removed from the end of the World Series—a disappointing end, to be sure, but one that also held kernels of hope for the future, right? Sure, Cespedes was always going to have to be retained or replaced, and sure, the bullpen, and sure there are some other question marks among various position players, but every team has issues to address. The Mets, fans seemed to reason, are still in a pretty good spot heading into 2016, Zobrist and Heyward be damned.
Then Megdal's article came out, drawing renewed attention to the fixed obstacle in the Mets' path, and making it a little harder, perhaps, to feel good about the team's future. And then, as if to confirm all the sad thoughts that had crept around the periphery of Mets fans' minds throughout this offseason, the Mets signed De Aza. The response on #MetsTwitter was swift, severe, and extensive.
Toxic negativity makes it easy to write off #MetsTwitter as a whole—or to ignore, at least, the group’s prevailing sentiments. This time, however, I got it. My only question after reading through several hundred disappointed, angry tweets about the Wilpons and their inability to strengthen a roster anchored by an incredibly talented young starting pitching staff was, "why shouldn't fans be upset?"
Hell, I was upset. The Cubs were great last year, and they look even better now, fortified as they are by two players the Mets sorely could have used next year. But that wasn't the nut of it—no. The essential irritant was, has been, and will continue to be the Wilpons. When faced with an immutable and deeply unpleasant truth such as this, we have three options: 1) walk away, 2) accept it, or 3) get bent out of shape. I usually hang out in the second camp, but, with all due respect to De Aza, something snapped in me when the Mets signed him. I didn't tweet about it, but I did the next-best (worst) thing: I wrote a fiery, bombastic article, i.e., a HOT TAKE.
It was a moment of weakness. Instead of making a joke about the Wilpons or counting to ten or forcing myself to consider possibilities that would render my tortured-anger response irrational and moot—the Mets could use De Aza in a different role, and the front office could still make improvements to the team this offseason—I indulged my coarse thoughts and base reactions, and I swam in the deep end of Twitter with others who were behaving similarly.
The thing of it is—the thing that renders #hottakes like the one I originally wrote rather absurd—is that it is utterly futile. We have no influence over the Wilpons, let alone their financial situation. "Payroll flexibility" is the unofficial company slogan, whether we like it or not. We can certainly choose to stop rooting for the Mets, but there aren't too many of us who want to do that. The final, most agreeable option is to accept it—i.e., that which we cannot change—and learn to live with it. Now that I have had some time to clear my head and think, I can say again for certain that that's the way I want to be. It isn't always easy, of course. I suppose I'll just have to remember to wear a flotation device the next time I wade into the deep end.