Before the Democrats had Wall Street and Trump had Mexican immigrants, Mets fans had the Wilpons to blame for all the team’s ills. Whenever the Mets were at or near the basement of the NL East over the last 7 years, the fans would ready their fingers for pointing at Jeff and Fred. “They are slashing payroll! They are in debt! They meddled in baseball decisions! We can’t win unless they sell the team!”
As you might expect, the Wilpons heard the criticism and simply joined in on the scapegoating. In fact, you could say they were the trailblazers for all the modern political finger pointing trends by blaming Bernie Madoff and Latin American immigrant General Manager Omar Minaya. It would be nice if Mets fans, the Wilpons, politicians, and society as a whole could all just unite in their scapegoating and find one illegal immigrant Mexican insider trading hedge fund manager to blame for all of the world’s problems, but I fear that day may never come.
Anyway, whenever the losing set in over the last 7 years (usually right before the All-Star break), Mets fans were ready with the stock Wilpon excuses. However, 2016 will be the first season in a long time where the Wilpons won’t be the default scapegoat. In fact, because the Wilpons signed Yoenis Cespedes and let Maverick Sandy make every move he wanted, fans can’t possibly blame them. At least not this year.
That being said, in a season that begins with the highest of expectations, finger pointing is inevitable the second the slightest thing goes wrong. So without further ado, here is the list of Top 5 likeliest goats if things fall apart in 2016:
5) The New Guy – Whenever things go wrong, the easiest thing to do is to blame the new guy. And when the new guy is replacing a particularly popular player in Daniel Murphy, it makes him an even likelier target. Neil Walker has been one of the most consistently productive offensive 2B in all of baseball over the last 5 seasons. He’s a switch hitter, a better defender than Murphy, and he’s in a contract year. There’s almost no reason to believe he will do anything but thrive in the middle of the Mets lineup and earn himself a nice big payday after the season. That being said, after watching Jason Bay come over to New York as one of the most productive outfielders in the league and inexplicably deteriorate right before our eyes, there’s no guarantee that someone will thrive in the Big Apple just because they excelled in Pittsburgh. Plus look at the guy. I know he’s got a reputation as a hard-nosed player, but he appears to be butter soft. He looks like the kind of guy that reads the Bible in the hotel room on road trips. And not in that Daniel Murphy psycho fundamentalist Christian way but in that “I read it for the wisdom within” kind of way. I’m confident he is going to have a huge season for us. However, he’ll be one of the first fan targets if he has a rough start to the season and the team struggles.
4) Old Man Collins – The manager is always a top scapegoat target especially when the team has high expectations for the season. Terry “Cotton Hill” Collins has faced a ton of adversity during his tenure managing this team. From the time he was hired in 2011 until August of last season, the team was completely awful. But the team was bad by design during those years. For the first time ever, Terry has the real NYC spotlight on him, and every managerial decision he makes is going to get scrutinized at an extreme level. Just look at Harveygate in Game 5 of the World Series. Even though he’s made a ton of questionable in game decisions during his time as manager, Game 5 may have been the first time he was broadly criticized by all the MLB talking heads. Why? Because it was a big game and people were actually paying attention. Now Terry is going to face that level of scrutiny for 162 games. We’ve seen Terry handle losing when it was expected, but it’ll be interesting to see how he handles a losing streak when Vegas expects us to win.
3) David Wright‘s Titanium Spine– Last season, David Wright‘s spinal stenosis and all the injuries on the team in general had a major impact on the Mets pre-trade deadline performance. However, the injured players didn’t get blamed as much as the Wilpons did for not allowing Sandy Alderson to build a deep roster. Well now we have a deep roster, and David Wright has started his inevitable transformation into an injury-prone cyborg. With his spine deteriorating by the day and his desperate need for a futuristic titanium replacement growing, he’s in danger of becoming more machine than man. If he once again misses lengthy periods of the season and the team struggles, the fans may finally start complaining a little more about his frailty and gigantic contract. Or maybe all his robot parts will translate into a late career surge in performance and like astronaut Steve Austin he will transform into the inflation adjusted 138 million dollar man that we always hoped he would be.
2) Matt Harvey and his Sexcapades – Matt Harvey is the face of the Mets franchise. He demanded to be the face when he arrived, and he got his wish. He is always on the brink of being blamed for everything under the sun. He tweeted out that picture after his Tommy John surgery where he was flipping everyone off and he was widely criticized. At the end of last season, everyone was ready to crucify him because of the media fabricated story that he wanted to stop pitching once he reached his “innings limit”. Before the playoffs started he missed some BS workout and everyone was freaking out. The point is everything he does is going to be scrutinized. And all those criticisms I mentioned have happened while he’s been at the top of his game. If he experiences just the slightest amount of playoff hangover fatigue and his performance dips, it won’t be long before the media is blaming his appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers for the team’s “lack of focus”. As long as the team is winning and he is performing at the top of his game, he can turn his limo into a clown car full of models and take them all to see the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. If Harvey and the Mets struggle, he’ll be run out of town faster than you can say “Dark Knight”.
1) Yoenis Cespedes and his Smoking/Bat Flipping/Laziness – The acquisition of Cespedes, his torrid summer, and the Mets playoff run, happened so fast that fans barely had time to complain about anything let alone about Cespedes. But that didn’t stop a contingent of asshole Mets fans from forming after the World Series who thought the Mets should let Cespedes walk because he misplayed Alcides Escobar‘s lead-off inside the park home run in Kansas City. That’s right. There were fans who turned against the man who carried the team to the playoffs because he had a bad World Series (along with everyone else on the team). Imagine how quickly they will turn on him if he has a down month and the offense can’t get anything going during his slump. I can hear the complaining already. “His bat flipping is cocky” and “He takes lazy routes to the ball” and “He doesn’t run hard to first base” and on and on. Let’s not forget that Cespedes already has a made up reputation for being a clubhouse distraction, so it’s only a matter of time before the media decides to dust off the old lies and re-print them. In fact, he’ll wind up getting scapegoated for a lot of the same reasons Trump scapegoats Mexican immigrants. Basically a bunch of made up racist reasons. Anyway, let’s hope that we win 100 games and his bat flipping becomes an iconic memory of the season rather than a symbol of his “immaturity” like the Mejia save stomp (R.I.P. Jenrry).
After a run to the World Series and a successful offseason, it’s hard to feel anything but positive about our chances coming into the season. That being said, these are the Mets we are talking about. And I know come Opening Day when the Mets are losing to the Royals in Kansas City and my beer is half-empty, I am going to be looking to point my finger at someone. Better to just prepare for the inevitable now.