July 23, 2002
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Lord knows they're flawed. They have quite possibly the worst fielding outfield in major league history. Their catcher is a living EZ Pass to second base. Their manager makes decisions that have fans scratching their heads weeks later. The players they're bringing up from Norfolk -- Mike Bacsik, Jae Seo, Marco Scutaro -- are better than the players who've been around all
season. Despite their $100 million-plus payroll, they still have to climb over three teams just to get to the wild card.
But let's cut the Mets some slack.
Because sports talk radio is the soundtrack to my life, I hear the rips, complaints, whines, second guesses, screeds and lame trade ideas all the time. But never have I heard one caller or host in New York point this out: The Mets have done more for the city in the wake of 9/11 than you know.
The Mets have always had a deep relationship with the city's police officers and firefighters, partly because many of them pass Shea on their way to work from their homes in Queens, partly because of Rusty Staub's longstanding charity benefiting the widows of the police and fire departments. One of the staging areas for the relief efforts after 9/11 was the Shea Stadium parking lot, and Mets players and employees pitched in, whatever way they could. The players donated a chunk of their pay. Thanks to a season-ticket holder who suggested it to GM Steve Phillips who suggested it to equipment manager Charlie Samuels, the Mets were the first team to wear those hats paying tribute to the city agencies who lost people at the World Trade Center. They even eased the grief with a late run at the Braves.
|The Mets mourned with their community and their fans.|
In the days and weeks and months
afterwards, John Franco, Al Leiter, Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile and others went everywhere, comforting, raising money, letting the survivors know they would not be forgotten. And leading these efforts was the man who's always been the lightning rod for the Mets fans' dissatisfaction. "It all starts with Bobby," says Franco. "He's the one who's done the most."
And they continue to do it in ways not publicized. Look, this is not a Mets vs. Yankees kind of thing: The Yankees have done plenty to help New York, as well. But there's a real sensitivity and understanding on the Mets that's inspiring to see. They get it. And because they get it, we shouldn't get on their case -- at least not just yet.
In the weeks ahead, as another work stoppage approaches, you will hear a lot of this: How can the players be so insensitive to the anniversary of 9/11? How can they shut down a game that pays them so much already so soon after we found out they're not the real heroes? Don't they care?
The argument has potency. But it cuts both ways.
How can we be so hard on a team that truly cares?
Steve Wulf is executive editor of ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.