Willie Opens Can of Worms

NY Mets can of wormsOh no, Willie … say it ain’t so …

At some point yesterday, the “collapse” of 2007 was again broached, and though Willie Randolph has heard this question at least a thousand times since last October, he suddenly added a sour-tasting lemon twist to his standard answer:

“In our mind, we moved on,” Randolph said of last season’s historic meltdown. “Obviously, the fans are having a tough time moving past that.” (NY Post)

Hoo boy … way to open up a can of worms there, Willie!

I wasn’t in the lockerroom, and thus didn’t hear the questions being fired at Randolph, so I’m willing to cut him some slack. But, the fact that the fans have been invoked will not help Willie’s already fragile image, nor quiet the Shea boo birds.

From The New York Times:

“My players are out there trying to win ballgames,” Randolph said. “They’re busting their butt trying to do that. I don’t think anyone should react to the fan reaction. When we start to play well, then you’ll start to see a change in all that. As far as my players, we don’t talk about it. We don’t concern ourselves with it.”

That does not mean he has not noticed the fans’ concern.

“In spring training we were past that,” Randolph said. “Obviously the fans are having a tough time moving past that. So we just hope that they eventually get behind this team, because we’re going to make them real proud before the year is over.”

Yeah, Willie, I can taste the Champagne now ….

Here’s my take: you can’t say you don’t concern yourself with something, but readily admit to it and also have a solution for it. Willie’s attempt at Jedi mind tricks will not convince me that the players are ignoring the boos at Shea Stadium — it’s obviously been discussed among his “tight knit group”.

As loyal reader Walnutz stated:

This is not a majority of the fans at Shea (believe me, they’d know if it was) — and anyone on the roster who feels it’s a “problem” for them, should be relieved of their aggravation immediately.

Agreed — as annoying and embarrassing the booing at Shea has become, it’s a small minority of fans. The Mets players think they’re getting booed? Apparently they weren’t paying attention when Braden Looper appeared in the 2006 NLCS.

And while I admire Willie for not ducking a question about the New York fans, Walnutz also has another good point:

Someone in the media asks you a question like this, when you know nothing good can come from it? *give a chuckle — and don’t answer*

By answering the question, Willie may have driven the wedge between the team and its fans. Or as Isuzude says:

The problem I’m picking up on is that there is a rampant mentality of “us” vs. “them.” It’s the fans against the team. And that’s not helping anybody.

I agree with ‘dude — there is an “us vs. them” taking shape at Shea — it’s a small snowball, but Willie’s words have started it rolling down the hill. And like ‘dude, I further agree that Willie is right — many fans haven’t gotten over “the collapse”. But at the same time I’m not certain ALL the Mets have fully recovered.

There’s a genuine possibility that many Mets simply don’t enjoy playing in New York City — during down times, anyway. They may be professionals and their performance may not be drastically affected, but it could be affected just enough to mean the difference between winning and losing a few ballgames. Playing at the MLB level, it doesn’t take much to give the other team an advantage on a given night.

Last year’s 41-40 record at Shea is an indication that the Mets simply didn’t feel comfortable playing at home. Some may point to the cool early season weather of NYC as a problem for the many Mets who hail from warm-weather climates. However, that argument doesn’t play well when you consider that the 2007 Mets began their season 15-9 in April and 19-9 in May (14-10 at home during that span).

Interestingly, the Mets have started out 9-5 at home this season — so if the fans are affecting certain players, it’s not (yet) enough to change the outcome of games. But what if this wedge continues to be driven? What if the boo-birds begin to wear on some of the players?

Bottom line: this can of worms should not have been opened — it should have remained a non-issue. Hopefully the Mets will go on a hot streak, and the Shea boo-birds will find their way back to the Bronx, and we can all have a happy summer in the city.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. murph May 7, 2008 at 12:34 am
    “Obviously, the fans are having a tough time moving past that.”

    Some fans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
    Yes, the Mets must put last season’s colossal collapse behind them.
    As professionals, they had better! But to ask the same from the fans is simply not realistic.

    Fan is short for fanatic. Fans are emotionally invested in a team’s fortune. Fans have been following the Mets longer than any of the players have worn a Mets uniform. Fans suffer through years of mediocrity and get excited when the post season is dangled in front of them.

    Many of these fans were not at those last games in September, so they never got a chance to give a big F-U to the players who let them down.

    To paraphrase Chris Rock’s:
    “I’m not saying he should have killed her, but I understand”.
    I say:
    I don’t condone booing your home team, but I understand.