October 03, 2009

"Afraid to Win": The Story of the 2009 Mets

A few weeks ago, when Derek Jeter was about to pass Lou Gehrig on the Yankees' hit list, I almost posted the following paragraph:

"While needless to say I love watching Jeter play, and I have nothing but warm feelings towards Joe Torre, when I see a quote from the ex-skipper about the Captain like: "Just the tenacity, the determination. He's not afraid to win," I do have a strong urge to bury my head in my hands and weep for the English language. No one in sports is as good as Torre at stringing a selection of pre-approved words into convincing but meaningless sentences. He's "not afraid to win"? How many professional ballplayers are afraid to win? Except Chuck Knoblauch, maybe? Is that really what prevents the average player from being Derek Jeter, their victory phobias? Gah."
I decided not to put it up, because it seemed too grouchy - bitching about one of Torre's well-meaning platitudes in the middle of a nice celebratory moment. But I remembered it the other day while I was watching the Mets lose, again, to the Washington Nationals... Maybe I was too hard on Joe Torre, I thought. Maybe this is what "afraid to win" looks like.

I'm not serious, of course - all the psychoanalysis in the world wouldn't make that shredded lineup a pennant winner. But this year's Mets will make you entertain a lot of strange thoughts. They've overcome all kinds of obstacles, and repeatedly defied the odds, to lose in a series of remarkable ways.

(SIDE NOTE: I also thought of my abandoned blog post when Knoblauch was arrested for domestic assault the other day. Afraid to win, perhaps, but not to - allegedly! - hit his wife. Lovely.)

Anyway, I think every Mets fan I know wants Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel fired, though few have any hope that it'll actually happen. Given the staggering array of injuries, I'm not sure it's really fair to call for their heads... on the other hand, I don't think I can argue with it, either. There's a lot to answer for, and I don't know how else the team would be able to start spring training without this year's toxins hanging over them.

Then again, as an alternative, maybe they could try teaching their players how to run the bases and field grounders. Sure, winning is frightening - but just using both hands to catch popups, that's not so scary, is it?