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By Rich Coutinho
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Nobody is more understanding of the trials and tribulations of a baseball season than me.
I’ve traveled with baseball teams, and I know how tired I got going from city to city scrunching 162 games into a 180-day block. And I am not playing; I’m merely sitting, interviewing and reporting. But I have learned one thing from all that — the “9 to 5″ person has no patience for that nonsense, because he or she would beg, borrow and steal to do what we do.
You respond to those “tired” days with professionalism as your base. Couple that with the passion you have for the game, and it gets you through the game to bring your top effort to the press box every single day. Some days are better than others, but you never go home thinking you could have done more.
An inadequate analogy? Probably, but I hope you get the point here.
You can feel tired. You can look tired. But you can never admit in public that you are tired. Never, Never, Never. And there is a good reason for this. Being tired could be construed as unprepared, complacent and most importantly, incompetent.
And that is NEVER a good signal to send to your employer. But there is a bigger issue here.
The Mets have a plethora of young players who, even as adults, are very impressionable because it’s their first journey in the Major Leagues. Simply put, using fatigue as an excuse for poor performance is a terrible example to set for young players.
So when I heard Terry Collins admit that Daniel Murphy was tired and needed to sit out a few games, I knew that the reaction from Mets fans would be crystal clear — and my Twitter messages have confirmed that very fact.
Now don’t get me wrong — there are real positives I extract from the Mets this year. Ruben Tejada is going to be a great shortstop for years to come and the starting pitching looks to be in very good shape for 2013. But the bullpen and the offense remain huge areas that need to be developed.
But this is not even about that.
I know Met fans. I grew up in a house full of them and understand them as well as any Mets beat reporter. They can accept the losing if it comes with passion, fire and maximum effort. They can accept the fact that they will be number two in this town. They do not like it, but they accept it because they know there were times in their life when that wasn’t the case — for long stretches of time.
But what they can’t accept is the perception that players are too tired to play or have lost interest in playing. Being around this team, I do not believe that to be true. But intent does not always equal perception, and fans aren’t stupid. They see giveaway at bats and sloppy defense, and they think that signifies player apathy.
Some suggest that the Mets have nothing to play for, but I say that is a bunch of nonsense. You are a professional baseball player and you should act accordingly.
I remember the first game I ever attended –in September of 1967 — when then-rookie Tom Seaver took on the Atlanta Braves led by Henry Aaron. The Mets were dead last in the league but Seaver performed like it was Game 7 of the World Series. He did not do it for his manager or even for the fans in attendance. He did it because, on that day, he was a professional baseball player performing in his office — the pitcher’s mound. It didn’t matter if he was tired or if it was the end of a long season.
There are no Seavers on the current-day Mets roster, but the concept should be easy to grasp.
Fatigue is never an excuse, and Mets fans have no interest in hearing it.
Mets fans, can you bring yourselves to keep watching this team the rest of the way? Will you stick with them or have you packed it in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…