By Jared Max
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You know what’s Amazin? Despite playing from behind the eight ball — handicapped by a consistent flow of injuries to players (some critical) at almost every position since before opening day — not only do the Mets have a winning record, but their admirable, catch-as-catch-can determined endeavor has gone largely unnoticed.
While writing 20/20 updates in the WFAN newsroom last Friday, I listened to countless callers echo the same messages to host Demetri Adrahtas that I had heard and read, painstakingly, for weeks. The overwhelming voice: Not only are the Mets a detestable, underavhieving disappointment, but they should fire manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson.
What? Come again?
When the dam has broken, the best one should hope to do is be able to maintain. To sustain. Odds are, there will be losses. And great ones, potentially.
Not only has Collins managed to keep his team afloat — minus his team captain and near-perennial All-Star third baseman — but his can-do attitude is worthy of Mets fans’ highest recognition. As coach Norman Dale told the Hickory High student body in “Hoosiers,” “That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect.”
If our lineups at work were different nearly every day, how would we expect to build cohesion? How would we handle the high-pressure days?
Aside from three positions — first base, center field and right field — the Mets have not had a consistent presence from the same players anywhere this year.
Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson are the only players who have been in the same position more than 69 games. The Mets have been forced to use four catchers, and none has played fewer than 10 games. Six players have played third base. Five have worked second. Neither position has fielded the same player for more than 40 games. No major league team has more players currently injured than the Mets do.
Yet, somehow they have managed to win more games than they have lost. On any given day, they are within one sweeping series from overtaking first place.
Collins has cooked so many meals, utilizing the most economical, challenging ingredients. Even Gordon Ramsey might remove his own apron to hand it to the Mets’ head chef.
If Collins’ ingredients were not of bona fide quality, he would not be able to succeed. Because Alderson has conservatively managed the Mets’ farm system, he has been able to keep floods at bay. Seriously, as Mets junkie Jerry Seinfeld is known to say, “Who are these people?!”
Regardless of how much any fan thinks he knows about baseball, the digit is a fraction — if even a whole number — in comparison to the bank of knowledge that Alderson carries. What would you do wearing his shoes?
These guys are professional baseball players and managers. None claim to be Superman. Yet it seems many fans hold these fellow humans to standards that are not only unrealistic, but unfairly hypocritical.
We are all flawed.
The difference between us and the professionals (and many college athletes) is that we are not confronted by live cameras and microphones each day when we leave our jobs. We are not asked detailed questions about how we performed, about our reasoning behind each decision we made and every action we executed.
How do you feel about getting questioned by your spouse? Or your children? Or being bombarded at a family holiday dinner?
How might you perform day-to-day at your job, balancing this intrusive environment? Remember, you are not allowed to complain about the pressure getting to you, either. It would exacerbate your challenges.
Oh, and by the way, all of your interviews will be shared globally, in high definition and on airline WiFi.
Lawyers. Police officers. Ballplayers. Broadcasters. Teachers. Landscapers. Burger flippers. Bums. We are all flawed.
Yet when we count on another to provide us with a service — be it civilly, professionally, for our entertainment or consumption of food — we often set the strictest benchmarks for their performance.
“Well, that’s his job!”
It seems we hear this most when the occupation is one that we would feel incapable doing.
Do fans understand how grueling a baseball player’s life can be?
Sure, laugh as you start up the old, “Oh, c’mon! For that much money, they can ____(insert complaint) ___” argument. We have heard this, predictably, ad nauseam.
“Chartered flights, absent of airport security. Five-star hotels. Massaged and pampered by physical therapists and trainers.”
Blah. Blah. Blah.
I would love to see a reality TV show that follows 25 all-knowing, cocky, sports-radio calling baseball fans whose challenge is to survive a 162-game baseball season, undergoing the same rigors (simulated, of course) that the players who they regularly rip must endure.
As a Yankees fan, I marvel at what the Mets have been able to achieve. If they continue to hold serve and gain more healthy players than they lose, they should be able to fight for a playoff spot in September. What an honorable effort!
Baseball is supposed to be a leisure. Our pastime. Right? A game to us, a livelihood to the men who play it. Aside from a rare few, the players and managers do the best they can. The stakes are too high for anything but.
As Coach Dale in “Hoosiers” reinforced to those requesting another star player, “This is your team.”
Give the Mets a break. They just may surprise you.
And, yes, I have multiple degrees in Dime-Store Psychology — from the most reputable institutions.
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.