During last night’s broadcast, Ron Darling had one of those moments, which I assume all ex-pro sports casters are contractually obliged to have, where he blithely jumped from calling into question the current Mets team’s intensity and conduct (there had apparently been laughter coming from the showers while Glavine was giving his post-mortem comments on Sunday’s game), to claiming that today the entire game is played with a lack of toughens and respect—he referred to the modern ball player as “sensitive” and whined about them listening to their i-pods on the team flight, instead of commiserating with pitchers and figuring out how to win. To back this all up he told a story about how upset he was after a tough loss for the Mets in the ‘80s, where he would have won if anyone had gotten a hit; but after the game the position players were apparently more interested in college football than why they screwed over Ron Darling. Of course this actually makes the opposite point, and one would not be surprised to learn that throughout the game’s history there have been things somewhat more compelling to certain players than their immediate failings—and I seem to recall that in the ‘80s the Mets were pretty good, despite the preference of football over Darling.
I’m not generally tempted to listen to people who are being crotchety, but there are actually some points here. It’s hard to tell if the Mets are just on a run of awful luck, or if they are losing because they are taking things for granted and not “doing the little things that it takes to win.” Well, I guess it is actually pretty clearly a combination of the two, but there is no way of knowing which is the principal factor. Darling and Gary Cohen seemed to think that the answer is for one of the veterans to step up and get the clubhouse in order—the only candidate that they discussed at any length was Paul Lo Duca, although Julio Franco’s name was also mentioned.
For my money, I wish it could be Carlos Delgado—although there are a myriad of reasons why it probably can’t. The principal of these is that, perhaps more than any other single factor, the Met’s current problems are a result of just how god awful Delgado has been this year. Lately, Delgado has been hitting approximately nothing with runners in scoring position, and while he has been hitting more home runs, they have generally come without runners on base. Then there is the feeling that things have never been exactly right between Delgado and the team brass: they tried to recruit him as a free agent in 2005, but he found their efforts to woo him patronizing and offensive and signed with the Marlins instead; when they traded for him before 2006, everything was supposed to be resolved, but it is still hard to know how well he gets along, as a proud and clearly intelligent Latino, on a team owned by the Wilpons and in a clubhouse that seems to be dominated by venerable old white guys like Tom Glavine and Billy Wagner.
Beyond these issues, I think that Delgado is the perfect person to lead the team—in previous years he has been the definition of clutch and he clearly commands the respect of most people who know him. There are tons of things that point to the idea that Delgado is a man of uncommon character-- from his charitable efforts to, quite frankly, his refusal to sign with a team that he felt treated him condescendingly. Perhaps most telling was the fact that, during last year’s post season, Lo Duca published a comment about how Delgado was a great man both on and off the field—which I found significant because Delgado’s politics are openly left of center and Lo Duca seems to spend all the time that he can spare from the ponies signing baseball caps for soldiers and policemen. I wish that it were Delgado’s team…but if he just felt like getting a couple of RBIs I’d take that too.
On a kind of an opposite note: Willie Randolph needs to buy a water-board and a cattle-prod, and go to work on Carlos Gomez if he ever even thinks about hitting a home run again. What’s the point of being faster than Jose Reyes if you hit the ball out of the park? There isn’t one.
Oh, and condolences to Jose Reyes: yesterday was his birthday. I’m about two months younger than the star shortstop, and I’m already shaking in fear at the mere idea of being twenty-four… and it’s not like people start questioning your fitness for library work when you turn thirty-five.