The Off-Season: The One Who Got Away
By Tim Kabel
December 13, 2021
The lockout trudges onward much like Tim Conway when he played the old man on the Carol Burnett Show, shuffling and grunting but not really going anywhere. We keep seeing rumors and speculation about what various teams, including the Yankees, will or won’t do once the lockout ends. There have been some moves, such as the signing of Rob Brantley to a minor league contract. Other teams have done similar things. There are also decisions that are being made regarding hirings of managers and coaches.
One of the openings happens to be with the Yankees’ crosstown rival, the Mets. They fired their manager, Luis Rojas, at the end of the season. He has since been hired by the Yankees to be the third base coach. Apparently, the Mets are considering about half a dozen people to fill their managerial position. They have not hired anyone yet but, they are headed in that direction. There is one name among the candidates that sticks out more than the others.
I have made no secret about the fact that I am not Aaron Boone’s number one fan. I suspect that Daniel Boone might have been a better manager than Aaron Boone but, we will never know. I don’t loathe Aaron Boone; I don’t loathe anyone. If I were to meet him, I would shake his hand and engage him in pleasant conversation. I would even be willing to sit down and have a detailed discussion of baseball with him over tuna sandwiches and potato chips. I simply don’t feel that he is the best candidate to manage the team. I was not pleased when they signed him to yet another contract and I have very little confidence that he will lead the team to a victory in the World Series. At the end of the season, I was hoping Boone would be replaced with Buck Showalter. I wasn’t the only person with this idea. Many people felt that Buck would be the best choice. However, it was not to be. It will most likely never happen. Buck is in his mid-sixties and his next managerial job might be his last. It is the prospect of his next managerial job that has me slightly annoyed. Buck Showalter is widely considered to be the front runner for the Mets job
The Mets and their fans are like cicadas. Every 17 years or so, they emerge from someplace, no one knows exactly where. They appear in large numbers and make a great deal of noise. After a short but incredibly annoying period of time among us, they disappear, returning from whence they came for another 17 years or so. When the Mets start to get good, their fans puff themselves up. Rather than enjoying their own team’s success, they come after Yankees’ fans and make grandiose claims that the Mets are now the kings of New York, and they own the city. They view their players as superstars after they achieve very modest success.
Do you remember Matt Harvey? He was considered by himself and Mets’ fans to be the second coming of Tom Seaver. He made it to the major leagues with the Mets in 2012. There was a lot of buzz surrounding him, much of it produced by him. He was referred to as The Dark Knight. It was believed he would lead the Mets to the promised land. Mets’ fans laughed when comparing him to anyone the Yankees had. In his best year, 2015, he was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA. He has never won ten or more games in any other season. Well, he is currently a free agent. In his nine-year career, he has a record of 50-66. His ERA is 4.42 He has played for five different teams. So much for being the second coming of Tom Seaver. Let’s make some fun comparisons. Ed Figueroa pitched for the Yankees from 1976 through 1980. In 1976 he won 19 games, in 1977, he won 16 games, and in 1978, he won 20 games with a 2.99 earned run average. His career record in eight years was 80-67 with a 3.51 ERA.
Dick Tidrow, who pitched for the Indians, Yankees, Cubs, White Sox, and Mets, was both a starter and a reliever. On two occasions, he won 14 games, more than Harvey ever won. On five occasions, he won 11 or more games in a season. His career record was 100-94 with a 3.68 ERA. Luis Severino has been ravaged by injuries but still, had seasons with 14 and 19 wins. His career record is 43-26 with a 3.43 ERA.
The point of this is that the Mets and in particular, their fans, become frenzied due to their inferiority complex that comes as a result of sharing the town with the Yankees. I am not trying to stir up trouble here. I’m not like Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, picking a fight with the Russian. I’m simply reporting the facts, as I see them. Mets’ fans seize the mildest successes and puff them into great and wonderful achievements. Matt Harvey was not the second coming of Tom Seaver. He wasn’t even the second coming of Ed Figueroa or Dick Tidrow. Right now, he’s just hoping that he latches on with somebody, anybody. Being cut adrift by the Orioles doesn’t exactly make you The Dark Knight. It makes you the second coming of Rodney Dangerfield.
Now that the Mets have made a splash in free agency, the cicadas are crawling out of the woodwork. Starling Marte is a good player but, he’s not a great player. The Mets’ fans built up Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto. Cespedes is out of baseball, presumably bonding with his boar. Conforto is a free agent. At one point, Mets fans were saying that Michael Conforto was better than Aaron Judge. No one is saying that now. The signing of Max Scherzer is hard to argue with. The only negatives are his age and the fact that in his last two postseason appearances, there were games where he was unable to pitch when his team needed him. Still, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
This leads me back to my original point. Buck Showalter is an excellent manager. He is the man I wanted to manage the Yankees next year. It’s bad enough that he won’t be doing that, and we remain under the stewardship of an affable but, less than competent fellow who chews gum and blows bubbles as a means of leadership. Buck Showalter may well be managing the Mets next season. If that happens, we will have a swarm of cicadas of biblical proportions. Some Mets’ fans may balk at it, saying that Buck is too old or that he has been tainted by his Yankees affiliation. However, once he starts to win, which he will, the fanbase will embrace him. We will once again here how the Mets are taking over the city. This creates a major dilemma for Yankees’ fans who also happen to like Buck Showalter. Whatever are we to do?
Well, I’m certain the racket produced by the Mets and their fans will be quite loud and cacophonous. However, I won’t begrudge Buck Showalter any success he may achieve. I wish him well wherever he goes and if he manages the Mets, I will hope that he succeeds and that they win on a regular basis, unless of course, they are playing the Yankees. I had the same approach when he managed Texas and Baltimore. This will be much worse but, it will pass. If it happens, eventually the din will will die down, and the cicadas will return to their underground nests.
Meanwhile, Yankees fans will get to see a lot of bubbles.