Brodie Van Wagenen appears to have a grasp on what the Mets need to turn the franchise around. On the search for an organizational identity…
Brodie Van Wagenen, in his press conference in Philadelphia prior to the Mets contest on Monday with the Phillies, took great pains to make lemonade out of lemons. Skepticism among the assembled reporters prevailed as Van Wagenen attempted to ease the latest embarrassment surrounding the organization. Catch up here if you’ve been in New Zealand the last twenty-four hours.
The fallout is likely to continue for at least a few days until the 24-hour news cycle closes it down. Mets fans are enraged by the Callaway/Vargas incident. Meaningless fines assessed by the Mets for both will not ease the storm of protests.
But aside from the immediate crisis, inherent in the words of Van Wagenen is a platform of (real) hope for all fans of the New York Mets. If only he can fix the myriad of issues facing the organization in a timely manner.
Before you read more though, I ask you to view the video of that press conference in its entirety. It’s about five minutes long. Hopefully, you’ll find the nuggets between what Van Wagenen had to say and what he wanted to say.
Mets: Establishing A Cultural Identity
Reading between the lines, Van Wagenen hits the proverbial nail on the head when he identifies the lack of communication between all levels of the Mets organization. In short, the Mets have no identity and they have no culture.
To digress for a minute as a way to illustrate the point, the task of parenthood is to communicate with their children the do’s and the do not’s of what it takes to help them assimilate into the American culture. Schools help in this process, but social education begins at the top with Mom and Dad.
Transferring the analogy to the world of major league baseball, and more specifically team organizations, it is incumbent on the front office (acting as parents) to communicate to every level of the organization The Mets Way.
As the everyday face of an organization, players become the “children” of the team. Whether signed in the June Amateur Draft, traded for, signed as a free agent, or hired as a manager or coach, there must be a process or program that assimilates the asset into the Mets Way – or culture.
Mets: Following The Process Of Others To Get Started
Say what you want about the stoic and stiltified Yankees organization, they “get” this concept. (Writer’s Note: A portion of Mets fans will stop reading here at the mention of those damn Yankees. Another Yankee’s fan blowhard telling us what we should be doing…sorry if you feel that way.)
Moving on, every Yankee’s player knows facial hair and even the nebulous definition of “long” hair (hello Clint Frazier and Don Mattingly) is a no-no with the Yankees. You won’t find anything in writing to enforce the rule. Instead, it’s inherent in “being a Yankee”.
Players like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres come up through the Yankees system, learning (because they are taught) not only how to lay down a bunt or hit the cutoff man. They are educated as to how to handle the media. Like the Mets, the Yankees do not exist in a vacuum of attention as players might if they played in Kansas City or Pittsburgh. This is New York City and interface with the media is a daily – and expected – occurrence.
Moreover, the Yankees give freedom to their veterans to run the clubhouse. CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner are on hand as traffic cops if they see a teammate upset about his play that night. They recognize the potential for trouble if that player is exposed to the media.
That explains why, for instance, Gardner stepped in to assume responsibility for Clint Frazier’s misplays in right field in a game, even though Frazier’s defensive liabilities were displayed for even novice fans to see. Other teammates see this and what is silently communicated is, “Hey, we got your back, here”.
So the question persists. Is there an identifiable Mets culture. I think not because Van Wagenen would not have left the clubhouse after a tough loss Sunday night to catch a flight, leaving Mickey Callaway to deal with the media and their endless questions about Edwin Diaz‘s non-usage in the game.
And where we might also ask, were Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Todd Frazier? Were they dressed and gone when Jason Vargas went off the deep end? More importantly, have they been told by Callaway – “You are the core of our team. I expect you to lead in the clubhouse as well as on the field. It’s part of the job you have with the Mets”?
Ironically, the one time Van Wagenen was needed (he has a propensity to regularly “tour” the clubhouse), he was noticeably absent.
Mets Fans: Committing To A Long And Arduous Process
Doubling down on Van Wagenen’s identifying the lack of a Mets culture as a major deficiency in the organization, these things don’t happen overnight.
That sign with the quote by Joe DiMaggio – “I want to thank the Lord for making me a Yankee” has been hanging above the tunnel entrance to the field for more than a half-century. Derek Jeter carried the torch for two decades by reaching up to touch the sign every game he played at Yankee Stadium. Small things make big things.
For many, all this is a bit too much, adding all those reasons to hate the Yankees and the arrogance associated with the team and their players.
Which, in turn, reduces the question about the Mets to this. Are the Mets fan base willing to devote the time (measured in years) for Brodie Van Wagenen to create a Mets culture from the top on down in the organization? A Mets culture, not a Yankees culture or a Dodgers culture. Instead, a culture exclusive to the New York Metropolitans, born and raised in Port St. Lucie and on up to Flushing, New York.
In order for that to happen though, Brodie Van Wagenen needs to utilize the same “talking points” we heard in the above video. Saying it once, twice, ten times is useless in this day and age of ten-second attention spans. Ditto for Mickey Callaway, his coaches, and throughout the Mets system.
Perhaps, Brodie can join Brian Cashman the next time his fellow GM propels down a building, shouting along the way….help me build a culture for the Mets…
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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