The Mets are squabbling internally again. Noah tells Daddy he likes one brother better than another. And Daddy is left to pick up the pieces. Why now Noah, why now?
Someone close to the Mets let the dogs out. On a day when the team is hanging on by a single thread to climb over four teams to earn a Wild Card, the headlines speak not of Jacob deGrom‘s masterpiece over the Diamondbacks. Instead, for the second day now, we read of Noah Syndergaard‘s whining to his boss’s boss about who he wants to throw to.
Never mind that Syndergaard’s job description says nothing about making out the Met’s lineup card. After all, if it were up to him, Juan Lagares and his lofty defense skills and a weak bat would be playing center field when he pitches. But that’s not how it works in the business Syndergaard has chosen to pursue. And Noah knows it.
What’s The Beef?
Syndergaard took it upon himself to speak directly to the Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen. Syndergaard’s message was to tell him he has a preference to throw to Tomas Nido, rather than the Met’s hitting machine catcher, Wilson Ramos.
Brodie’s response should have been, “Son, when you learn how to pitch instead of throwing to your catcher, maybe we can talk about it. Maybe. Until then, how about doing the job you contracted to do?”
Instead, Van Wagenen chose to wave the flag, calling all player patriots to the table hoping they would bite. Chastizing Syndergaard only indirectly by reminding everyone the Mets are family, and it does no one any good when a rogue wanders off the reservation.
On the SNY telecast last night, both Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, whom I have great respect for, nonetheless took the bait. Even so far as when the subject arose thanks to Gary Cohen’s nose for a few minutes of good television, Hernandez casually remarked, “No, Ronnie. You go first”.
Understanding their awareness of who butters their bread, both men nonetheless waded carefully by their choice of words in scolding Syndergaard for his behavior. Or at least for his poor choice of timing.
Adding Some Perspective
Not to be misunderstood as an excuse for Syndergaard, it is helpful to point out that Hernandez and Darling come from a different generation of ballplayers. Agents, big contracts, and the Player’s Association were still in their infancy when they played for the Mets.
In thirteen seasons as a big leaguer Ron Darling, for instance, earned $17, 980,000, the equivalent of what a decent number three starter makes now in one season. In only four years, Syndergaard has already taken down almost $11 million, and his best days are yet to come via arbitration and the ultimate payday when he becomes a free agent in 2022.
Money, my friends, is power. While not a revelation to anyone, it is relevant here. Unlike the days of yesteryear when loyalty to your team and not getting a raise based on last year’s performance was commonplace, players today are nomads. If I don’t like it here, I’ll go there.
To reiterate, I am not pining for the “good ole days” of baseball. But players today, Syndergaard among them, perceive themselves differently. Jumping over his boss’s head (Mickey Callaway – if he did) is not a mortal sin. It’s their way of doing business. And the leverage they have is far more explosive than in the pre-Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith times when players mainly were indentured servants to team ownership.
The Mets And Syndergaard Just Ain’t Working
So, what am I getting at? If it’s not about “family” and team, then what should this be about?
Start with the obvious. Baseball is, above all else, a business. As with any business, the owner(s) employ people to work for them. Rules and guidelines regarding expected behavior are established, and in many cases, given to each employee.
As an employee of the New York State Department of Correction for 20 plus years, I was provided a “Blue Book” which I was made to return upon retirement, or the State would charge me $50. When it was determined (later overturned – I retired anyway), I had violated one of the extensively explained rules, I was terminated.
The dispute between the Mets and Noah Syndergaard is relevant in that spirit. Syndergaard signed a contract with the Mets. The details of which we are not privy to, but we can guess there are provisions in there that pertain directly or indirectly to his actions.
Far from suggesting Syndergaard should be fired for his transgression, it should at least be clear to him he is on the borderline of facing disciplinary action, especially if he had anything to do with leaking “the story” to the media.
Why Don’t You Simply Say It, Noah?
The Mets have tried several times to deal Syndergaard. Not only does that tell us something about the way the Mets view Syndergaard, but it should also tell Syndergaard something too.
And maybe, that’s what this is all about. Syndergaard wants out – but he doesn’t have the power to do it himself – yet. Raise a big stink, and who knows what can happen? He’s done it before.
But if that’s his game, let the buyer beware. And maybe it would be just desserts for the Mets to send his butt to Detroit, Baltimore, or Kansas City where he can ply his wares with a losing franchise for the next three years.
Or worse yet, send him to the Yankees where the first thing he would have to do is cut his hair and trade in his toy, the motor scooter he uses to weave in and out of traffic in lower Manhattan.
Much as with Matt Harvey, in a game that men (not boys) play, it’s time for the Mets to realize – this ain’t working…