This whole Doc Gooden autograph flap is three parts hysterical and two parts pathetic. As I'm sure you are aware by now, Gooden had the audacity (note sarcastic tone) to sign a blank wall by a Citi Field bar as a cute little spontaneous act. The Wilpons, upon learning that Gooden neither pitched nor was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided to wipe the autograph clean. Many fans, including myself, thought that the autograph should stay and become the start of a makeshift mural of famous Met signatures ... you know, kind of like throwing a bra up at Hogs and Heifers.
The Mets, at first, took their familiar stance of anti-fan. Here's the part that got me:
"We still plan on honoring our past, but there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it." -Mets P.R. Director Jay HorwitzTo me, there was never any doubt that the Mets, eventually, would put up more Mets memorabilia around the park ... whether it was because they were taking their time getting around to it or whether they were going to cave in to fan pressure. The Doc autograph forced them to do it sooner rather than later. But in the Mets world, as in most business settings, there's a right way and a wrong way.
Translation: If the Mets had come up with the idea of former players autographing a wall and making it a mural first, that would have been the right way. Because somebody outside the organization thought about it before the Mets braintrust could, that was the wrong way.
But, eventually, the Mets changed their minds. Here's Horwitz explaining why:
"We got a lot of calls on this and it was a topic on [sports radio] all day, so we're going to listen to the fans. This is a way for us to honor our past."Is the Mets organization really that clueless as to not have an inkling about the fans desire to have a new park that honored their own? Really? They had to wait for the issue to hit sports radio? Fans have only been talking about the owners' obsession with the Dodgers and their perceived ignorance of Mets history for weeks and months!
Yet instead of recognizing a cool idea as it's hitting them over the head, they wait until they get some bad PR on sports radio before listening to their fans and saying "all right, you got what you wanted ... here's some ice cream to take to your room", and then ... and this is the best part ... telling us that this was "a way for us to honor our past."
"Us" ... didn't do a damn thing to honor anybody or anything. Mets fans honored their past by screaming bloody murder about it. Hell, the New York Post honored the Mets' past more by originally bringing it up. "Us" made a decision based more on avoiding bad PR than "honoring our past."
Remember when Doc was at Modell's? Various bloggers got to submit some questions for him (which was supposed to be an honest to goodness Q&A but the party was in kind of a rush), and I actually got a couple of mine answered. I asked how it felt to be back at Shea and about the ovation he got after so many years away from the Mets family. Here's what he said:
"The ovation they gave me, just now gave me chills. The fans here have been very forgiving to me, and they’re supportive at all times. And that’s just a great feeling. It was great to be back."I bring that up not only because I was going to bring it up anyway (his favorite and most influential Met, by the way: "Keith Hernandez, undoubtedly"), but because here's one of the most popular and one of the best Mets ever, a guy who spent a lot of time away for various reasons, who is now making inroads to become a part of the family again, and the family is embracing him. And the Mets, in one fell swoop, have threatened to screw it all up for no good reason.
"Last year when I came to say goodbye to Shea, the ovation the fans gave me made me want to come around more, but when things like this happen, it makes me feel like maybe the Mets don't want me around," Gooden said. "Maybe I shouldn't be, I don't know."Well why would they want him around, when the CEO of Spongetech or Armando Reynoso is just a phone call away when they need someone to throw out a ceremonial first pitch?
I'm a Mets fan. They were my first love. But the Mets are a business first, a brand second, and somewhere down the list they also play a little baseball. And it's never been more apparent to me than right now that I root for a business. I should just root for IBM, or Nestle. Or Sanford L.P. (They make Sharpies, you know.) It's really no different.