Paging Dr. Melfi

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Last night for the 2nd game of the doubleheader, I was joined at the ball park by CrazyMetGirl (with a guest appearance by Coop), and we got to talking about what seemed wrong with the team that game.

Because something was definitely wrong.

By the end of the 9 innings, we couldn’t believe that our team had gotten only 4 hits and 1 run, and made 2 errors. Against Bronson Arroyo. And the Reds. This whole series should be a gimme.

No, no, it’s not that oft-discussed “time to panic.” But perhaps it is time to pull a Tony Soprano and hire the team its own Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Because watching our boys on that field toward the end of the game–as the Reds’ lead grew, as the Mets’ job grew harder–they just kind of seemed to…give up.

“It’s in their heads,” I told CrazyMetGirl. “The pressure has gotten to them.” You can see this in the games where the Mets start off behind. I’m not sure what the numbers are for come-from-behind wins in 2008, but I don’t think they’ll look too good. Especially against the weaker teams, when they know they should be winning easily. What seems to happen is that each individual (with the exception of a few, yes) seems to put the burden of getting the win on his own shoulders. Rather than act as a team–or pick each other up–they each seem to be letting the pressure mess them up individually. And then, at a certain point, they lose focus and give up before the game is over–last night it was around the 8th inning. How can you even hope to come back from behind then?

What pressure am I talking about? Well, it builds with every loss. There’s 1) The Collapse. No need to elaborate. 2) Playing around .500. If you take that literally, that’s not winning. It’s pretty much breaking even–which everyone reminds the Mets all the time is not what they’re supposed to do. 3) The booing. By which I mean the fan expectations. As heard by the team every game at Shea. 4) The talking about the booing. Newspapers. TV. Blogs–all the coverage of the fan unrest gives it that much more weight. The team knows they’ll have to answer questions about it every friggin’ day. 5) The “Fire Willie” bomb about to drop at any moment. Can it help the boys to know their manager’s job is in their hands with every at bat or defensive play?

Think about ’06. At the beginning of that season, no one was saying the Mets had to make the playoffs or else. Willie’s job was certainly not on the line. After sucking for a few years, there was just so much less pressure to win. And so they did.

Now, I’m not saying all these levels of pressure should go away. It would be nice if some of it could, yes, for the team to be able to play at their optimal abilities. But in NYC, there will always be some pressure to win, period. The question is, how can the team better deal with it? Or how can they deal with it together instead of imploding individually?

In the short term, the answer seems to be to score as many runs as possible in the earliest innings to mitigate some of the immediate stress. But what’s the long term answer? Could it be team therapy?

Hey, my dad’s a shrink. Mets, want to hire Zoe’s daddy?

And speaking of Zoe’s parents, happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all moms everywhere :-)

Here are some pics from last night’s game including a mom herself, CrazyMetGirl. I like the one of her and Coop dancing to the 8th inning sing-along “I’m a Believer.”

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2 Comments

No, my mind’s not changed– you’re still dealing with people as people, and not as robo-athletes, slackers, symbols of class struggle, and Lord knows what else.

Tim McCarver wrote that especially in New York, you don’t have a 162-game season, you have 162 one-game seasons. I’m already feeling that! It’s very easy to get pulled into a tide of emotion– when they’re winning, the emotion is delicious—lots of wins, a pennant race, those kinds of triumphs are intoxicating. It’s addicting. We had a big shot of it and were cut off abruptly in 2006. We’ve had a few tastes— your dad is a shrink, Zoe, you must know about intermittent gratification. It makes those poor little lab rats crazy.

I come from Brooklyn Dodger fans, and I kicked this around a little bit with Dana Brand on his wonderful blog. My mom went to church and prayed for Gil Hodges when he was in a batting slump—she didn’t boo him. Nobody would have thought of booing big Gil! That’s what you did to the other team. People have told me about all the sociological and economic reasons why that’s no longer the case. People repeatedly harp on how much money these guys are making, and how they’re all just hired guns. I don’t think all this contemplation of the larger social forces at play enters into people’s minds when they boo (e.g.) Aaron Heilman. It’s just hurt and disappointment converting to rage, and it converts to rage somehow quicker than it used to—with all those intensifying media forces you mention.

In his Mother’s Day posting, Dana reported asking his mother how she dealt with all the years of the Dodgers losing before they got good, and then great in the late 40s and 50s. She said “We didn’t care if they were good. They were the Dodgers.” Even I can’t imagine that!! I do want the Mets to be good. I think they are good—thus my frustration. But I don’t think they are somehow deliberately cheating me. I just don’t believe that these Mets are perfectly content to play poorly and lose.

Makes a lot of sense–a thoughtful comment!

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