New York Sinks to New Depths: Beloved Mascot Mr. Met Dealt to Cleveland

Once the happiest mascot in baseball, Mr. Met was a shell of his former self as the Mets' losses mounted.

Once the happiest mascot in baseball, Mr. Met was a shell of his former self as the Mets' losses continued to mount.

In a move that sent shockwaves throughout the world of baseball, the New York Mets sent longtime mascot Mr. Met to the Cleveland Indians in return for a pair of minor league mascots. Mr. Met, a part of the organization since 1963, had a closed-door meeting with GM Omar Minaya over the weekend in which the upset mascot revealed his frustrations with the team’s lack of direction, questionable off-season moves, hotdog prices at Citi Field, and David Wright’s mysterious lack of extra-base hits. Mr. Met then proceeded to call Minaya “less competent than the captain of the Titantic” and “quite possibly the worst GM since Isaiah Thomas”. After insulting the rest of the Mets organization and destroying Minaya’s prized ceramic egg collection, the mascot demanded a trade, stating that he “had a better shot of winning a World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates”. Minaya, already on the hotseat for New York’s mediocre play, saw no choice but to deal the face of the franchise. The team inquired about Colorado’s Dinger and the Mariner Moose before ultimately settling for a package from Cleveland that included the Akron Aeros mascot, Orbit the Cat, and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers dog-like mascot, Scrappy.

Can Orbit replace Mr. Met as the face of the franchise?

Can Orbit replace Mr. Met as the face of the franchise? Fans hope so, but he sure has a big head to fill.

At the time of the trade the Mets were 44-49 and mired in a long losing stretch that left them 10 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. Injuries to key players had decimated the team, the pitching staff was in shambles and the Phillies 10-game winning streak had all but eliminated New York from contention; Mr. Met clearly was not amused. Fans had noticed a change in Mr. Met as the season progressed, the once omnipresent smile had been replaced with frowns, grimaces and looks of utter bewilderment. The mascot ignored requests to hold babies, stopped throwing t-shirts to fans and even refused to celebrate when the Mets captured a rare win. Queens resident Joseph Dahmer said he had seen a different Mr. Met then in season’s past. “Yeah, that big-headed doofus just wasn’t the same after Jose Reyes went to the DL,” commented Dahmer, “he seemed depressed all the time, but I can’t really blame him, the Mets stink”. Another long-time Mets’ fan, Cindy Goriglia, agreed with Dahmer saying that “he really looked like a mascot on the edge…he didn’t seem to enjoy what he was doing, and I even heard rumors of a suicide attempt.” Mr. Met recently failed a random drug test, but denied the rumors of a suicide attempt through his publicist, stating the the copious amounts of narcotics in his system helped to numb the pain of working for a dead-in-the-water franchise.

Hernandez was hit hard by the loss of his best friend.

Hernandez was hit hard by the loss of his only friend on the Mets.

Reaction to the move throughout the Mets organization was mixed. Star 3B David Wright seemed glad to be rid of Mr. Met, saying “that (bleeping) mascot wore out his welcome in the Big Apple a long time ago…he had been riding me all season long for not hitting homeruns and wouldn’t stop making passes at my girlfriend…I hope that (bleep) rots in Cleveland.” Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez was seen leaving the stadium in tears upon hearing the news, but between sobs mentioned that “Mr. Met was my best friend on the team. He was the only one who really got me, and he was always there to comfort me after another bad outing.” The Mets’ minor league mascots, including the Buffalo Bison and Savannah Sand Gnat, were sad to see their mentor leave, but excited to have a chance to perform at the major league level. It is unclear at the time whether the Mets plan to call up a mascot from their farm system or use one of the newly acquired ones to fill the void left by the departure of Mr. Met.

When confronted by reporters, Omar Minaya refused to comment about his tumultuous relationship with Mr. Met but did release the following statement about the mascots acquired in the trade:

       “We are really excited about what Orbit and Scrappy bring to this organization. They are two of the most talented mascots in all of minor league baseball and we feel that they both have the ability to contribute at the the big league level. Scrappy is full of energy, great with kids and loves being scratched behind the ears. Orbit has tremendous potential, is great with a T-shirt gun and can even do cartwheels! The city of New York has plenty of stray dogs and cats, you’ve all seen Oliver and Company haven’t you, so it makes sense to bring them here to the Big Apple. I can’t wait to see Orbit and Scrappy in action, this is an exciting day for the Mets’ franchise.”

With the trade of their mascot, Mr. Met, a strange season has gotten even stranger for the New York Mets. A team that came into the year with World Series aspirations finds itself unlikely to make the playoffs and forced to move on without one of the city’s biggest icons. The organization was clearly in need of some change, but critics of the move wonder if it should have been Minaya or Jerry Manuel who got the boot, not Mr. Met. Many loyal fans are already calling this the darkest day in New York since the blackout of 2003. The difference between the blackout and the trade of their beloved mascot? While the power came back the next day, Mr. Met may never return to the city he called home for over 45 years. The Mets continue to play limbo as a franchise, and after this latest move, many wonder: how low can they go?

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Not Just For the Sad and Lonely: A Defense of Fantasy Baseball

Hong-Chih Kuo doesn't exist unless you play fantasy baseball.

Hong-Chih Kuo doesn't exist unless you play fantasy baseball.

Playing fantasy baseball is a lot like watching the English Patient. It’s long, tedious and in the end you really aren’t sure if it was worth all the trouble. It’s the overlooked little brother of fantasy football; kind of nerdy and viewed with all the same skepticism of Dungeons and Dragons(by the way Randy Johnson has a nice slider +5, but you have to equip him with the enchanted Hands of Tyman first). Sure there aren’t 20-sided dice, but fantasy baseball isn’t exactly something you want to bring up on a first date. The season drags on from March through September, or roughly the gestation period of an American Black Bear. Unlike football, where you have to check your roster about once a week, fantasy baseball requires that you look at your roster every day for seven months to avoid the embarrassment of leaving Ty Wigginton in your lineup even though every else in the league knew that he was out with a pulled hamstring (not something that is easily lived down). I mean you could go on a three-day vacation and by the time you come back, your whole season could be shot! Kaput! Gone in the blink of an eye.

The ultimate prize. Was it worth seven months of your life?

The ultimate prize. Was it worth seven months of your life?

Additionally, there are numerous other traps that first time fantasy baseball players can fall into. Wanting to get as many starts as possible, an owner may pick up pitchers every day and plug them into their rotation. This seems like a good idea until you realize that there is a maximum number of innings allotted to a team’s pitchers and once you cross this threshold you no longer accumulate stats. You then wrap your mind around the horrific truth that you have banked your playoff hopes on pitchers like Jeff Weaver and Livan Hernandez, the only ones available on the waiver wire, and burst into bitter tears. By gosh you could burn out your pitching staff on mediocre starts by July if you really worked at it, and where would that leave you? In a quite a pickle, that’s where. Also, a number of players that seem valuable in real life, like Derek Jeter or Bobby Abreu, aren’t nearly as much of an asset on your fantasy squad, and are overvalued year after year by new fantasy players (you get exactly 0 points for leadership or clutch hits). Stats like steals mean just as much as homeruns in most leagues, leaving baseball fans turned fantasy players wondering if Willy Taveras is really as valuable as Ryan Howard (not quite).

With all that said, why would anyone in their right mind want to commit to a season of fantasy baseball? Well, the reasons are as endless as the hairs on David Hasselhoff’s chest.

The Crown Prince of Fantasy Baseball

The Crown Prince of Fantasy Baseball

First and foremost, baseball has always been the most stat driven of all sports. Even most casual fans can identify the significance of such numbers as 61 (Roger Maris’ single season HR record), .406 (Ted Williams average–the last man to hit .400) or .304-56 HR-147 RBI (Ken Griffey Jr’s 1997 MVP season). Fantasy baseball gives fans a chance to see these numbers or records as they are actually happening; certainly any fantasy baseball owner won’t forget Lance “the Big Puma” Berkman setting a career high with 18 stolen bases last year because it may have helped them knock off a hated rival to win their league, but just about everyone else outside of Houston will. Fantasy baseball also allows fans to understand the importance of such complex statistics as WHIP (walks + hits/# of innings pitched, a great way to gauge the efficiency of a pitcher) or BABIP (batting average on balls in play, the league average is around .300). For example, a player with a low BABIP, say .280, is probably suffering from bad luck and is due for a breakout, which is something a casual fan will probably overlook. Following this principle, expect Evan Longoria’s average to improve this coming season.

Moreover, fantasy baseball allows you to discover players that normally go unheralded. For instance, Hanley Ramirez and Ian Kinsler are two of the top 10 players in fantasy baseball (thanks to their combination of speed, power and high average) but they normally get lost in the shuffle of higher paid players in large media markets. Think of Ramirez and Kinsler as the indie music of baseball, they’re so great because no one else knows about them (but thankfully, they don’t wear flannel, slackline or drink out of mason jars). Playing fantasy also allows you to discover the next crop of young players. Many owners will draft prospects who are in Triple-A at the beginning of the year and then salivate (like dogs after bacon) over their minor league stats until they are finally called up. Names like Max Scherzer, Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen might not mean much to you unless you play fantasy baseball; it’s a great way to learn about the future all-stars of the game before anyone else does.

Did Pete Rose have it right all along?

Did Pete Rose have it right all along?

The MLB season is a long one; no one will contend that point. So why not add a little spice to a 162-game season by having a little something riding on each game? Of course Pete Rose thought the same thing and look where that got him, but I digress. No longer will a July series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres be as pointless as another installment of The Land Before Time series. Owners of Nate McClouth and Adrian Gonzalez will have no choice but to pay attention to the games and chart their players’ performances. It’s not quite turning water into wine, but the ability to turn something meaningless into something meaningful, now that’s fantasy baseball’s true gift to mankind.

So the next time your friend mentions an upcoming fantasy baseball draft,  don’t call him a pale worthless excuse for a human being (sticks and stones may break but bones, but words will hurt forever). Instead, ask him if you can join and tell him you know all about WHIP and BABIP. After all, you do get a shiny little trophy if you win; isn’t that worth seven months of your life?

Best site for fantasy baseball: http://sports.yahoo.com/fantasy