One of the simpler reasons we love sports: unlike much of life, the games we watch are fair and the players are part of a pure meritocracy. Maybe the most talented players don't always play, but the most productive ones do, which is the definition of fairness. Life has an abjectly unfair way of stomping out the most promising things and people, without warning or reason. But if you can rush for 100 yards a game, score 30 points per game, or hit .300 for a season, you will get to the gridiron, hardwood, or diamond.
But even sports, including our national pastime, can be infiltrated, if not invaded, by politics, by agendas, or just the bad luck of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The New York Mets, for instance, are being sold by the Wilpons, one of the more chastised families in Big Apple sports. It would be unfair to say they were cheap. Even if they didn't spend the biblical money on players and personnel that the Yankees have, they did spend enough to build a contender. But they made so many bad decisions, or the people they hired to make them did, that this marriage between owners, team, and town never quite worked. George Steinbrenner is not revered because you love him personally, but because he won professionally. Mets fans are now 34 years removed from their last World Series title.
Now the impending new owner, Steve Cohen, will surely shake the tattered Mets tree, and much sour fruit will fall. CBSSports.com, citing a report from the NY Post, quotes Cohen as saying he will hire some old salt to run the club: Harvard Law grad, former Marine, and ex-Mets GM Sandy Alderson will resume his perch atop the team as president. Alderson had a star-crossed career with the Mets, but he did construct the club that reached a Fall Classic and should have contended for several more.
Among the other vocational bodies sure to drop are GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who asserted his longtime respect for Alderson, much the way a man praises God before the guillotine. Another prominent Met likely to fall is manager Luis Rojas. That will be unfair if it happens, but we all know Rojas wasn't the first choice, anyway. He seems like a swell dude, though, and if the future is fair, he will be viewed by other clubs as a victim of circumstance - the eternally bad karma that forms a membrane around the Mets.
As for Brodie, well, the club that Van Wagenen has erected went from promising to putrid. His tenure is best known for the hideous trade that brought closer Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano's indigestible contract. It's known for Jed Lowrie. And it's known for hiring Carlos Beltran, who had to resign before he managed a game. The team also watched in horror as Yoenis Cespedes quit on them, as did Marcus Stroman. The two veteran pitchers BVW acquired this winter, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, are a combined 2-10. Steven Matz has let his ERA balloon to just under 10. And, even the most promising of players, Pete Alonso, who set the all-time MLB rookie record with 53 homers last year, is, to paraphrase Greg Giannotti, unable to whack a buffalo on the butt with a paddle this year.
MLB allowed so many playoff teams this year that even the NHL blushed, and yet the Mets still missed the dance. Even the woeful Marlins, who brought a village of COVID-19 to their clubhouse, are two wins from qualifying for the postseason.
But no one doubts Alderson's intelligence or baseball bona fides. He speaks to the media in confounding platitudes, but that's entirely intentional, his verbal tap dance around sessions that can't help him personally or the team professionally. While he didn't quite cross the finish line during his time in Flushing, he did finish second by a nose, and was behind the heist that booted R.A. Dickey and brought in Noah Syndergaard.
The only question is Alderson's health. He left the Mets before because of cancer, and while he may look like a young 72, he's still 72 (and there's only one Pete Carroll, who has looked and acted the same since 1996).
But the symbolism matters. Cohen, who nixed his original deal to buy the Mets because he refused to let the Wilpons run the club for five more years, comes to the team with serious bank, energy, and intentions. The team and town need their batteries, if not souls, recharged. And for now, at least, Cohen rides in like a savior, the medicine man to heal all the Mets' ancient wounds. Maybe he bombs. Maybe he turns this tanker around and actually does the things that Van Wagenen so loftily promised. What Mets fans know for sure is that Steve Cohen is not Fred or Jeff Wilpon, and that's enough for now.
Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel