The Mets front office is, apparently, “The Cabinet of Stupid”

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I don’t care much for the Mets and it’s not altogether unpleasant, as a fan of another NL East team, to see them struggle. So it’s a pretty extreme set of circumstances to make me actually want to defend them. I feel inspired to that this morning, however.

The inspiration? Mike Vaccaro’s column about them in the Post today. In it he goes beyond merely detailing the Mets’ lousy road trip and decides to call the Mets’ front office “The Cabinet of Stupid” several times:

Here’s the thing, though: The Mets do have just enough starting pitching to keep themselves in a lot of games. They have just enough professionals who seem to relish the underdog challenge that this big-market overdog needlessly inflicts on them. And they were 15-11 at the start of May. Easy to root for, despite their flaws. Easier to feel good about.

Except the Cabinet of Stupid couldn’t leave that alone, so it famously dispatched the Loyalty Oath letter, and followed that up with another, and another, and still can’t believe why anybody thought it was a bad idea. Honestly, there’s no correlation between the Oath and the fact that the team has gone 1-6 since hitting the “send” button.

Unless you believe in karma.

Obviously anything the Mets front office has done or not done is open for criticism and, boy, there has been a lot to criticize over the past few years.  But focusing on the 2014 team and that loyalty letter thing seems pretty odd. Yes, the current Mets brain trust got them where they were the past few years, but the team is clearly better now than it has been, the moves they have made in the past year or so have all been pretty defensible and as I’ve said, that stuff about the loyalty letter thing seems comically overblown. It’s an OK team that is struggling but it’s not some comedy of errors like it’s being portrayed here. This all seems like autopilot LOL METS stuff, detached from reality and designed to play into the lazy preconceptions of a certain swath of Mets fans.

But mostly I’m irked by this because a guy who is paid to write — and who, in the past, has shown no small amount of wit — can’t do any better than “Cabinet of Stupid.” That’s, like, fifth grade insult material. You work for the Post for cryin’ out loud. The paper that gave us the all-time best headline ever with “Headless body in topless bar.” You can lodge all the overheated insults you want at the Mets because you have a job to do, but you HAVE to bring better game than that, man.

Hunter Strickland says he doesn’t have an anger problem

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Giants closer Hunter Strickland struggled in the ninth inning Monday against the Marlins, surrendering three runs en route to a 5-4 loss. Strickland took issue with Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who tied the game with a single and celebrated as he rounded first base. When Strickland was yanked from the game, Brinson was on third base, so Strickland had some parting words on his way to the dugout. Then, in the clubhouse, Strickland punched a door in anger, breaking his pitching hand. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result.

Strickland posted to his Instagram on Tuesday, taking responsibility for his actions. He wrote, “To my family, my teammates, my coaches, this organization, and our fan base, I am truly sorry that one split second, stupid decision has caused so much harm and now set me back from being out there with my team to pursue our goal.”

Speaking to the media for the first time since breaking his hand, Strickland said (via Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports), “I don’t think I have an anger problem, but sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me.”

Well, if that emotion is anger, and you let it get the best of you, then you have an anger problem. This isn’t an isolated incident.

In the 2014 NLDS against the Nationals, Bryce Harper had Strickland’s number. In Game 1, Harper hit a solo home run ioff of Strickland, putting the Nationals on the board trailing 3-1. Strickland gave up another home run to Harper in Game 4 which tied the game at 2-2. Though the distance made it a no-doubt home run, the ball went down the right field line, so Harper was watching the ball in the air and didn’t immediately run the bases, which irked Strickland. The Giants still went on to win the game and advance to the NLCS, but Strickland carried the grudge with him into the 2017 season. The 2017 season! It just so happened that Strickland never faced Harper at all in the 2015-16 seasons, which makes sense because the two clubs only meet for two series per season and Strickland only pitches one inning per game if he gets into one.

The Nationals and Giants met in San Francisco at the end of May last year. In the first game of the series, Strickland entered with the Giants trailing 2-0 in the eighth inning. He got two quick outs, bringing up Harper for their first meeting since Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS. With his first pitch, Strickland nailed harper on the hip with a 98 MPH fastball. Harper didn’t like it, so he charged the mound and the two threw punches at each other as the benches and bullpens spilled onto the field.

In the 2014 World Series, Strickland had a beef with Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Strickland gave up a double to Perez, then a two-run home run to Omar Infante. As Perez crossed home plate, Strickland started yelling at Perez. He appeared to yell, “Get in the dugout, boy.” The term “boy” carries a racist connotation when used by white people towards men of color. It’s unclear why Strickland was upset with Perez, but Perez said Strickland started jawing at him when he was on second base after hitting his double.

So here’s what we know about Strickland:

  • He gets angry when players look at their home run balls in the air, even if that player is unsure if it will stay fair
  • He gets angry if you get a double off of him in an important game
  • He gets angry when players pump their fists and yell in celebration after getting a big hit in the regular season
  • He gets angry a lot
  • He sometimes gets violent when he’s angry

Short of hitters not showing any emotion at all and not getting hits off of him, it’s not clear what kind of behavior satisfies Strickland and won’t make him angry. So, essentially, anything a batter does could potentially set Strickland off. I’d call that an anger problem. If this weren’t in the context of sports, Strickland’s behavior would be problematic.

Strickland’s behavior doesn’t come off as particularly unique because he’s far from the only player to injure himself punching something in anger. He’s far from the only player to get ticked off when batters get a hit off him and celebrate. This anger is part of baseball culture, part of sports culture at large, and embedded in masculinity — what it means to be a man. We teach men, particularly athletes, to repress a wide range of emotions. As a result, many men resort first to anger — one of the few emotions we allow men to express openly — when dealing with any type of adversity.

If Strickland were a well-adjusted person with high emotional intelligence, he would realize that throwing a baseball close to 100 at someone with the intent to injure them is not a good way to resolve a conflict. Strickland could have gone to the Marlins’ clubhouse after the game and had a level-headed chat with Brinson, saying, “I felt embarrassed and emasculated when you got a hit off of me and celebrated the way you did. Perhaps in the future, you could tone it down.” But we don’t teach men and allow them to discuss and express their emotions in healthy ways, so Strickland lashes out at Harper and Perez and Brinson instead.