The Death of Swagger

Mets players let their booing fans 'know how it feels' with strange thumbs down celebration - CBSSports.com

There was a time when people showed their lack of hip by spewing antiquated proclamations meant to denounce the impetuous qualities of progress. Old timers castigated the kids of my generation for not schlepping through five feet of snow for miles just to get to school. We didn’t dare complain during a heatwave, because to do so meant we had to endure stories about a time when houses were nothing more than giant microwave ovens. Our parents took every opportunity to tell us how lucky we were to have playtime, since their lives consisted of chores, working odd jobs and avoiding polio.

Us kids didn’t get it, probably because we were too cool for old school. As Generation Xers, we got high on Tang, we got educated by Schoolhouse Rock and we got religion via 8-track players that ushered in an audacious expansion of music delivery systems. We were iconoclasts, leading a rebellion against an establishment yearning for a return to the days of Ike and Holy Hours and the Jitterbug.

We dreamed of third-parties, we gloried in the solidarity of the pet rock and we became soul proprietors of the Hustle. Not only did we make nerds relevant, we made them giants of industry. And it was during this glorious time that spanned the Beatles to Bon Jovi, where swagger was redefined. From the protagonist hegemony of John Wayne to the proletarian movement of Charles Bronson to Clint Eastwood, who obtained the patent.

Swagger wasn’t something you stuck a hashtag on. Simply put, if you had swagger it meant you walked your talk. You got shit done. You didn’t brag about having swagger, because to do so meant you most certainly didn’t have any. And so here I am, wondering what the hell the current generation has done to a venerated principle? Shit. these days all you need is some provocatively placed body art and an Instagram page to rate.

Which brings me to the present day New York Mets. As things stand, they are the baseball equivalent of the pet rock; a 200 million dollar paperweight with no definable purpose. They head into today’s action with a record of 63-67, 7.5 games out of first place and 7 games out of the wild card.

In all fairness, they have dealt with the injury bug in 2021. In more fairness, so have the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox; and that hasn’t prevented them from staying atop their respective divisions. Injuries and bad luck happen to every club . . every season. Nobody gets a mulligan just because the baseball gods decided to piss on their chances. You either overcome or you get to stepping on your Christmas shopping.

Now, the Mets are a team I have a soft spot for thanks to my grandfather, who loved his whiskey and his baseball with the very same passion. I predicted the Mets would win their division this season because they had a roster I happened to dig on. They’ve got some swagger to them, sure, but up till a couple weeks ago it wasn’t getting in the way of the results on the field.

In early July, Pete Alonzo was defending his Home Run Derby crown, the team was talking up moves to bolster their playoff lineup and they were in first place, hell bent on stealing back the town from the Yankees. Today? They’re buried under two also ran football teams on the sports page depth chart.

In no uncertain terms, they have shit the bed, going 8-19 in August as they fight for their playoff lives. And hey . . whatever, that’s why the baseball season is an unforgiving crucible. I have zero problem with a club that falls short of expectations, seeing as how it happens to more than half the league.

What I have a problem with is when swagger meets stupid, and it happened this weekend when several players mutinied against booing fans by introducing a “thumbs down celebration” during their 9-4 win against the Nationals. Javy Baez is the ringleader of this clueless rebellion. While supremely talented, he also can’t be bothered to run out ground balls or hit the other way and God forbid his manager ever asked him to bunt. Baez is a feast or famine player who glories in home runs and shrugs off his many strikeouts. The Mets weren’t ignorant to his tone-deaf game when they acquired him from the Cubs at the trade deadline. Maybe they hoped for better, but thus far, Javy has lived down to his one trick pony act. Meanwhile, shortstop Francisco Lindor, who inked a $341 million dollar contract in the spring, probably has Steve Cohen wishing he had bought the Tampa Bay Rays instead.

I realize it’s a thankless game and so I didn’t have an issue with the less than stellar results, until they broke out their inane celebration on Sunday. After which Baez talked about how the booing makes him feel bad, while in the very same breath saying it doesn’t really get to him. Hence, an orchestrated attempt by Baez, Lindor and Kevin Pillar to exact revenge on a fan base that is paying stupid money for even stupider results. But wait, there’s more! (Or less, depending on how you look at it). Hours after Baez and Lindor explained how the thumbs down gesture was their way of booing the fans, Pillar sent out a tweet telling fans not to read anything into it.

You cannot make this shit up.

The good news for Mets fans is that there is a month of baseball left to be played. That also happens to be the bad news. And no, booing the club ain’t making things any better, but it’s not making things worse either, no matter what a few players might think. Because last time I looked, the Hall of Fame is filled with players who heard their fair share of boos and somehow prevailed.

I wish the Mets well but I’m dubious, seeing as how some of their best players are more intent on choreographing rebuttals to all that booing than actually working on the fundamentals. This Shakespearean tragedy of a baseball team is a sad reminder that swagger has become the domain of posers. Hell, in my day we would never have booed these guys.

We would have stayed home instead.

 

33 thoughts on “The Death of Swagger

  1. If I was the owner or manager of the Mets, those players would be riding the pine for the rest of the season.

    Meanwhile, the whole swagger thing is why I dislike so many NBA players. The stars of the league seem to think swagger and cool is more important than anything else. But … it’s hard to blame them. Since they turned eight and grew a foot taller than the other kids, they’ve been treated like they are special gifts to all of humanity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Amen to that. But of course this means you would have also called them out before this time for lack of hustle. And their inability to lay down a bunt . . or sacrifice themselves for the team . . .

      The NBA evolved into a name league. From MJ to Shaq and Kobe to LeBron, it was always about the individual over the team. So while the Spurs won five titles over twenty years, they didn’t get the headlines. Swagger does hold sway in the Association.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Who says you have to go to a game and tolerate a stinking performance? Fans pay the bills and the fan bill of rights states booing is in. Boo the bums off the field and let them get in their Lambo and drive the hell home to a trophy wife and McMansion and get over it already. Great post, Pilgrim

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t go to NFL games any longer. I go to one MLB game a season now, preferring the minor and independent league game to their high priced indifference of professional baseball.

      The fans have done a lot of crazy shit for sure, but their right to boo has never been in doubt. If the players don’t like it? Do better. Hell, Pete Rose heard his fair share of boos,, as did many great players. You are right on, Boss. Thank you for the chime.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. B

    You are in fine writing form today! Your vacation must have been inspiring – that, or you had time to regroup and refresh 🙂 Hegemony and proletarian – to the file!

    I am one who rides the line between Baby Boomer and Generation X, being born in ’64, which means the last year of the Boomer age, and never felt I really belonged, having not been witness to war, the Kennedy assassination, et al. My parents, it felt to me, didn’t stand for anything to war against, either. Guess I’m just too much a go with the flow kinda chick.

    And I have to agree with you. Where the hell has all the swagger gone? The honest-to-goodness one effortlessly worn by the likes of Clint Eastwood (and, as we discussed, Timothy Oliphant – particularly in Justified). And no. Hell no! If you need to tell me you gots swagger? You ain’t gots none…

    I’ll have to trust you on the Mets’ swagger, not being that in the know to speak. I will, however, roll my eyes and tsk those two crybabies for their “thumbs down” attitude.

    I know the booing in baseball (and other sports) is a thing for you ‘Muricans so I should think the players would know it too.

    Grow up, boys!

    Excellent write, as I love to read!

    Q

    Liked by 1 person

    • Q

      Maybe they were just waiting to break out after an almost fortnight away, I dunno. And the Melville File is gonna be cooking over the next couple weeks, I’m thinking.

      Truth be told, I was never of the idea that I was riding the bus in my time either. But . . we were there, we grew up around it, and so we are a part of the whole shebang.

      Guys like Norris, Lee, Eastwood, Connery and Olyphant just are. They don’t have to proclaim anything, they just have to be. THAT is what swagger is. These kids have no blessed idea.

      Boo to the Mets gesture. I get it that they’re frustrated, but that’s not the way to do it. They look bad. And it’s no surprise they came out today with an apology. I don’t believe they needed to do so, but I’m sure management thought otherwise. My thing is, no sweat, just hustle and stop crying.

      Muricans love their boo. And not just at Halloween time.

      No kidding.

      MUAH!

      B

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe they were. And oooohhhh! That pleases me to no end!

        This is true. We heard, we absorbed, we did our thing.

        They ARE. The would never even suggest a damn thing. It is unfortunate that they don’t get it – the kids today, that is.

        Big time boo. Such a childish gesture. Apology, eh? Hmmm. Still. There’s no crying in baseball! And your thumbs down was the equivalent!

        They do 🙂

        Seriously.

        MWAH!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. In New York, when you succeed and perform, you’re a god. That’s why the fans boo when you don’t. I’ve been a Mets fan my whole life (1975 was when I first turned on the television myself and started watching games). I lived through the awful years and know what it’s like to watch the Mets blow a lead, both in a game and in the standings.

    Baez isn’t cut out for New York, that’s apparent. I’m disappointed in Lindor and Pillar. I think they both went along with him and it was a poor decision that shows their lack of maturity. Lindor has been quite contrite about his performance this year until now and Pillar has actually done fairly well until August.

    You can’t buy a title. I wish Cohen would do what the new owners did back in the 1980’s and develop the farm system over about 5 years that gave us great players with a few steady players they brought in. Players like Carter and Hernandez were great additions for the younger ones that came up through the minors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So you go back to the Torre years and then George Bamberger and finally Davey Johnson, who delivered them a title. And yes, those Mets teams with the Kid and Hernandez would’ve kicked these guys out of their clubhouse. THAT was a team, and those were leaders.

      That said, the Mets are far from a lost cause. But I don’t like some of the moves they’ve made, most notably Baez, who is a me first type of player. Lindor may have been a mistake but he’s a talent who I think can turn this around. Pillar I am not familiar with.

      The players came out with an apology today, which I didn’t think was needed. But management probably did. What I think would be just as good would be to tip their caps to the fan and turn the page. Because sports is much like a family dynamic. A winning streak and everybody will be fine. Hopefully.

      I agree with you. You can’t buy your way to a title. But with Cohen’s money they can build a farm with top scouts and then bring in guys through trade and free agency who give a damn.

      I think the Mets will be fine, but I wonder if they’ve lost too much ground to make a run this year. We’ll see.

      Hang in there!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I go back to the Frazier years! I actually saw Tom Seaver pitch a one-hitter at Shea in April of 1977 before he was traded. I think they’ve lost too much spirit this year to make a serious run, but I think they can look good enough going into next year and take it from there.

        When you’re a Mets fan, you dust yourself off and dig in again. It builds character.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The Tom Seaver trade to Cincy set the tone for the organization for years after. Pat Zachry didn’t deserve the blame, Mets ownership did.

          Let Baez walk, bring in guys who have attitude WITH hustle. And hopefully deGrom and Thor will both be back at the top of the rotation.

          Mets fans have a lot of character. But y’all rock the house, so keep on keeping on.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. It seems both sides of the swagger line (players and Instagram kind of fans) are getting exactly what they deserve. It’s a tough pill to swallow that mediocrity (and the ‘could give a rat’s hat mentality’) reins supreme across the board throughout sports, business, society. By remembering those days when the country was on top of the heap probably dates me. Now everything seems to be run by ‘influencers.’ It’s a sad day in Mudville.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how it rates now, not on substance but on this make believe style. The game is comprised of feast and famine hitters who wouldn’t know a bunt from a Bundt cake.

      No wonder so many people are apt to follow rudderless “leaders”. They’re turned on by the talk, and that’s enough.

      Sad.

      No

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Most of the people who came after my generation (smack dab in the middle of the Baby Boom) are twinkies in comparison. How’s that for a controversial statement, especially coming from an L.A. sports fan?

    Liked by 1 person

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