Friday, August 13, 2010

Star status shouldn't protect bad Mets

The New York Mets and their fans need to stop looking the other way when their stars engage in bad behavior.

Just a few days after a woman filed a civil lawsuit against Johan Santana in which she accused the Mets ace of raping her, closer Francisco Rodriguez was arrested for allegedly assaulting his father-in-law at Citi Field. For that, he was suspended without pay by the team for two games. Two games.

"Ownership and the organization are very disappointed in Francisco's inappropriate behavior and we take this matter very seriously," said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon.

Not serious enough. Carlos Zambrano was banished for a month and ordered to undergo anger management classes before returning to the Chicago Cubs after a dugout confrontation with Derrek Lee. So I guess the lesson learned is that it's better to assault a woman or a family member than a teammate.

For me, this quote from Mets shortstop Jose Reyes about Rodriguez speaks volumes about how their teammates and the organization will happily look the other way because of Santana and Rodriguez's superior baseball skills: "One hundred percent we're behind him. I hope he comes out clean after what happened because we need him here."

Before I get accused of coming down harshly on the Mets because I'm a New York Yankees fan, let me say this: Yes, the Yankees are the poster team for steroids/human growth hormone use in baseball. I've written post after post calling them out for that behavior, which I truly believe has harmed and continues to harm the sport. But Yankee players aren't being accused of beating their in-laws or raping women and that behavior is much worse than cheating.

In Darryl Strawberry's memoir, Finding My Way, the former Mets outfielder describes in disturbing detail the culture of the Mets in the mid to late 1980s: all-night binge drinking before day games, players enjoying sexual favors from the same women. Strawberry even admits to beating his wives on more than one occasion. All this behavior was tolerated for years by the fans and the organization because the bad-boy Mets were winners.

It's clear that the Mets haven't learned anything from those years. If they had, they would have come down with a harsher penalty for Rodriguez. Unlike the he said/she said nature of the accusation against Santana, the Rodriguez incident happened inside their own stadium in full view of family members of other players and the Mets security staff, which reportedly had to pry the closer off of his father-in-law. Mets officials could argue that they didn't want to pre-judge the investigation, but their statement and two-game suspension makes that argument ring hollow.

Like Reyes, the Mets are hoping this all goes away as quickly as possible because without their two star pitchers, the season will be an even bigger disaster than it is right now.

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