Have the Amazin's Met Their Leader Yet?
No, they haven't, but that's because they're looking for one.
Leadership means different things to different people, and in the realm of professional sports, that meaning gets blurrier by the win or loss.
Some athletes lead by quiet example, while others choose to broadcast their emotions to the wide world. There is a thin line between separating being "laid back" and becoming just another face on the bench, sideline or in the dugout.
In listening to the recent debates regarding the Mets' need for a leader, one might wonder if every successful sports entity truly needs an outspoken leader to succeed. In terms of singular success, it's not a necessity.
Most championship clubs celebrate winning only once in a window of a few years, and in those cases usually rely on their talents, consistency, and some luck to come out of the grind of a season as winners. They never need to announce who their captain is. That bears itself out on the field.
That need seems to come from clubs that should be perennial contenders, that consistently underachieve (or in the case of the Mets, choke) or that simply ply their trade in large media markets.
To put things in perspective, how many small market Major League teams would happily listen to trade offers for David Wright? And how many others would gladly accept Carlos Beltran's silence in exchange for his defense and offensive production? Is Johan Santana less of a leader because he is soft-spoken?
It's a sad fan's luxury to boo players of this caliber (A-Rod, anyone?) or question their leadership qualities when they've grown to expect the unreasonable.
But as the Mets begin to lose more games due to a lackadaisical approach to playing baseball and indifference for the game's fundamentals, the real problem becomes clearer: Where is their heart?
Team chemistry is too often thought of in terms of how well a locker room gets along and believes in the game plan, how it follows its leaders. The Mets are a team made up of the wrong mix of talent and dedication, and wouldn't need one leader if more members of the team took it upon themselves to lead by performance or lead by being a positive, social teammate.
The public demands someone be accountable, to step in front of the cameras and microphones to explain where the burning desire to utterly wipe the smirk from Jimmy Rollins' face is. That's really what Mets fans want; what they need.
Pedro Martinez served this role cheerfully, but became a non-entity due to injuries. Billy Wagner attempted to be a galvanizing force, but lacked the charisma, success or credibility to be taken as anything more than an abrasive loudmouth. No other has attempted to fill the void, and they probably don't have to.
Heart is the missing ingredient in this formula, the elixir Mets fans are so ready to drink. It is the one thing that money can't buy for a team that is worth upwards of $147 million—the desire to be the best in the world.
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