* Welcome to the 111th installment of The Quaz Q&A. This feature—a question-and-answer session with a person from sports/entertainment/politics/whatever—will appear every week on jeffpearlman.com. If you have any suggestions/ideas for people to speak with, hit me up at email@example.com. I’m listening.
Stephen Keane can kick my ass.
Admittedly, this isn’t such a feat. Madonna can probably kick my ass. The Alf puppet can probably kick my ass. My wallet can probably kick my ass.
Yet Keane would really kick my ass. Like, he’d beat me up, then beat me up again, then kick me—just for a final touch. This is just a guess, of course, and by all accounts Steve—overlord of the Kranepool Society, the leading blog on the New York Mets—is a sweetheart of a guy. Yet he also has a hard-edged New York thing working for him; one that perfectly compliments a man who lives and dies with (arguably) the most frustrating franchise in American sports.
I invited Keane to the Quaz because I’ve long wondered what goes through the mind of a sports blogger and—for my money—he is one of the greats. Hence, here he talks about life as a Met loyalist; why bloggers aren’t merely the basement dwellers one might envision; how the Wilpons keep his loyalty and what it feels like to have a powerful voice.
Stephen Keane, on behalf of Matt Franco, Hubie Brooks, Ron Hodges and Kelvin Chapman, welcome to The Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Steve, I’m gonna start with this: Why do you care so much about the Mets? I mean, they’re just a baseball team, with changing parts, changing strategies, overpriced tickets, etc. Seinfeld once noted, “You’re rooting for laundry,” and it seems like that argument can really be made. So why so passionate?
STEPHEN KEANE: There is a special quality that the Mets fan possesses. While the Mets fan may bitch and moan about the team, ownership, and the inflated prices at Citi Field, there is still that loyalty and sense of camaraderie that sets the Mets fan base apart from others.
I’ve been a Mets fan since 1964 and I still get the same exciting feeling going to Citi Field today as I did going to Shea Stadium back then. There is no one in my life from family, friends and co-workers that doesn’t know my love for the New York Mets. In fact, since I started my blog, The Eddie Kranepool Society, my devotion to the team and, more so, to the fan base, has gotten stronger.
It’s hard to describe but I could never root for another team. When the Yankees and Phillies played in the 2009 World Series I was asked so many times who I was rooting for between the two teams I hate the most and all I‘d say was I was rooting for the ground to open up in Yankee Stadium and swallow both teams. Very mature response, I know.
J.P.: Several months ago you and I had a nice on-air screaming match over Mike Piazza and PED. I just look at him and think, “This is so painfully obvious, it’s a joke.” I also remember how hard the players and the Players Association fought to make certain there was no real testing and, therefore, no players caught. You disagree with me. Make your case, please. I’m all ears …
S.K.: When I was a teenager, I had long hair, wore a leather jacket and listened to heavy metal, so of course that meant I was a drug-taking slacker, which in fact wasn’t true since I was working two after-school jobs along with going to school every day. But the hair, the look, the music had to mean I was up to no good. African-American kids today wear do-rags and their pants down to their ass, the assumption is they’re thugs. But the only proof is their bad fashion sense.
Same with baseball players—oh, he has bacne or he looks bigger than last season or he looks smaller from last season … if that’s all the proof you have that someone took PEDs you have to do better. I will say this, the game today is much better than it was during what is now known as “The Steroid Era” and if I were a player who was as clean as a whistle I’d stand up to the union leadership and demand that, in the next collective bargaining agreement, it say that we will agree to urine and blood tests and those who are caught get a one-year suspension.
What was so bizarre about our aggressive dialog about Piazza is I’m not even a Piazza fan. I guess my anger came from people judging people with prejudice.
J.P.: Steve, I know little of your background, and I’m fascinated. How did you wind up becoming a Met blogger? Like, specifically, what was your life path to this point?
S.K.: When I bought my first computer it came with a disc for AOL. So I loaded the disc and set up an e-mail account and started to check out what was out there on the World Wide Web. I found baseball forums and message boards that reminded me of town square discussions and one of those forums was a site called Mets Online. I then found a site run by someone calling himself The Boston Sports Guy. This was, of course, Bill Simmons. Then I found these sites called “blogs.” There were Red Sox blogs, and Yankee blogs and even Oakland A’s blogs, but no Mets blogs. So, in 2001, The Eddie Kranepool Society was born.
Never did I think blogging about the Mets would be one of the best and most rewarding things I’d ever do. I’ve gone from the guy in the basement ranting about how Steve Philips was undermining Bobby Valentine to getting a press pass and talking on the field to Sandy Alderson about what moves I think he should make to improve the Mets.
J.P.: In a post from earlier in the season you wrote, “There really isn’t much to get overly excited about this team. In fact after a month of the season, they are still as bad as they were the last half of last year and what’s worse I don’t see how they can improve.” I love this, because it’s honest and real and not simple rah-rah fan bullshit. But it also leads to a question—what kind of sad self-mutilator roots for a team like this? I mean, the Mets always seem to do stupid things; make bad trades, hype awful prospects, etc … etc (obviously, Matt Harvey’s an exception). Why not just say, “You know what, I can’t stand this nonsense anymore” and move on?
S.K.: What myself and all the other Mets bloggers do is keep this team honest and the best part of it is there is not a damn thing they can do to us. There is no editor or publisher to complain to. There is no program director to say get me off the air. Whenever I have called out the Mets for stupidity I’ve also praised them when they do good things. I think I’m very fair and I will confront anyone I write something negative about.
It’s what I love about the Mets blogging community—we are not just fans and customers, but we are the watchdogs for Mets fans. When Citi Field first opened we all screamed “Why isn’t this place Mets-centric?” and “Where is the Mets Hall of Fame?” and “What’s with these obstructive views?” and “Get rid of those shitty black uniforms!” Now you see blue and orange all around Citi Field with posters on the light poles of Mets players past and present and the correct colors on a uniform that should never had been altered in the first place.
I can also say that Mets management listens to what we have to say. It’s not just lip service, but our ideas and opinions count. I have no problem helping this organization by giving them ideas to make the team and experience of going to Citi Field one that you can’t wait to have. I’m not ashamed to say I love the New York Mets.
J.P.: There’s a perception out there from what’s left of the mainstream media that bloggers exist because—by and large—they think the press sucks at covering the games. Do you feel this way? What do you think of the New York media’s coverage of the Mets?
S.K: Having seen how the sausage is made, I have to say being a beat writer for a Major League team looks to me as the worst job in the world. You’re away from your family just as much as the players are. I had asked one writer right before spring training if he was happy to get to Port St. Lucie and the warm Florida weather. He told he hated it because he’d be down there for more than a month without ever getting home. I said to him, “You have to get some off days. Can’t you fly up and for a few days and go back?” He looked at me and said, “How much fucking money you think I make?”
The Mets fans—especially Mets Twitter—have a love/ hate relationship with the media covering the team. Some guys, like Adam Rubin, cover the team with lots of passion and are great sources of information. Others seem to like to piss off Mets fans because they know they will get a rise out of them. It’s amusing and speaks to the affection Mets fans have for their team that a Mets fan can go on Twitter and rip say, Ike Davis for striking out with the bases loaded, but if a beat writer covering the Mets Tweets the same thing, my timeline automatically is flooded with Tweets to those writers telling him to shut his fucking mouth! I laugh my ass off some nights following Mets fans and Mets beat writers on Twitter. And you want to know why I’m a Mets fan!
J.P.: Greatest moment as your career as a Met fan? Lowest?
S.K.: Greatest moment. Wow, It would have to be Game 6 of the ’86 World Series and then coming back after the rainout the next day to win the World Series in Game 7.
The lowest without a doubt was June 15, 1977, when Tom Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. I’d love to go to M. Donald Grant’s gave so I could piss on it. That was the one time I thought about turning in my Mets fan credentials, but I just couldn’t do it. The only thing that saved me from bolting was the fact that Grant was an old man and would most likely die soon.
J.P.: There are 8,000,000 bloggers out there who’d love to have your impact and readership. Steve, you don’t have a journalism background, there are lots of little mistakes and typos throughout your pages—yet it clearly impacts and speaks to people. How? And, if you were advising new bloggers, what would you tell them, RE: what it takes to go from blogging for three friends to a real audience?
S.K.: I like how you gave that little shot about the typo—nice job Jeff, Ha! Ha! Yeah, and my grammar sucks, too. I write the same way I speak. Remember when you and I got into it and you insulted me? I told you, you want to go down that road I’d fucking burry you? To tell you the truth if we were face to face I’d have taken a swing at you (Jeff’s note: You don’t mess with a kid from the mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y. You just don’t.). That’s who I am—a 50-plus-year-old Irish-American born and raised in Brooklyn, who grew up in the 1970s when you had to have some kind of weapon on you to take the subway. I never went to college but I have tons of street smarts, I have been an opinionated wise-ass my whole life and I think that comes out in what I write. The best posts on Kranepool and the ones I get the best feedback from are the ones I write when I’m angry. Those are the posts that bring out all the Irish Brooklyn in me. That’s how you have to be if you want to blog. You have to have passion. Sure, you can know where the commas and semi-colons go, but if you’re bland and have no personality—don’t even waste your time and the reader’s time.
J.P.: A lot of us in the media picture sports bloggers as sheltered basement dwellers screaming at Mom for another Diet Coke. You’ve obviously got a family, a gig, a life—but is there something to be said for this?
S.K.: It’s a bunch of bullshit. All the Mets bloggers who I know are very successful in their professions and in life. One thing is true—I do most of my blogging and podcasting from my basement. The best part is it’s my basement and I own it and the rest of the house that it sits in and it’s probably twice the size of the tenement apartment that many of the critics live in.
J.P.: As you know, I wrote a book about the ’86 Mets, and I’ve been asked a million times, “Will there ever be another team like that?” I generally say, “Probably not,” but generally without thinking. What do you think, Steve? Can the magic of ’86 be duplicated in the modern age? Why? Why not?
S.K.: Could there be a team like the ’86 Mets on the field? Sure. Could there be a team like the ’86 Mets off the field? Oh, hell no. Can you imagine if camera phones were around then? WOW!!!!!
J.P.: When you hate a player, do you really hate a player? Like, the Bobby Bonillas and Oliver Perezes of the world? Is the dislike genuine and real, or just, you know, a fan being a fan? If you were to run into Perez at McDonald’s, do you ask for an autograph? Tell him he sucks? What?
S.K.: I don’t hate players—I hate player’s contracts and general managers who give out ridiculous contracts that you know will bite you in the ass. Most of the players I’ve met and interviewed have been great guys. The only player on the Mets who annoys me is Justin Turner because I think he’s too much of a “look at me guy” and I’ve said it to him, and he just shrugged and walked away from me. At least I let him know how I felt.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH STEPHEN KEANE:
• Five favorite all-time Mets: Ed Kranepool. Tom Seaver. Jerry Grote. Jerry Koosman. David Wright.
• Five least-favorite all-time Mets: Richie Hebner. Ryan Thompson. Jeff Kent. Bobby Bonillia. Kenny Rogers.
• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Never think about dying.
• As a Met fan, are you more inclined to think Matt Harvey is destined for the Hall, or destined to have his arm fall off in a freak parrot accident?: Worse. He’ll sign as free agent with the Yankees.
• Dwight Gooden won nearly 200 games, yet everyone refers to him as a “disappointment.” What’s your take?: Gooden had a much better career than he’s given credit for. I always remember Tim McCarver saying during the 1985 season that Bob Gibson had told him that this could be the best Gooden would ever be. Gibson was right. I think fans forget Gooden pitched 16 years in the Big Leagues and won 194 games a Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and has a World Series ring. I just think the tragedy of his addiction clouds people’s perception of him.
• Please make an argument, in 40 words or less, why Ronn Reynolds deserves to have his number retired: I can’t.
• We give you 500 major league at-bats right now. What’s your line?: Right now? .157/.245/.268 oh wait….that’s Ike Davis’ slash line … you know what? I could put up the same line as well.
• Do you have a problem with teams signing PED guys like Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, etc?: No. They got caught and paid the price. If a team wants them, so be it.
• Three memories from your senior prom?: I didn’t go to my senior prom. None of my circle of friends went to the prom. We were much too cool for the prom. Pretty sure we did what we did most weekends—jump a turnstile and headed to Forty-Duce. That’s what we called until it got all prettied up and now Times Square is Disney Land. I did go to a girlfriend’s prom and it was torture because we had to go to a disco and listen to that awful disco music and all the guys had those Bensonhurst zipperhead haircuts and here I am with my shoulder-length, blown-out-like-Tony Iommi-hairdo. No, she’s not the girl I married.
• Someone offers you $3 million to abandon the Mets and become a lifetime Yankee fan. You do it?: NO FUCKING WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!