Viewpoint: MLB’s decision fails New York

By Chris Derrett
Editor in Chief

In case you miss the other 8,000 columns undoubtedly but justifiably written on the following topic, I’ll supply a brief rundown: Major League Baseball majorly screwed up on Sunday.

I’m not talking about a bad umpire call or the fact that the 2011 Houston Astros are still allowed to charge admission, so stay with me, non-sports fans.

I’m talking about caps. You know, the ones you can wear any which way, often found at Baylor in the neon variety with Greek letters.

Some caps represent baseball teams, like the New York Mets, and others sport very recognizable insignias. If a cap reads “NYPD” or “FDNY,” we don’t have to spell it out to know who it’s referencing.

If you don’t know, Google it. It’s the first result.

On Sunday, the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Mets didn’t want to wear their classic blue caps with the orange “NY” logo. They wanted to pay homage to New York’s emergency services, the people risking a lot more than a couple strikeouts when they go to work.

During their pregame warm-up before they played the Chicago Cubs, the Mets wore NYPD and FDNY caps. They thought it’d be a good idea to also wear them during the game.

Major League Baseball’s response? No.

The Mets released a statement, saying “MLB set a league-wide policy as it related to caps and uniforms for September 11, and we followed the guidelines.”

Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president for baseball operations, said the league made the decision to preserve a consistent uniform and that “certainly, it’s not a lack of respect.”

I beg to differ.

I can understand MLB not wanting a team to go wild on the 9/11 anniversary and end up with some hideous uniform like that of the Astros in the late ’70s and ’80s.

Again, if you don’t know what that jersey looks like, Google it. It is grotesque.

That, however, was not the case in Sunday’s game.

Ask anyone in the Citi Field crowd, many of whom shed tears in the 24-minute, pregame remembrance ceremony, if they’d have been offended by their team scrapping its usual cap for one game.

For even better proof, ask former New York Mets player Todd Zeile. Zeile was a member of the 2001 Mets, who, in their first game in New York after the attacks, also wanted to wear NYPD and FDNY caps.

“We felt that was the best way to align ourselves with those guys that were working 24/7 while we were still out trying to play baseball,” Zeile said of his 2001 team.

And they did. The 2001 Mets told Major League Baseball to shove it, and they took the field in those caps. Nobody seemed to mind.

The Mets won that Sept. 21, 2001, game with the help of possible hall-of-famer Mike Piazza’s dramatic eighth-inning home run. Even members of the losing team and coincidentally my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, later said they embraced that game and what it meant to New York. There really weren’t any losers that night.

Piazza was present at Sunday’s game and joined ESPN analysts for the pregame show at the stadium. When asked to describe his home run 10 years ago, he choked up and fought tears.

“The fact that it touched so many people, and so many people even here today remember that and found a little bit of healing from that – It’s very humbling to me,” he said.

There’s one more point upon which I disagree with MLB. Torre added another statement to the league’s explanation, saying, “We just felt all the major leagues are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing.”

It blows my mind that MLB grouped New York, the city literally blanketed in dust and debris on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, in the same category as every other city in America.

Every other city was uniformly sorrowful about the attacks on 9/11. New York actually had to do something about it.

To prevent the Mets from wearing those caps for the sake of unanimity is an insult to New York and its police and firefighters. New York deserves to remember and recognize its heroes however it wants.

Look, I’m not from New York. I’ve never even been there, though I’d really like to some day. Everything I’ve said is speculation at best.

But from an outsider’s perspective watching the Mets, then the Jets, Yankees and finally the Giants return to play in New York in 2001, I saw a family bringing all its parts together for three hours of fellowship. It was those teams’ jobs to represent their city as strongly as their emergency workers did on that day of tragedy.

If the Mets thought a “FDNY” or “NYPD” better symbolized that family than just a “NY” on their caps, should anybody have stopped them on the 10-year anniversary?

Tell me you don’t have to Google that one.

Chris Derrett is a senior journalism major from Katy and is the Lariat’s editor in chief.