Taking the Field by Howard Megdal: Book Review

As a writer covering the team and a diehard fan, Howard Megdal was not pleased with how the New York Mets treated him. It was a one-sided relationship—he wasn’t getting nearly as much out of it as he was putting in. The turning point for Megdal was the birth of his daughter. It was one thing for him, his parents, his wife, and his friends to suffer; it as another to have his first born subjected to the torments of being a Mets fan.

What did Megdal do? He ran for general manager of the team, a position occupied at the time by Omar Minaya. Spoiler alert: Megdal did not get the job. He did, however, write a book about his campaign, published last month: Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves (Bloomsbury, $25).

Of course, the front office jobs of major league baseball teams are not determined via public elections. And while it’s not certain whether Megdal actually believed he could snag the job—he was in contact with a high-ranking Mets official who informed him the Mets’ owners were aware of his campaign, which included “primaries” on various Mets blogs—you start to believe in his candidacy, built on logic, transparency, and passion.

At the beginning of Megdal’s campaign, in June of 2010, the Mets were on a surprising win streak. Not surprising was that this hurt Megdal’s cause—fans felt the team was doing just fine under its current management.* What separates Megdal from the masses is that he realizes it’s not about winning today, or even taking a few series in a row. It’s about sustainability.

*I’ve noticed on the popular MetsBlog.com, where periodic polls are conducted to determine whether or not fans feel the team is “headed in the right direction,” that the results are almost always based on how the team is currently doing. Seriously, the poll has to be affected at least 10 points based on whether the previous night’s game was a win or loss.

Megdal outlines how he’ll maximize the organization’s potential by placing an emphasis on the draft and the farm system and avoiding multi-year contracts to free agents in their twilight years (a staple of the Steve Phillips era, as Megdal skillfully highlights).

Interspersed throughout the 234-page book (relatively small pages, making it a quick read) are references to Megdal’s wife and newborn, as well as his personal history with the Mets. He also analyzes the franchise’s past mistakes—that is the best way to avoid future mistakes, right?—such as the Nolan Ryan and Scott Kazmir trades.

In the end, Megdal must come to grips with the fact that Sandy Alderson was hired to replace the disgraced Minaya. Not mentioned in the book are the financial troubles the Mets are facing, likely because the public didn’t have as much information at the time. Megadal’s solutions for the Mets could still be effective on a reduced budget, but it would certainly limit the GM’s freedom.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the book for a diehard Mets fan will be the comfort of knowing you are not alone. There are people like Megdal out there—obsessive fans who dedicate three-hour chunks to a team on a nightly basis for six months despite the lack of reward. This is the story of a fan willing to do something about it.

One thought on “Taking the Field by Howard Megdal: Book Review”

  1. Despite the fact that the Mets traded Nolan Ryan too soon, there was plenty of time to release some pretty, pretty, prettttaaayyyy sweet Ryan/Koosman combination rookie cards. Probably worth a FORTUNE in the Beckett by now.

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