the following is the unabridged version of a post I wrote on Flushing University concerning the New Yorker article on Fred Wilpon as well as a state of the franchise essay on the New york Mets...
Fred Wilpon is just like the rest of us.
Before anyone decides to go off half-cocked, read the story. Jose Reyes will not get Carl Crawford money, David Wright is not a superstar,Carlos Beltran is a lemon and And Ike Davis is a good hitter on a shitty team. Well, maybe we're not shitty. At 22-23 you can call the Mets a lot of things, but certainly not shitty.
There has been a lot of "the sky is falling" kind of talk around the New York Mets for most of the last bunch of years. but it seems to me the sky fell in October of 2006. The franchise hasn't yet recovered from the Adam Wainwright curve ball that shook Carlos Beltran's confidence and our confidence in him. I've said this before, as have thousands of other interested (and uninterested) observers.Like a drowning man grasping for the light above the water, subsequent signing haves deepened the wounds of that cold October night. Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are the most notable of these errors. And the spectre of the Bernie Madoff Trustee civil suit lingers like the tell-tale heart in the foundation of Citi Field.
But this is not about the Madoff case, the lost money and the potential losses that would eventually remove the Wilpon family from their throne as owners of the New york Mets. This is not even about Irving Picard and Baker Hostetler, who stand to reap the benefits of a prolonged civil case due to the almost $1 billion in legal fees the firm has collected settling complaint after complaint. They will fight as long as the Wilpon's do because not to reap justice but to serve their own interests. Every billable hour is another hand in the Madoff Trust.
This is about the reaction. The idea that Fred Wilpon is a terrible owner not because of his supposed mis-management, although he did principally hire Frank Cashen who oversaw the greatest era in Mets history and Steve Phillips who did a decent job himself building an era before he started to believe that he was smarter than Bobby Valentine. He also hired Omar Minaya who was a golden boy before Wainwright snapped his curve. So what's the beef? That he won't put money into this team? That he seems blase about the way the team has been managed and put together?
The man's company lost $500 million plus the day Madoff was arrested. It disappeared. That's roughly 230 % of what he is paying the 25 men and coaching staff on his major league roster this year. According to the sources in Jeffery Toobin's article, Sterling Enterprises is on the hook for close to a Billion in damages on top of that. I'm not defending the man, this is just how it is.
I'm sure opinions are across the board about the comments he made in one paragraph of a 10,000 word piece. Here's mine. He's right.
The sky has fallen and it couldn't get up, but if you are not encouraged by the what Wilpon's newest hire Sandy Alderson and his band of merry men JP Riccardi and Paul DePodesta have started here than you are already a lost cost. Perez an Castillo gone, there contracts will be gone too in four months. Contributors at Flushing University are all up in arms about the use of players like Willie Harris and Scott Hairston, but with Beltran and Jason Bay out to start the season and Angel Pagan, Davis and Wright all currently spending time on the disable list, just what is it that you expected. Johan Santana has been out since last year and bargain signing Chris Young has succumbed to injury as well, but this team has pitched fairly well, especially the bullpen since the reintroduction of Jason Isringhausen. There are no world beaters on that staff and to expect anything less is foolish. This is a .500 team and will be =/- 2 wins or losses in July when the real measure of this new management regime will come.
I trust that Alderson and his troops will draft well, there is just too much talent in that office not too. But the draft will be over and done by the middle of June and we'll wax poetic about the next guy who will make the jump to the majors as fast as Davis did. I'm referring to the July 31st trading deadline. While this team will finish better than the Washington Nationals, it simply can't compete with a Philadelphia Phillies who have a monster rotation and an offense about to get a whole lot better or the Atlanta Braves a team that is also better—good old Ted Turner knows how to own or even the Florida Marlins have enough starting pitching along with offense to keep hold of third place, so any talk of the Mets competing for a playoff spot is just that. It was back in March and it is now. Since the hiring of Alderson and the subsequent hiring of his staff, this has all been about July 31st.
The Mets will have approximately $35 million coming off their payroll with the expiration of the Perez, Castillo and Beltran contracts. Reyes' modest contract will also expire and the Mets are currently paying him $11 million. That's $46 million. There is the matter of Francisco Rodriguez and his 2012 option which I will elude to in a moment, but let's take him off the books as well at $11.5 million that's a grand total of $57.5 million that Alderson and his boys will have to spend more wisely.
The Wilpon's will finish a deal to sell off 20-25% of the franchise by Summer's end, and as the club is estimated to be worth over $1 billion let's call a potential sale of 20% $200 million. The sky fell, time to build a new sky.
Where to begin? Let's start with Mike Pelfrey, who has shown if nothing else, that he can throw innings. He may not be an ace or even a #3 starter but I think I can find a team a subway ride away that would take him off our hands for a couple of prospects, or maybe a guy like Austin Romine, who has shown great skills as a catcher. I'm sure Pelfrey could bring in two decent prospect from any contender and losing him doesn't hurt, we have Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia mowing down hitters in the minors as I write this. Either one of them could take Pelfrey's place in the rotation.
Next there is Beltran, really he is the no brainer of the group, send him to the American League and get what you can. Why not pay the remaining salary and upgrade the prospect in return. I can think of three destinations where Beltran services of part-time outfielder and DH could come in handy. Namely, Boston, Tampa and Texas and why not throw Cleveland into the mix. Beltran has been maligned since the fall of 2006. Injuries have cut him in half, but he is clearly the best centerfielder this team has ever had, and when he has been healthy he has been our best player. His time is done, and while most Met fans will slam the door behind his departure, they will be sure to miss him.
Rodriguez is a tricky matter. He will be shopped and a bargained for. Most teams will hold the 2012 performance option over how heads to entice us to pay most of the contract or take lesser prospects. Take a bucket of balls just don't pay the $17.5. That will be a killer of an albatross going into the next off season.
I have written here and in other forums that Reyes should be traded. That his attitude and baseball acumen is overrated, but truth be told, I've seen the error of my ways. Citi Field is ideal for him. Reyes plays inside the walls, the bigger the walls the better. Whatever I wrote here is poppycock. Well, not entirely, but...
The tack to re-sign Reyes will be akin to a game of chicken. Its true, he is going to want Crawford money (7 years $142 million), and he is not worth Crawford money. Crawford is not worth Crawford money. So how do you talk a guy off a ledge? You let him experience what jumping is all about. There are four conceivable places for Reyes to go via free agency and get the kind of money he is looking to receive. The Yankees, which have their own problems finding a place for their aging Hall of Famers, adding Reyes doesn't seem like a particularly smart investment when they need pitching more than anything. the Red Sox already made their play with Crawford. Texas has Elvis Andrus which leaves the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem. They have the means and the spot for Reyes. Alderson's job will be simple. Don't just make an offer to Reyes, let the market make the offer. Be up front with Jose and tell him we want you here, but we know that the idea of being a free agent is appealing and you should go out and see what's there, come back with what you find and we'll see where we are. Following that strategy the Mets will sign him for $15-16 million per season average over six or seven years.
As for Wright, we keep him because there is no alternative. There is no better player available at third base in the majors and there is no one in the minors to replace him. Bring the fence in left in and allow him and Bay to benefit. Second base is set with Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy and both give you options at the corner positions. Davis is fashioning himself for a spot alongside Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver and (most likely) Mike Piazza along with Jackie Robinson. He is the best parts of John Olerud and Keith Hernandez and he should be here for a long time.
The outfield, especially without Beltran is a question, which is why deadline trades should be made with it in mind. This team should be built on pitching and speed. We have tons of waiting arms in the minors, but no speed. Find me a 22-year-old centerfielder who can steal 30 bases and cover two-thirds of an outfield like Tori hunter or Beltran could in their youth and the job is done.
Met fans have been through a lot in the past 10 years. False starts and titanic disappointments have led to an ire against the Wilpon family that might be justified in particular instances. However, this behavior and sentiment is not just over comments that anyone of us have made since Game 7, 2006.
Wilpon's comments didn't shock me and they sure didn't anger me. They made me realize that for all of the missteps and calamities this franchise has faced that he has a clue. That he understands the reality of this team and that is an important point to digest. Wail all that you will. We are the cursed and left for dead Met fans, it is what we know, but I can't help but look at a team at 22-23 in May, the management team is in place to be successful from here on in, with the draft and the the trade deadline fast approaching and not believe something good will come out of this.
Its all a matter of patience now.