Well-respected bloggers such as ourselves get certain privileges. I, for one, was thrilled when a man in a tuxedo named Sebastian rolled up to my apartment in a Bentley a couple of months ago to hand deliver to me a special invitation. I had been invited to the reunion of the family that owns the New York Mets, the Wilpons, and I would be allowed to bring a camera with me to give you all an inside-look. And here’s the actual footage. Enjoy.
I’m feeling extra snarky today upon learning that manager Willie Randolph, first base coach Tom Nieto, and pitching coach Rick Peterson were all fired overnight. Not that I have great affinity for any of these guys. Randolph in particular would make certain decisions that are completely antithetical to what the statistics show is the proper choice. But those decisions, whether correct or not, are not what has left the Mets under .500 in mid-June. Managerial decisions don’t have enough impact on overall players’ performances to explain why the Mets have become the joke of the National League. It’s not Willie’s fault that the organization decided to simultaneously roll more dice than a game of Yahtzee. It’s not Rick Peterson’s fault that the team has had to give ten starts to Nelson Figueroa and Claudio Vargas. And it’s not Tom Nieto’s fault that… Umm… Yeah… Hell, I have no idea what you can possibly blame on a first base coach. Maybe he didn’t yell “BACK!” loud enough? Couldn’t enunciate? No idea.
The point is, there are far more important bungled decisions that were made by guys who don’t wear the uniform. And none of them seem to be taking responsibility publicly. They’re just throwing each other under the proverbial bus.
Let’s begin with the Wilpons. On the surface, it might appear as if the father-son duo are doing what every good owner should by ponying up the dough. The Mets are currently 3rd in MLB in total payroll with a figure north of $138M. But the franchise also had an operating income of $32.9M in 2007, which was the 3rd most behind Florida and Washington – two of the stingiest teams in baseball. I am not claiming poor because that would probably be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever said. And I’ve said some ridiculous things in my time. However, the manner in which the Wilpons operate bothers me.
For example, let’s take the whole Randolph situation. Willie’s imminent dismissal was one of the worst-kept secrets. We all knew it was coming, fairly or not. But the front office waited. And waited. And waited. They didn’t fire him while the team was still in New York. They did it after the first game of a West Coast trip while New York was sleeping. To top it all off, the principal owner, Fred Wilpon, wanted his own hands clean:
“(GM) Omar (Minaya) is in charge… It was his decision. He made that decision a short time ago, obviously, and decided what to do. You have to ask Omar about that.”
Now maybe I’m reading into this a little too much. But to me, this sounds like the words of a man who wants no part of the blame. He’s fed Minaya to the wolves. Pin the firing on Omar and you don’t have to deal with the backlash. Nice.
Then there’s the whole draft slotting situation. For those of you who don’t follow the MLB draft, the Mets as an organization are notorious for adhering to the slotting system. Long story short, the Commissioner’s office annually sends out contract guidelines for teams to follow when it comes to signing players who are drafted. The #1 pick should get this much money while the #6 pick deserves that much, so on and so forth. The teams that do not follow these guidelines have a better shot at building a strong, sustainable farm system because they’re not scared off by these players contractual demands. They just pay the price. The teams that do follow the guidelines? I guess Bud pats them on their heads for being good sports. And there are some owners who love being Selig’s lapdogs. Guess which side the Wilpons belong to. There are many reasons why the Mets farm system is terrible, but the team’s adherence to this system is one of the top ones.
Which brings me to Omar Minaya. He’s not a terrible GM, and has made some very strong moves. But clearly, the man has failed to create an organization from the top down. Their parent organization has a few too many players who have few too many birthdays. Incredibly, the same could be said of their minor league system too. Of the 13 pitchers playing for AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, 6 are over 30. Their average age is 29.54. Of the five outfielders, 3 are over 30. And the two “youngsters” are 29. They’re a collection of players who for one reason or other couldn’t hack it in the bigs. And we expect them to back up a big league roster full of injured players? While it’s true that Omar isn’t very involved in the drafting process, the Mets minor league system has taken a big step back during his tenure, which was pretty difficult to do since it was never all that strong to begin with. And it is his job to put the proper people in charge. This apparently hasn’t happened. So what we have is an inflexible roster. The Luis Castillo deal was ridiculous and now, he’s untradeable. Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, and Oliver Perez are all free agents at the end of the year and there are no candidates to replace them from within, which means that they’ll end up overspending once again in a free agent market that’s stocked with mediocre talent.
This is the reality of the 2008 New York Mets. They are, in a word, a mess. And I’m still trying to figure out where they have gone wrong and whether or not they have enough time left in the season to do anything about it. I’m still holding out hope, but time is already running short.
PS: Fun story. I was at Shea Stadium on Saturday night in the pouring rain, watching the tarp covering the field being pelted by what appeared to be a monsoon. Just as most fans were giving up on the game happening, six members of the Texas Rangers – Milton Bradley, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Gerald Laird, and Josh Rupe – came bolting out of the visitor’s dugout and turned Shea into a massive slip-and-slide. Highly entertaining. And wouldn’t ya know it? The crowd broke into a chant of “let’s go Rangers”. In Shea Stadium. It’s obvious that the fans are pining for something from their club beyond wins and losses. It was weird to see this “something” supplied by a team from Texas.