Tag Archives: Sandy Alderson

David Wright, the myth of a superstar

David WrightDavid Wright has agreed to sign the rest of his life away to the New York Mets, agreeing to the richest contract the franchise has ever given out.  The total value of the contract will net him $138 million, making him the highest paid Met.  EVER.

I’ve never been a David Wright fan.  I’ve always felt like his value has been overstated because of his Derek Jeter like presence in the club.  He’s a good looking guy who plays the game hard and never becomes back page folly.  He avoids any and all kind of blame, an amazing feat considering he’s viewed as the leader of a New York sports franchise.  Ask Patrick Ewing what it was like never winning a championship in New York and having to come into work amongst fans who blamed him for it.

The thing is not every player is Derek Jeter.  He’s won five championships.  He dates super duper models*.  He sends women gift baskets after he’s had his way with them at night.  He’s a living legend in almost every right.  When he reaches a milestone, he does so in style.  See, getting his 3,000th hit while hitting a home run.  And judging by his stats from last year reports of his decline were very much said too soon.
*=He dated Miss Universe.  You know how many guys get to date women on that scale?  And he did so publicly with an Indian woman at that.  Do you understand what that entails when a non indian man decides to date an indian woman?  Did her parents just never pick up a paper?  Were they Yankee fans and were excited that their daughter was dating the shortstop and future hall of famer? Miracle worker this Derek Jeter.

But David Wright, as stated above, is no Derek Jeter and the fact is no matter how many toothy smiles he gives he won’t ever resonate with the Met fan base the way Jeter does with the Yankee fan base.  If he’s our Derek Jeter than we’re as third class as every Yankee fan claims.  Its not to say that Wright isn’t a great player.  He is, but he’s not what we think he is and he’s not what we based his new contract on.

Most Met fans are rejoicing in the news that David Wright will be a Met for life.  I’m not.  He’s not a great fielder, he’s a good fielder.  He’s not a great clutch hitter.  In fact he’s very rarely clutch.  He’s got great stats but he racks up those numbers in meaningless games.  He’s the leader of a team that has not had a winning record in four seasons.  This is the guy you paid $138 million to over the final seven seasons.

I’m sorry if you’re waiting for stats to back up my case here.  But I don’t need them.  I’ve watched 90% of Mets games that Wright has played in and he does two things well: he racks up stats during blowouts and he smiles well enough to engender compassion and gratefulness.  The biggest argument that most Mets fans have is look at his statistics.  And I will argue back that they have not seen him in situations over the last few years with the chance to drive in more runs where he failed by doing the absolute worst thing you can do in those situations: strike out.  You can give me any advanced metric you want to play up Wright but he doesn’t pass the all important eye test.  Any real fan, who truly cares and watches the team as closely as I do (yes I’m being perfectly objective when I say this), knows what I’m talking about.  He doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers and there are enough holes in his swing that pitchers feel confident enough to get him out.  That’s not a superstar.  That’s a star.

But in our ever present struggle with Yankee fans the Mets fans have put it in their heads that Wright is our Jeter and that argument falls on completely deaf ears as well.  He’s not.  He doesn’t have the rings, or the general ability to come through that Jeter has shown throughout his career.  Wright does many things well, but all in moderation, making him a superstar by default because there’s some unwritten rule that says every team MUST have a superstar.  But that mandate doesn’t sit well with me and shouldn’t for Mets fans.  When a guy of superstar ilk comes along, you will know him.  He walks different.  He gives you confidence in any and every situation.  You don’t dread his at bats like a kid waiting for a report card.  But the Mets fans have decided to look past the eye test and enjoy the illusion.  And the Mets in turn have paid him handsomely to keep the fan base playing up to that illusion.  Its a win win for both sides.

All of that to secure the services of a home grown star and avoid any further embarrassment.  This deal doesn’t secure the Mets first winning record in five years.  This only secures the Mets ongoing war with the press to win their half hearted approval.  Not signing Wright would’ve meant mutiny within the fan base and total bashing by every media outlet in New York for an ownership group who (literally) can’t afford to lose any more paying customers.  In reality, Wright is the only thing clean about this Mets franchise and the only pristine thing in the whole organization.  The Coupon family couldn’t let him walk away.  Then the focus would be completely on them and they couldn’t have that.  They can now throw David Wright in front of the fire before it reaches them but the truth is no one blames him because everyone knows what a complete screw up they are in the first place.  Really, who can look bad standing next to the Coupon family?  Doesn’t Wright become bigger and better in light of the Coupon family’s distressing financial situation and idiotic decision-making?

But is that the right reason for signing Wright?  Did the Mets compromise their own team for the next few seasons by signing Wright to a deal that could financially cripple them for years to come?  If this contract is backloaded and there truly is a “hard cap” that even has the Steinbrenners running to shave a few million off the edges, exactly how much money will the Mets have to throw around on a 25 man roster?  We know now that Sandy Alderson was brought in to cut payroll and fatten the farm system up.    But will he stay long enough to reap the rewards when the next two seasons could entail more of the same?

The Mets are looking at 2014 as the year of the purge.  When Johan Santana’s contract and Jason Bay’s contract magically disappear off the payroll.  But what will happen next is anybody’s guess.  We’re hoping that a bunch of kids mixed in with a free agent or two will mesh perfectly to finally reward Met fans for their patience.  Patience that has been long waning thanks to ponzi schemes and putzes running the organization.  But the feeling is that the David Wright signing begins a new era in Mets land.  A promise that the payroll restrictions aren’t as crippling as people think.  That the Mets can drop an ineffective player regardless of salary ramifications (see Bay, Jason).  That the Mets do care about the product on the field and the fans who pay to see them play by signing talented home grown players that fans have seen age before their very eyes.  That the fans have a legacy player in the ilk of a Tom Seaver because they were robbed of that with Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden.

I agree that the Mets deserve those things and should get those things, but let’s remember one thing:  the goal is to win and get better.  I woke up this morning to the news of David Wright’s signing not sure if we accomplished either goal.


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2011 Spring Training questions

With today being another one of those unofficial national holidays according ONLY to us warped, out-of-touch sports fans, I thought it would be helpful to address five concerns our local ballclubs have going into this season.

This isn’t a final list of problems or some list meant to read into the future of the two teams, but let’s just say there is a lot of unresolved business heading into the 2011 season for BOTH the Yankees and Mets.

Because the Yankees face a helluva lot less drama I’m going to start with them.

Also, understand that the order is NOT based on importance.

1. Core Four being…replaced?
Yankee fans have long dreaded the day that this would happen but more than any season it has become crystalized:  replacements for the Core Four are here.  Well, technically its three now that Andy Pettite has retired.  But the Yankees have two young pitchers who are capable of replacing the wily veteran though I wonder how effective they will be in the immediate future.

Jesus Montero, is somewhere in every Top 5 prospect list.  He’s projected to be a 30 homer, 100 RBI guy that hits for average but can’t play defense which was Posada’s flaw.  But already the Yankees have told Posada that he should concentrate on being a DH.  The Yankees have a good supply of defensive catchers they can use if they need someone back there.

Speaking of changing positions, the Yankees have already begun discussions on moving Derek Jeter to centerfield to make room for Eduardo Nunes.  Nunes is the shortstop the Yankees wouldn’t part with in their failed attempt at trading for Cliff Lee.  I wonder how insane all those defensive stat geeks will get when they bring out their plus/minus projections for Derek Jeter the centerfielder?

One doesn’t give out $30 something million to a set up man unless its a clear indication that a succession plan has been put into place.  Mariano Rivera however is the ultimate pro so I see no chance of him causing problems with Rafael Soriano.  Though I can’t imagine they were thrilled to hear Mariano having contract talks with the Red Sox.

Seems to me the Yankees have made it a priority to spell out the next group of stars that will replace the legends of yet another great Yankee generation.  I just wonder if these guys will appreciate being shown the door before they have decided its time to leave.

2. No Cliff Lee.  No Andy Pettite.  No problem?
No matter what the spin is during introductory press conferences let’s be real: its spring training its all peachy keen.  But this will be a big issue as the season plays itself out especially if the rotation stays as presently constructed.  Who knows what to expect from A.J. Burnett?  Phil Hughes doesn’t have a long enough resume to just assume that he will keep pitching at the level he did last year.  There’s a chance that Bartolo Colon will make this rotation which would be incredible when considering that he essentially is plan B for not getting Cliff Lee.  Then there’s Joba Chamberlain who has had his growth as a pitcher permanently stunted by his constant movement from the bullpen to the rotation.

The only person you can rely on to have a big year is C.C. Sabathia who now has back tracked his previous comments of playing out his 7 year $161 million deal and may opt out of the deal and force the Yankees into paying him even more money in a deal that would keep him in pinstripes for “8 to 10 more years” as he has been quoted as saying he would like to pitch.

The rotation will be a concern if C.C. leaves which brings us to…

3. Jesus Montero: future Yankee star or trade bait?
After losing out on Cliff Lee, the Yankees may end up ace-less after 2012 when, if every reporter is reading the signals right, C.C. Sabathia will opt out of his contract and perhaps leave to play elsewhere.  Sabathia was probably the only person in the Bronx who rejoiced when Lee didn’t sign with the Yankees because it now gives him leverage to ask for more money.  Add into the fact that the best free agent pitcher in next years market will be Mark Buerhle, the Yankees will be hard pressed to find solutions there unless they explore the trade market where a potential ace may be available.

According to rumors coming from Minneapolis, Francisco Liriano may become available, and I have a feeling (note sarcasm) they will approach this a bit differently than the Johan Santana trade.  It will most certainly cost Jesus Montero and who knows what else.  Will the rotation issues force the Yankees into using their best prospect in a deal to plug a major hole?  Should be interesting.

4. Who are Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances?
If the Yankees are correct, they are future aces in the Yankee system honing their craft just in time.  Three of the top 5 prospects in the system are catchers but the other two are these young guns who could be the key to how they approach their pitching problems.  If they show a continuing trend upward I wonder how Cashman will respond to CC’s contract opt out.  Their progress this season will go a long way in future organizational decisions.

5.  A-Rod.
Either he needs to get back with Kate Hudson who apparently also helped Muse win a Grammy (why havent the Mets made David Wright go after her? Seriously?), or he just needs to have a bounceback year.  I think the latter is the liklier outcome but remember that he’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a hip condition which will make his range progressively worse at 3B.  Eventually he will be a full time DH but this year his health will be monitored closely.  If he continues trending downward it will be interesting to see how they approach him about full time DH’ing once Posada’s contract ends.  Boy that 10 year contract will feel like a prison sentence.

Now that we are done with the Nickelodeon type drama of the Yankees its time to move on to the TNT of drama filled teams: the New York Mets.  Here are 5 questions heading into next season for the Metropolitans in no particular order:

1.  Beltran and Reyes’ future-

This is a case of long term and short term futures.  The first half will be crucial for both of these players.

Beltran will likely have to take a huge paycut to stay in New York in light of recent events.  If he plays well, the Mets will like to trade him but I doubt they will find a team willing to pay the price in prospects for what will likely be a half year rental.  I see the Mets holding on to Beltran and recouping 2 first round picks from him.

Reyes on the other hand is the one I see getting dealt.  He is the biggest chip the Mets have and its more than likely that this front office will look to deal him away because of the prospects he will be able to land them.  The scarcity of elite shortstops with the tools Reyes has will make him a commodity and I can’t see this front office’s unwillingness to sign Reyes to a long term contract now (when his value would be lower due to some down years) as anything other than a sign that they will look to deal him for the best possible haul.

If they do trade him, the hope is that the front office knows what its getting in return.  This year will be interesting- especially the first half.  There are several reasons to hope these two get off to strong starts.

2. Madoff-
So many questions remain since the contents of the Madoff trust’s lawsuit against the Wilpon’s were revealed.  One thing is clear for me: the Wilpons knew something was up with this guy.  I’m not implying they were in on it, but to plead ignorance is stupid and won’t hold up.  The Mets will eventually be up for sale and its anyone’s guess who will wind up with them.

What we do know is that next years financial flexibility that Sandy Alderson pointed to may not be there thanks to the mess they are currently in.  What I do know is that the Mets will have to find a way to play through the distraction and it leads me to the next concern/question for 2011

3. How will the new manager and GM handle their roles?

Terry Collins was hired over Wally Backman who was the clear cut fan favorite and remains in the system eager for an opportunity to succeed Collins should he slip.  The big worry about Collins was his temperment and ability to relate to players and it will be interesting to see if he’s lost touch with that after being out of the major league coaching ranks for a decade.

Sandy Alderson was brought in, in hindsight I suppose, as a cleaner of messes.  He did so in San Diego with the Padres and in Dominican Republic with the corruption of the academies there.  He now faces his most high profile mess to clean up and its unclear whether he was sent with a specific directive from the Commissioner’s office or he actually thought he would get to play GM with a bigger bank account.  Whatever the case is, his skills will be put to the test.

Every move will be crucial as the Mets now seemingly will have very little of the $60 million coming off the books to reinvest.  So the Mets will have to be smart with how they spend their payroll as long as the drama with the Wilpons is unresolved.  If the Mets dont resolve this ownership issue expect more Chris Capuano and Chris Young signings.  Lucky for Met fans Sandy Alderson has plenty of experience dealing with limited resources.

4. When Opening Day comes who will be on the team?

Its a natural question to ponder since there are two names that Met fans won’t miss all that much if they were left without a roster spot come Opening Day.  Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are approaching epic levels of disdain and do you blame them?  These were two guys who received contracts that were universally hated the moment it was announced and basically the worst case scenario played out.  Every four pitch walk and every weak grounder resulting in a double play built the vitriol that exists today.

If they were not to come to camp, they would fall under the “addition by subtraction” principle.

But there is one other figure that looms large and that is Johan Santana who for the third consecutive year had offseason surgery to repair something in his throwing arm.  When he will come back.  What condition he will come back in.  How long it will take for him to get into competitive shape are all questions that have yet to be answered and the longer it takes to get a timetable for these things, the worse it will be for Met fans who already have such little to look forward to this year.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say Santana comes back in August.  Gets into playing shape in September and hopefully pitches in some very meaningful games during that month.  Best case scenario for the Mets?  They are by some miracle in contention in August and instead of making the major deal to swing for a pitcher they will be getting their ace back in time for the stretch run which would be great.  Of course that’s absolutely best case scenario.

5.  Will young guys step up?

Jon Niese, Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, are all pretty much guaranteed roster spots and will be counted on to take that next step in their development.  Niese I think has the opportunity to be a good number 2 starter thanks to that curveball which he rarely uses.  Pitching coach Dan Warthen got his contract renewed because of the pitching staff’s success last season despite a dismal overall record.   Dillon Gee won’t blow anyone away with his stuff but his guile and toughness will be needed to navigate out of that 5 hole.  Bobby Parnell’s success will be counted upon greatly next season when you remember that a $17.5 million option for next year in K-Rod’s contract automatically kicks in if he appears in 55 games.  If Parnell takes that next step then the Mets will have a legitimate  reason for keeping K-Rod on the bench so that option doesn’t kick in.  In fact, thanks to Madoff, it may not even matter if Parnell is good or not- he will definitely see more action as the year moves along.

Ike Davis was the breakout rookie for the Mets and depending on how well Bay snaps out of last year’s funk and Wright comes back and Beltran returns to form, the Mets could have a formidable heart of the line up rife with power.  Davis suffered through the usual rookie spell where he wasn’t lining up the breaking balls.  He made adjustments at the end of the season to bump his average up from .246 to .264.  Hopefully Davis keeps trending upwards.

Five rookies who are probably going to see the light of day during September call ups:

Jenrry Mejia- Dan Warthen believes that Mejia could be an elite closer.  Scouts think that Mejia projects as a front line starter.  Either way, the hope here is that he doesn’t get screwed up like this guy.

Lucas Duda & Kirk Nieuwenheis-  I would love for Captain Kirk to make it to the majors if for nothing other than his nickname but here’s what I know about this guy: he’s a winner.  His entire life he’s won.  He was a former football quarterback which tells me that the mental aspect of the game won’t be a problem.  He plays hard but because of his lack of range and mobility most people find it difficult to put him at one position.  He deserves a legitimate shot at the majors.  Duda played well for the Mets during his call up and will probably see some time again.  He even has the opportunity to break camp with the Mets and come up north but it depends on how he plays during Spring Training.
I grouped them together because they feel and look like the same player.

Reese Havens-  He’s got a plus bat but he’s average in the field.  Frankly I could care less.  I need him to stay healthy.  He’s the classic what if proposition for Met prospects “what if he were healthy?”  Most would agree that he would be the starting 2b for the Mets come opening day.  That’s how good people think he can be but unfortunately at bats are hard to come by when you’re injured all the time.

Fernando Martinez- Listen, he’s 22 so its not out of the realm of possibility that the guy could make 2011 his coming out party.  Well let’s face it, at some point he’ll be 25 and he’ll be old news and not worth all the hassle.  Maybe its the pressure of living up to all the high standards that were put on him from the moment he hit homeruns in Shea Stadium when he was 16.

The Mets youngsters will play a major role in shaping how this year plays out.  There are a lot of what ifs but if you can’t be optimistic during Spring Training, when can you?
I’m ready for baseball.

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Meet the Mess part 5020304?

Consider Friday’s news about the Mets as a good thing.  A sign that things are finally improving for the better.

A year ago, I may not have been so forgiving but at this point, who really cares?  At this point, the Mets are so far along in the punchline scale that its very difficult to see them recovering.

As a Met fan, I must admit the next few hundred or maybe thousand words (who knows where this will go and it may be fragmented arguments and a lot of run on thoughts about the Mets) may sound very redundant on the point I’ve been making about the Mets: the ownership situation has been the liability.

I”ve been pretty much anti-Coupon* family for a long time.  After 2006 in which everything went right for the Mets and there was actual hope within the organization the Mets began basically deconstructing a very good team in hopes that they could strike lightning in a bottle again.  For some time I, like many Met fans began putting it all on the lap of the General Manager Omar Minaya.  Usually the GM is the first people blame.

*= Coupon= Wilpons

But as I began reading more and more reports it became obvious that there was a higher power involved in personnel decisions.  Rumblings of GM’s complaining about Jeff Wilpon’s inclusion in the decision making process led many to believe that Minaya was more of a worker bee- given instructions by the Queen Bee and ordered to make it happen.

Many of the decisions that followed were done to improve the bottom line more so than the actual product on the field.  Many of their decisions had very little on building a good team as much as it had to do with building a good product.  The Mets became obsessed with big ticket items surrounded by middling salaried players.

I always felt that the Mets, in their minds, were competing with the Yankees.  They defended their decisions and poor results by saying that they were one of the Top 5 payrolls cluelessly not realizing that it was in that very argument that they were being made to look like fools.  A top 5 payroll and these are the results?

But nothing made me more aware of their absolute lack of common sense than when the Madoff Ponzi scheme came to light and rumors began swirling about the Coupon family’s involvement.  They weren’t in collusion with Bernie Madoff- they too were swindled for sums of cash.  That figure was kept under wraps but became fodder for writers to discuss and ponder over.

I would never suggest that the Coupons actually reveal the figure they lost, but their continued refusal to accept that it would affect the day to day operations for the Mets was comical.  How in the world could you stand to lose anywhere between $250-$700 million and insist to the fan base that this would NOT affect payroll?

It was then that the $145 million payroll became a burden than a badge of honor for the Wilpons.  The situation became even more dire when according to multiple reports Bud Selig, the Commissioner of baseball, had to get hands and “suggest”* that the Coupons hire Sandy Alderson who was at the time working for MLB in the Commissioner’s office coincidentally cleaning up another mess- the baseball academies in the Dominican Republic

*= read demand

The thing that always irked me about the Coupons was their insistence in pushing this myth of fiscal security down our throats.  While the Madoff scandal was breaking before our very eyes, it became clear that Sterling Equities, the Coupon family owned corporation and majority holder of the Mets, had taken a dent thanks to Bernie and Co.

They continued to insist to the fans that nothing would change and repeated so everyone could hear, that the Mets had one of the highest payrolls in baseball which to them may have sounded great but to me or any other fan with a clue sounded like a cop out.  An excuse that a major corporate CEO should never have to use to justify anything.  That’s like Terrell Owens’ financial adviser saying that he had $25 million reasons to live in response to allegations that he tried to take his own life.

Are you serious?  That’s what you’re going to say?  The Jason Bay signing was a mirage.  A move intended to shift the focus off of darker days ahead.  The day when the lie was no longer going to work.  That day came Friday.

Friday, like a kid who had no excuse left, tried one last ploy to ease concern.  Except like every move since 2006- it only created a bigger sense of worry.  The Mets announced Friday that they would look to sell 20-25% of minority stake in the Mets.  Which naturally begs the question: why would anyone go through such a risk?  They’d be paying to help ease the cost of bills when the truth behind the Madoff scandal comes out.

And this decision can make one assume that there is more revelations to come.  The Mets were seen as winners in the Madoff scandal when it was revealed that they had withdrawn somewhere between 40-50 million dollars.  Irving Picard, the man in charge with collecting money to pay back investors burned by Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, is going after the Wilpons and truth is no one really knows what he does.  In fact, it stands to reason that one should only assume the worst: that the Mets will owe between $700 million to $1 billion when all is said and done which will lead to the greatest thing this Met fan can ever hope to hear:  The Coupon family must sell the Mets.

To say that someone wouldn’t be interested in minority stake would be foolish.  If there is more bad news, whoever buys the 25% would stand to gain from the windfall as only Sterling Equities would be held accountable for the Madoff mess and would automatically give the minority owner exclusive rights to negotiate a purchase which is very appealing.

Let’s not forget that the Mets have several things going for them.  They are located in the world’s number one market, they have their own television network which is a cash cow.  They have a brand new stadium which, under the right ownership group and situation could make it a very lucrative building.  Also, more importantly, baseball will not allow the Mets to fold.  They have the might and backing of the league office which always helps.

Organizationally the Mets are headed in the right direction.  They are trimming payroll and refusing to get involved in long term contracts that make no sense.  Its incredible that GM’s get paid ridiculous sums to go out there and sign free agents to ridiculous deals but if there is ONE thing that’s very clear nowadays its this: most sports franchise owners have Jerry Jones syndrome.

They’d rather spend more time figuring out how to maximize their profit potential by building these crazy state of the art stadiums than actually go the time-tested formula of building a perennial contender that will actually draw fans into said building.  How is that such a difficult formula to go by?

The gift and curse of today’s society is technology.  Now that we’ve been given all this technology and ability to have all this information at our finger tips we’re now complaining that we have TOO much information as if that’s a bad thing.

Nowadays, you can Google anyone and find something about them that five years ago may not have been possible.  The biggest problem, the fastest rising tech company today (Facebook) faces is privacy concerns.  People are so scared that they will be found out on the internet for their weird tendencies that they don’t want anyone to know about.  Of course, that information ends up on the internet and it is very difficult to keep that from happening unless you’re like Mikhail Prokhorov and hate technology and computers and don’t believe in them like they are some myth concocted by teenage geeks who made everyone believe their fantasy world of Warcraft was some realistic universe that somehow NORMAL people are slowly becoming a part of.*

*= I have  very good excuse for that weird run on sentence.  A few days ago I had a conversation with a tech friend.  I’ve recently been on Engadget, CNet and other techy blogs and like any person who found this vast amount of information I naturally brought it up to friends who I felt would be versed in such things so I could know even more.  Needless to say, telling tech geeks about their own world is somehow insulting to them and they make this very earnest attempt to make you feel and sound stupid.  Its in the looks of bewilderment like for instance bringing up IPAD 2 and Iphone 5 rumors.  I read up on what NFC is and as a sports geek myself I made the joke about how before two weeks the only NFC I knew was in football.  There were crickets at night that were louder than the silence that I got on that joke.  He went on to tell me that this technology is the future but that word has been floating around for the last couple of years and most new products will include this technology which by the way is basically a way for you to pay for your Starbucks treinte with your cell phone.  But you get what I’m saying.  And before anyone makes the counter argument that sports geeks are the same way let me remind you that the stereotype is that we’re stupid morons with pot bellies and we’re in the beer and wings crowd and not the wine and cheese.  We don’t snub our noses at the novices, we merely detest people with ten thousand questions while the biggest game in the universe (that being whatever we’re presently watching) is going on.  Please don’t do that, there is a time and place for such things and THAT is not it.

But the idea that TOO much information is somehow bad is not true in every sector of society which includes sports management.  I’ve long been a fan of learning how championship teams are built.  There isn’t a formula involved that is true but there are a few maxims that General Managers hold on to: you need guys who keep the clubhouse loose- because when the going gets tough, they are the ones that will calm your superstars down by coming into the clubhouse and farting real loud.  They are as important to a team as the superstar.

A few years ago I wrote an article about what I felt was missing from the Mets and what changed in the locker room dynamic between 2006 and 2007.  How could the Mets go from being a dominant contender in 06 to a bunch of choke artists in 2007?  For one, David Wright who was their cornerstone player, did not have Cliff Floyd who was both mentor and best friend on the team.  He played a valuable role in teaching Wright, then a novice, on all things baseball related and always kept him comfortable even under the duress of the media maelstorm that is New York.  Most notably I remember a TRL appearance by David Wright where he brought along Cliff Floyd.  For some the guessture was nice but many stories after that intimated that Wright needed Floyd there to get over the nerves of being on national TV because he was only now coming into his own.

Missing players like that have been the Mets problem.  Which of course makes the entirety of the Mets product look shoddy.  Reyes, Wright, etc are not built to be leaders who can motivate a group and get them out of the doldrums of a losing season.  That attitude needs to be built in and come from somewhere which is why the Mets needed a Terry Collins type.

But that we’ll get to.  The Mets need more than just a fiery manager.  They need a culture shift which is what Sandy Alderson and staff hope to do.  They’ve spent pennies in comparison to the old regime and it doesn’t automatically invite parades but its nice to see business done in other ways.  That throwing money at a situation doesn’t make it ok.  That telling everyone about how much money you are spending isn’t going to make anyone respect you anymore.  That its about how you spend that money and not how much.

If this episode has taught us anything its this: the Coupons lie is finally coming to bite them where it hurts.  It is no longer a secret.  The Mets ownership group has to continue their coming clean act.  They have to be forthcoming in the next few months in order to put any rumors to rest.

What does that entail?  If the situation is as bad as everyone’s assuming, cut the crap Coupon family.  Just sell.  Don’t sell minority stakes and stave off the eventual: cut your losses and let go.  Their stubborn refusal is still evident when they made it a point to emphasize that this is NOT about them selling the team.

Its clear they know more than they are letting on and will allow the system to leak the information.  That eventually we will learn what they already know.  But here’s what I’ve known for a while now: the Wilpons are what’s wrong with the Mets.  They have never been completely honest about anything.  Its all coming back to haunt the Mets and honestly its about time.  The Mets ownership group needs new blood and not a moment sooner.

The front office looks solid and sounds like they know what they are doing, but given the Coupons history of being honest maybe they had no idea what they were getting into and the promise of reinvesting that 50-70 million that will come off the books may not be realistic.  We will get into that in part two of this.  But for now the message is clear: Sell Coupons.  Save yourselves and just sell the Mets and be on your way.  You’ve done more harm than good.  If you love the Mets as much as you say you do then just sell the team to people who will do something with them.


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Thoughts on the manager.

I listened to the interviews. I read the analysts. I spoke and heard the opinions of the fans. Then Sunday, I got the news alert on my cell phone: Terry Collins, 61, named 20th manager in Mets history.

I saw it, and moved on. That’s it.

Not to sound like a buzz kill, but I was muted in response for a reason. I often find myself reacting to every single bit of Met news like its personal. When its your favorite team, ideas like family, loyalty etc begin to over take any bit of reason. Which is why I’m happy these last few seasons happened.

Like a girl who gets walked all over by her man, one day I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Not that I don’t care anymore, no. But I won’t be suckered into anything anymore. I refuse to be reeled in.

So the Mets couldve hired a manager who hadn’t managed in over a decade, alienated almost every team he had coached, and was seen as too high strung for a high profile job like one in NYC. And the Mets couldve overlooked the overwhelming fan favorite in this managerial search, a member of the 1986 world champion Mets*, a fiery personality who certainly would have had people coming back to Citi Field considering the last few seasons and especially since new GM Sandy Alderson has said over and over again that they have no plans to dip into the top end of the free agent pool meaning no Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford.
*= the 86 Mets are remembered like no other team in the history of sports. They won the world series and had a cast of characters that, if you add the fact that they played in New York, makes them larger than life.

The Mets hired the former, taking their chances on the guy with major league experience while holding onto the fan favorite as an escape clause in case the Terry town experience doesn’t go as planned.

And what’s planned? Let me take a crack at it. Collins was given a 2 year contract. Wally Backman will likely be given a promotion in the minors and stashed away for a later date. In baseball terms, think of Terry Collins as the starter in the 8th inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd protecting a lead. The manager has made his trip to the mound and given him a chance to get out of the inning. Backman is the closer. He will come in at some point and end this game.*
*= here’s your analogy key
Game= win a championship
Manager= Sandy Alderson

But its clear the Mets front office brought in Collins to clean the operation up and sets up Backman very well. Collins major selling point was teaching and his major role over the next two years is to motivate the Mets and create a new clubhouse culture that is more conducive to winning. And you need a Type A personality to fight those battles with players who may be used to getting their way too often.

Backman will enter his first managerial position with a team full of young homegrown players, taught to play the game the right way and his job will be to manage, which he’s shown he’s pretty good at already.

But that’s just an opinion of a clear headed Met fan who now can see the light. I’m removed from the B.S. of it all which sapped my energy.

Aldersons job is to get a fan like me back into the fold. The Mets have one of the most passionate fan bases. We aren’t devoid of bandwagoners, because if we’ve learned anything, its that America loves teams with tortured histories (They gravitate to them like leeches for God knows what reason) but we aren’t as bad as some.

Butt I like being here. I’m not at happy hours watching the Mets lose on a summer night. I’m not checking scores on my phone during dinner. I’m not on Metsblog.com everyday hitting refresh just to see if the Mets are trading for/linked to a free agent.*
*= I’m going to act like I never wrote this paragraph in about 6 months, I know it.

I’m not even negative nancy waiting for the Mets to screw up. I’m just here, void of feelings, still in love but a lot more cool about it.

Maybe I’m just writing to convince myself. Maybe its easier for me to tell myself this to save myself the misery. Maybe I had to write it down in order for it to stick. Who knows?

What I do know is this: the Mets are operating under a new vision. It may not be what we want, but I suppose having a plan is a good thing. A plan that accounts for the organization. A plan that looks to the long term. All I can do is believe that that’s what’s happening. If it doesn’t happen, just know I won’t be crying in my room. I will be living my life. Life goes on.

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Meet the ME(t)SS new GM

Take note Mets.  This is what life could be.  A young team with a sprinkle of veterans and basement bargain players who come together to manhandle a team that was an overwhelming favorite going in.

I’m not some over anxious “fix it today” Met fan who believes the illusion that we are one pitcher away or hitter away from winning.  Its that kind of faulty logic that got the Mets here.

Over the years I’ve written extensively that there’s an illusion built up by the media (that hypocritically are asking now to rebuild) that New York is an impatient town, demanding of a winner..  Not 4 years later.  NOW.

But if the Knicks have proven anything over the last two years, its this: New York fan bases CAN wait and CAN be patient.

The City has this stigma around it outside of sports.  Every movie based in New York has people hurriedly moving about while people bump into each other without a care so naturally people get this idea that New Yorkers are busy moving and incapable of stopping to appreciate life.  For what? That’s why we go away on the weekend to the Poconos.  To enjoy nature.

The Mets have an opportunity to fix it.  To re-write what the next few years look like.  They have it with a fan base strong in numbers and willing to support it, but what the Mets have lacked in recent years is a plan.  The Mets have been a team looking to put band aids on their problems.  One leak gets plugged, another springs open.

You can’t blame them, after 2006, when they came one Carlos Beltran swing from going to the World Series for believing that the core of the team was good enough to keep together for years.  But one mistake the Mets made was shaving everything off that core and rebuilding those other layers every year when all that was needed was minor fixes.  They gutted a bullpen that was a strength and watched as it let them down the next two years to such a point that the Mets, until this year, haven’t had a respectable middle reliever.

I say Mets because as much as we want to blame outgoing GM Omar Minaya for the moves, we can’t all be sure if Jeff Wilpon, owner, didn’t have his hand in player decisions which is the perception that this team has.  Its the perception that made the architect of this Phillies team, Pat Gillick, say “I won’t work for that kid.”. Ouch.

Perception by Major League Baseball is what is going to hand the job of Mets GM to Sandy Alderson, a respected former GM of the A’s and Padres, a pioneer of statistical analysis, and now a member of the MLB office trying to clean up corruption in the Dominican Republic.

If there ever was a resume that screamed perfect it would be that.  In any other situation I would call for the Mets to hire a new progressive GM, someone with newer and fresh ideas in how to assemble a baseball team.  But the Mets are a team that requires someone with Alderson’s stature.  Someone that, like many columnists have written, can stand up to the Wilpons and get them to back off.

This move is huge for the Wilpons.  Its clear they know what everyone thinks of them.  They know the fan base’s opinion of them isn’t reassuring, no matter how many Flushing Flash’s appear in our inboxes keeping us abreast of proceedings.

If they screw this up, they know the heat will be on like never before.  Alderson’s presence alone won’t make a difference.  His ideas will be crucial in how the team comes back from its last four years in baseball Siberia.  Off the top of my head here are the most important off season questions the GM must immediately address:
1.  Who’s going to coach this team? This requires immediate attention with managers being scooped up by other teams.  Bobby Valentine, Met fan fave, is still out there but perception around the league is that if Sandy were hired he would not hire him.  That’s because Alderson views managers as button pushers and not overly important enough to spend big money on which Bobby V would more than certainly ask for.  Each GM candidate has his own list of managers so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

2. What will he do with the farm system?  You ask some people the Mets have an average farm and others claim the Mets have one of the worst.  No one will admit to the Mets having a good one which, considering the financial advantage they have, they could possess.  The Mets have ranked as one of the top 5 cheapest teams in terms of signing premium talent.  I could understand a mid market team having problems, not one residing in the worlds biggest market.  That shows how short sighted this team was in its previous regime.

3. What will he do with dead weight? (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo). These two players more than any represent the old regime.  Something the new GM will want to separate the team from.  I think Met fans expect them to be traded for a bag of potatoes or dumped outright, but they need to go.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out and whether the new GM will just let the contracts expire at the end of the season, which brings us to this question…

4. Is next year a “rebuilding” year?  The city that was incapable of rebuilding is staring down the barrel of their next GM looking at the books, talking to his people, assessing the farm and looking at the fans and telling them that this is a “process” which is as close to the word you will hear, but good enough.  If next year is rebuilding, two players more than any will be looked at:

5.  Can the Mets win long term with David Wright and Jose Reyes? I think they can.  Mets nation is split on this issue and understandably slow.  The Reyes that danced and energized crowds is now depicted as an arrogant overhyped player.  Wright, meanwhile ends the year with nice stats but to an honest observer he does so in garbage time to help him look much better than what he is.  In clutch situations he’s come up small over and over again.  Neither are leaders but both are the face of the franchise.  If next year is a rebuilding year, the GM will surely take a long hard look at both of these players to assess whether they are in the teams long term plans or not.  My biggest fear is we trade either of them and they go on to Hall of fame careers.  They have the talent but something is missing.  Is it the team they are around?  Who knows.  Assessing both of their value will be a critical part of how long term, this team will look.  One player that the Mets WILL most certainly deal …

6.  What is Carlos Beltran’s future with the team like? Beltran is an interesting figure if for only the fact that he was recovering from a knee injury that should’ve had surgery which should’ve ended his year but being a Scott Boras client, the eye is firmly fixed on the prize which is a new contract when his present deal with the Mets expires.  He signed in 2004 with the Mets following a post season for the Astros in which he hit 8 home runs and yet two years later the post season memory everyone will have of Beltran is strike three looking to end the 06 NLCS.  His knee is not what it used to be and he should NEVER have been put back into center when Angel Pagan had done such a great job there.  Unfortunately, the previous regime allowed players to make their own decisions when it came to how to play the game which is a practice that surely must change.  What his value will be depends entirely on how hot he comes out of the gate.  I don’t hope that the Mets will deal him, we’re basically assured he will if the Mets are just an average team which is a decision I trust Sandy Alderson will make.  Which brings us to…

7. How will the Mets handle trade deadline? This really won’t make much sense until the situation arises but if the Mets are sincere about rebuilding next year will be a transition year while contracts evaporate and players are assessed like I mentioned previously, but more importantly this team has made curious decisions during the trading deadline because the Mets have been a borderline team every year heading into the July 31’st deadline which means the organization has had to make some tough calls: stay put or go after a  home run.  Remember, desperation caused the Mets to send Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano and a trade deadline deal also brought the wonderful Oliver Perez into the fold as well (though in retrospect that was a terrible acquisition long term, that year, Perez earned his keep and played exceptionally and turned in a brilliant Game 7 in the NLCS).  But the Mets have always been bad at assessing who they are because there is a lack of a plan.  IF the Mets are to have any sense of direction they will know heading in to make a firm decision and stick to it.  IF the Mets have to suffer through another losing season I can mentally prepare myself as a fan but not if the Mets play hot and cold when it comes time to making decisions.  This turns our attention to…

8. How will the GM work out contracts this year with players who may be looming as free agents? 2006 was a special year that was grossly misplayed by management after the year when they let all the key bullpen arms walk.  Gone were Chad Bradford (the submariner), Darren Oliver (reliable long man) and Heath Bell (never got a chance and look what he turned into) and in came another array of players which if you believe conventional wisdom on bullpens which says they are all replaceable, then yeah the Mets did the wise thing by not overpaying.  That was our first hint into how badly thin the Mets were in talent in the farm.  Not that every farm produced prodigious talent but the guys the Mets have traded away over the years: Nelson Cruz, Jason Bay (who they got back for 66 million dollars worth of extra strength Tylenol), and Heath Bell just for example have all gone on to bigger and better things and have left the Mets looking for guys they could’ve had.  My point is, they need to recognize the talent they DO have and keep it intact.  Which means Hisanori Takahashi, who if not offered a contract before October 31st, could be a free agent, and R.A. Dickey will be immediate important decisions that the GM must address.  Who does he feel is good enough to stay?  If Takahashi stays, does that mean you are convinced he can be a starter long term or can you convince him that long relief is his strong suit? (which is what I believe)  The fact is, whatever the GM does he will have to make tough decisions on players like Jose Reyes who certainly will look to have a new contract before he becomes a free agent next year.  What comes of him?

9. What will be the culture fix the new GM brings? Like I said, in New York perception can shift over time and all the bad feelings of yester year can fade away but they have to do it the right way.  They have to be culpable and play it smart.  For too long the Wilpons have played up the media and tried to do what fans wanted but instead of letting the experts do their job, they got a wishlist from fans and picked one or two things on a list of probably a hundred and did those two and gave the fans back the list and went “happy?”  Well that has to change.  The culture of the Mets is that communication wise they are a mess.  There is no sign of who is in charge.  How involved is Jeff Wilpon?  Will he continue to have a bigger say in personnel decisions if a guy like Sandy Alderson comes on board?  How will they handle their shrinking attendance figures?  Will the GM be pressured immediately on putting a product that puts fans in seats?  Sellouts do NOT happen in Citi Field as we saw last year but worry not Met fans, it didn’t happy at Yankee stadium but the problem is that both teams charge exorbitant prices.  Only difference is, the team in the Bronx plays in October and the team in Flushing doesn’t.  Any revenue accrued in October is gravy and its gravy they want to be stuffing into the pockets if I were the Wilpons.  The culture has to change and first and foremost its the reason they will hire Sandy Alderson.

10. How will the Mets handle injuries from now on? Prevention and Recovery was the Mets theme song this year.  Unfortunately not everyone sang in tune.  The Mets still had injuries and malfunctions on how to deal with it.  For example: Jose Reyes with a sore oblique batted righty in order to soften the blow.  Instead of putting him on the disabled list, the Mets threw him out there as if a 40% Reyes would save this team when a 90% Reyes couldn’t.  Fact is, the Mets need to be proactive.  If a player complains of being hurt, then you take him out.  No discussion.  Let the doctors give their prognosis and then use that information and let them make the decision.  If he has to sit and have rest then that’s what he needs.  The Mets need to hire new doctors if for nothing else, it might jump start the team knowing that their medical treatment was less than effective.

These are just some of the issues affecting the Mets, but let’s remember one thing, Sandy Alderson is the favorite because his hire will be seen and viewed by Major League Baseball as the franchise being serious about changing the team.  NOT because he’s the best man for the job.  Rick Hahn who was a highly regarded assistant GM with the White Sox is a Michigan grad (Fred Wilpon’s alma mater) and one of the rising stars in the GM circuit and a very huge believer in statistical analysis which is what most teams are using to help them select players and sign them to contracts.  While he is highly regarded in baseball, his lack of experience seriously hurts him.  Alderson is a fixer, like Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction: Winston Wolf.  The idea among many in the know is for Alderson to fix the books, set up a long term vision and plan, get the people in place, and coach up John Ricco who was Assistant GM this year and well regarded among the Mets so he can eventually take over the position.

What I would’ve liked to see is the Mets hire a Logan White to head their scouting and shell out some money for premium talent in the board room because putting the money on the field hasn’t paid off yet.  Having a trusted guy like Sandy to oversee your team will be great but not if everything works out and by everything I mean: the Wilpons being quiet and signing the checks put in front of them.  Its harsh to say that a man isn’t allowed to have any input on his own property but let’s face it, if rumors of his involvement are true then he needs to take a step back and let the people he hired and pays for to do the job.

As always LETS GO METS.




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