It’s About Time, Fred

Imagine this: An employer pays more than 90% of his competition for employees to ensure he gets the cream of the crop in terms of talent for his company. But for many years, the company not only tanks but is a public embarrassment for both its failures on and off the field. 

Finally, the boss of the company expresses some displeasure at the employees - employees he can’t fire because they have guaranteed contracts, some worth nearly $20 million annually. The same employees that have performed below expectations year after year. 

Holding them accountable?!? THE HORROR!

Clearly, in Jeffrey Toobin’s piece in The New Yorker - Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon upset some people. I’m going to assume you’ve read it, because if you’re a Mets fan and haven’t, you’ve lived under a rock the past couple days. Hopefully you have, because a great deal of the piece is about how Wilpon built himself and has nothing to do with what has created such controversy. If you haven’t, Matt Cerrone of Mets Blog put it most eloquently when he wrote, “Before you react emotionally to this ‘story’, read the full 22-page article. Otherwise, you’re just reacting to the reaction.”

A disclaimer: the only comment I whole-heartedly disapprove of is what he said about Beltran, saying, “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Was he worth the $119-million? Probably not, but a player doesn’t get better by you paying him more. Beltran has fought back valiantly from injury, graciously accepted a position change and has been great this year. Saying that was disrespectful of his effort, and only hurt his inevitable trade value. Bad on all accounts. 

But the rest of the comments? What was so wrong? 

The two that people have primarily focused on have to do with Jose Reyes and David Wright. 

Beginning with the one on Wright, he said, “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” What is wrong about what he said there? Should Wright be pissed off? Absolutely, but maybe that’s the point. He is a great “kid.” His willingness to champion and be the face of a struggling franchise is admirable. His classiness and acceptance of responsibility with the media is unwavering. But has he been a superstar? In 2009, Citi Field’s first season, he only hit 9 home runs. Last year, he hit 29, but he also struck out 161 times, compared to 140 times the year before and only 118 times in ‘08. Prior to going onto the DL recently with a back injury, he began this albeit young season hitting .226 with a high K-rate and six home runs. Is that the production of a superstar? Is that the consistency of a superstar? Are those the numbers of somebody you build a team around? No. He certainly has that potential, and maybe he needed to be called out to find it. 

In terms of Reyes, Wilpon said, “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money…He won’t get it.” Crawford signed a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox. And you know what? If Reyes gets that type of contract, it sure has hell shouldn’t be from the Mets. I’m in favor of trying to resign him, and not trading him as I’ve written here at Hot Foot, but that type of contract? Absurd. Coming off the Omar Minaya years in which he was very buddy-buddy with players and clearly signed too many large contracts, people are upset with him for expressing a sentiment of fiscal responsibility for the team? Preposterous! It wasn’t tactful, but it was also right. 

Finally, aside from the comments on Beltran, Wright and Reyes, Wilpon called the Mets a “shitty team.” Is this anything but true? 

If you don’t agree with any of this, let’s think about if Wilpon said different things, on other sides of the spectrum from what he said:

  • The Mets are a shitty good team. Wouldn’t it be a problem if he thought this type of performance were good? I want an owner who thinks this is shitty, because frankly it is. I’m tired of it. 
  • Wright is not a superstar. A superstar is a player you can build a team around, and have as the face of the franchise. He’s definitely filled the latter role, but the former? His play has been very good, not great as Wilpon said. He has more potential, and has not played at a superstar level. It’s good that he was called out on it, because maybe it’ll light a fire. 
  • Reyes is not going to get a Crawford like contract. Do we want another set of years where we overpay players? Where we sign contracts like we did with Perez, Castillo, Beltran, and Santana that limit us financially? Maybe it pissed Reyes off, but I doubt it affected Alderson’s plans for what he plans to do with Reyes. We don’t know what that plan is, but I’m glad it doesn’t involve paying the man that much.

Ultimately, especially with the SI story coming out this week about the Mets hemmorhaging money, we don’t even know if Wilpon will own the team in the near future (though I personally suspect they will). But are we really just upset that he let his guard down for a moment and said things that were unsaid for too long? 

Maybe this is all like the movie Major League. In case you’re unfamiliar with arguably the funniest baseball movie of all-time, owner Rachel Phelps cuts cost and treats her team like crap, ultimately motivating the rag-tag group of players make it to the playoffs, against all odds.

Little known to most fans, there was an alternate ending in which she tells the manager, Lou Brown, that she wasn’t cutting costs just to treat the team like crap, but did so because the team was on the brink of bankruptcy. She was so mean in order to motivate them. Sound familiar, and can a fan dream? 

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  1. hotfoot posted this
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