Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The New York Freds: 21 Straight Years of Futility and Counting

Julio Down by the Ball Yard and Other Random Mets Adventures
As I watched Jorge Julio of the Rockies do his best to try to lose the Playoff for the Wild Card spot last night, I was reminded that Julio was the guy the Mets just had to have last year. So they traded away a top, veteran starting pitcher, Kris Benson, to get him. Benson was as good a number three starting pitcher as there was in Major League Baseball—a valuable player—and the Mets gave him away for nothing plus an unproven John Maine. They sure could have used Benson last year…and this year for that matter. I know he was hurt this year, but you don’t know what would have happened if the Mets had kept him. It couldn’t have been worse than trading him away.

I was then reminded that the Mets dumped Julio like a hot tamale after only a few months in a trade for a pitcher the Rockies were only too happy to get rid of themselves. That pitcher was Orlando Hernandez, a sixty-two year old Cuban player prone to breakdowns. Orlando was hurt a lot of this year and only managed to pitch 148 innings.

Orlando, it turns out, was the guy who replaced Steve Trachsel in the rotation. Steve Trachsel needed to be replaced because Willie Randolph could not stand him. Oh, Willie didn’t have a problem with his ability to pitch, at least he shouldn’t have. Trachsel was with the Mets for six years and was the team leader in wins in four of the five years that he was healthy. The only healthy year in which he didn’t lead the team in wins was 2002 when he finished with two fewer wins than Al Leiter. No, the reason Willie could not stand Trachsel was personal, and so the Mets did what was best for Willie and not what was best for the ball club. Trachsel, by the way, averaged 184 innings per year and allowed the bullpen to rest. Do you think the bullpen could have used a little rest this year?

Are you getting the sense that no one is in charge here? That there is no direction; no strategy for winning; no plan?

The 2007 Freds
Until now, I avoided writing about the 2007 New York Mets because I did not want my negative feelings about this team to bring me down. But, now I need a catharsis. For today at least, I am going to identify this team by their true name—the Freds—because this joke of a team is the culmination of twenty-seven years of Fred Wilpon’s ownership. Many things have changed over the past twenty-seven years. GMs came and went—Cashen, Harazin, McIlvaine, Phillips, Duquette, and now Minaya. Managers cycled through--too many to count. Players appeared and disappeared. Two things remain the same: the Wilpons still own the team and the Mets still fail to win World Series championships; twenty-one straight years and counting.

This 2007 team is Fred’s team. Each of the teams that blew pennants (1988, 1999 and 2006), blew World Series championships (2000), or more likely didn’t make the playoffs in the past 27 years (1980-1985 plus 1987 plus 1989-1998 plus 2001-2005 plus 2007), they were Fred’s teams, too. Four playoff runs with only one championship in twenty-seven years of ownership is pathetic for a major market team with no salary cap. It is arguable that half of the playoff runs would never have materialized if Nelson Doubleday was not an equal partner with Wilpon in those years. You may recall that Wilpon did his best to veto Doubleday’s trade for Piazza, who put the team on his shoulders for the run to the NLCS in 1999 and the pennant in 2000.

Fred Wilpon is a sophisticated businessman who is known for his real estate acumen, but when it comes to baseball, Fred is about as sophisticated as Fred Flintstone. Mr. Met never made sense as a mascot for the New York Metropolitans, but then again what does represent a Metropolitan? No, the perfect mascot for the Freds would be Fred Flintstone or a GEICO caveman.

Instead of cheering “Lets Go Mets,” we could cheer “Yabba Dabba Doo.” Whenever another Mets reliever blows a save, the Freds could blare Barney Rubble’s laugh over the loudspeakers. The bullpen car could be the Flintstone mobile powered by Rick Peterson’s feet. Whenever a Fred managed to reach home, Dino could be there to pounce on him. All of the ball girls could be called Hanna or Barbera. Ann Margrock could sing the national anthem while Stoney Curtis threw out the first pitch. With any foresight, they would have been the team to draft Chris Young out of Prinstone Univerity instead of the Pirates.

What the hell, Green already tracks down flies in right field like he’s wearing stone shoes, and Jeff Wilpon looks and acts like the Great Gazoo; inventing the doomsday machine (which he used this September) and floating around the team calling everyone dum-dums.

Let’s review: Last year at around this time I wrote that the 2007 Freds would be in trouble unless they addressed several deficiencies. Specifically, I said the Freds needed to do the following:

• Obtain two starting corner outfielders who could play defense. They needed to replace the aging, plodding, or always-hurt Green and Floyd;
• Obtain a starting second baseman;
• Obtain a pitcher worthy to be called a “number one” starting pitcher; and
• Keep the bullpen intact;

So what did the Fred do? The Fred went out and replaced Floyd with another ancient outfielder who had trouble staying in the lineup. Don’t get me wrong, Alou is a great hitter, but baseball players need to do more than that. One thing they have to do in order to help their team win is be healthy enough to play, but that’s often tough for forty year olds. The Fred also kept Green, whose first name is Itdropsinfrontof. Or was that Itsoverthegloveof? The Fred also failed to get a number one starting pitcher.

Okay, failing to acquire ALL of the players they needed, players that many other teams were also looking to acquire, is one thing. I wouldn’t have paid Zito all of that money either. But, not acquiring anything on this list by the start of the season and only getting their second baseman at the trading deadline, and then only because of an injury to Valentin? Come on. What's worse is not only did they fail to do the easy thing and keep the bullpen intact, they completely dismantled it.

I guess they thought that the bullpen was made of interchangeable parts and that they could just stick anyone out there. They let Chad Bradford walk when $3.5mm per year could have kept him. Because of his ability to get ground balls, Bradford has been one of the most effective relievers in MLB since he first made an MLB roster. He earned an entire chapter in Lewis’s book “Moneyball.” Bradford has a submarine delivery, so they replaced him with a sidearmer named Joe Smith. Who? I guess they figured they could get any unorthodox pitcher and get the same results. Really, none of it made any sense. It was as if they had absolutely no plan.

Goals Schmoals
I’m sure that I was not the only one who saw these deficiencies, so what does this say about the front office? Are they completely incompetent or is winning championships just not a priority? After twenty-seven years, I believe it is the latter. I think the Wilpons could care less about championships. Last year, when a championship should have been the only goal, the Fred lowered the bar and said he hoped the team would just make the playoffs. This year his goal was again to just “get into the playoffs…and do it the Mets way.” Huh? What the hell kind of goal is that? I don’t think Steinbrenner is sitting in Tampa over the winter saying: “Gee, I hope we can win enough games to squeak into the playoffs.”

Well, the Freds blew it this year because their starting pitching was horrible in the second half led by sub-par second halves from Perez and Maine. Each of the Freds starters saw their ERAs go up in their last ten outings. They blew it because of the disappearance of Martinez until mid-September, the disappearance of Glavine after his 300th, and Orlando Hernandez’s Alzheimer’s.

As I said last year, the Freds could probably expect that one or two back-of-the-rotation starters would emerge from the group of Maine, Perez, Humber, and Pelfry, and two back-of-the-rotation starters is exactly what they got. They got exactly what they should have expected from Glavine. Martinez pitched way above expectations when he finally showed up, but he wasn’t Pedro; he is no longer a legitimate number one starter. They should not have expected more. They also blew it because the bullpen sucked. If anyone was paying attention, they would have known it was going to suck.

Baseball's Biggest Joke/Laughing with Conan
So, the Freds are now Major League Baseball’s biggest joke after setting an all-time choking record by blowing a seven-game lead with seventeen to play. Conan O’Brien has had a running gag for several nights where Mr. Met tries to commit suicide but cannot find a noose or oven door big enough for his head. His stubby fingers cannot load a revolver. He comes home from an away game to find Mrs. Met in bed with the Philly Phanatic. It’s good stuff. But, honestly, the Freds should be congratulated for ever owning a seven-game lead with all of their shortcomings.

Wallpapering Citi Field
So, what was Fred Wilpon thinking this year? Perhaps he was too busy counting the revenue from his new cable channel and season-ticket suckers (um, holders). Perhaps he was deciding what color wallpaper to put in the bathrooms at Citi Field. Or, perhaps he got exactly what he aimed for. Yabba Dabba Doo.

Today, I received an email from the Freds apologizing for the team’s collapse. After thanking the fans for “record-breaking revenue” (er, “support”), the Freds said:

“…Ownership will continue its commitment in providing the resources necessary to field a championship team.”

That is exactly what I was afraid of, a continuation of the same commitment of the last twenty-seven years. Hey Gazoo, do I look like a dum-dum?

I will not subscribe for season tickets again until the Fred sells the team. You should not buy season tickets from the Fred either. It’s a simple plan to help bring a World Series championship back to New York National League baseball by getting rid of what stands in the way-—the owners.

It’s so simple, a caveman could do it. Don’t even give fifteen minutes to the Fred even if he promises to save you fifteen percent on tickets.

It is time for the Fred to sell the team.


Post a Comment

<< Home