Can the Mets Dodge the Potential Effects of Wilpon’s Latest Blunder?

Ever since it was released online, a week in advance of being available via print on May 30th, much has been made of writer Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker magazine article detailing the far too honest comments of New York Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon about the stars of his own struggling team.

The article begins with Wilpon, a Brooklyn native and former high school teammate of Sandy Koufax who grew up as a diehard Brooklyn Dodger fan, stubbornly ignoring architects and imparting his own vision for an Ebbets Field-esque rotunda as the main entrance to what is now the Mets’ new home of Citi Field.

A little later in the article, Toobin writes:

“All the Dodger stuff—that was an error of judgment on my part,” Wilpon told me…

In the past two years, the Dodger problem at Citi Field has largely been addressed. The team added a Mets Hall of Fame, just off the rotunda, and plenty of banners and photographs of the Mets’ storied and eccentric existence are now spread around the ballpark

It’s interesting that Toobin chose the words, “The Dodger problem at Citi Field” because although Wilpon corrected the issue Toobin was describing (albeit reactively, only after receiving a lot of criticism, rather than proactively doing things right the first time), that “Dodger problem at Citi Field” can be seen as a very fitting metaphor for Wilpon and his Mets.

Ironically, it’s Wilpon’s former favorite franchise, now in Los Angeles, which began to similarly fall on hard times financially (resulting from Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt’s divorce) at about the same time Wilpon and the Mets became victims of what many now jokingly call a “Wilpon-zi” scheme.

(That too, is ironic, that a man named Bernie Madoff literally “made off” with Wilpon’s money, as is the future of team run by a man named McCourt possibly being decided in court next month).

If it weren’t all so sad, it would be comical.

But, let’s back up for a moment, to the beginning of the Toobin article again and bring that to the present day.

There was Wilpon, with a chance to make a statement in the post-Shea Stadium era and create whatever he wanted on the grounds of the former Shea Stadium parking lot to thrust the Mets into a new age that would excite the Met fanbase for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Wilpon’s response? Turning off Met fans by completely ignoring their team’s history and unveiling a tribute to his first baseball love, the Brooklyn Dodgers – which other than supplying the blue for the Mets’ team colors, have nothing to do with Wilpon’s current franchise, which he’s been a part of running since 1980 (five years before Wilpon’s first investment with Madoff).

And, later on, there was Wilpon again, with a chance to build upon the Mets’ success of their 2006 National League Championship Series appearance (even though they probably should have beaten the underdog St. Louis Cardinals and were likely good enough to beat the Detroit Tigers in had they reached the World Series that year).

But, each of the next two years, the Mets would go on to make major league baseball history by blowing the largest consecutive September leads, each to hated division rival Philadelphia, while missing the playoffs.

And yet, even after that, Wilpon remained loyal to a fault, keeping failed Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya aboard for too long, despite several poor player personnel moves and ill-fated public relations dealings by Minaya that continued to set the Mets back as a team while damaging their image among fans and the media.

While Wilpon allowed Minaya to keep ruining the Mets’ roster, he also let Minaya embarrass the franchise through such gems as flying former manager Willie Randolph out on a west coast road trip just to unprofessionally fire Randolph at 3:12 am ET, and acting too slowly to fire ex-Vice President of Player Development Tony Bernazard after Bernazard removed his shirt and challenged Met minor league players to a fight in the clubhouse. And then, there was Minaya repeatedly bungling and stammering his way through press conferences, including Minaya’s awkward public accusation of New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin supposedly angling for a job with the Mets after Rubin reported the incident about Bernazard.

It was all enough for many Met fans to wish for new team ownership back then.

That growing sentiment was fueled with reports of the Mets moving toward becoming a small market fish in the big pond of New York, as the team with the new stadium by Flushing Bay apparently saw its owner flush hundreds of millions of dollars away in Madoff’s madness.

And now, the sort of stuff you just can’t make up, not even if you were Minaya talking about Rubin.

Now, in all fairness, the context in which Wilpon disparaged the values or abilities of Mets like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright should be noted. It’s not as if Wilpon offered those opinions to Toobin out of the blue (whether Dodger blue or otherwise).

Wilpon expressed such thoughts to Toobin while the two took in a Met game against the Houston Astros at Citi Field earlier this season.

In that setting, simply watching and talking baseball, even if discussing his own team, Wilpon can be somewhat exonerated than if it were in say, in a room somewhere, in a typical interview environment.

Yet, for a guy who built a fortune in real estate – enough to own a major league baseball team in New York – it would figure that Wilpon would know better.

When talking to a high profile reporter like Toobin for a feature piece in a magazine like the New Yorker, rule one in protecting your best assets is not to devalue them in any way.

Even Robert Nutting, the principal owner of the small market, perennially losing Pittsburgh Pirates knows that much.

Yet, while speaking with Toobin, Wilpon demonstrated once again that he just doesn’t get it when running the Mets.

Time will tell whether a current lawsuit in the Madoff case might ultimately force Wilpon to sell the Mets, or if the current financial state of the Mets (which Wilpon described to Sports Illustrated this week as a team that’s “bleeding cash” and “could lose $70 million this season) might eventually lead to new ownership in Queens. Or, Perhaps Wilpon, now 74, will get past all of this and continue to own a team that can again become financially stable and win.

For now though, how could such a successful businessman (outside of baseball) show all of his cards so openly?

Few would argue with Wilpon (as he told Toobin) that shortstop Jose Reyes might deserve a $140 million contract or that third baseman David Wright falls short of being a superstar. And, more would probably agree with Wilpon than disagree that in retrospect, Wilpon was misguided in overpaying for outfielder Carlos Beltran based on one historic postseason for Houston.

However, Wilpon is not exactly new to the art of negotiation and he’s certainly aware that he may be forced to trade any or even all of those players, and more. If that’s the case, why not build them up as much as you can?

Whether you’re selling real estate, cars, trinkets, or trying to get the most you possibly can for baseball players who you might not be able to afford to keep, you should always try to talk them up and overvalue them. Wilpon clearly knows that or he wouldn’t have ever been in a position to buy a professional baseball team in the first place.

And still, he just couldn’t help himself. Just like the Ebbets Field-styled rotunda replete with the focus on tributes to Jackie Robinson – very worthwhile, but for the Dodgers, not the Mets.

Ironically, both franchises – Wilpon’s initial favorite and the one he’s trying to save now – need to dig out of financial messes.

McCourt is desperately trying to keep the Dodgers as he struggles to make the team’s player payroll for the end of May while embroiled in a court fight with his ex-wife.

As a result, Major League Baseball has stepped in to help out one of its flagship franchises, something that some Met fans have expressed interest in seeing with their own team and which the New York media has already suggested should happen with the Mets.

A June 22nd hearing will have a superior court judge hear arguments on why a sale of the team should be ordered.

If it comes to that for McCourt and the Dodgers, many Met fans might say something like, “Go ahead and sell too, Fred. This is one time we don’t mind if you forget about the Mets and pay homage to your Dodgers.”

Posted under Blunder, Brooklyn Dodger, Dodger Fan, Ebbets Field, Fitting Metaphor, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Hall Of Fame, Honest Comments, Los Angeles Dodgers, Magazine Article, Main Entrance, New York Mets, Rotunda, School Teammate, Top Story

This post was written by Jon Wagner on May 28, 2011

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Now Bud Must Step In

Last month Commissioner Bud Selig took an unprecedented step in taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers, because of the actions of owner Fran McCourt and released this statement:

“Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club.  I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball.”

At the time, I wrote in Mets Inside Pitch Magazine that the Wilpon’s situation is different, as the Dodgers were not a liquid asset because of McCourt’s divorce with his wife Jamie and also the beating of Brian Stow on Opening Day created an unsafe environment at Dodger Stadium, because of McCourt’s negligence in replacing at head of security.

Yet, after the New Yorker article that came out yesterday, it is time for Selig to take the same actions against the Wilpons.

Sure the Wilpons are still looking for a buyer for up to 49 percent of the club and the only beatings at Citi Field come with Met losses, but after reading the 11,000 word piece by Jeffrey Toobin, it is clear that by trying to clear his name in the Madoff lawsuit, Fred Wilpon is damaging  the future of the New York Mets, on the field and in the pocketbook.

Wilpon gave Toobin unprecedented access, because he felt that this would tell his side of the story and Wilpon will look like an everyman to world – an innocent victim, instead of a conniving thief. Instead the opposite happened, as the owner of the Mets ripped his three biggest players saying Jose Reyes wasn’t worth “Carl Crawford” money, David Wright is not a superstar and that he was a “schmuck” for signing Carlos Beltran.

Nevermind the fact that Reyes, Wright and Beltran fall right behind Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry as the best position players in Mets history and forget the fact that there was some truth to what Wilpon said as well, because no player is worth Carl Crawford money, Wright has never carried an offense like Piazza did, and yes, he was a schmuck for paying Beltran that type of dough.

The fact is once Wilpon said it as the owner of the club, he immediately devalued the franchise. When Sandy Alderson tries to trade Reyes and Beltran, he may not find as big of returns for the two players and Wright, the face of the franchise, may just want to bolt in two years in Wilpon is still owner of the club.

Further that with Irving Picard, who is treating this case like a war against the Borg, sitting in his captain’s chair and telling his underlings to “Make it so!” every time a new piece of evidence comes across his desk. Last week, we find out Picard alleges the Wilpons look to purchase fraud insurance, there will probably be more coming out in the next few weeks. And each and every time, Wilpon digs in, making it more and more difficult for the Mets.

And as things get more difficult, decisions will be made based on the lawsuit and not baseball relation actions.

It’s that reason why Selig needs to step in, as the situation is spinning out of control. Alderson can easily move up to run the organization, taking the Wilpons totally out of the equation. Until this suit is settled with Picard, the Wilpons need to step away from the club to fight for their reputations and let the baseball professionals run things.

A month ago, Selig did it with the Dodgers, now he has to do it with the Mets.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Commissioner Bud Selig, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Dodger Stadium, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Innocent Victim, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Liquid Asset, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Positio, Top Story, Unprecedented Step, Word Piece, Yorker Article

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 24, 2011

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Second Shutout for Mets Starters leads to 1-0 Victory over Phillies

New York – If a doctor were to sit down and write out a prescription for the Mets it would read like this: “A shutout a day will keep the losing streak at bay.”  The New York Mets (58-57) were able to do just that behind a very strong starting performance from knuckleball specialist R. A. Dickey to blank the Philadelphia Phillies (64-51), by the score of 1-0 in Friday night baseball at Citi Field.

The Mets now have had back-to-back complete game shutouts as Santana and Dickey became the first pair of Mets pitchers to post shutouts since Pedro Astacio and Jeff D’Amico went the distance in consecutive two-hitters on May 14-15, 2002 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Notching their major league-leading 18th shutout this evening, the Mets have had their last four victories all come in shutouts.

Dickey (8-5) was just what the doctor ordered for the Mets in throwing a complete-game shutout against the National League East Rival Phillies. The righty was able to baffle the Phillies batters, striking out seven while only giving up one walk and one hit. The lone hit for Philadelphia came from opposing pitcher Cole Hamels, who laced a single to right field. Hamels (7-9) went eight innings for Philadelphia in a fine start, striking out eight Mets hitters. What hurt the lefty were the five hits that he gave up to the Mets with four of them falling in for extra base hits.

In speaking about his starter Mets manager Jerry Manuel had this to say, “Today he (Dickey) was very impressive for us. He is very much a competitor and he knew what he needed to do and he did it.”

After the game Manuel continued to say how he felt that pitching and defense was also a part of that Mets prescription for leading them to victories in the rest of the 2010 season. Well the Mets got plenty of great defensive plays in the game as in the first two innings shortstop Jose Reyes made two very nice diving plays for New York.

“We put an emphasis on pitching and defense, and we think that is our formula to win games,” Manuel said after the game, “Guys have responded very well to that formula so far.”

Mike Hessman also had two very nice defensive plays for the Mets, both coming in the bottom of the second inning taking care of two very hit ground balls and was able to make the outs against two very speedy runners. Hessman also recorded his first major league triple in the bottom of the fifth inning, but not without help of instant replay.

It seemed as if the rookie was able to hit a first pitch changeup into the crowd in left field which fell for what was originally called a home run.  That call was immediately protested by the Phillies players and manager Charlie Manuel as a fan interference play. In doing the right thing the umpiring crew immediately went into the replay booth inside of Citi Field to make the correct call. The umpires came out after a six minute delay to tell the rookie that he was going to get a triple. After the umpires call was made the 35,440 in attendance very upset immediately voicing their displeasure at the reversed call.

“The umpiring crew went to Major League Baseball for the official ruling,” Manuel explained of the overturned call. “They look at all of the different angels and they made that determination.” Hessman was awarded third base because, “When the ball hit the wall, Mike was already past second base and on his way to third; so I thought it was the right call for us.”

New York wasn’t able to cash in on that extra base hit as Hamels worked out of trouble. It would not stay that way for the Philadelphia starter as consecutive doubles in the bottom of the sixth inning by David Wright (29) and Carlos Beltran (6) was all the Mets needed to win the game.

“Having Beltran and Wright get hits tonight for us was a huge boost to our offense,” Manuel said after the game. “If we can get them both going at the same time it will be a positive thing for us offensively.”

Also contributing to the Mets offense was left fielder Angel Pagan who out hustled a very strong throw by shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Pagan continued to show off his speed by stealing second and third base (28). Catcher Henry Blanco was another part of the Mets offense in the bottom of the seventh inning, when scorched a ball down the left-field line for a ground-rule double (5).

The Mets will try to continue to ride this shutout momentum, and keep to the doctor’s prescription in game two against the Phillies on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. Philadelphia will send out their own doctor in Roy “Doc” Halladay (14-8, 2.34 ERA) takes on Pat Misch. The 28-year-old lefty was 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo will be called up to make the first start of the 2010 season. Mish had a taste of action with the Mets last season posting a 4.12 ERA in 59 innings.

Posted under Amico, Batters, Cole Hamels, Complete Game, Defensive Plays, Game Shutout, Jose Reyes, Knuckleball, Lefty, Los Angeles Dodgers, Losing Streak, Major League, National League East, New York Mets, Night Baseball, Pedro Astacio, Philadelphia Phillies, Pitchers, Santana, Shortstop, Top Story

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on August 14, 2010