The Age of WILPONianism.
Back in 2003 Nelson Doubleday sold his half of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club to his partner Fred Wilpon, ending a very acrimonious relationship between the two. I'm not going "there" because the Mets only won one World Series while he was still half owner. No, I only bring that to your attention because I'd like to remind Met Fans, and those who slow down to see the wreckage of an accident, about the parting shots Nelson Doubleday took at the Wilpon's; and more specifically, Jeff Wilpon ~ Son of PON....Fred Wilpon's son that is ~ Lil' Jeff, C.O.O. of Mets R Us.
Harsh of me? Read what Mr. Doubleday had to say HERE.
The quote I'd like to extract for your reading pleasure is this little screwgie from ESPN Archives as Nelson Doubleday said what he really felt. He was working without a filter. There was a lot of disdain for his "Partner and Son" of which he kept no secrets about such feelings.
(picking up mid-article...) Doubleday especially had some harsh words for Jeff Wilpon, Fred's son, who is heavily involved in the daily operation of the franchise.
"Mr. Jeff Wilpon has decided that he's going to learn how to run a baseball team and take over at the end of the year," Doubleday told the newspaper. "Run for the hills, boys. I think probably all those baseball people will bail."
In fact, Doubleday still owns box seats at Shea Stadium, but apparently does not attend games partly due to the presence of the younger Wilpon.
"Jeff sits there by himself like he's King Tut waiting for his camel," Doubleday told the paper. "Hump one. Hump two. They like that, two for the price of one."
That ESPN article was as of July 2003. Researching the "good Old days" and trying to retrieve articles covering Nelson Doubleday's parting shots at the Wilpons I came across THIS ARTICLE in my travels. Just giving due props.
So let us fast-forward now to September 1st, 2010. I will omit everything I've been screaming about regarding this club since winter past and beyond.. September 1st, for all intent and purposes should be, symbolically or real, Day One of the Beginning of the END of the current Met Era.
The Failure in Flushing must be corrected. The Misery in METropolis must end.
FIRST ITEM OF CONTENTION: OWNERSHIP ~ Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, Jeff Wilpon. OR as I like to sometimes call this administration....The SAUL B. KATZ Dilemma.
Fred Wilpon ~ For as much as I like to rip him, there's no place for that here at the moment. Trust me, it's unlike me to pass up an opportunity to criticize the Father of the Least. But this is Jeff's team now. So that's where I'm staying. But before we leave Fred behind I will offer this ~ He, Fred, was never forthright with the fan base about the team's financial health. But how much of the Madoff situation can we say is "our business"? Honestly, how much of the Bernie Madoff scandal IS our business? We'd like to know; sure. But when your owner maintains a payroll near the NL top spenders...how much can we badger Fred about team finances? There are fair shots to be taken at Fred and some deserved. But On Sept. 1st, 2010 we move forward with - (because I'm living in the here and now. I'm trying to stay positive.) Jeff at the helm of the S.S. Wilpon. And we need to figure out a way to keep Jeff, The Son of PON, from turning this ship into the iceberg. So Fred actually gets a pass here. I'll save the shrine to the Brooklyn Dodgers and all that other stuff for another time. It's the son I want now! Jeff is the Phantom Menace in the SAUL B. KATZ Dilemma.
I'm a real sucker for going all Soupy Sales on the Wilpons with jokes and barbs.. That is why I will end this first installment of FIXING the FAILURE in FLUSHING now. Tune in tomorrow as I methodically try and help Lil' Jeff, C.O.O. of Mets R Us.
Mets R Us.......S.S. Wilpon, Wilponianism...whatever; - We just need to keep the Kid from crashing his new car. In a moment of clarity, this is the 30th year since the Mets were sold to Doubleday and Wilpon; and then there was one (..and son). Back in December I went through a whole Blah blah blah...and said this was the most important season facing the Wilpons over the last 30 years. Mr. Fred Wilpon has "Met" his crucible (pun intended). That time is upon us now.
That was my warm up. Tomorrow is September 1st. The day of reckoning is a sunrise away.
DAY TWO; Son of PON ~ The Saul B. Katz Dilemma
September 1, 2010 by my Declaration is DAY ONE of the END of THIS MET ERA.
"Meaningful Games In SEPTEMBER" will elude the Mets in this 2010 season. Mr. Fred Wilpon's stated goal to have his club play meaningful games in September has been denied by his uniformed employees and mid-level management....again. Barring a "Miracle" the Mets will not participate in this year's post-season just as they have missed the playoffs for 7 out of the 8 years Fred Wilpon is principle owner of the Mets.
In 1992-93 both Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon were stuck with an onerous bill for an embarrassing last place team assembled by Al Harazin.. In 2003 Steve Phillips masterfully crafted the worst team money could buy and Fred Wilpon, who by then was the sole principle owner, got stuck with another payroll albatross and a last place club. I empathize with the Wilpons in so far as I know they do care. Fred Wilpon has never been cheap per say.. The Mets have always maintained a higher end payroll for players. So that's not up for debate.
What is up for debate is how the Wilpons maintain a blurred line of demarcation separating Ownership and Baseball Operations. The well publicized and criticized "collegial" structure the Wilpons promote in their front office is nothing more than a nursery for Chaos.
As Nelson Doubleday declared in 2003, and as we've witnessed with our very own Met Eyes, Jeff Wilpon really does want to be a Baseball Man. While Omar Minaya perhaps wielded a lot more influence and operated with more autonomy back in 2005 and 2006, let's be clear; Jeff Wilpon is calling the shots. Today Omar is a completely watered down version of the man the Mets re-employed by asking him to become GM of the club at the end of the 2004 season. I do not want to get ahead of myself, but Omar's power has been diminished somewhat by his own machinations also. But back to the point about Jeff, he has taken the line of demarcation between Ownership and Baseball Operations and knocked it completely out of focus. As a matter of fact, there is no line and there never has been one.
Jeff Wilpon has the whole "OUR GANG" involved in the decision processes of the club. The philosophy was fostered by his Pop. Jeff, John Ricco, Omar, the invisible Bob Melvin, before his dismissal *Tony Bernazard, and a small list of others comprise(d*) The Brain of this organization.
Before moving forward, let's revisit this clubs finances for a second because we still do not know the motivations for some moves made and the motivations for a lack of transactions made. The Wilpons have stated the club's financial health is strong in spite of the Madoff Scandal. There's speculation Fred has lost a very substantial sum. There are also reports F.Wilpon may have even made money in the process. But while they say the team's financial health is good, they behave in a very contradictory manner. Fred Wilpon has said nothing to silence the wild speculations consuming print, on-air and electronic media. So that's where we are with that. We just don't know how much the Wilpon's finances influence their, Jeff's, Jeff's dictates to Omar('s)..., decisions.
Moving forward now, Jeff Wilpon is what he is; the Owner's son. He's the Owner's son and he wants to be a Baseball Man. That's a problem.
Omar may have precipitated Jeff's increasing involvement in Baseball Operations, however I do not think anything would have prevented Jeff's encroachment upon Baseball Operations. George Steinbrenner was consumed with Baseball Operations but he was transparent in such dealings. His word had a high credit rating with the Fans. When George made decisions there were no secrets. If he wanted to fire someone, he told you why. If he wanted to sign someone, he told you why. We do know George operated his club at a financial paper loss in his last few actively participating years. He didn't tell us that; the newspapers did. But what he told his fan base was that he would do what was necessary to... and don't worry about....... and he followed through. He dipped into his own pockets to deliver on his word. And here is one of the few if any times, I compare Met and Yankee business. My point is, as stated earlier, the Wilpons say one thing and behave another way, in part because I feel they, the Wilpons aren't being truthful with their fan base about the Owner's ability to financially afford or manage the team. So what translates into the Baseball Operations side strikes us as being somewhat conflicting and confusing as Fans, and perhaps to the media also.
So let's just say, Omar remains on-board as the GM. If that be the case, a dramatic change in the relationship?/structure between Omar and Jeff must take place. If Omar is retained as the General Manager, I suggest the Mets need to hire a bonafide, Baseball experienced Team President to separate Omar and Jeff. If Jeff wants to be a Baseball Man, let him buzz the ear of the President; not Omar's. A Team President must assure the Wilpon's financial interests in the club are being met in return for full autonomy. A Team President then turns and delegates autonomy to his General Manager to implement the Organizations will concerning Baseball Operations. Omar is accountable to, and answers to said Team President. A Team President then delivers a state of Baseball Operations report to the Owners. Yes, this entails Jeff Wilpon relinquishing baseball concerns to said President. If you're Jeff, this is a rather large pill to swallow. But the homogenized duties of the front office....pffft ~ the direct connect between Omar and Jeff must be severed. If Omar is to be retained, he must be handed a clear budget parameter and be left to make decisions autonomously. Jeff always retains the right to question and inspect his club of course. But as things stand right now, Omar has been rendered impotent because Jeff engages in baseball operations with an owners mind and his Father's wallet in his heart, and secondly, Omar helped create the condition due largely to diminished effectiveness on the major league level, besetting the club with paralyzing contracts and an inability to seize the moment in matters of crisis management.
All of which I said is IF Omar is retained as General Manager of the Mets. But Omar is a later topic of discussion. Jeff is still topic one for now. And to summarize, if Omar is indeed retained in his present capacity, of which I am not opposed to, the direct pipeline between Jeff and Omar must cease and a Team President must be found. A Team President is the only one who can have a Team Owner's, a General Manager's, and the over-all best interest of an organization as his primary interest all at the same time without bias. Anything else is just hands in the cookie jar or too many chiefs and not enough Indians. You choose. But the overlapping of ideas, interests and concerns is just creating standing water spawning mosquitoes. The ramifications of the inbred thought process by this front office has been clearly evidenced and we've watched it bleed onto the field of play.
Regardless if Omar or whom-ever is General Manager of the Mets, something has got to give; that something is Jeff Wilpon. If he wants to be a Baseball Man so badly, I'm afraid he'll have to do it vicariously through a Team President. Jeff Wilpon and his on-the-job-training is the Phantom Menace at work here. If part of the reason I think what I do is because they, the Wilpons haven't exactly been truthful with us....isn't that his fault and not my misinterpretation?
There's another side of me that actually likes Jeff. I'll just quickly make use of his trip to Atlanta back in May, when he address the angst surrounding the team. He's pretty darn good at crisis management and Atlanta wasn't the only display, unfortunately. He comes, speaks to the media very plainly/frankly but effectively, and gives Met fans a sense as if he said, "All is well. There's nothing more to see here. Go back to your homes". He's good at that. maybe there-in lies his niche on this team. If Omar is still the GM next year, I'm sure Jeff will have more opportunities to smoke screen us. But I still hold firm in my belief one of the ways to go about solving Saul B. Katz' Dilemma is with a good Team President. The Son of PON must be contained.
....I will make my suggestion for a Team President much later in this discourse.
NEXT ITEM OF CONTENTION....The Office of General Manager
September 2, 2010 Day Two of The End of this Mets Era.
In 1980 Frank Cashen was the first General Manager hired by the new Mets Ownership of Doubleday and Wilpon. Cashen marks the first and only time Mets ownership has gone outside the organization to fill the office of GM. Well, they had to...He was the first. Well enough right?
If you're an ardent Met Fan, I'll save you all the particulars. Let's just run through the General Managers of the N.Y. Mets over the last 30 yeas.
Frank Cashen was the architect of the 1986 World Champion Mets. But I'd be doing a tremendous disservice to the former GM and last one who operated under the old regime of Joan Payson, and her Estate; Joe McDonald. The new ownership asked Joe McDonald to stay on board but they also made it clear they wanted to hire their own guy for the GM position. Joe stayed on one more year to make the Mets ownership transfer smoother. He is currently a scout for the Boston Red Sox. What Joe McDonald left behind for Frank Cashen to work with amounted to, without doing the hard math to get an exact figure, 25% of that '86 team.
Lee Mazzili, Hubie Brooks, Wally Backman, Jesse Orosco, Niel Allen, Mookie Wilson ~ (and I'm sure I'm missing someone) ~ were all players developed in the Mets organization by Joe McDonald. Some of those players stayed with the club. The rest were used smartly by Mr. Cashen in trades that translated to players, directly or indirectly, like Kieth Hernandez, Gary Carter, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Howard Johnson. I'm sure I'm missing someone again. But before we lurch forward I thought it necessary to include Joe McDonald in this conversation.
From 1980 through 1983 Frank Cashen rebuilt the minor league system and by 1984 the fruits of his labor started joining the big club starting with Darryl Strawberry in '83.
Fast-forward now to1992. Frank Cashen finally steps down as General Manager but remains in the front office. He appoints Al Harazin, who had more of a business background than baseball. It showed! But what happened besides the fiasco on the field was Joe McLlvaine got tired of waiting around to get promoted within the Mets front office so he bolted to San Diego when they offered him their General Manager's position.
Al Harazin was in over his head and Mets Ownership cajoled Joe McLlvaine into coming back to the organization to be GM of the Mets in time for the 1994 season. He had a plan. Met Fans were on board with said plan. Everyone got emotionally invested with Generation-K and the whole youth movement. It failed. During those years another Mets front office prospect got tired of waiting for his chance. Gerry Hunsicker was another "star" skyrocketing through the Mets front office, similar to Joe McLlvaine. Gerry left the Mets front office to take the General Manager's position in Houston in 1995.
Joe McLvaine got fired because no one ever knew where he was. His priorities went askew and apathy was written all over his face. When things got chaotic in METropolis and times demanded his presence, he was off on his own, scouting or doing whatever, somewhere else, while leaving no itinerary or contact information behind with the front office staff.
Enter Steve "HornDog" Phillips; another and the last protege left behind by Frank Cashen. All the previous General Manager hires by the Mets were executives developed by Frank Cashen.
I think we're all familiar with Steve Phillips' record by now. Moving forward, Steve brought in Jim Duquette as he did Omar Minaya bringing him over from Texas. Steve Phillips got fired and the Wilpons gave the job to Jim Duquette. Omar had already left for Montreal to become their General Manager. Without ever firing Jim Duquette first, the Mets (eh hem, the Wilpons; Fred) begged Omar to come back to the organization to be the next GM after just one year and a half. By the end of the 2004 season we were sporting two GM's by default. Needless to say Jim Duquette eventually recieved his pink slip over the winter and by 2005 Omar was the sole and new General Manager of the Mets.
Obviously that is a short summary of the GMs. Their records and degrees of effectiveness do not really need to be dealt with for my purposes, other than for a point I will make shortly. But Omar's record needs to be examined and I'll do it in short fashion.
Omar is still chasing down the same problems he inherited back in 2004; LF, RF, CF, 1B, 2B, C, Starting pitching, and relief pitching. That's the truth. Centerfield with Carlos Beltran was the only position we truly rectified. In leftfield how can we forget Moises Alou and the LF match game that continues into the present with the questionable status and sub-par year Jason Bay is having. Right Field? Shawn Green? Xavier Nady, Moe Larry and Curly? Many players have played RF since 2005 and the position is still unsettled with the depature on Jeff Francoeur (see Ryan Church). Second base? Remember Kaz Matsui? That's what Omar was charged to improve upon. He still hasn't. The catching was and still is in flux ever since Mike Piazza was phased out. Josh Thole seems like he's finally going to settle the position for us. The bullpen and namely a closer? Billy Wagner? KRod? Good in theory but they turned out to be more headaches that anyone bargained for. Billy Wagner was maddening. KRod is right there with him. But as of right now, we have nothing to show for the position. The starting rotation? From Pedro, Tom Glavine and Trachsel...to Maine and Oliver...and the big catch with Santana, and the emergence of Pelfrey and Neise? It's taken 6 years to get to this? But what exactly is this?
This is what happened in 2006 when the Mets were within a strike or a hit, pick your poison, of the World Series. For one year, the multitude of Omar's second tier type signings paid off in a big way, just as RA Dickey is earning more and more credibility today. In 2006 Jose Valentin hit 22 home runs for us while at 2nd base batting 6th and 7th in the line-up. On the night the Mets clinched the N.L. East flag in 2006, Jose Valentin hit 2 home runs. In 2006 Paul LoDuca hit .300 out of the two spot in the line-up. In 2006 Carlos Delgado made the line-up lethal; not Jose Reyes like most believe. I may be in the minority on that. But I believe strongly it was Delgado and not Reyes that made that 2006 line-up deadly. It was Delgado that spear headed the charge back into contention in 2007 after a very sloppy start. As of right now, 2006 is the abberation. It stands alone. What we witness today is where they are since steadily spiraling downward and becoming more and more out of control since that 2006 October night. That team doesn't exist anymore and this organization has been chasing it's ghost ever since to no avail.
Take the 2006 season and make it a wash versus last season's injury riddled campaign. Look at the 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010 and what do you have? Angst, frustrations, collossal chokes, revolving doors in postions still unsettled since 2005, a second manager, madenning mediocraty, a clubhouse which has experienced more drama than "All My Children", Latino phobia, poor fundamentals but less so this season, and other items of contention that don't really need to be listed in their entirety. Look at the win loss record of the Mets since 2005 and what you see is a man who is a General Manager of mediocraty and let downs.
All the Mets' General Managerial hires have been in-house or as is the case with Duquette and Minaya, the Wilpons were previously familiar to them, and likewise they to Fred. Today, with Omar Minaya holding on precariously to his job title, Asst. GM John Ricco emerges as the latest link in a chain threatening to snap.
The time has come for this administration to go off campus again. Again is actually inaccurate. Going off campus would in effect be the first time they did so, outside of Cashen. The thought process of this front office is inbred. There must me a new, outside, unrelated and independent thinker brought into this front office. A new stimulus is needed to procure progress. The Wilpons and this organization have stagnated. The need for a strong minded Baseball Executive, independent and free from familiarity with the Wilpons is needed. This need is exasperated by the want of Jeff Wilpon to be a Baseball Man. Who can tell the Owner's son he has to step aside but the Owner himself? We can only hope and pray Jeff is promulgated by epiphany and returns to "just" being the C.O.O. of this club and stays away from day to day operations.
John Ricco can not become the next General Manager of the Mets. That would be an inconsequential move considering the Jeff Factor. The move would be tremendously toothless. The move would be incredibly un-impactful. The hiring of John Ricco I'm sure would infuiate the Fan base. The present scuttlebutt has Omar getting re-assigned within the organization in more of a super-scout role and would head up Minor League Development while John Ricco would be more of a front man for the club. Translated, John Ricco's body and suit; Jeff Wilpon's mind. It's as simple as this; John Ricco can not be the next weak link in this lengthening chain of ever increasing homogenized front office thought. The Wilpons must, - have to go off campus for the next General Managerial hire. The organization is in dire need of an infusion of new blood. That time may be upon them right now. This decision should be made be a qualified Team President. Whether Omar stays on or not, a Team President is still needed and it's the Team President that should make the next GM hire. With a Team President I am not opposed to Omar Minaya remaining as GM for the remainder of his contract. But if Omar is in fact relieved of those duties, I will find every ounce of energy containing matter in my being to voice my opposition to John Ricco!
I will make my suggestion for a new General Manager later in this discourse.
I'm forced to start a new post due to length. See you there. Mike.BTB
NEXT UP....THE MANAGER ~ JERRY MANUEL
He did express interest in managing while Willie Randolph was still serving in that capacity. Jerry Manuel has been accused of throwing Willie Randolph under the bus, or, being subversive towards the same end; Willie's job.
Jerry Manuel went down yapping some negative Ghandi'isms in Chicago all the way to the bus station when Kenny Williams released him of his duties there. Jerry Manuel did win a Manager of the Year though. Jerry Manuel was also a coach on the 1997 World Series Champion Florida Marlins. He's been around the block and his resume is credible.
There are worse managers and there are certainly better managers. But way more than most likely, Jerry will not be asked back as manager for the 2011 season. At this very moment, Jerry is still managing and trying to win now as if a playoff spot was still attainable. But he's smart and realizes we wants to salvage some respectability for himself and this team.
There's a saying ~ when you can't dazzle people with brilliance, baffle them with bull$#!t. If that doesn't work, make jokes! Somehow Jerry Manuel has kept the more blood thirsty media satiated with humor and jocularity. Jerry has played it masterfully to his credit. He figured out never leave them angry, always leave the media laughing. Brilliant! Brilliant because look at any other manager or head coach in whatever sport in this town, and the relationship between the media and him is pacifying at best. Jerry has many of them eating out of his hand pecking at his next joke. That is perhaps the single most biggest reason why the calls to have his head chopped off haven't come sooner or more vehemantly.
This blog post is still in progress...I'm updating as I go along..