Thursday, February 10, 2011

N.Y. METS ~ Sell or Stay; Fred Wilpon - PART II


Read PART ONE Here; The Case To Sell The Team

NEW YORK METS:  Fred Wilpon; Sink or Swim?


A Case for Fred Wilpon to Keep the Team Under His Control:

Building a case from a Fan's perspective on whether Fred Wilpon should fight to retain Sole or Controlling Interest in the New York Mets is no doubt based more on sentimentality than actual results and success achieved over the last 30 years because there is only the one Championship to speak-of.  But it is a Championship none-the-less and we are grateful for it...right? 

Let's try and be fair with Fred and skim over the whole body of work.

We did manage to extend the seasons of 1986 and 1988; 1999 and 2000; and most recently 2006.  That averages out to a playoff appearance every six years.  It is fair for Met Fans to expect more than that for 30 years worth of work; Sure.  But the pattern of playoff appearances does identify three distinct periods where the Mets managed to recreate themselves into a contender.  Met Fans most of all, should know once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen whether you're Tommy Agee, Lenny Dykstra, Jay Payton or Carlos Beltran.  That goes for winning as well as for losing.

But the big question is ~ Have the responsibilities of Ownership been met?

The 1990 season represented the end of the 80's and the end of an Era for us.  Moving forward, Ownership opened up the wallet and allowed the GM to spend quite freely.  We know 1991-1993 turned out to be unmitigated disasters in every respect as Al Harazin took the check-book and purchased a genuine MESS.  So, Ownership then agreed on a very prudent decision to bring back Joe McIlvaine as GM and rebuild the organization from within again.  All (most) Met Fans were in accordance with this plan (leave some..I guess).  Generation-K and the "Burnitz" Boppers Project failed just like the previous spending spree did.  But this process was worth pursuing none-the-less.  We all knew it then.  It was a needed course of action and we still know it now in hindsight.  And besides, one of my all-time favorites comes from this era; Todd Hundley.  But I digress.

To this point, the Ownership still proved to be flexible, capable, and acted with a level of pro-activeness.  The organization was still vibrant.  But the times changed.  So Ownership moved on to a new plan with Steve Phillips.  They remained ever agreeable dollar wise, signing off on some big trades trades and then free agents like Robin Ventura while incurring huge increases in payroll.  They were Owners of a contender again and still in possession of a fertile Farm System that would yield Wright, Reyes and Kazmir in the future.

I'm trying to set this up fairly for Mr. Wilpon, so let's see if we can agree that before his Sole Ownership, while Mr. Wilpon was still a partner, he and Mr. Doubleday somehow managed to keep warm blood running through the arteries and veins of METropolis all while sometimes having to make tough decisions in the process.

*There was The Early Years ~ the lead-in; the farming.
*The Glory Years ~ '84-'90
*Years of Transition; For three years they ALL lost their way.
*The Second Rebuilding ~ Was a necessary and prudent plan.
*The Return to Contention Years ~ The Piazza Era; We got close.
*The Ensuing Down Period and the End of the Doubleday Era and his partnership with the Wilpons.

That's 22 years and there's nothing about that body of work that should cause Met Fans to go hunting down Ownership with pitchforks and torches; not when there are so many more worse-run organizations than ours.  I know that means little to most of us, but every organization makes it's share of mistakes and the Mets made theirs along the way too.  A New Ownership will no doubt make theirs also.  But the time between Davey Johnson, the attempt to rebuild, and then Bobby Valentine, is a fair amount of time for an organization to regroup and re-emerge with a new cast, while allowing for a few disappointments along the way.  Our Ownership, as it still pertains to the Partnership, more than anything always relied on the strength of their General Managers. But both partners, although much more in favor of stability, have never been shy about making a change when change was warranted.

On the other side of the year 2000, we know how fast it all fell apart. So let's just fast forward to 2003 when Steve Phillips, Bobby Valentine, and Nelson Doubleday are all finally out of the picture and it's just Us and the Wilpons with a last place club.  Isn't the sole ownership of the Wilpons what this is really all about anyway?

Let's face it, just like what Al Harazin did to the Mets 10 years earlier, after the 2000 N.L. Flag, Steve Phillips assembled a high-priced MESS and left a 2002-03 disaster behind with another monster bill attached to it.  And he left it in the lap of Fred Wilpon to pick-up the tab (....again), while also leaving the team in need of another major fix-up.  But this time Fred was left to pay this bill down on his own after recently cutting Doubleday a check for his half of the club.  So, lurching forward, of course Jim Duquette was told to not spend any money.  Can we really hold the Howe/Duquette years against Fred?  I guess we could if you chose to.

One argument in the treatment of Jim Duquette goes like this ~ He never had a chance and was a stop-gap GM. But the way they replaced him with Omar before firing him was an act of folly. Another way to look at that situation is ~ Fred Wilpon pounced on the person he felt most comfortable with and if Jim Duquette had his feelings hurt, Oh Well.

You pick.

I guess we could also blame Fred for not trying to sign Vlad Guerrero, whom everyone thought had a bad back AND sign him so as to make the pain of Mo Vaughn and Alomar go away.  Right?  That's what we really wanted; for Fred to spend a BuZillion dollars on Vlad while having no-one to surround him with from leftovers of  the '03 Mets.  Oh!  Oh!  AND...only we can imaging the complete disaster that would have been A-Rod in a Met uniform when his Steroid troubles surfaced.  OH MY Goodness!  That would have been a real friggin' beaut!

So..., Can we really blame Fred for trying to manage the Club's coffers after so much money was debited from our favorite team's accounts?  Surely we can afford our owner some slack in that respect?  Are we that poisoned by entitlement these days?  Are we so driven to be about "Me" all the time?  There is still a certain level of loyalty we should hold in reserve for trying times.  By taking on the full financial "burden" of 100% ownership at that time, what Fred Wilpon did was keep our Mets Team operating as a stable Franchise.

But the fact remains, within two years of securing 100% of the team and having it left behind in need of a massive renovation project courtesy of the outgoing Steve Phillips (AND Nelson Doubleday), Fred and Jeff Wilpon locked up Omar Minaya and let him proceed forward with his plan; and let him do so with a check-book in hand and a farm system left barren by a previously mentioned Steve Phillips.. (after Wright, Reyes, and Kazmir).  The fruits of Omar's labors with regard to minor league development haven't been realized until the last year and a half.

The Wilpons seemed to be back on their feet after two years and even showed a little chutzpa in the process.  Fred and Jeff Wilpon initially proceeded the way Fred has always operated before with Nelson Doubleday.  Their GM presented a case based on the needs of the team.  Ownership; Mr. Wilpon and Jeff, have never been in a habit of saying No.  And there wasn't a time before we got wind of the Ponzi Scheme, that the Wilpon's weren't proceeding as they normally would have, only now with their full confidence bestowed upon Omar Minaya.

Omar Minaya was well regarded around Baseball by the time he assumed the office of GM for the Mets.  There were few complaints about the Wilpon's latest choice for General Manager.  Omar put together a team that put Fred Wilpon's Mets one pitch away from a World Series in 2006 in only his second year on the job and Fred's 4th year as sole owner of the team.  The Mets had done it again.  They recreated themselves into a contender and this time Fred and Jeff did it without Doubleday around.  If you were there that one night during the 2006 NLCS, when the entire exiting crowd at Shea sang, "Jose, Jose Jose", all the way down the ramps, into the parking lots, and all the way home, like I did, you know damn well no one was hating on Mr. Wilpon then.

When we start pointing fingers, I'm going to point the first one at you; us; we the Fans.  Why?  Because with the first home game back from a road trip, the Mets had the opportunity to clinch the '06 Eastern Division Title on our home field against the Marlins and we didn't sell the place out.  It turned out to be our first Division Flag in 18 years and it was a damn shame the place wasn't packed.  Shame on us!  I was there and shook my head over every empty seat.

Then, to blame Carlos Beltran's state of shock over an in-coming curveball and his inability to react to a called third strike in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS on Fred Wilpon is irresponsible at best, as is also putting Willie Randolph's failure to bunt a runner over prior to that. 

The failure to make the playoffs in both 2007 and 2008; or as many like to refer to them as the two choke-jobs; is like-wise not a matter of Fred Wilpon's futility as an owner but rather a failure at the field level to execute and perform their jobs well and rise to the occasion.  That responsibility falls on the Manager and General Manager.  We can can come up with many reasons of course.  The owner might have hired the person who put it all together, but Fred Wilpon did his part to fund and support his GM's plans.  He footed the bill after hiring someone everyone thought was up to the task of being a GM in New York (after all, Minaya grew up in Queens).  But more spending solves everything right?  Sure..., regardless that we concurred Omar put together a formidable team in 2006 (even though we knew the pitching was flawed and he would still remain with unsettled positions moving forward)..   I have my own theory as to why we fell short in '07 and '08, but neither of which I can place blame with Mr.Wilpon.  My reasons would center more on Omar and his reliance on Pedro, El Duque and Tom Glavine...Blah  blah blah and his inability to rectify LF, RF, C, and 2B blah blah...

The problem is we have a radically different view of things today than we did when I was a kid.  Being a good contending team has now morphed into a failure waiting to happen in the absence of winning a Title.  When I was a kid, I didn't boo any Met between 1977 and 1982!  I'm proud of that.  Yet, we boo'd Johan Santana in his first ever start at Shea Stadium.  So with that new-age thinking, we singled-out our Owner to vent all our anger and frustrations on; Ownership that was failed by it's players, managers, and General Managers.., foiled by plain old bad luck, victimized by some horrible timing and stymied by untimely, and very costly injuries.

If you want to complain that we're snake-bitten; jinxed; cursed; or doomed and it's the Wilpon's fault, - as Owner, he takes a share of the blame.  But his appointments and the teams created under them, with his consent, failed in spite of however much the owner supplied them with the resources to succeed.  The Wilpon's did eveything Omar asked them to do.  He cut the check.  He did what owners are supposed to do; supply resources to good Baseball minds...(and the debate about Omar is another topic).  The rest gets decided on the field.  Omar wound up creating his own perfect storm with Fred's money, but Fred and Jeff must be made to stand trial for it (.) (!) (?).

I know what we wanted.  We wanted the Wilpon's to spend even more money.  We wanted him to outspend some mistakes.  THAT's what some of you wanted.  Admit it.

The truth is we were always more upset with the directions our GM's took us, than the course of actions our owner(s) decided upon.  But because Fred is the constant, we choose to pile it all on him.  And because we say accountability starts at the top, Fred Wilpon gets the wrap.  We displaced our frustration with getting stymied for so long throughout a long series of GM's and their big, bright ideas and who incidentally racked up high payrolls with little hardware to show for it all the while playing in a New York town of big  expectations.  And well..., what you get is a lot a heat-seeking rants targeting Mr. Wilpon and rumblings about the state of the team even after all those darned managers and GMs get fired and replaced.

The last two seasons; 2009 and 2010, set-up to be a perfect storm and the S.S. Wilpon definitely got tossed-about on some pretty treacherous seas.  The crippling, incapacitating injuries suffered by the roster over the last two years, compounded with an ill-timed and unforeseen Madoff Scandal threw a big stick into the spokes of this wheel and sent everyone hurtling head over feet into on-coming traffic.  And now "everyone is looking for someone to sue".  Meanwhile, if we had just one more positive outcome in both '07 and/or '08, Mets History would read very differently.

Having gone through it, I know what it feels like.  Man!  It was rotten!   But how do we translate what happened on the field to deny us playoff births in those two years with Fred Wilpon being an incapable owner?  It doesn't.  We just want it to, because after the fans trade everybody, fire every manager, and fire their GMs at their whims, it's still never good enough when we play Fantasy GM with Fred's money.

The whole call to end our time with Fred Wilpon as owner of the New York Mets is and has always been a knee-jerk reaction we chose to conduct ourselves with and act upon.  I'm not trying to insult anyone; I include myself among the Met Masses.

Mr. Fred Wilpon is not a giant, corporate, cold and distanced conglomerate megalomaniac, who treats the Mets as a satellite holding within his empire.  He is very open and proud of the fact he runs his operation as a Family Business; the very thing old Baseball sentimentalists and old school gentlemen clamour for.  And quite frankly, I like it too.  It's the way Baseball Ownerships ideally should be.  He's a local guy too so he knows what we're like around here and how we can get.  You can not deny the man cares about the team and suffers right along-side us with every loss.  That's well documented and talked about.  AND absolutely, without a doubt, you know he listens to us.  We Fans do have the Ownership's ear.

In Metropolitan's History, we've been in the hands of two Ownership Groups ~ The Original; Lady Joan Payson and the continuing portion of the partnership between Doubleday and Wilpon.  We are a very stable Franchise, and have been since our birth into the National League.  I think I speak for all Met fans when I say we found that to be a tremendous source of pride with regard to our Club.

We have a new General Manager now with his new lieutenants in place.  He still have very credible veterans on this club and a new crop of prospects starting to make their way to the big club.  Of course the plan is changing as we speak and the landscape of METropolis will change, but this General Manager has built a winner before and he comes here with assets in place to be creative with.

So Madoff Dilemma aside, what's so wrong with staying the course and siding with continuity and stability with our ownership?  Is it beyond us at this point to give our presently embattled Owner a shot in the arm?
If we would focus our frustration more correctly, I think we will all find that we really do like the guy.  If we knew he turned a deaf ear to us, then why not let him fall, crash and burn like the Hindenburg.  But he does listen to us, and we do appreciate that whether you admit it or not.  What other fan base can say that right now?  When we speak, the Wilpons know.  So, search inside your Mets-Sole and let's tell him to tough this out and fight.

We are New Yorkers, or relatives in the areas thereof.  We are invested fans in the whole deal.  And one of the measures of character is how you react in the face of adversity.  Who's to say he can't make a come-back (like one of his teams did in 1986)?

Well, Wilpon has his adversity to face, and we have ours.  Can we agree to let TIME be an ally and see if we can stick this out with our owner, until the moment if he faces an ultimate end with the Metropolitans?  He said he ran things like a family, and we always seemed to be OK with that right up until three years ago during the second "Choke".  And now, we all have a Family member in need.  OR, is the bad-blood between us too thick?

If in fact he does survive this,  maybe he'll have that epiphany and start bleeding Met Orange instead of Dodger Blue and we'll get an owner who's going to re-check his efforts and try to make a better go of things.  Maybe then we can badger him for a Tom Seaver statue and get him to retire a few more numbers for us.

That's all I got.  If one of my arguments sounds more convincing than the other, then that's where I stand.  There's obviously a slew of details and occurances left out of all this.  But this is a case for Fred Wilpon to keep the team versus selling it.

So,  for the sake of stability, familiarity and preservation of our tradition...,Good Luck Mr. Wilpon...may some Met Magic come your way and things turn out Amazin' for everybody.  But, Ya Gotta Believe...first.


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