From the desk of: HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET
NEW YORK METS: Fred Wilpon's Favorite Team Did Quite Well For Themselves During Trading Season. So Much So, Even Mets Fans Are Feeling Blue.
Here in lies a great example why the Mets portion of my blog is titled: Head-Butting Mr. Met. And why my recurring Saul B. Katz Dilemma motif lives on. Please join me in a very quick and highly unscientific, not to mention biased, compare and contrast of two teams. To get started, take either hand, place your thumb and index finger about half an inch apart from each other, look at them closely while squinting through one eye, and recite the following exclamation along with me - We Were This Close!
Both, the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that of the New York Mets, very recently, and concurrently, faced potential financial ruin. For very different reasons, Frank McCourt and Fred Wilpon were gripped by situations seeking to fleece each of them of every penny possible. McCourt was going through a divorce in where a judge suddenly declared the team a marital asset, which also precipitated bringing the once mighty Dodgers organization to its knees. Equally in peril, Fred Wilpon was in the midst of getting victimized by a billion dollar ponzi scheme. Like the Dodgers, New York's on-field expenditures came to a screaming halt. Massive debt, mounting losses at the gate, oncoming legal fees and penalties, not to mention their incurred paper losses from Madoff accounts; the very same accounts the Wilpons used to hedge themselves, and borrow against; were all conspiring to bring Mr. Wilpon down as well.
If anything, Fred Wilpon received a vote of confidence from Commissioner Selig that Frank McCourt did not. The Commissioner took a hard line against Frank McCourt because he felt the then Dodgers' owner was taking Dodgers' funds and using them for personal reasons. Where as Mr. Wilpon was just getting ripped off. None-the-less, Fred Wilpon was afforded the opportunity Frank McCourt was not. Fred was allowed to keep his team and hopefully work his problems out. The Los Angeles Dodgers were effectively removed from Frank McCourt's operational custody by Major League Baseball, and have since been sold.
As fate would have it, Mets fans were still left with an owner who brought a very stable, and proud, fifty year old franchise to its own knees. Hell, he damn near crippled it. Not coincidentally, this is the same owner who decided to fashion the outside and rotunda of Citi Field in a manner paying tribute to his favorite childhood team; the former Brooklyn Dodgers. He is also the same owner who didn't just give Mets fans a palace dedicated to the former phantoms of Flatbush. He either forgot, didn't think to..., or didn't bother to complete, nor start construction on a Mets Hall of Fame in time for Citi Field's grand opening.
Adding insult to injury, Mets fans found their original Home Run Apple tucked back into an obscure corner beyond the left field portion of outer space, and right next to..., it didn't matter. The Mets really dropped the ball as if it were on fire on that one. The ensuing outrage and fierce backlash was not only warranted, it was needed to instigate the first of any alterations made to the exterior of Citi Field in order to make the place feel more representative of the team that plays there, not to mention construction of the Mets' Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for Mr Wilpon, modifications in appearance to Citi Field will always be viewed upon by the fans as wholly reactive measures. The fans, this generation at least, will always remember, that the owner, forgot, or at a minimum, put the legend and history of another team (the Dodgers) before that of the Mets.
At the time, what many Mets fans were saying in jest, may very well have come from their hearts too. If Fred Wilpon loves the Dodgers so much, why doesn't he buy them from Frank McCourt? Yeah..., if only it worked that way. Even though, there was indeed a precedent set under Bud Selig's watch. As a matter of fact, he was complicit in the three card monte he orchestrated which allowed Jeff Loria to purchase the Marlins, and John Henry to acquire the Red Sox, while all parties knowingly drove the Montreal Expos into extinction. MLB assumed operational control of the Expos before they were sold and moved to Washington. But I guess three card monte isn't the Wilpon's thing. But, Man! I would have offered up my piggy bank post haste. Believe me.
None-the-less, here we are and still together after all these years. In these presently hard times of national economic recession, and the Mets organizational recovery effort in effect, the players and fans have had to learn how to obediently ration great moments and good times. Mets fans were asked to be patient while $50+ million dollars were slashed from the on-field budget. Meanwhile, Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers for over $2 billion dollars! - And laughed all the way to the bank in spite of his ex-wife.
The Dodgers, like the Mets, currently sport a bevy of home grown players; very likable, and productive players may I add. Several of their once young prospects are coming into their own now, and doing it together. Unlike the current, and more newly assembled young Mets players, L.A.'s group composed of James Loney (#1 pick); Matt Kemp (#6 pick); Clayton Kershaw (#1 pick); Chad Billingsley (#1 pick); and Andre Ethier (acquired); were assembled a little earlier than New York's kids, and all survived Frank McCourt together as well.
Los Angeles never quite endured the gate problems the Mets are still dealing with. Dodgers fans' aversion of going to the park was more acute, and now that McCourt is long gone, so is fan rage, and so back they went. As a reward, the once financially strapped team now under new ownership provided their fan base with a gesture of good faith. In the days and hours leading up to Tuesday's 4pm trade deadline, the Dodgers made a series of somewhat attention grabbing acquisitions. Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League (Seattle's reliever the Mets could have used) are now all Dodgers.
Back at the Roosevelt Avenue House of Poor Sports Teams and Flushing Bay Recovery Center, the only native New York City resident stayed idle right up until 4:00pm on Tuesday. I may be wrong, but it may have been movie night in the recreation room at the Center. That always gets the residents moving; to another chair that is.
The Mets were inactive at the trade deadline this season. In the Mets defense, there is a plan in place put into effect by Sandy Alderson. Right? So looking forward, maybe making a trade for the sake of making a trade was not in the Mets' best interest. We'll see about that. But in the mean time, the Mets rookie and sophomore class of players do not have the experience under their belts that the mentioned Dodgers players do. L.A.'s core of players were ready for some form of supplementation. And their new ownership provided it. The Mets players aren't quite there yet. They are still gaining experience. But from the Front Office's double-speak, it is still very questionable as to whether or not money still plays a major role in the Mets' decision making process. But someone is sure to ask, what does that have to do with acquiring at least a reliever to help in the bullpen?
Being as the Mets remain under the same ownership they've been under, and considering their present condition, at least for the past few years, they've understandably (albeit grudgingly by the fans)continued to operate ultra-conservatively in a big city market. In their big city, the new Dodgers ownership is behaving quite the opposite. They are making moves geared towards a run for the division title. They are clearly taking an aggressive approach, much to the delight of their fans. But because they are new at this, they are looking to make a splash. Because Fred Wilpon is not new to this, Mets fans must sit idly by while their owner gets his house in order.
So you see, when Eddie from Ronkonkama, or James from White Plains calls the talk shows, and complains the Wilpons gotta go, and that the Mets need new ownership in order to be successful again, the Dodgers are proving there is just a little bit of truth to that sentiment; just a little, because it is still yet to be seen what the Dodgers can accomplish in the second half. It's in how people express themselves where things get lost in translation. I'm not saying I would have wanted to trade for the players L.A. acquired, except for Brandon League. But the Dodgers' willingness to import some complimentary players speaks loudly. The Mets' inactivity speak just as loudly. But it is saying something else. The Dodgers have new players and the Mets have their Plan.
That's my study of two teams that had to crawl out from under the same rubble left behind by a pair owners capable of mass destruction, and who almost obliterated their respective teams. Both teams have since set themselves on paths towards recovery. But when each encountered the same fork in the road, they went in opposite directions. The Mets didn't exactly go off in the wrong direction. So much remains to be seen. It's easy right now to get overly perturbed over Sandy Alderson's failure to address the bullpen at any point since May. Considering the Mets were once a mere 1 1/2 games behind the Nationals, and on two different occasions the Mets were seven games above .500, sure frustration is understandable, if not expected. The Mets good play in the first half was begging for a better bullpen. The Front Office thought otherwise.
So, Let's Go Mets! That's what my Spidey Sense said to say next.