The More Things Change

… the more they stay the same. That’s the saying, right?

If you saw this printed somewhere today, I bet following snippet would not be surprising:

This ship has been off course for three seasons, not because of a lack of resources, but because of a lack of judgment. The Mets began the year with a payroll … which is second only to the Yankees’ … They have nothing to show for it but a clubhouse of aging stars with big names, big contracts and big injuries.

(the GM) sold Wilpon on the notion that you had to win with big names in New York, that the fans weren’t patient enough to wait for rebuilding, that you had to do it now. Forget the farm system.

But Wilpon apparently came to the conclusion that the Mets’ salvation was not exclusively found in high-priced stars. Yesterday, he made an intriguing observation. He said he knows now that a hefty payroll does not ensure success. ”We’ve learned that painfully.”

More than once yesterday he said, ”We’re going to get younger and more athletic.”

But you might be mildly surprised to find out that the above was published on June 13, 2003 in The New York Times.

If you don’t remember, these were the words printed when GM Steve Phillips was fired. Jim Duquette replaced him on an interim, and then “permanent” basis, and within a year Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano and Ty Wigginton for Kris Benson so that the Mets could “play meaningful games in September”. Not long after that meaningless September, Omar Minaya was hired to right the ship.

Speaking of, does this sound familiar? (from the September 29, 2004 edition of The New York Times):

It is difficult to determine the impact of any Mets general manager because the team’s power structure so often appears split. Although major league executives generally believe the best way to run a team is to let the general manager make the most important decisions and then receive clearance from ownership, the Mets rely on committees to hash out strategy, usually soliciting a wide range of opinions.

Jeff Wilpon directs the day-to-day operation of the club, the superscouts Al Goldis and Bill Livesey have input, and veteran players and coaches sometimes offer opinions, too. Minaya knows from experience what he is getting into. Having emigrated with his family from the Dominican Republic to Queens as a child, he became an assistant general manager for the Mets in 1997 and became a senior assistant general manager one year later.

I.e.: the “collegial organization” that Steve Phillips referred to recently.

Minaya hired manager Willie Randolph in part because of Randolph’s excellent reputation for working with youngsters such as Alfonso Soriano. You see, the Mets were going to build a pennant contender through their farm system and around their youth — David Wright and Jose Reyes. That idea went out the window a year later, when Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran were signed to obnoxious contracts.

Today, Joel Sherman touched on this subject as well — and interestingly, holds “conspiracy theories” similar to the ones we’ve been drumming up here for a while:

In the past week, Minaya proclaimed the Mets “buyers” in the trade market at a moment when they were six games under .500, fourth in the NL East, and tied for eighth in the wild card, 7 ½ back. Good tickets still available at Citi Field in case you are interested.

and …

The Wilpons’ 1-2 strategy was to make sure the criticism was deflected away from them — because ownership can talk accountability, but it really is not great at accepting it — while beginning the process of convincing fans that the following season would be different. Translation: What do we have to do to begin motivating you to start buying tickets again? So Art Howe was fired as manager and Jim Duquette was demoted from general manager to go sit in the corner. A good leaking campaign ensued blaming that duo for everything short of the Hindenburg going down. You were supposed to be distracted from remembering that the Wilpons hired the people who messed up.

Sherman goes on to predict that the Mets will “…try to recruit a big-name general manager with the idea of convincing fans that different leadership would know properly how to surround a talented base of Santana, K-Rod, Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes with better supplementary players” and, failing at that, hire Tony LaRussa as manager, who “… would bring along his trusted pitching coach Dave Duncan, with the idea being that they always seem to get the most out of whatever talent is put in front of them”.

It’s not that far-fetched a theory, and it fits the pattern that the Wilpons have been following for over a decade. The names may change, but the story remains the same.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 July 27, 2009 at 11:10 am
    I think that you and I would have nothing to talk about at work; provided we were co-workers.

    We’d be thinking the same thing, 99 times out of 100…..right down to searching old NY Times stories that are archived online.

    It’s sad how these situations haven’t really changed a bit over the past handful of years.

    Yet typical….and disturbing.

  2. joejanish July 27, 2009 at 11:19 am
    LOL! Yeah I guess we’d bore each other to death complaining about the same things! But, we’d likely get a lot of work done!
  3. Walnutz15 July 27, 2009 at 11:31 am
    Don’t worry, ‘The Cavalry’ should be pulling up any week now.

    (Love when they use that phrase in the media. It sold many Met fans early on — and pumped them up along the way, as a calling card.)

    Think they may be stuck in traffic, though.

    *crickets*

  4. Mike July 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm
    Like I’ve said it is cyclical. As long as the Wilpons are in charge it will remain cyclical. All we can hope for is that one cycle they will actually get it right and win a championship so that we can say we actually saw one (I’m 24 so I’ve never seen one). More to the point this is so predictable that it makes you wonder how in the world a successful business man like Fred Wilpon could let it happen time after time and not learn from his mistakes.

    On a side note I am in NY and going to my first Mets game at Citi Field tonight! I am also going tomorrow! Can’t wait to try a Shake Shack burger and shake while watching Ollie Perez allow more walks than beers I will eventually drink tonight. If I try to keep up I might not last the night.

  5. Possible Career-Ending Injury Tandy July 27, 2009 at 1:35 pm
    More walks than beers…bwaah

    Great stuff Joe. You are a scholar.

  6. isuzudude July 27, 2009 at 2:29 pm
    There’s a presser scheduled for 3:30 today and rumor has it someone is getting canned. I can only hope it’s Bernazard, but knowing how this team likes to screw up anything it touches, he’ll probably be spared the ax. Watch Sandy Alomar Sr. be the one to fall or something.
  7. Walnutz15 July 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm
    At least they fired Bernazard….Sherman has it on his NY Post blog now.
  8. [...] MetsToday’s Joe Janish wrote this great post last summer: [...]