Browsing Archive March, 2012

No-cred Fred and the Amazin’ Buzzkill

NOTE: This is a post by MetsToday staffer Dan Capwell, a long-time, loyal Mets fan.

Just when I started to hope again. Johan Santana’s comeback. The future with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jennry Mejia and Jeurys Familia in the rotation. A left-right-left-right-left march through the batting order with Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Ike Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda. The indication that Ruben Tejada’s 2011 OBP of .360 might make him a serviceable leadoff man. The development of Kirk Niewenhuis, Jordany Valdespin and Reese Havens in Buffalo. Hell, even the passing interest in Scott Kazmir. As Ralph Kiner says every year, “hope springs eternal in the spring.” Then came Monday and the latest devaluation of the Mets brand, a.k.a another public utterance from Fred Wilpon.
In case we’ve forgotten, Fred reminded us all that he is the owner. He then made a sarcastic quip with a few five dollar bills before launching into the spin du jour. His comments have already been dissected elsewhere, but I am stunned that Fred speaks as if he believes that any of his comments will actually help his cause. Among other things, this is an insult to the intelligence of his paying customers (that’s you and me). What really got me was his attempt to shift the blame to GM Sandy Alderson for the reduced payroll.

Sorry Fred, but the blame game is over and you’ve lost. Davey Johnson, Vince Coleman, Al Harazin, Bobby Bonilla, Doc Gooden, Joe McIlvaine, injuries to Generation K, Bonilla (again), Bobby Valentine, Steve Phillips, Mo Vaughn, Art Howe, Willie Randolph, old Shea Stadium and finally Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel have come, been blamed and are gone. The one constant over the past quarter century with this team is you. Nothing you ever say again will be believed. It’s your turn to go, why don’t you just sell out and leave?
The day got even worse with the news that Jeff Wilpon, the heir apparent, attempted to “motivate” the team with Underdog t-shirts. (Look daddy, orange). Jeffie also called in a bet he won with Wright and made David wear a Michigan jersey, which while looking like just plain fun on the surface, does carry some uncomfortable connotations of seeing the so-called Face of The Franchise being humiliated by the owner’s son.

The Wilpons’ current situation is not unlike that of a great number of Americans. We lived large from about 1992 until around 2007, with a lot of paper wealth coming from real estate equity, the stock market and near total employment. These factors, plus the keep-up-with-the Joneses mentality prevalent in our society, resulted in big purchases: exurban McMansions, huge SUVs, exotic vacations and fancy gadgets. Then came the crash. Devalued real estate. Empty 401Ks. Job loss. Escalating gas prices. Many of those glittering trappings of the now-bygone age became unwanted drains on the new financial picture. Those of us who successfully readjusted found we had to shed or greatly parse these items. Others tried desperately to finance them by other means, until overextended, stressed and broke, they crashed too.

My sense is that the Wilpons are in that second grouping. Unfortunately for them, their crash is very public and one would think, extremely humiliating. I can’t blame them for thinking that a last minute reprieve will somehow make this all right again. My counsel FWIW, is that the sooner they accept and move on, the better off both they and the Mets will be.

I suspect instead that the Wilpons are very confident about being vindicated soon in court and are down in Florida laying the groundwork for a victory lap in front of the media to celebrate. Maybe Irving Picard will toss a monkey wrench into those plans. All I know is that I am back to hopelessness as far as the Mets are concerned. And that sucks enough to make me hold onto my wallet.

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Fred Wilpon Throws Sandy Alderson Under the Bus

So now we have three stories from Fred Wilpon:

1. Letting Jose Reyes walk was a “baseball decision”

2. The reduced payroll was the result of cutting “underperforming assets”

3. Cutting payroll has nothing to do with the Mets’ financial troubles — it was all Sandy Alderson’s idea.

Hmm … so in other words, Sandy is the fall guy. Sandy is the one who decided that offering Jose Reyes a contract would be a bad idea. Sandy might even believe Reyes was one of those players who wasn’t fulfilling his contract, for all we know. Sandy is also the one who has tightened the purse-strings, and believes low payroll is the best plan for a NYC team. Yes, this cut in spending is all in the name of advancement: “spend less for success” may be emblazoned on a paperweight on Alderson’s desk, for all we know.

Right, said Fred.

At this point, I don’t know what to make of Fred Wilpon. His comments in the SI and New Yorker articles last spring were difficult to understand in terms of motivation. Many, though, gave him a pass, figuring he was just an old fogey who didn’t realize he was being fleeced by an over-enthusiastic journalist. But Wilpon’s more recent comments and actions leave little room for empathy.

I was going to write my feelings on this, but then realized that Mike Vaccaro already expressed pretty much what I — and many other Mets fans — are feeling. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I chose to re-post pieces of his story, in case you missed it:

Mets fans can appreciate a good sense of humor, even with times as dire as they are.

They don’t appreciate being made fools of, though.

“I’m OK,” Fred Wilpon said yesterday, upon greeting an assemblage of news media. “I’ve got fives!”

He pulled out a roll of $5 bills. Showed them to reporters.

If nothing else, the Mets should have the common sense and the common decency to realize their fans are not idiots, that if there are real financial concerns hanging like a millstone around the Wilpons’ necks — and no matter how much Fifth Avenue Freddie tries to spin it, every few minutes, it seems, another bill for another few million comes due — then it is particularly stupid to taunt their customers so blithely, and so blindly.

And here’s the thing: Fifth Avenue Freddie knows that you know. He no longer plays the part of the benign, avuncular, absent-minded professor, shrugging his shoulders and sloughing off questions about the way Mets fans perceive him. He knows. You’d better believe he knows.

“They shouldn’t be concerned about us owning the franchise, because we intend to own the franchise for a very long time,” Wilpon said. “Whether they’re happy about that or not, I don’t know.”

Yes, he does. Of course he does. He knows what the people back home think of him, and his family, and the way they have continuously misinformed the world about how deep their financial woes run. Remember when the Wilpons not only dismissed the notion the Madoff scandal would affect the Mets’ business, they also dismissed the very questions themselves?

That was $52 million worth of payroll ago.

And counting.

“We weren’t being sued then,” Wilpon said.

Maybe not. But everything about the way the Mets were operating then was based upon Madoff and his funny money. At the least, the Mets knew that much, even if Fifth Avenue Freddie wants you to believe he’s been dumber than Mortimer Snerd through this whole process.

And here’s the pity: We should be allowed to feel bad for what’s become of Fred Wilpon. Basic human compassion should be at work here. And would be. But Wilpon continues to wave the Mets as a stick at fed-up fans. And now doesn’t mind sharing a giggle or three at their expense.

What a joke.

And not the funny kind.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Fred Wilpon has managed to turn himself into an unlikeable figure. I’m not sure that process is reversible.

What’s your feeling? Is Vaccaro being too hard on Fred? Do you have a different perspective? Air it out in the comments.

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