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jeff wilpon | Mets Today
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Omar Minaya’s Backward Plan

For several years, many pundits (including myself) have criticized Omar Minaya for his lack of a “Plan B”, or “backup plan”.

It turns out that we simply didn’t understand Minaya’s genius. He never had a “backup plan” because from the beginning he’s been working with a “backward plan”.


We have to go back far in time to explain — specifically, to June 12, 2003, when Steve Phillips was fired.

It was on that day that Jeff and Fred Wilpon announced a new direction for the organization.


Mets are NOT Spending Enough Money

To quell the legions of fans screaming for a better product on the field, the latest talking point in the media and blogosphere is that the Mets’ problem is not that they don’t spend enough money, but that they don’t spend it wisely.


While I agree the Mets do not spend their money wisely (*cough* Oliver Perez …. *cough* Luis Castillo), they also do not spend enough — not for a New York City baseball team with a brand-new ballpark and their own TV network.

The Mets’ 2010 Opening Day player payroll was right around $126M, which was about $23M LESS than their 2009 payroll and $12M LESS than that of the Phillies’ 2010 payroll and about $18M less than the Cubs’.

Yeah, yeah, I know — spending doesn’t necessarily equate to winning (just ask Peter Angelos). And yes, there are teams that spend a lot less and do much better. But those facts are convenient excuses, and irrelevant to the argument. Why? Because


Cliff Lee and The Great Pretenders

Now that Cliff Lee is wearing a Texas Rangers uniform, it is becoming clear that the Mets were never a serious contender in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes:

The Mets were never seriously involved in trade discussions for Cliff Lee, a person familiar with the situation said Friday, and the primary reason was the Mariners’ request that they include Ike Davis in any package for the former Cy Young Award winner. (David Lennon, Newsday)

We’ve been saying the same thing all along. Everyone we spoke to that had any knowledge of the situation felt that the Mets were never going to land Cliff Lee because Davis and Niese were considered off-limits since they are already major contributors to the big league club. Beyond that – and despite their insistence to the contrary – the Mets didn’t have the prospects or the cash. They weren’t even close and they knew it all along.

The Great Pretenders

So why did the Mets pretend they had a shot? There really is no tactical advantage to be gained from faking it when every other MLB team knows you are not a serious contender for a trade target. Do you think the Cubs were going to drop their asking price for Ted Lilly because they were worried the Mets would land Cliff Lee instead? Yeah, right… The Cubs knew the Mets had no shot at Lee.

Yet, the fanbase believed the Mets had a shot all along. Throughout the Lee saga, the Mets were happy to be considered ‘in the hunt’ for the prized southpaw because it kept fans believing that there was a chance they would wake up one morning and find out their team was a serious World Series contender. So the Mets milked the misperception of the situation by their fans for everything it was worth.


Should They Pay Or Just Say No?

This time last year rumors of the Mets’ losses due to Bernie Madoff were cited as a possible reason why the team didn’t make a run for any big-time free agents other than K-Rod. After all, they had more issues other than finding a closer, but watched players such as Manny Ramirez, C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Orlando Hudson, Bobby Abreu, Raul Ibanez, and Derek Lowe sign with other clubs.

This year, Jeff Wilpon promised that the Mets would be aggressive players in the free-agent market, and that Omar Minaya had no specific budget constraints.

Wilpon has plenty of time to make good on that promise, but the early signs suggest that there is indeed a budget, and the top-tier free agent targets likely will go untouched by the Mets.

Bill Madden of the Daily News says the Mets have only $20M to spend this winter, so they’ll focus on “second-tier” free agents. Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are looking at Jose Guillen as a bargain basement alternative to Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (wow, that’s some drop off!). Recent rumblings are that the Mets will look past the high-priced John Lackey and toward less expensive (and less reliable) options such as Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf. Further, there suddenly is talk that they are considering bringing back Carlos Delgado on an inexpensive, incentive-laden deal.

This could be posturing by the Mets, in order to keep their leverage in negotiations. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense if they publicly announced “hey, the wallet is open, and we’re spending freely this winter!”. Except, that’s basically what Jeff Wilpon said in October.

In the end, I might agree (gasp!) with Wallace Matthews, who believes the “Wilpons should be honest and look toward 2011“. The Mets have several holes to fill this winter, and have almost no trading chips they can afford to let go. That said, the free agent market is the quickest and easiest way to rebuild the roster, and the Mets have the added bonus of having their #1 draft pick protected (if they sign a “Type A” free agent). But Matthews is right on when he says:

The problem is, this year he will be spending thoroughbred money on a crop of dogs.

This year’s free agent class has two top players (Matt Holliday and Jason Bay), one top pitcher (John Lackey), and then everyone else is a few rungs below. Further, it can be argued that Lackey isn’t an “ace”, and is a question mark due to health concerns.

Holliday and Bay would probably get top dollar in any free agent year, though not Teixeira-type money. Lackey likely would not get top dollar if he were a free agent last year; my guess is he’d get something along the lines of a Derek Lowe deal (which is still pretty decent). But the rest of the class is sketchy, and they’ll all benefit from the trickle-down effect of these three “top dogs”.

What do you think? Should the Mets continue their habit of overpaying for talent — even if it’s the only way to build a contender — or is it time to tighten the budget, at the cost of possibly being also-rans in 2010?


Mets: Who’s the Boss?

If we’ve learned nothing else from the 2009 season, we learned that the Mets have no clear plan, a lack integrity, and operate under questionable leadership.

That last issue has become even more muddied, if we are to believe Peter Gammons — who stated on the Michael Kay Show that Jeff Wilpon is the real Mets GM, while Omar Minaya is “the one who’s out there to take the heat” (follow this link and skip ahead to the 13:20 minute mark to hear that part of the conversation).

If true, that would certainly explain a number of the mysteries surrounding this futile franchise. Perhaps it now makes sense to re-evaluate whether Jeff Wilpon is qualified to be a Major League GM. As we know, the sum total of his baseball background is limited to the time he’s spent as COO of the Mets, a bullpen session with Tom Seaver and a shady “professional” stint.

BTW, Gammons also hinted that all is not well in Dodgerland — so perhaps the news of the McCourts breakup is just the tip of the iceberg.


Wilpon: Citi Field Criticism Unfair

Much has been said about the lack of Mets history at Citi Field — not only from here, but throughout the Mets blogosphere. Many fans have felt that the park is an homage to Fred Wilpon’s beloved Brooklyn Dodgers — underscored by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

Some may have missed this following tidbit from Mike Francesa’s recent interview with Jeff Wilpon.

Mike Francesa:

“Did feel that any of the criticism you received … from me or anybody else … do you think there was anything — criticism — that was unfair this year or your team?”

Jeff Wilpon:

“Not the team but maybe about the ballpark, because I don’t think we did anything to slap anybody in the face. It wasn’t something where we said ‘gee, we’re going to honor the Brooklyn Dodgers but we’re not gonna honor the Mets or the Mets history’. So I think that is the only thing that was said that was unfair. We’re going to make the changes now to correct it, because it is a proper criticism.”


Help me out, folks. Is it possible for UNfair criticism to also be classified as “proper criticism” — in the same sentence?

I suppose it’s good that the issue is being “corrected” — even if it was unfair, or proper, or both(?)

Since this is the way the leader of the franchise addresses and explains issues, it’s now clear why we get similarly confusing doubletalk from the underlings, such as Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel — perhaps everyone in the organization is expected to practice the art of “Wilponspeak”.


Wilpon, Minaya, Howard Explain Your Pain

In case you missed it yesterday, Mike Francesa hosted Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya, and David Howard on his WFAN show. Francesa joked that Howard’s presence was “to be a filibuster”. In truth, it was because he is “the guy” associated with Citi Field, and the homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers was of course the most successful accomplishment of the New York Mets franchise in 2009.

Oh did you mistake “success” for “winning”? No, friend … success is bottom-line profits. And as you will hear in the interview, the Mets “brand” did well in its ability to serve its “customers”. But that should be changing in 2010 — if we are to believe the head honchos of the Mets’ organization.

Jeff Wilpon Part 1

Jeff Wilpon Part 2

Understand that the above links lead to material that may not be suitable for all audiences. For example, they are not for those with a weak stomach, nor for the strong of mind. I also would not listen to these clips if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or stress disorders.

Some of the things I personally gleaned from the interview …

– Daniel Murphy will not return to the outfield, and he may or may not return as the starting first baseman

– Jeff Wilpon insists that the Mets will continue to have one of the highest payrolls in MLB, and that Omar Minaya has no financial constraints

– Further, Wilpon will not be “slicing payroll”, will be “aggressive” on the market, and his commitment this winter is “to give Omar the resources he needs to put a championship team on the field”

– Neither Minaya nor Wilpon believe the team needs a “rebuilding”, and they plan to use a mix of free agent signings and trades to “fix the holes”

– Minaya’s role and responsibilities as GM will not change

– Citi Field was built so large because Omar Minaya’s philosophy was to build a team around pitching, defense, and speed (hmm … the plans for Citi Field, including the vast dimensions, were unveiled in 1998 — when Minaya was an assistant to Steve Phillips)

– the Mets are going to add “more imagery” and a “Mets Hall of Fame” to placate fans’ complaints that Citi Field is an homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers


The Mets have publicly changed the goal from “putting a winning product on the field” to “putting a championship team on the field”. Wilpon claims that the financial coffers are available to make that happen.

We are going to hold on to these two points in particular as we watch and analyze this winter’s moves.


Why the Mets May Consider Tony LaRussa

tony-larussaTony LaRussa is currently busy leading his St. Louis Cardinals into the postseason. But he could be on table of discussion in the Mets front office right now.

After two consecutive collapses and a godawful premiere season in their brand-new, billion-dollar ballpark, the Mets have to do something signficant to win back season-ticket sales their fans in 2010. They absolutely cannot stand pat, or make a few minor changes. In order to sell tickets compete in 2010, they have to make a sales-inspiring announcement drastic change at some point this winter.

But what can they do? If they were tightening the purse strings last winter — BEFORE the Madoff scandal came to light — then certainly they won’t have much money to spend this offseason. So forget about the Mets bidding for the services of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. In fact, I’d be surprised if they have the money or gumption to go after Chone Figgins, John Lackey, or Rich Harden. My guess? We’ll see Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, Jon Garland, Benji Molina, Nick Johnson, and Jason Marquis on their radar. Nice complementary pieces, but hardly impact players.

Further, the Mets have next to nothing to offer in trade for a big-name player. No one of value is healthy enough nor expendable, and they’ll get lambasted if they empty their farm system for one player for the third consecutive winter. So, with no big trades and no big free agent signings on the horizon, the Mets will have to try another route to the back pages.

They will start by promoting John Ricco, either to GM or some kind of parallel position to Omar Minaya. With their budgetary concerns, I would be surprised to see them eat the rest of Minaya’s contract — particularly if they plan to eat Jerry Manuel’s. At the same time I don’t see them spending big bucks to lure Pat Gillick out of retirement, or hiring another big-name GM. They won’t do that because a) they don’t want to spend the money; and b) Jeff Wilpon wants to remain the puppet-master. So forget about the nonsense of bringing in a strong-minded personality such as Billy Beane or Bobby Valentine.

Instead, they’ll do the financially prudent move of keeping Minaya in the organization — in some type of “player evaluation” capacity — and promoting Ricco to GM. Such a decision will be a cheap way of making it look like things are changing, and they’ll spin it by positioning Ricco as a young Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein — a numbers-crunching uber-geek who can use his calculator to lead the Mets into the Promised Land. Maybe he can do that, who knows? … but the decision will be financially motivated, and in keeping with the “Jeff’s in charge” theme.

Still, a change in GM and a few mildly impressive free-agent signings won’t be enough to stimulate season-ticket sales improve the 2010 Mets. Soon after Ricco is promoted, expect to see Manuel ousted and replaced with Tony LaRussa.

LaRussa is most likely a bad fit for the bright hot lights of New York City — he barely gets through the mild-mannered press and forgiving fans in St. Louis. But convincing LaRussa to manage the Mets (3 years / $18M?) will be much cheaper than signing a big-name free-agent. Most importantly, it will be seen as a major change in “the right direction” — substantial enough on its own to sell season tickets position them as a contender.

I could be wrong — the Mets may not have enough money to even afford LaRussa. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scenario similar to this unfold in the offseason. If not LaRussa, then another big name that won’t cost a fortune (in comparison to an impact free agent). Perhaps Lou Piniella is let out of his Cubs contract, or Frank Robinson comes out of retirement. Or maybe they do something completely off the wall and hire Gary Carter or Wally Backman (not likely). Whatever it is the Mets do, it will be newsworthy, but unlikely to break the bank.