I watched Fred and Jeff Wilpon squirm yesterday with embarrassment and pain. It was clear to me by their body language and tone of voice they felf genuine embarrassment and frustration of having to go through the firing and hiring process once again.
They were under the glare of the spotlight not only in New York, but the baseball community, and they were admitting the last six years under Omar Minaya were under them. That can’t be easy, as it reaffirmed in part the criticism directed at them.
When Fred Wilpon said he loves the Mets, I believe him, and I believe Jeff Wilpon when he said everybody is responsible. They were asked point blank where they failed and their answer was in hiring the wrong people. There were no excuses, no lamenting injuries and bad luck, but an admission they made judgment errors in their hiring process.
They said things spun out of control and the people they hired did not produce the results, meaning the Wilpons did not produce results, either. Nobody spends that kind of money and doesn’t want to win.
Can the Mets win with the Wilpon ownership?
I believe they can. Afterall, they reached the World Series in 2000 and came within one hit of doing so again in 2006. When you come that close, you can win with the right people.
I believe the biggest problem the Wilpons made with Minaya, was overestimating the ability of the team after the 2006 season. Their thinking was “we’ll get that hit next year,” but it never happened. The Mets made no significant changes after the 2006 season, and instead regressed with their pitching staff. That led to the collapse of 2007, and later 2008.
By 2009, the team had dramatically regressed and patchwork was not enough. Patchwork won’t be enough for 2011, either.
How much the Ponzi scandal set back the spending we’ll never really know, but we must give them the benefit of doubt with that payroll. That they continually have a one of the highest payrolls in the major leagues shows a willingness to spend. That they OK’d the spending on whom they signed was their mistake. Maybe the Wilpons never overruled Minaya’s choices, but they should have done a better job of asking questions.
One of the questions the Wilpons and the new leadership must face is that changing the culture might entail eating contracts, and if the new general manager suggests it, are they willing to take that kind of financial hit?
I would have liked to have heard more of a blueprint for the future rather than hearing it will be the new general manager’s decision, but they left it all out there that the new leadership will have responsibility and must have a vision. They said they will examine all kinds of GM candidates, but I would have liked to have heard them define the ideal candidate.
In saying the new general manager must just change the culture is an admission the present environment hasn’t been good and the fault lies with the Wilpons in fostering it.
Yesterday was not an easy day for the Wilpons or the Mets’ organization. And, this will not be an easy winter for them or the new leadership. But, Fred and Jeff Wilpon took responsibility yesterday, and promised the new leadership will be given the authority and resources to rebuild their franchise.
I saw their anguish and humiliation yesterday. I know they don’t want to go through that again.
There’s an old saying, that discontent is the first step toward progress in a nation or a man. That includes baseball teams as well, and there was no hiding their discontent.
They’ve already taken the first step.