RW: Hi Sandy. I want to thank you for taking time from your very busy schedule to speak with me.
SA: No problem. Glad to do it.
RW: Let’s get right to it, okay?
SA: You have fifteen minutes. How you use those fifteen minutes is entirely up to you.
RW: How’s the off season going so far?
SA: Fine. Its developing. We’re laying the groundwork.
RW: In June of this year, to a group of season ticket holders, you said, presumably to get them to re-up for 2014, the following: “I do believe that over the next six months or so we will be in position to make some significant acquisitions, whether it’s through free agency or trade. We’re certainly looking forward to that possibility.” It’s already December, which is six months later. In light of that, what exactly does it mean … you’re laying the groundwork?
SA: Suffice it is to say, we are actively trying to improve the club. You or anyone else wouldn’t understand the process, so lets not waste valuable time.
RW: Try me.
SA: Listen, would it do any good? Obviously you have your mind already made up. We’re not even out of December yet, for crying out loud, and already everyone is giving up and acting like spoiled little brats.
RW: Here’s the issue. You told us you had $30 million to spend this off season, and so far all we get is another Moneyball reclamation project, a rather expensive one at that, and a lot of excuses.
SA: Sometimes the medicine doesn’t taste good going down. I can’t help that.
RW: You were recently quoted as saying … “We have to be realistic about the market and not sort of deny the inevitable.” By inevitable, do you mean endure another lousy season of baseball?
SA: We plan on being a competitive team in 2014.
RW: For the record, you said that in 2011, 2012, & 2013, too. Here’s a quote by you from a recent ESPN interview, “If the market is as robust as it seems to be, then we have to acknowledge that. It may not be manifest yet to the average fan, the average person, but I think we are more active than we were last year.”
SA: Yes, I said that. I think it speaks for itself. Am I on the stand?
RW: You’re the lawyer, tell me. You did nothing last year except waste $5 million on a pitcher who won one game, and a reliever who couldn’t get anybody out. So the bar couldn’t be any lower on ‘being more active than last year’. Is this more of the semantic shell game you seem to get such a diabolical kick out of?
SA: I’m not going to answer that nonsense.
RW: Would you be surprised if I told you that there is, in fact, a direct statistical correlation to the amount of money spent on payroll, and winning, or not winning, championships?
SA: Really? Fascinating. Can’t wait to hear this. Fire away.
RW: According to a February, 2013 Washington Times article entitled Does money really buy World Series titles?, teams in the top five of payroll have won the World Series eight times in the last 18 years, while twelve times teams ranked in the top 10 have been the winners of the World Series over the same 18 years. Seventeen of the last 18 World Series winners have had a payroll in the top 15. Of the losing teams in the World Series, six teams were ranked in the top five. Eleven of the last 18 losers have been ranked in the top 10 for player payroll. Fifteen of the losing teams were ranked in the top 15 in baseball. Only three teams ranked outside of the top 15 in player salary have managed to make it to the World Series, only to lose. To sum up, out of the 36 teams that played in the last 18 World Series, only one team won with a payroll lower than the top 15. If you add in the Red Sox World Series win in 2013, that’s 38 teams, 19 years, and only one team winning the World Series that did not have a payroll in the top 15.
SA: You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
RW: You’re the one that says the math never lies, and these metrics seem to indicate that Moneyball has become an extinct dinosaur, that its time and place have long passed, and that how much a team commits to payroll certainly has a huge statistical impact on the potential success of that team. The Mets payroll this year, which you now tell us will not be lower than $87 million, will put the Mets roughly at about 20th lowest in all of baseball, and certainly not in the top 15, based on last year’s payrolls. As you put so much stock into numbers, do you think you will somehow outsmart the statistical probability established over 19 seasons?
SA: Let me get this straight. You think merely by spending $100 million on payroll this year gives us a statistically better chance at getting to the World Series?
RW: Don’t take my word for it. The data is indisputable that the probability of success increases dramatically above a top 15 threshold, which right now would be approximately $100 million in payroll or higher.
SA: Besides, any fan who thinks the goal of the plan is to compete to win the World Series this year is, well, not paying attention.
RW: I get the feeling that you don’t have much respect for the average Mets fan. Why is that?
SA: (laughs) I love fans. They pay the bills. But they don’t run baseball teams. Not my baseball teams. None of this surprises me. The fact of the matter is, you can’t fully appreciate the subtle intricacies of my plan, and you never will.
RW: What I can appreciate, however, is you’re statistically one of the worst GM’s record-wise in baseball history.
SA: You know what, smart ass, I don’t listen to fans. If I listened to fans whine and cry it wouldn’t get us anywhere.
RW: You are entering year 4 of your regime with the Mets. Most GM’s get 5 years to figure it out, if that. Players from the last three drafts are already arriving into the majors, and yet no one is even close from the Mets. While you have some Mets fans believing that you have 5-7 future Hall of Fame pitchers in the minors, and all Mets fans need to do is wait for your grand plan to unfold, it is instructive to know that in the past 30 years, 97% of the pitchers the Mets have drafted have never pitched a game in the major leagues, and only one has been an All-star, and we all know his name. Here’s an excerpt from a recent SI article by Tom Verducci: Matt Harvey has won seven games in his young Mets career. This should tell you how bad New York has been at drafting and developing pitchers: Harvey already ranks 12th in wins for the Mets among the 766 pitchers they drafted in the past 30 years. Since the Mets hit on Dwight Gooden in 1982 … New York ranks with Kansas City and Baltimore among the teams that have been consistently lousy at drafting and developing starting pitchers over more than a quarter of a century. Verducci also went on to say that of the 766 pitchers drafted by the Mets since 1982, only one pitcher has made the All-Star team as a Met. So while I share the optimism towards the young pitching being developed in the Mets farm system, it also might be cautionary to point out that none of them are impervious to injuries, and that your grand plan is much too heavily reliant on yet another statistical anomaly.
SA: I missed the question.
RW: You’re smiling. Rather smugly.
SA: I have a plan to put this franchise on the right path. That’s all you really need to know.
RW: You were quoted this way when you took over the Mets: “Am I going to recommend that we sit here in New York City and function like the Oakland Athletics for the next 10 years? No I’m not. … I’m not asking you to believe me until you see some manifestation of that, which I hope is sooner rather than later.” Well, frankly, I’ve seen no manifestation of that yet, and, you’re right, I don’t believe you.
SA: You really are starting to get on my nerves.
RW: Here’s another quote of yours, from an ESPN interview. “No fan is probably ever going to be satisfied with what his or her team is spending on players. It’s kind of too bad that the measure of commitment, the measure of loyalty to the fan base, is measured in dollar signs. That be as it may, we’re going to spend more money this year than we’ve spent in recent years, just in terms of what we have to spend. You know, last year we only spent about $5 million on free agents. So this is going to be a new day. We have it to spend. We have to spend it wisely. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
SA: What’s the question?
RW: Those same fans will boycott Citi Field if the losing continues, unless something tangible isn’t done this off season to improve the team. Does that worry you at all?
SA: Boycott, is that what they are doing?
RW: Well, they’re certainly not coming to the stadium. Attendance is down each year you’ve been here, and it will go under 2 million this season. Sooner or later the house of cards will collapse.
SA: Typical fantasy league logic. Clock’s ticking.
RW: You also said this on ESPN. “Nobody can guarantee anything. I start with the premise that during the last 100 games of last season we were pretty good. We were .500. That’s not great, but it’s not real bad. It was a nice starting point. We haven’t really lost much from the group that went .500 the last 100 games. We get some players back. So the starting point isn’t as dire as some people like to imagine, I don’t believe.”
SA: Yes. I still feel that we didn’t play so bad last year. Part of my job is realistically managing expectations.
RW: “Success of big-market teams is not just money, but a successful farm system. We have a renewed effort in the draft.” When you said this, you must have known that most teams historically do very poorly in the draft. That’s one of the reasons why lousy teams stay lousy for so long even though they get top picks. It takes being actively involved in fee agency at the top levels, like the Yankees model, the extreme example, admittedly.
SA: I’ve let you make a number of statements that are ludicrous, but enough is enough. Don’t compare us to the Yankees. They spend and spend and spend like drunken sailors and where does it get them in the long run? They spent a billion dollars on one single World Championship. You’ve made my argument for me.
RW: 27 World Championships, with essentially the same philosophy for a hundred years – do whatever it takes to win. The promise from management that they will do anything, spend any sum of money, to win the next championship. 4 million attendance. A model of club building that seems to work quite well.
SA: Don’t be a wiseguy.
RW: Conceding that I don’t have any idea what I am talking about, you do realize that Matt Harvey will be missing from your ‘we didn’t do so bad last 100 game’ equation in 2014?
SA: Of course I do.
RW: You would also agree that’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle, and that he might have almost been single-handedly responsible for the Mets resurgence last year? How can you possibly make the statement that this is virtually the same team that went .500 for the last 100 games last season? Marlon Byrd is gone, John Buck is gone. Ike Davis might shortly be gone. The Mets might lose 90 games even if Chris Young hits 100 home runs, after which he gets signed by the Yankees in 2015.
SA: Wa, wa, wa. Pass the tissues. Harvey’s not here, and neither are the other two. We move on.
RW: Quid pro quo, have you been promised the commissioners job?
SA: Of course not.
RW: Are you saying you won’t be the commissioner when your buddy Selig retires?
SA: I didn’t say that; you did.
RW: If you googled the prospective free agents last year, you would have seen for yourself that the market was thin. Now you tell us the free agent market spooked you, whatever the hell that means.
SA: Whine like babies all you want, but Robinson Cano is not coming here.
RW: Did you bring your three sidekicks with you to the dinner with Cano’s agents?
SA: How is that relevant?
RW: Cano is a once in a lifetime free agent opportunity, going into his prime. The price of other lessor free agents might be inflated, but not Cano. There is nothing thin about Cano, and certainly everyone who can spell baseball knows he will get a very substantial contract. Most of the big spending teams seem to be out of it, the Yankees are playing chicken, and there appears to be a very real circumstantial opportunity to get him on the Mets. Do you, or do you not, have $30 million to spend on Cano?
SA: Not after Young.
RW: You can figure that out. Trade Davis and Duda, now you have $30 million back.
SA: You know, I can’t win either way with you people. Cano, really? Have you been paying attention? Have I ever signed a player like Cano?
RW: No, you haven’t, and that’s what really scares Mets fans. You seem intrinsically incapable of signing players that oppose your tired philosophy. Were you given a budget by the Wilpons? And did that budget include $30 million to sign free agents?
SA: See, this is what I’m talking about. I said we “need to get better, and not incrementally”, and I stand by that.
RW: We apparently also disagree on what incrementally means. For instance, your drafts in the past three years are mediocre at best, according to all the polls.
SA: Better than what I inherited. I certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about polls.
RW: Harvey was down there, in that barren farm system that Minaya turned over to you. Harvey may go down as one of the greatest draft picks ever in the history of baseball. Hardly barren, as you like to spin it. Any team you put together will have him as the anchor for a decade. Not for nothing, it took him only 3 years to get to the majors. I guarantee you that Harvey, unlike Wright, escapes from this madhouse first opportunity he gets if things don’t change. He’ll be pitching for the Yankees.
SA: You keep forgetting about Wheeler and Syndergaard.
RW: Excellent trades but, in truth, the jewels of other farm systems. You didn’t draft either player, and both were recognized as top tier minor leagues before you traded for them, nor have either of them had success yet in the majors.
SA: Is that a lefthanded compliment?
RW: Nobody wants you to succeed more than Mets fans do, because if you don’t succeed, we have to watch another lousy team for 162 games next year.
SA: Signing Cano would be reckless.
RW: Why did you have dinner with him, then, in the first place?
SA: They asked. And Cano wasn’t there. Do your homework.
RW: Was it a dog and pony show, and nothing more? Perhaps for all parties, for different reasons?
SA: Draw your own conclusions. But you are sounding just a tad paranoid.
RW: Otherwise it might appear to the average fan that your only intention was to artificially pump up the Mets fan base, and for them to artificially pump up the market for their guy.
SA: Asked and answered.
RW: Not really. Asked and deflected. Trying to get Mets fans excited about the possibilities of having Robinson Cano hitting behind Wright for the next 6 years so you can sell more tickets when you had absolutely no intention of ever signing him could be considered a kind of fraud. Its certainly manipulative and dishonest. You have said many times before that the Wilpon’s finances have nothing to do with how you run the team. Are they broke?
SA: Let me put it this way. How insolvent could they be if they’re easily getting financing for the $3 billion Willet Point project surrounding Citi Field?
RW: Then its just you and your antiquated, intractable Moneyball philosophy that’s running this team into the ground? Is that what you’re telling me?
SA: My advice to you — get a life. This interview is over.
RW: When it doesn’t work, and you leave the Mets in an organizational shambles as you did San Diego, who still hasn’t recovered from the damage you did to them, will you do so to become the commissioner of baseball? Sandy?