Mets Merized Online » Fred Wilpon http://metsmerizedonline.com Fri, 27 Feb 2015 04:32:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 Wheeler Emerging As Confident Cornerstone http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/wheeler-emerging-as-confident-cornerstone.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/wheeler-emerging-as-confident-cornerstone.html/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 17:09:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174565 zack wheeler whiff

Kevin Kernan (New York Post) collected the thoughts of one of NY’s emerging young pitchers, Zack Wheeler, who has become more vocal this offseason as the team approaches what should be a turning point.  2015 is being presented as the year when excuses will be laid to rest and winning will be restored.

“…Wheeler likes what he sees about the Mets…He took the bullpen mound on Tuesday at the team’s spring training complex, an area called the “six-pack”.  Matt Harvey stood on the mound to his right while Jacob deGrom was on his left.”

“That was cool”, Wheeler noted later that day.  Yes, yes it is.  Every time I hear those three names mentioned in the same sentence, I get excited about going watching three aces compete.  Not just against the opposition, but against each other as well.  Matt Harvey obviously gets the nod at the moment, but I’d be surprised if deGrom or Wheeler let him run away with it.  That’s going to be fun to watch.

Kernan adds that “Some are criticizing the Mets’ young players for speaking their minds and saying the franchise finally is on its way back to the postseason.”

Hey.  Baseball is fun, and even Wheeler admits that the clubhouse is rapidly changing.  “We are all from different places…but we all have the same things in common”, he said.  “We all like to joke around, give each other a hard time.  We all get along.  Nobody is too serious.”

This exactly how it should be.  The well balanced dynamic of personalities and abilities is such an improvement from where the team was this time last year.

As far as how other players are progressing this offseason, Wheeler adds “Obviously, Matt took The Show by storm and so did deGrom.  Me and Noah [Syndergaard] may be a little bit different, so I think that’s always the thing, you can’t really compare pitchers to their success because they did unrealistic things.”

This is very true, Syndergaard clearly has the body, the velocity and the stuff- but the Mets need to see a few more improvements out of the 21 year old phenom’s execution before he punches his ticket.  And that’s alright, it’s normal, especially at his age.

On the position players who’ll be surrounding him all season.  “I think his shoulder will be fine…David [Wright] has been down here working hard [all] offseason, and I think [Curtis] Granderson knows his body…what’s he’s been doing wrong…I think Kevin [Long, hitting coach] can help him with that.”

How does he feel about his first baseman?  “If [Lucas] Duda stays healthy, he is going to have a big year…he’s not going to go out of his way to talk to anybody…but he works hard, wants to get to the top and be the best.”

It’s great to see Wheeler have such a detailed understanding of his teammates and the desire to go out of his way to speak on their behalf to reporters.  I don’t want to hear Fred or Jeff Wilpon speak anymore.  Although I support the majority of work Sandy Alderson has done, I don’t want to hear him talk anymore either.  Same goes for Terry Collins.  To me, they all still represent a different side of this organization that I’d rather compartmentalize and just focus on the joy of baseball.  I like that this is what Wheeler and the rest of his teammates are doing too.

Who cares what others are saying, no one has ever believed in the Mets, other than their fans.  Right now, this year, it’d be nice to forget what’s happened and look forward to some great  baseball that we can root for again.

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Signed, Fred and Jeff Wilpon http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/signed-fred-and-jeff-wilpon.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/signed-fred-and-jeff-wilpon.html/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 20:08:49 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=173128 boy baseball game

There was an interesting story a couple of weeks ago about a 12-year boy, Cade Pope, who wrote the owner of each NFL team asking them one simple question:

“Why should I root for your team?”

Took a lot of initiative on his part, but very little initiative was made by the league’s 32 owners as only one, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers replied, and with it sent an autographed helmet of Luke Kuechly.

Richardson wrote he would be “honored if the Carolina Panthers became your team.’’ And his letter was handwritten, by the way.

Of course, this got me thinking, what if Fred Wilpon were to get such a letter? How about Jeff Wilpon? What would their reply be?

What would they say to some 12-year old kid without a team to root for? What would be their magic words to make him a Met fans for life?

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Does Length Matter? MLB Says Yes. http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/does-length-matter-mlb-says-yes.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/does-length-matter-mlb-says-yes.html/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:57:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169785 crossroads-jpg britney spears

Titanic is one of Hollywood’s most successful films. Winner of an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards, the James Cameron blockbuster ran 3 hours 14 minutes. The Kevin Costner classic Dances With Wolves won 7 Academy Awards and was exactly 3 hours. The most frequently quoted movie of the last 20 years is Pulp Fiction. Tarantino’s masterpiece was nominated for 7 Oscars and ran over 2 ½ hours. And then there’s the unforgettable Crossroads starring Britney Spears. That movie ran 94 minutes.

If Major League Baseball has their way, the future will give us more Britney and fewer Big Kahuna Burgers.

MLB is presently testing new methodologies in the Arizona Fall League to make games quicker. Some of these changes include a pitch clock, limited visits to the mound and merely announcing an intentional walk rather than tossing four wide of the strike zone.

Games are definitely getting longer. When Jerry Koosman induced a fly ball off the bat of Davey Johnson and gave the Mets their first title, the game was completed in 2 hours and 14 minutes. 17 years later when Jesse Orosco fanned Marty Barrett to give the Mets their second title the game took 3 hours and 11 minutes. Same 8 ½ innings of baseball, yet taking one hour longer. One obvious reason are pitching changes.

Back in the day starters were expected to go nine innings. The bullpen was filled with guys who were simply not quite good enough to start. During the 1970’s, the “closer” became an integral part of the game. It was tantamount to creating a new position. Rollie Fingers, Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter became household names. And now starters only needed to go eight innings.

The 80’s saw the advent of the “set-up man.” And with that starters simply had to get through seven. Just get us to the bullpen. There was also the arrival of long relief/middle inning guys so if a starter had nothing, rather than pitching out of tight spots, he could be yanked early. Teams also began maintaining players whose job is simply to face one batter, be it a lefty specialist or a ground ball pitcher whose job it is to generate a double play.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Mets

In 1973 Tom Seaver won the Cy Young Award. He earned $130,000 while tossing 290 innings. By comparison, the Giants’ Javier Lopez, a player who primarily comes in to face one or two batters, earned $4 million this season while tossing all of 37.2 IP. Of course salaries have skyrocketed since 1973, but this shows the premium management is willing to dole out for a seldom used yet important piece of the puzzle.

However, it does work. The KC Royals became AL Champions living by the rule of only getting 5+ from their starters. Twenty years ago that was unheard of. Relievers, once thought of as nothing more than a place to stockpile mediocre pitchers, has now become a key component to winning.

The 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox went seven games and featured 29 pitching changes. The 2014 Series between the Giants and Royals went 7 games but featured 44 pitching changes.

Average game time of the 7-game 1973 World Series was 3:08 but that included two extra inning contests. Five of the seven games were completed in under 2:45. By contrast, the 7-game 2014 World Series, which included no extra innings, had an average time of 3:30. The quickest game was 3:09.

This winter MLB is tinkering with the very essence and beauty of the game by trying to solve a problem they themselves created.

Owners no longer view players as ‘athletes’ but rather as ‘investments.’ And rightfully so. When teams hand over $137 million to Johan Santana, $180 million to Justin Verlander or nearly a quarter of a billion to Clayton Kershaw, managers damn well better treat the investment with care. You don’t buy a Lamborghini and fill it at ARCO.

Can you imagine the bedlam that would erupt if Don Mattingly overused Kershaw and ruined his elbow in the first year of a multi-year deal?

Ballplayers—particularly pitchers—are coddled, pampered and yes, babied, more than ever. No one paid attention to pitch counts for Nolan Ryan or Steve Carlton. But those guys weren’t long-term investments. So, yes, pitchers are coddled. But in large part fault should be placed at the feet of MLB.

Prior to 1969 the team with the best record in each league met in the World Series. Done. MLB then expanded, first to two divisions, then three. They added the LCS, the LDS, one wildcard and then a second one. In 1698, 2 out of 20 teams (1 out of 10) advanced to the ‘post-season.’ In 2014, 10 out of 30 teams (1 out of 3) advance.

MLB and owners embraced this idea. And why not? More post-season slots means fans will continue paying admission since their team now has a chance. Previously, stadiums would be empty throughout September. But not anymore. Nowadays, to be in a pennant race, you don’t even need to be good, just slightly above mediocre. 82, 83 wins will get you in the fight. The Mets this season finished below 500 winning just 79 games but only missed the playoffs by 9 games. By contrast the 1976 Mets won 86 games, yet missed the playoffs by 15 games.

In 1954 the NY Giants became World Champions. It took 158 games. 60 years later, the SF Giants became World Champions. It took 179 games. That’s a 13% increase in the season.

October 2, 1954, Willie Mays and company were crowned best in the game. On October 2 2014, Hunter Pence and company hadn’t even played the first game of the LDS.

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With MLB extending the season—not only to 162 games from 154—but almost one full month of playoffs, investments are put in jeopardy. That’s an extra month of players risking an injury. That’s an extra month of possibly pulling a hamstring or breaking a finger sliding into second. It’s an extra month of superstars like Buster Posey and Salvador Perez getting beat up behind the plate. And since much of the big money is locked up in long term contracts for pitchers, that’s more stress on the arms, elbows and shoulders of Kershaw, Verlander, Strasburg and Shields. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner threw 217 innings this season. Then he threw another 52.2 over 3+ weeks in October.

The powers-that-be have brought this full circle. MLB (and owners) want to make more money so they add more opportunity to advance into October which in turn keeps fans paying admission which makes more money which keeps fans tuning in on TV which makes more money from commercials which leads to a month long stretch of post-season games which keep fans paying admission and keeps the revenue flowing in from advertisers which means managers will be forced to manage differently and make more pitching changes which of course means more commercial breaks which translates into longer games which comes full circle with MLB declaring games are too long. Huh???

The irony is that installing a pitch clock and other ludicrous proposals will accomplish nothing. People who find Baseball “slow moving” and “boring” will not suddenly start watching in droves because of a pitch clock. And those of us who are purists only take offense and find ourselves drifting ever so slowly away from the game we’ve loved since childhood.

If you think the game is too long, turn it off. If it’s the 7th inning and you feel a need to keep up with Kardashians or see who gets eliminated on Dancing with the Stars go right ahead. If you need to leave the ballpark because you have a dinner reservation somewhere, feel free to leave.

Baseball is what it is. Closers, set-up men, long relievers, pitching changes, extra rounds of playoffs and now plays under review aren’t going away any time soon. Are games longer than they used to be? Yes. Are they too long? No.

Since the 18th century, despite world wars, attacks on our soil, presidential assassinations, numerous scandals, steroids, collusion, drugs, games being fixed and mostly incompetent commissioners, the game has remain largely unchanged. Although Baseball is declining in popularity (the 2014 World Series was the second lowest rated ever) let’s hope that deviations to the fabric of the game, the very rules we hold close to our heart, don’t result in the final nail in the coffin.

Next time you have a couple hours to kill and feel like watching a movie, would you rather sit through Crossroads because it’s shorter or see Vincent Vega accidentally shooting Marvin in the face?

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3 Up, 3 Down: Another NL East Rivalry Lives On http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-another-nl-east-rivalry-lives-on.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-another-nl-east-rivalry-lives-on.html/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:59:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166052 wilmer flores

Perhaps not as intense as the Mets and Nationals rivalry looks to be in coming years, but the Miami Marlins have played hard fought games against New York all season and like the Mets, they’re a squad that is centered around young talent and a low payroll.  The fish kept finding ways to get hits en route to taking 2 out of 3 games in this series, below are the usual takeaways in this edition of 3 and 3.

3 Up

  1. Wilmer Flores was incredible this series.  Apparently no one told the 23 year old Venezuelan that hitting for power in Citi Field is impossible because he made it a top priority the last three days.  Wilmer’s slugging percentage against Miami this week was 1.273, hitting 2 doubles and 2 home runs to go with 8 RBI’s.  Overall, he registered a .545/.583/1.856 slash line for the series.  It appears Flores has developed a repeatable approach at the plate.  He’s getting the barrel on the ball consistently and has an idea of what pitchers are trying to do to him.  6 of Wilmer’s 8 RBI’s came Tuesday night and the SNY crew flashed a very interesting statistic.  In Mets franchise history, only four players have had two separate 6 RBI nights in a single season.  Along with Flores, that list includes Carlos Delgado, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura.
  2. Lucas Duda regressed towards the end of August, but he has bounced back gradually, adjusting different parts of his offensive approach to remain productive.  It’s easy to dismiss Lucas when he isn’t hitting home runs, but he is much more of an all around hitter than he’s been given credit for.  In this series, Lucas went 4 for 9 (.444), but also drew 4 walks to give him a .615 on base percentage.  This as a major plus because the league caught up to Duda and he’s seeing mostly breaking balls, a common treatment in the majors for emerging sluggers.  Any elite power hitter goes through periods where the home runs slow down, so it’s imperative that Lucas finds a way to contribute when the quality of pitches diminishes.  A perfect example was last night’s game where he managed to punch in two runs with a slap single off a pitch that landed on the upper outside portion of the plate.  Would it have been more fun to see him crank a 3 run shot over the Shea Bridge?  Of course, but I’m firmly content having a 25-30 HR first baseman who also drives in runs with singles and doubles.  Additionally, as his power and average have dipped, his OBP has skyrocketed.  In the month of September, he’s getting on base at a .439 clip.  Eventually, this will come down, but with it, his home runs will go up as opposing pitchers will have to throw their fastball for strikes.  When they do, there will be misses over the plate, the Hulk will be unleashed and moonshots will resume.  One other thing, Duda is hitting .308 against left-handed pitching this month and getting on base at a .400 clip against them.
  3. Have to give the final “Up” nod to Jacob deGrom, his performance on Monday night was spectacular.  He made the first 8 Marlins batters look completely lost at the plate, striking them out one after the next in dominate fashion.  Ironically, the first hit came off of the opposing pitcher, Jarred Cosart, but deGrom got back to work and cruised up to the 7th inning nicely after that.  The outfield was playing oddly deep in that inning and the Marlins took advantage with a series of hits that landed in front Matt den Dekker and Juan Lagares, allowing them to briefly take a 3-2 lead.  The Mets offense would come back with go ahead runs in the bottom of the frame, but the bullpen could not hold on to keep Jacob’s W in line.  Another hard luck loss for the Rookie of the Year frontrunner, but not before tying the major league record for number of consecutive batters struck out to start a game.  Congrats sir.

3 Down

  1. This isn’t an indictment of Juan Lagares, but the centerfielder may be out for the rest of the season after spraining his right elbow in the 4th inning of Tuesday night’s game throwing to second base.  This is a major downer, obviously there’s only 9 games left in the season, but Juan has hands down been my favorite player to watch this year.  He was also hitting .317 in the month of September, working hard to end his first full campaign on a high note.  First priority is to get healthy for next season though, so if Tuesday marked the end to Lagares’ season, tip of the hat to this young lad.  If he doesn’t win a gold glove award, I’m going to explode.
  2. Travis d’Arnaud has got to improve his footwork behind the plate.  Bobby Ojeda did an excellent job breaking down TDA’s mechanical flaws during last night’s pre-game segment with a side by side comparison to backup catcher Anthony Recker.  Travis comes up flat and doesn’t sets his throwing arm back far enough before firing to second, forcing him to add an extra hitch in his release.  This adds another second for the runner and more pressure to d’Arnaud’s timing resulting in rushed misfires over the second basemen’s head.  One second seems harmless, but it’s the difference between locking up runners and sailing the ball into center field.  However, like Ojeda, I believe d’Arnaud will improve in the offseason.  Also, his catching abilities are much more valuable than he gets credit for.  There were several pitches in this series that were clearly out of the strike zone before Travis snapped them back in with the flick of his wrist.  This ability, along with his game calling, are two very underappreciated aspects of his game.
  3. Last down goes to the farewell tour that stopped by Queens on Tuesday night.  Bud Selig’s vote of confidence for Fred and Jeff Wilpon is infuriating at this point.  Look, I understand that blindly spending money in free agency this offseason will not cure this Met’s post-season woes.  However, Selig is avoiding the bigger picture.  Financial prowess doesn’t just pertain to offseason acquisitions.  It deals with retaining talent that is set for a raise in the offseason.  It deals with acquiring talent midseason in the midst of a playoff hunt, when other players undoubtedly go down or underperform.  It deals with justifying the price the Mets charge their fans to go see a game.  This isn’t Oakland, it isn’t Kansas City, it’s New York.  No one is fooled by the numbers, the product, or the slick sales pitch.  The Mets are going to miss the offseason for an 8th straight year and despite having the pieces to build a dominant contender going into next season, it looks like the organization is instead banking on a miracle.  I’ll write later on about other options this team can exercise in the offseason, but regardless, the approach for next year should have been described as ”we’ll spend when the right opportunity presents itself”, not “we’re still broke, but it’s all good”.

Lets.Go.Mets.

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Mets Owners Are Almost Out Of Miracles http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mets-owners-running-out-of-lifesavers-and-miracles.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mets-owners-running-out-of-lifesavers-and-miracles.html/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165422 Wilpons

General Manager Sandy Alderson recently sat with reports and discussed offseason spending plans heading into 2015. The conclusion? The GM does not predict a generous lift in payroll for next season. The free agent class is not as strong as it’s been in recent history and the Mets can ill-afford to take up more space on the payroll with ineffective longterm contracts.

However, in an offseason where the organization could easily point to a weak crop of free agent candidates as a reason for not spending, Alderson instead opened up about the team’s inability to spend.

It’s uncharacteristic of Alderson to make such an admission when the response could have easily been deflected. When Alderson arrived in late 2010, he had certainly been briefed on the financial state of the organization and understood the obstacles standing in his way. By definition, New York is not a sports market where you can tread lightly on attendance and expect business operations to remain functional.

Total attendance at the close of 2009, Citi Field’s inaugural season, was reported to be 3,154,262. Ballpark related revenue was also estimated at $180.4 million, with more than half of that figure ($99.3 million) coming from premium ticket sales (Jim Baumbach of Newsday). In the years that followed, the Wilpons diverted financial resources towards recovering from the Bernie Madoff scandal, while simultaneously paying down $430 million in debt from Bank of America that was used to prop up operating costs.

The Mets also borrowed an additional $65 million from MLB in order to make revenue sharing payments to the league for 2010 and 2011. The organization had to take drastic steps just to be in a position to meet the minimum payments on operating costs, a miracle would be needed to reduce the principal on the debt. Through a series of remarkably coincidental events, that’s exactly what the owners got.

In 2012, New York City based investment firm Guggenheim Partners, made an aggressive purchase of the L.A. Dodgers for $2.15 billion. This had a ripple effect throughout MLB as all teams experienced higher worth from the overvalued purchase (Bloomberg.com). On top of that, new cable television deals gave teams an increase in the value of their tv affiliates, including the Mets who own SNY.

crows empty citi field

According to a report by New York Post’s Josh Kosman,  the owners were able to capitalize by selling 40 percent of the team to minority investors, raising $240 million in cash. The funds allowed the team to pay down all of the debt with MLB, while also applying $100 million towards their loan with Bank of America. Although this was a major step in the right direction, the Mets were not at all stable on the home front.

From Opening Day 2009, up to the end of last season, the organization experienced a 32% drop in attendance, 58% drop in premium ticket sales and 34% reduction in overall ballpark related revenue. All of this seemingly played a huge role in the $10 million loss reported from last season. Prior to spring training in 2014, the team was due to make principal payments on the remaining $250 million owed to Bank of America and it was speculated that the owners would default as the due date neared. As Kosman also noted in his article, the owners were once again saved by a miracle, working with Bank of America to refinance the remaining $250 million in debt.

The terms of the new deal saw the loan amended and extended to span over 7 years, deferring principal payments for an unspecified amount of time with less demanding interest rates accruing on the reissued principal. Interestingly, there are no spending limitations on the team’s payroll. However, there’s a specific stipulation that the team cannot default on interest payments going forward.

Translation: The Mets can spend money on free agents, but any significant increase in payroll must be justified by the player’s production and their subsequent impact on attendance, something that cannot be predicted. As we’ve seen in the past, this rarely works out in favor of the Mets.

In the end, it’s not just the fans that are pressing ownership to deliver. Lenders are looking for yield on the money they’ve lent and investors are looking for value in the money they’ve spent. In order to turn a profit, the team must not only win, but be a contender. It’s unclear exactly how much longer Fred and Jeff Wilpon, along with Saul Katz, can retain control of the team unless that dynamic changes.

However, one fact is certainly true, the organization cannot recover without the fans. While the fans don’t always know what’s best for the team, it would be naive of Alderson and ownership to dismiss the concerns of the faithful headed into the offseason, particularly the lack of confidence surrounding manager Terry Collins. If the organization insists that no changes are needed, both in player and coaching personnel, they had better call it right from the start. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs, or worse, finds itself in an early division deficit too steep to climb out of, the owners may find themselves out of miracles.

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Featured Post: Wilpon’s Legacy And A Fool’s Hope http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/featured-post-wilpons-legacy-and-a-fools-hope.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/featured-post-wilpons-legacy-and-a-fools-hope.html/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:24:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165105 The 2015 schedule is hot off the presses as the Mets wrap up their sixth losing season in a row. Please try to contain your excitement.

The latest hot potato is whether or not the Mets should bring back manager Terry Collins next season… As if that will make one hell of a difference… You know what the real problem is with this team… Don’t you?

How did we get into this mess?  

Let’s face it, the Mets are really all the Wilpons have. No one cares about office buildings or investment securities, but the Mets, well, the Mets have a mascot with a giant head who lacks vocal cords — the Mets get airtime on Letterman and the Daily Show and TMZ. It is thus perhaps as good a time as any to consider how Fred Wilpon came to own our Mets in the first place and what this ownership group continues to represent for fans who desperately want to believe there is yet hope for our franchise.

nelson doubleday

Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz have always appeared vulnerable to the perception that they burst onto the scene as Johnny-come-lately’s (compared to old money blue-bloods like Nelson Doubleday), ascending to ownership on the wave of a real-estate boom as a couple of tenement flipping nouveau riche guys from Bensonhurst (no, not the fat bus driver and the sewer worker). Wilpon was a West Egger to Doubleday’s East Egg (if I may cite Gatsby), and Katz’ giant brass balls (of note in a notable New Yorker piece) notwithstanding, Doubleday made no qualms about his disdain for Fred.

You see Doubleday never forgave Fred for the manner in which he took over half ownership. Nelson Doubleday had even more to say about the way he was low-balled during his buy-out proceedings. N.D. considered the “first refusal” clause that Wilpon used to match Doubleday’s ownership percentage (after the sale of Doubleday & Co.) underhanded because Doubleday never intended that the Mets be part of the deal. The clause was nevertheless present in the fine print as a standard if not forthright real estate maneuver.

Down the road the two sides would end up in some nasty litigation when Doubleday balked at Robert Starkey’s appraisal of the franchise’s value after Doubleday and Wilpon finally agreed to part ways. Doubleday may have had a point as Starkey was a crony of Selig’s dating back to Bud’s Brewer days. But in the end you get the sense that Doubleday had had enough and wanted to be done with his marriage to the Wilpons.

Early in the dissolution negotiations Richard Sandomir of the NY Times reported that Doubleday openly doubted Wilpon’s ability to come up with the kind of money he’d need to buy him out and implied he’d be more than willing to purchase Fred’s share. I believe Doubleday would have bought Wilpon out in a heartbeat if he had the opportunity as he never really intended to share the Mets with Fred.

nelson doubleday fred wilpon

Doubleday knew you don’t just wake up one day hundreds of millions of dollars richer unless your dear old dad leaves it to you in a trust fund, and Wilpon’s father was just an undertaker from Brooklyn.

These comments by N.D., when looked at through the lens of the Madoff debacle (it is speculated that Wilpon’s involvement with Madoff dates back to around 1986), make one wonder what percentage of Wilpon’s new-found financing power wasn’t perhaps leveraged by artificial means.

Of course the case for Doubleday wasn’t helped by the fact that he was a pompous and obscenely wealthy eccentric who occasionally let slide anti-Semitic slurs (detailed in “Lords of the Realm” by John Helyar), but he had a knack for knowing when to splurge on the fans and when to spoil his grandchildren. Doubleday also didn’t endear himself to Commissioner Selig as a long time supporter of Selig’s predecessor, Fay Vincent.

Nelson Doubleday ran further afoul of MLB when quotes were leaked from his lawsuit against Wilpon implying the following against Major League Baseball:

“In a desperate attempt to reverse decades of losses to the MLB Players Association – MLB was determined to manufacture phantom operating losses and depress franchise values.”

If Selig wasn’t on Doubleday’s side before those comments you have to believe he didn’t have a lot of warm feelings for him afterwards.

The wording in the lawsuit specifically struck a chord that Donald Fehr and the Players Association were harping on. Selig threatened Doubleday with a million dollar lawsuit and soon afterwards T.J. Quinn of the New York Daily News reported that the quote “was not written by Doubleday or his associates, according to sources.”

Doubleday eventually apologized to MLB and the commissioner’s office for questioning Selig’s integrity and for any controversial comments in light of ongoing collective bargaining negotiations. Doubleday went on to say that his lawyers worded and filed the lawsuit without specifically informing him of the implication that MLB was making attempts at systematically devaluing franchise values by drumming up artificial losses (accusations that in retrospect seem almost prophetic given Selig’s now notorious devices in this regard). Needless to say, Doubleday all but sealed his exit from the owner’s club with these actions and the Wilpon Era began in earnest.

Since that time, Doubleday has come to be seen as the magnanimous and colorful figure who presided over one World Series title and another World Series appearance. Fairly or not, he’s accepted as largely orchestrating the triumph of 1986 by hiring Frank Cashen.

From the time of purchase in 1980 when he bought the Mets from the Payson family for $21.1 million, Doubleday was warmly received as a kind of rescuer. Doubleday fulfilled that promise in 1986, and furthered his rapport with the fans by openly pushing for the Mike Piazza deal over Fred’s balmy reservations.

Nelson was well-liked by the fans and his absence left an image vacuum in the owner’s box that Wilpon never really seemed comfortable filling. Fred, on the other hand, got off to a bad start with the fans by being the thin dour-faced fellow with way too much hair gel who elbowed his way into the partnership that eventually pushed Doubleday out of the picture. Doubleday became a kind of betrayed would-be savior in hindsight, whether that designation was deserved or not.

fred wilponFred Wilpon’s efforts in filling the ownership vacuum became an exercise in how NOT to conduct a public relations campaign. Doubleday wore bright outfits and had a big personality while Wilpon’s sullen and reserved demeanor and ridiculous paranoia over his own public image led to some awkward missteps both with the press and the fans.

Wilpon seemed to become obsessed with cultivating and maintaining a sterling reputation, as he and Katz seemed to be caught in a perpetual public relations struggle against the perceived notion that there was little separating them from run-of-the-mill, moneybag slum-lords.

You can imagine Fred perhaps even feeling ostracized as a new-money “East Egger” (the Madoff proceedings might have all but cemented that perception for some), but in the end they did still own the Mets, and that was their great redeemer. The Mets are their legacy, their badge of honor, their Plaza Hotel, their claim to elite standing. If the Wilpons had a family coat of arms the Met “NY” would be at its center.

Owning the Mets gained admission for them to all sorts of exclusive circles and country clubs that only the likes of Doubleday were formerly privy to. For these reasons (among others) there is not a snowball’s chance in hell the Wilpons are going to give up the Mets unless they absolutely have no choice, unless the team is pried from their cold… Well you get the picture.

Sadly, Fred’s desire to keep the Mets “in the family” speaks to an identity driven disregard for the “public domain” component of a Major League baseball club and its loyal fan base. His own dream of bringing the Dodgers back and filling the abdicated longings of a failed baseball career and a childhood marred by the loss of his beloved team not only hints at his own self aggrandizement, but points to a profound misunderstanding of the true Met ethos. Our unique identity — born from the modernist intonations of the 1964 Worlds Fair — not only stands apart from old New York baseball culture, it is in many ways diametrically opposed to it. The Mets are all that is new and different, quirky and inventive, and of course, charming.

The Mets are lovable in losing, and occasionally boisterous and unstoppable. They are Tom Seaver and Cleon Jones and Tug McGraw and Lee Mazzilli and Strawberry and Doc Gooden and many other wildly talented players. Wilpon believed he could superimpose his own perceptions on the franchise rather than allow the fans to drive the team’s culture and heritage.

wilponThe Dodger inspired edifices and rotundas of Citi Field may seem like passing slights to the team’s true character, but they point to an owner who is hopelessly out of touch. It is difficult to envision how these owners, given their history, could possibly prevail upon whatever faculties are available to them to bring about a Met renaissance. Much like Gatsby, no amount of lavish parties or helicopter rides during spring training will convince anyone that they are legitimate to their ambitions.

Like Pandora, Wilpon has let loose all manner of calamities on our Mets, while making every attempt to shut the door on our last remaining hope; a forced sale.

But we should not begrudge Fred Wilpon’s unwavering determination to hold onto our team. He is resolute even if unable to apportion sufficient resources to effect success while standing in the way of letting another buyer do so.

For Fred, the Mets are all he has separating him from all the other filthy rich West Eggers. Citi Field is the one deed he can hold up to the snooty Doubledays of this world to show that he has something they don’t.

No, Fred’s not giving up this team, not any time soon. We’re pretty much stuck with these guys unless the team continues to crap itself for several more seasons or things take another dramatic turn for the worse. Our only real hope is that Sandy Alderson is all that he’s cracked up to be, and it’s a fool’s hope at that.

mmo presented

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You Gotta Have Heart, And A Little Crazy Helps Too http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/you-gotta-have-heart-and-a-little-crazy-helps-too.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/you-gotta-have-heart-and-a-little-crazy-helps-too.html/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:00:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163781 MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

David Wright is sounding like a desperate man these days. He’s seeing his power numbers evaporate and he’s had to bear another year entrenched in a mediocre lineup on a mediocre team.

He’s got everything a man could wish for. A great apartment, buckets of money, a gorgeous wife and a great job … but his dream of a world series eludes him. David is a good guy, by all accounts he’s liked and respected by just about everyone. He signs autographs, visits children in hospitals, and does his best to put a happy face on a beleaguered franchise.

I’d wager that if David got a visit from “Mr. Applegate” (A.K.A. the Devil) offering to return him to his former slugging form he’d be mightily tempted. The reference is of course to the musical Damn Yankees, where a poor long suffering fan of the Washington Senators is lured into offering up his soul to secure that slugger his team desperately needs. Mr. Applegate turns poor Joe Boyd into Joe Hardy, the power hitter the team requires. David Wright would probably have to leave his wife, sharpen his spikes and charge the mound now and then … I doubt he could continue to be Mr. nice-guy … not with his soul in hock.

I could see the plot of Damn Yankees played out in our own backyard. A young ambitious Fred Wilpon approached by Mr. Applegate (as Bernie Madoff) in the lead up to 1986, promising him untold riches, a World Series and sole ownership of the Mets … for a price of course. After a dark and tense negotiation and a brief moment when it’s almost called off (after Wilpon tries to throw in his first born) it’s done.

Of course things didn’t turn out the way Wilpon wanted … that’s usually how these Faustian things go. In the play, Mr. Applegate was defeated by Joe Boyd’s true love for his wife Meg, but in real life Fred WIlpon’s only true love (the Dodgers) could never love him back, and so he is hung out to dry, bamboozled, hoodwinked … and as soon as the ink dries on the contract the ball gets through Buckner and his fate is sealed.

It’s a cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for, don’t sell out, never give up on your convictions or your integrity for the sake of worldly success … but those words begin to ring hollow when you’re mired in a historic stretch of offensive futility.

The Mets win when they’re mean, when they’re a nasty dirty bunch of brawlers, when they routinely knock you down and punch you in the face if you make a run at them anywhere near the third base line. The Mets have sold out their roots and heritage by promising to be good. In the immortal words of Patches O’Houlihan, sometimes “You have to get angry, you have to be MEAN!”

But it’s not easy to be mean when you are constantly taking the high road and your captain reminds people of Spongebob’s kinder gentler nephew. You might get into heaven, but you probably won’t win a pennant.

Tom Seaver on many occasions reminisced about his days as a young ballplayer in California and often pointed to his time in the Marine Corps as a turning point. While many athletes in his position would have hesitated to devote that much time from their budding careers to the military, Tom Terrific attributed much of his toughness and strength to his service time, training with an organization designed to destroy and annihilate … an organization designed primarily for killing and maiming.

The venerable Gil Hodges shared this background with Seaver and between the two of them you had a couple of tough S.O.B’s anchoring that 1969 championship team … Then, again in 1986 you had perhaps one of the most sordid and undesirable (albeit talented) collection of deviants you could put into a single uniform take the field in Flushing, and they too proceeded to handily stomp nicer teams across the league.

It’s a cruel irony that in the years since (the Wilpon years), the team has become as straight laced and goody-two-shoes as the Waldo rich kid character in The little Rascals … I remember Darla pining “Oh Waldo!” But Waldo always lost in the end, beaten by low down dirty tricks and sneaky contraptions … a fire engine with a spring loaded boxing mitt or a speed boat with ducks harnessed to a wagon wheel as an engine. The little rascals didn’t fight fair, and they always ended up getting the girl in the end.

These 2014 Mets are nothing like Spanky and Alfalfa and Buckwheat, but they are a lot like other Mets teams of the past 20 years. They play fair, they don’t retaliate, they offer friendly smiles to the other team and routinely exchange pleasantries with opposing first basemen. Prior to Sandy Alderson and the rule changes, they adhered to slot recommendations religiously in the draft, draining their farm of talent at a time when every other big market team was stocking up. You have to go back to Ty Wiggington if you wonder when the last time a Met bowled over a catcher was. It makes one question why this Met organization is so inclined to the high road, the gentler more polite road, the losing road.

I’ll tell you why, it is Fred Wilpon’s penance on this great green earth that he be foiled by the very principles that were routinely urinated on by the 86 squad … Wilpon sold out to a criminal mastermind who orchestrated the financial backing necessary for him to secure ownership, and as punishment the Mets are now doomed, cursed … too nice to win, too gentlemanly to retaliate, too kind to knock a batter down — even when their own nicest of fellows is plunked perilously close to his noggin by a lowly Cubs team with nothing to play for. It’s like the plot of Damned Yankees without the happy ending.

Now I’m not saying Terry Collins should seek out the Devil and make a deal, these things have a way of backfiring, and besides, finding old scratch might not be easy in light of Bud Selig’s imminent retirement … but this too kind to let the other team lose gentleman’s game has no place in Queens. This is New York for crying out loud. Maybe this nauseating institutionalized tenet towards niceness was implemented in response to the ruinous amoral disintegration of their would-be dynasty, but surely, 28 failed seasons later the Wilpons must realize that good guys finish last, right? They must on some level understand that the bad guys won the last time their organization took it all?

Matt Harvey gave us a little taste last year of what it’s like to pour gasoline over a duct-taped opponent and threaten them with a Zippo lighter, while Zack Wheeler is showing signs of breaking this benevolent buffoonery with his fondness for kneecaps … but around the diamond we continue to be hamstrung by a sad and lugubrious shortness of crazy. You gotta have heart as the song goes, you have to have the courage to occasionally go off the high road and do something really really stupid.

Like John Blutarski famously said, “What the f#@& happened to the (Mets) I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my @$ from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Harper, he’s a dead man! Freddie Freeman, dead! Strasburg … “

MMO footer

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Major League Baseball, the Mets, and the Public Trust http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/major-league-baseball-the-mets-and-the-public-trust.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/major-league-baseball-the-mets-and-the-public-trust.html/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 19:20:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157479 kelly madden kid baseball

We live in a democracy. The greatest democracy on the planet. In spite of recent developments causing many to question the viability of our democratic way, I believe we still hold in our hands the power to influence our way of life and our pursuit of happiness. As citizens of this country we are entitled to certain rights and resources that are held in a public trust. Baseball, our national pastime, is one of them.

“Baseball is a public trust. Players turn over, owners turn over and certain commissioners turn over. But baseball goes on.” - Peter Ueberroth

When I was a child I got to visit my uncle in West Virginia. Coal mining country. Way up in the mountains. They lived in a small town and ran a country store with a couple of pickup trucks in the back that constantly ran deliveries. It was a magical experience for a kid who’d spent his entire life in the concrete confines of Queens. In their back yard there was a river and we’d often walk up and down its banks skipping stones. As a New Yorker I recall being nervous about trespassing onto neighboring property but they explained to me that the river was “public,” a protected thoroughfare. Although the property it ran through was private you were allowed to use the river and a small path along side as you would a road.

I’ve come to revise my understanding over the years of what we define as “public trust.” From that river and access to roads, to public parks to our national monuments, as citizens we are guaranteed access to certain things. When we think of issues arising from conflicting interests in public trust disputes, large corporations infringing on federal property and ranchers using public land out west come to mind, but baseball ownership inherently involves its own host of public trust issues.

Ownership of a major league team is, certainly, a private enterprise, but it is also a matter of public trust. This confluence of these seemingly disparate sectors may appear unlikely, and yet they intersect squarely in the legal crosshairs of our national pastime. There is no doubt that baseball ownership offers the promise of considerable personal enrichment, however, the best owners have always run their teams with an eye on the public — that very human resource upon which a team’s wealth and prosperity is built.

In the spring of 2011 Commissioner Bud Selig did something unthinkable in virtually any other business enterprise. He seized, by force of rule, another man’s property. That man was Frank McCourt, and the reason Selig was able to invoke control over his property (the Los Angeles Dodgers) by appointing Thomas Scheiffer to oversee operations, was because of a long precedent of commissioners intervening with surprisingly broad powers to ensure the “best interests of Baseball.” While there have been challenges to many commissioners in the past who have imposed similar controls, the owners in question have always lost on grounds directly pertaining to MLB’s right to protect those elements in Baseball which fall under what we commonly understand to be matters of public trust.

Selig was quoted at the time of this dispute:

“Baseball is a social institution, and as such, it has profound social responsibilities.”

A “social institution,” describes the very public component of any franchise that makes a team profitable, the fan base. You can own a brand, a label, a stadium, a sports network, a parking lot, but you cannot own the social entity that makes all those things possible, you can’t own the fans. For this reason, commissioners in the past have had the power to impose sometimes draconian measures to oversee owners who appeared to be damaging Baseball’s responsibility to its public.

Almost concurrent with the Dodger affair, Mets ownership was hit with the disastrous implications of being intimately involved in the most massive ponzi scheme in the nation’s history. They awoke one morning to the realization that they’d lost a fortune and then some to the Madoff debacle. Their team’s cash-flow buffer, the resources to pay off a tremendous amount of stadium and team debt, their fiduciary obligation to employees, a top third in the league player payroll, all suddenly were very much in question, all hinging precariously on a series of bank loans and emergency loans from MLB itself. The Wilpons were by all accounts in dire straits. At that critical juncture Selig came out with the following:

“I have great respect for Wilpons. But I felt in studying the issues the Mets could survive. They were unfortunate victims in a financial scandal, one that put pressure on them. But they have the respect of everybody in the game, the potential to work through it, so I realized it was in baseball’s best interest to have patience there.”

Here we are several years later, three more losing seasons behind us, wondering, where is the social responsibility? In the end, it appears that what was good for the goose, was not good for the gander.

The Dodgers were divorced of Frank McCourt’s ownership essentially by force while the Mets were propped up and allowed to tread water almost indefinitely to the dismay of New York Mets fans who have watched their team’s payroll slashed season after season after season. The public’s trust has been clearly violated. Mets fans had nothing whatsoever to do with Fred Wilpon’s investment schemes or the collapse of his ability to finance a competitive major league franchise, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — guilty of loving and rooting for a troubled team, a team that existed well before Fred Wilpon ever came into the picture.

To add insult to injury, Fred Wilpon has stated with impunity that he intends to hold onto the team as a bequest – the most private of entities — passing it down to his heir Jeff Wilpon in due time. A public’s trust determinately held captive as a family heirloom. Adding even more insult to injury is the publicized narrative from the mouth of Fred Wilpon himself and echoed in Sandy Alderson’s “sustainability” spiel, essentially blaming the Mets’ restricted payroll on the fans and our lack of support.

Fred Wilpon wasn’t always wealthy, he wasn’t always on the back pages. In fact he’d probably still be languishing somewhere in the relative anonymity of wealthy NY real estate entrepreneurs were it not for the N.Y. Mets. The Mets really are all the Wilpons have in terms of prestige and fame (if not fortune) at this point, and there is no logical reason to believe they would willingly give that up.

But there is still this issue of the public trust. That part, parcel, and percentage of the franchise that cannot be physically owned, the fans. Fred Wilpon can’t come into your living room and change your channel. Jeff Wilpon can’t follow you into a shopping mall and force you to put down a credit card and buy Mets merchandise. Saul Katz can’t come to your work place on your lunch break and make you charge 4 box seats for the coming homestand. When you violate the public trust, the public will do the only thing it can, abandon you.

That’s the part that Selig and Wilpon didn’t quite think through. Selig’s responsibility was to Baseball, not to the Wilpons. It is disingenuous to presume Selig’s support of Mets ownership was due to friendship … As I’ve stated elsewhere, that is a noble but factually improbable lark. Unlike the situation in Los Angeles, Selig saw the situation in Queens as an opportunity to promote his small market ideology under the reuse of propping up an old friend. But that is outside the scope of this discourse. The point of this is to illustrate and emphasize the gargantuan, glaring, painful hypocrisy inherent in MLB’s continued support of an ownership group in New York that is fundamentally and categorically incapable of meeting the basic social responsibility it has to its public, which is an affront to Selig’s own stated purpose as commissioner.

(Photo by Kelly Madden, Metsmerized Online)

MMO

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Fred Does His Best James Dolan Impression http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/fred-does-his-best-james-dolan-impression.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/fred-does-his-best-james-dolan-impression.html/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 16:42:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=149223 wilpon

On Thursday, Joe D wrote in a post:

John Harper of the Daily News reported this morning that at a staff meeting a couple of days ago, Sandy Alderson told Mets executives and baseball personnel that he strongly believes that the ballclub can and maybe even should win 90 games this season.

Also, according to people who were in the room, after Alderson’s decree prompted discussion about how to best maximize the Mets’ assets, owner Fred Wilpon chimed in at one point and said, “We better win 90.” 

I found the comment a bit odd.  It also caused me to pause and reflect on a similar story. On Halloween 2013, Ian Begley of ESPN New York reported:

In a recent meeting with the coaching staff and some team executives, Dolan said he believes the Knicks have enough talent to win a title and that he expects them to do so this season, league sources with knowledge of the owner’s message during the meeting confirmed. “He told them he believes they have enough talent to win it all,” one source said, “and he expects it to happen this year.”

If you’ve walked through Penn Station and thought that the toilets might be backing up, you were wrong. The smell of defeat is coming from Madison Square Garden, where the only thing the Knicks might be in danger of winning is a lottery pick. Oh wait… They traded their first round draft pick to Denver for Carmelo Anthony.

Guaranteeing a championship is a risky proposition.  It puts undue pressure on a team to perform. Lebron James didn’t go to Miami expecting to win a championship.  He obviously knew he had put himself into a better position to win and made his own wild prediction. Things sometimes just go wrong.  The best you can do is give yourself a chance.

The anti-Wilpon crowd is already screaming “The team is broke!” “Fred needs to win to stay afloat!” “Sell the team!”.

I’ve made the same exclamations on many occasions.

In my wildest dream, Mark Cuban swoops in and wrestles our beloved Mets from the talon-like clutches of Fred and Jeff Wilpon and returns the franchise to its former glory. And while I think Fred does need to win to lessen the chains that bind his empire, I think something else is at play here.

Fred Wilpon, age 77, is getting a little long in the tooth and he’s beginning to lose his filter. Remember your grandfather blurting out whatever he wanted and didn’t care who heard?  I think it’s kind of like that. Fred is fed up. He doesn’t like losing. He’s cash strapped. When he has spent money in recent years, it’s been for naught.

While younger and in more control owners keep their own confidences, Fred just lets it all hang out.  And I think Fred will continue to speak his mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Fred who said that Ruben Tejada looks to be in the same shape as last year.

DIGIPIXFred has a history of speaking his mind.  In his now infamous interview with Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker, Fred Wilpon said of David Wright “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

And of Jose Reyes ““He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.”

Well Fred, you were partially right. He didn’t get it from you.

Fred should learn from James Dolan, not emulate him. It’s not too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Making predictions, especially with a perceived threat behind them “We better win 90″ or else doesn’t really help the team win. It’s just a distraction. Or maybe it’s not. What do I know?

At the end of the day, maybe the players just consider it the ramblings of a grumpy old man.

mmo

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Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner Passes Away http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/hall-of-famer-ralph-kiner-passes-away.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/hall-of-famer-ralph-kiner-passes-away.html/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 22:28:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=147370 Hall of Fame Left Fielder Ralph Kiner was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1975. (NBHOF Library)

It is with a heavy heart that I report the Mets announced that longtime broadcaster Ralph Kiner has passed away at the age of 91. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Along with his fourth wife, Ann, Ralph Kiner is survived by two sons, Michael and Scott, and a daughter, Kathryn Freeman, all by his first wife, Nancy Chaffee, who died in 2002.

Statement from Hall of Fame

“With the passing of Ralph Kiner, the baseball world has lost one of its greatest ambassadors and the Hall of Fame has lost a wonderful friend,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “Ralph spent eight decades as a player, executive and broadcaster. He was a man who truly loved our National Pastime and made it better in every way. His legacy will live forever in Cooperstown.”

Statement from Fred Wilpon:

Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history — An original Met and extraordinary gentleman. After a Hall of Fame playing career, Ralph became a treasured broadcasting icon for more than half a century. His knowledge of the game, wit, and charm entertained generations of Mets fans. Like his stories, he was one of a kind.We send our deepest condolences to Ralph’s five children and twelve grandchildren.
Our sport and society today lost one of the all-time greats.

Obituary

During his 10-year career, Kiner hit 369 home runs, winning or sharing the National League home run title in each of his first seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He twice topped 50 home runs, with 51 in 1947 and 54 in 1949. He averaged more than 100 RBI per season. Following his playing career, which was cut short by continuing back ailments, Kiner transitioned to the broadcast booth starting in 1962, where he would become a New York broadcast icon for the Mets.

“As one of baseball’s most prolific power hitters for a decade, Ralph struck fear into the hearts of the best pitchers of Baseball’s Golden Era despite his easy-going nature, disarming humility and movie-star smile,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “His engaging personality and profound knowledge of the game turned him into a living room companion for millions of New York Mets fans who adored his game broadcasts and later ‘Kiner’s Korner’ for more than half a century. He was as comfortable hanging out in Palm Springs with his friend Bob Hope as he was hitting in front of Hank Greenberg at Forbes Field.”

Born October 27, 1922 in Santa Rita, New Mexico, Kiner played for the Pirates from 1946-53, the Cubs in 1953-54 and the Indians in 1955. Kiner averaged a home run every 14.1 at-bats, the sixth-best ratio of all-time and second among right-handed batters.

I can’t begin to tell you how sad I am at his passing. All three announcers that brought me into the Mets family are now gone. Lindsey, Bob and Ralph, I miss you all…

Rest in Peace, Ralph.

ralph kiner

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New $250M Loan Puts Mets Owners On Easy Street http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/new-250m-loan-puts-mets-owners-on-easy-street.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/new-250m-loan-puts-mets-owners-on-easy-street.html/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 21:19:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=146732 fred wilpon

The Mets’ owners appear to be on the verge of finally putting the team’s financial problems behind them, according to a report in the New York Post.

Cash-strapped Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, who faced perhaps an insurmountable spring principal payment on their $250 million loan, are close to refinancing the note, sources said.

“This will be oversubscribed,” a source considering investing in the Bank of America refinancing said.

The re-fi — the biggest off-field hurdle the team faced this off-season — will likely close in February or March, the source said. Until recently, it wasn’t certain investors weren’t going to insist the team owners pay down some of the loan to get the refinancing done.

Wilpon and Katz will not be asked for any cash paydown, sources said.

Plus, interest payments are expected to stay about the same, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said.

The beat goes on for Fred, Jeff and Saul. As I’ve been saying for five years now, they are not going anywhere. The lenders will do what they can to prevent them from defaulting because it is in their best interest to do so.

The legal language of this report, assuming its veracity, is that it is not restrictive pertaining to payroll or how much the Mets could spend on players.

However, keep in mind that the current payroll which is now at about $86.25 million, is still far short of the 2013 Opening Day payroll figure which stood at $93.2 million. So for all the talk of spending, all we really did this offseason was reallocate what money we already had committed to the team the previous year. We have not yet increased payroll one dollar with 18 days to go until the start of spring training.

This news has certainly saved the Wilpons’, but whether this benefits the team or not remains to be seen.

(Updated 4:00 PM)

Presented By Diehards

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Featured Post: Wilpon’s Brick and Mortar Failure http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/featured-post-wilpons-brick-and-mortar-failure.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/featured-post-wilpons-brick-and-mortar-failure.html/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 17:20:36 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133960 Ever since the Mets were purchased outright by Fred Wilpon in 2000 they have been treated less like a baseball team and more like an apartment complex. Real estate moguls like the Wilpons make their money by speculating, purchasing, (occasionally tossing out your token poor and elderly), rehabbing and selling (or renting) properties for big profits … just like monopoly.

While it’s true that the Mets play (and make much of their money) in what is a structure made of concrete and steel, as a franchise they are not necessarily bound to the grandiose edifices of Citi Field. The Mets are essentially an entertainment entity, and entertainment is an industry that functions on a wholly different set of principles. An industry that makes money through viewership — a vast billion dollar popularity contest where our attention is bought and sold in advertising blocks. Now it is no easy task trying to coalesce these two disparate business models into a single successful enterprise, even so, some are better at it than others.

Fred Wilpon made his fortune buying and selling real estate so naturally he has focused a great deal of his time on infrastructure and capital expenditures. One of his earliest disagreements with Nelson Doubleday (who had a knack for knowing what the fans actually wanted) was a difference over whether or not to build a wildly expensive new venue or improve Shea Stadium.

Citi Field Construction BaseballDoubleday was quoted in the NY Observer by Andrew Rice during the 2000 season on the subject, “I don’t see a great deal of taxpayer money to build the New York Mets a new stadium,” he said, suggesting that for “one-tenth of the money or one-hundredth of the money,” Shea Stadium could simply be renovated. “I kind of like this place,” he added. Now how many of you would trade Citi Field for good old inexpensive Shea with a couple more world titles thrown in for good measure? For a rich guy, Doubleday sure seemed to have a better grasp of your common Met fan, a fan (and demographic) incidentally that’s been virtually priced out of a surprisingly upscale Citi Field.

In Fred Wilpon’s almost quaint and tragic desire to restore an Ebbets Field to the N.Y. landscape, his dream of building a new stadium resulted in the debt riddled quagmire he’s still mired in. He assumed property would always appreciate, he believed cash would always be at the ready, he predicted everything would work as it had during his real estate heyday, but not only did he assume wrong on every one of those counts, he lost touch with his decidedly working class audience and its demands in the interim, and anyone who has ever taken in a gladiator bout at the coliseum can tell you how important it is to win the crowd.

The Mets aren’t Wright and Murphy and Niese and Harvey and Wheeler and the rest. Those players exist only in so far as the real entity that is the Mets allows them to. The Mets exist in the hearts and minds of the fan base that supports them, roots for them, and identifies by them. The Mets exist not only in their native Queens, but in a nebulous diaspora of fandom stretching across NY, the country, and even the world. They comprise an ethos and culture all their own.

An existing fan base is an advertiser’s dream, a captive audience ready to be inundated by Gatorade and Doritos and Pepsi-Cola. It’s no wonder MLB TV contracts are so lucrative. Sitcoms come and go, baseball is forever. But unlike a building or a newspaper stand, you can’t own a fan base. This is something appreciated by any veteran of the entertainment industry. Your 15 minutes of fame can be as fleeting as a wisp of steam on a cold day rising from a hot dog cart as the vendor opens and closes the metal compartment lids. Entertainers know they have to keep moving, changing, upgrading material, or they risk becoming stale and passé, pushed aside for next week’s Miley Cyrus. But my point my friends is that this fluid business paradigm is diametrically opposed to the static real estate model where you benefit from sitting on your assets and letting them appreciate like a good wine while you collect your exorbitant rents. In real estate, time is on your side. In entertainment, if you sit on your assets (or laurels) you’re dead meat and time is an enemy that eventually yanks even the greatest performers from the limelight.

It was interesting to follow the back and forth between prospective partner David Einhorn and the Wilpons during their brief negotiation because it highlighted just how badly the Mets owners had botched the entertainment side of their operation. The Wilpons successfully took a page from the Yankee business apparatus and started their own network, SNY, however, in a rush to ensure broad distribution they gave their partners (Time Warner and Comcast) the right of first refusal — meaning they would have to be given first dibs if the Wilpons ever wanted to sell even a portion of SNY.

SNY StudioThey also gave SNY a sweetheart of a deal undervalued by as much as 20% as far back as 2011 when Mike Ozanian reported on the Einhorn / Wilpon transaction for Forbes. That difference is likely even more cavernous today as TV contracts have ballooned exponentially with the recent Dodgers / Time Warner deal valued at 7 billion in pocket change for the Dodgers over a 25 year stretch. Makes you wonder if trying to micromanage complex transactions well outside the purview of your personal expertise without the proper due diligence or the right consultants is perhaps a family trait … reminds me of their blind trust in Madoff or Jeff Wilpon insinuating himself as a de facto GM during Jim Duquette’s tenure.

Wilpon thought he could sit on the Mets, build them a magnificent house with every bell and whistle, and rake in the cash as they appreciated. He dreamed of financing villages and shopping malls and hotels in his little Mets theme park. All the while he failed to consider that the fans don’t really care that much about fancy digs and rotundas, they care about wins and losses. He failed to see his audience as a primarily working class family oriented descendant of an old New York National League fan base that was certainly not of the buttoned down starched collar variety. The field is just a place, a venue, a sandlot. It’s the team the fans care about. That’s the part that Wilpon never got right … That’s the part that led him to believe creating a homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers was a good idea.

You can own a lot of things, but you can’t buy hearts and minds. Fred Wilpon never understood that the Mets do not reside at Citi Field — the Mets reside in fans all over this city and country who persist in keeping the team dear to their hearts. You can’t own that Mr. Wilpon, you have to win that, and the only way to win that is by knowing your audience and giving it what it wants … not tomorrow, not in 2014 or 2015, but right now.

The problem is, how do you accomplish this when you’ve sunken all your money into fancy building projects? You don’t, and all the promises about “finding hidden value” and other such played out gibberish unfortunately amount to lip service when you continue to reduce payroll at a time when MLB profits are booming. Sadly Met ownership has always been far more focused on brick and mortar than they have been on getting the right players on the field, and in the end, that may be their downfall.

(Photo by Eddie D’Anna)

mmo

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Sandy’s Conundrum and Surviving In Baseball’s New Market http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/sandys-conundrum-and-surviving-in-baseballs-new-market.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/sandys-conundrum-and-surviving-in-baseballs-new-market.html/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 19:17:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133937 Sandy Alderson is suffering from sticker shock. He’s so shocked you could slam a baseball bat against a wall he’s sitting by and he wouldn’t even flinch. He’s so shocked you have to tazer him just to get him to blink. He’s so shocked … eh, you get the idea.

Nelson-Cruz

Lets see…  $75 million for Nelson Cruz? Jhonny Peralta for $50 million? Both coming off of PED suspensions? Mind blowing.

MLB’s new TV contract (a $50 million dollar windfall per franchise) may certainly prompt teams to splurge a little, but what’s boggling Sandy’s marbles are the prices for what appear to be mediocre performers. These guys aren’t superstars, they are flawed and risky players getting paid like superstars. What are these second rate cantaloupes doing in the organic bin?

So Alderson stands his ground and doesn’t overpay. OK, I concede the argument on principle, but how do you compete then? This is a competitive league right? It’s not like like T-ball where all the kids get a trophy. Do you curl up in the fetal position with your Mets blankie and hope the Scott Boras zingers will just go away?

Holding true to your value estimates only works if it somehow gives you a competitive edge. The hope is that other teams will make bad spending decisions down the road at which point your patience will pay off like an ant with plenty of crumbs for the winter.

The only problem is that baseball is a summer sport that exists in the perpetual here and now world of endless sunny days, ice cold beer, and instant gratification. Also, there are way too many crumbs to go around, so you’ve got to go for it, you’ve got to believe, and you’ve got to give the people a reason to go to the ballpark, no?

You can’t just keep kicking the can down the road hoping you’ll eventually come out ahead right? Wrong, you can certainly try, especially when MLB keeps coming up with new ways of generating absurd amounts of revenue while your ownership keeps falling deeper into debt. Which brings us back to Sandy Alderson and his sticker shock.

Fred WilponSandy is so shocked he needs a defibrillator to calm his nerves. He’s in so much shock you could slap a couple of electrodes to his bald head and power East Elmhurst.

But seriously, I think New York fans are smart enough to understand that the money may simply not be there with the banks and the massive debt payments and whatnot. That doesn’t mean management can’t take steps to ignite the fan base.

Sandy needs to shake it off, remind himself what got him here, pat down his formidable cranium and get to work. If $22 million or whatever is still left in the coffers, it is still a nice chunk of change.

Ervin Santana would be a fantastic outside the box sign that could pay huge dividends. Yeah that wouldn’t leave much for a bat you say, but pitching is what wins in the NL East and hitting is really overpriced at the moment (as are shortstops). Trading Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis would also free up another $9 million or so, add that to the $5 million that’s left and you could conceivably sign or trade for one more impact player — perhaps an Andre Ethier (sure would be nice to have someone who could hit for average), and maybe one decent reliever.

It’s not like this can’t be done Mr. Alderson! I fell for your “We’re not trading Buck,” spiel in Minnesota so I know you sometimes bend the truth, but surely you understand you’ve got to make it happen already. It’s been three years for crying out loud. You can’t keep promising something, never deliver, and think you’ll remain competitive, I mean this is still New York right?

Here’s to a great holiday season and to hoping that the Mets can finally turn a corner beginning this offseason and culminating in meaningful games again in September.

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Featured Post: Hey Fred Wilpon, What’s In Your Wallet? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/featured-post-hey-fred-wilpon-whats-in-your-wallet.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/featured-post-hey-fred-wilpon-whats-in-your-wallet.html/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 17:33:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133831 what's in your wallet

You know that commercial for Capital One, the “What’s in your wallet” ad? It’s a good thing no one looks at my wallet, it’s stuffed with everything except money. It’s like a small leather file cabinet. Reminds me of  the Seinfeld episode where George starts having sciatica problems because of the imbalance caused from carrying his massively stuffed wallet in his right back pocket. The episode culminates with the wallet exploding as he crosses the street in a virtual ticker tape parade of receipts and post-it notes.

It doesn’t look like the Mets are going to be having any ticker tape parades of their own any time soon, mostly on account of what’s in Fred Wilpon’s wallet, which is not a lot unless you include a couple of massive IOU’s coming due very soon.

For the past three seasons Met fans have partaken in a blame game. They’ve argued up and down web-pages, comment sections, and blogs, about who is most responsible for the current suffocating stretch of mediocrity. It mostly goes back and forth between Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons. Oddly enough we may be missing the real culprit in this fiasco … the banks. The same banks that wouldn’t finance your home improvement loan because you lost whatever equity you thought you had during the housing crisis, and for remarkably similar reasons. It baffles me how so many Met fans fell for the myth that the Mets would somehow spend big this winter. Anyone who has been reading Joe D. or Howard Megdal should have known better. Last June, Megdal wrote the following:

Getting their creditors to sign off on major new outlays of money isn’t easy. JP Morgan Chase objected to the proposed deal with David Einhorn back in the summer of 2011 at first, because the original Einhorn-Mets deal put Einhorn in line among Wilpon creditors ahead of the team loan. And the same need to keep J.P. Morgan Chase happy led to the heavily deferred contract with David Wright, signed last winter, actually reducing the amount the Mets owed Wright between the date it was signed and the June 2014 due date for the team loan. It is unlikely the Wilpon and his partners would have been allowed to make the offer otherwise.

Even more recently Joe D. wrote in September:

Although we haven’t heard anything official yet, it’s presumed that the Mets will likely announce that the team had estimated losses of nearly $20 million dollars this season. It’s not bad after two straight seasons of $50 million losses, but it’s still an indication that the hemorrhaging hasn’t stopped. So why would the banks and lenders whom the Mets owners owe so much to, allow the team to take that approximate $45 million dollar windfall from the Bay/Santana contracts and reinvest it back into the team? Why do you think the money from Beltran, Rodriguez, Reyes, Castillo and Perez was never reinvested?

When you’re in debt up to your knees like the Wilpons are, those lenders don’t care about the product on the field only that the team stops losing money. You also have all those investors and owners they brought on when they sold all those shares in the team. They haven’t seen a dime yet on their huge outlays and they too will have a say.

The Wilpons woke up one day in December of 2008 without the Madoff money machine they thought would always be there for them like a giant piggy bank under their bed, so the debts coming due in 2015 and 2017 are problematic in that the Banks are not simply gong to continue to allow the Wilpons to refinance indefinitely while eating away at their equity, at least not without a reasonable plan towards solvency.

The Mets owe $320 million in a loan against the team, due in June 2014, while their debt against SNY, including the new loans last winter, is up to over $600 million, and due in 2015. They are already leveraged to the hilt having sold off a portion of the team (albeit partially to themselves). So they’re tapped out on the equity front unless they decide to liquidate whatever real estate assets they may have to keep their dream of ownership afloat. As much as the Wilpons may cherish their status as MLB Owners, I doubt they’d actually jeopardize what’s left of their fortune to hold on to the Mets.

It’s the banks however, that are behind the continued tightening of the purse-strings. I would very much like to convert my spacious unfinished upstairs attic space into a master bedroom with an adjacent marble tile bathroom, (much like the WIlpons would love to have Robinson Cano playing second base) but the banks won’t let me borrow because I don’t have enough equity. I argue that the conversion would add more to the value of the house than what it would cost (much like Cano would pay for himself in added revenue), but the banks won’t hear any of it. Sunken cost is a liability.

The Wilpons have a hard sell ahead of them in refinancing their looming debts, one that would be made even more difficult if they were to increase payroll beyond the limits of whatever cash-flow apparatus they manage to cobble together. If the Mets were to boost payroll substantially, then somehow fail to draw sufficient gate proceeds to cover the added payroll, it would be another crippling notch in the debt-assessors notebook against any chance they may have of refinancing in June.

Unless the Mets pull off a miracle and somehow bring the fans back in droves without purchasing any big ticket free agents, the Wilpons will continue to operate under the auspices of their creditors and may very well end up having to sell due to a debt of almost a billion dollars due over the next two years. So, for those of us who dream of having competent owners some day, the dream is really still alive.

For those of us who dream of big money acquisitions and a big market budget … well, keep dreaming.

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This Day In Mets Infamy with Rusty: 5 Songs That Describes Mets Hot Stove So Far http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/this-day-in-mets-infamy-with-rusty-5-songs-that-describes-mets-hot-stove-so-far.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/this-day-in-mets-infamy-with-rusty-5-songs-that-describes-mets-hot-stove-so-far.html/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 13:24:35 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133601 infamy

Ah it’s that time of year again…  A time for new beginnings, a time for change, and for most it is a time for optimism. Yes, it’s time for that kooky year end ritual otherwise known as the Hot Stove Season – or as many Mets fans in the past five years like to say - PURGATORY!!!

Once again, many Met fans have bought in to ownership’s promises of the team spending more money than it did last season and guess what, they have. With the signing of our new left fielder Chris Young they have surpassed their $5 million dollar spending spree from a year ago.

All I know is that at this juncture I don’t have the warm and fuzzy feelings I used to get around this time of the year – but I’ll hold the right to reserve my total venom until I see how this Mets roster shakes out by the start of Spring Training.

But anyway, here are my five songs that best describe the Mets Hot Stove so far:

5. State of Shock by the Jackson’s  - Because we now know when Jeff Wilpon saw how much money even the middle-tiered free agents were asking for, they all needed smelling salts to revive them!

4. Bringing On The Heartache by Def Leppard – Pass me the Rolaids.

3. Money Changes Everything by Cindi Lauper – Because when it comes to this teams finances it seems like Sandy Alderson always has to do more with less.

2: Slip Slidin’ Away by Simon and Garfunkel – Because if this team doesn’t even remotely try to improve itself the fan base will keep slipping away until Citi Field has less life in it than the city morgue.

1. Death On Two Legs by Queen - Because if the Mets ownership doesn’t show that it has the willingness or discretionary spending to try to field a competitive team this upcoming season, fans’ sentiments will mirror the lyrics to this song.

So do you agree with my choices ? Are there songs that you feel summarize the Mets Hot Stove better than the ones I listed? Feel free to post your lists in the comment section.

And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY!!!!!

Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today includes:

One time Mets minority owner, G. Herbert Walker would have been 108 today (1905). Walker was not only the grandfather of president George W Bush, but he was also the Mets Executive Vice President from 1962 until his death in 1977.

Spot Starter/middle reliever from the ’66 season, Bob Friend is 83 (1930).

Starting pitcher from ’94-’95, Jason Jacome turns 43 (1970). In his 2 seasons with the Mets, Jacome started 13 games, going 4-7 with an E.R.A of 4.80.

Some other notables include:

Sadly on this date the Mets lost two members of their extended family. Hall of Fame (not as a Met) left-handed pitcher Warren Spahn in 2003, and third base coach from the ’77 season, Tom Burgess  in 2008.

The New York Mets traded reserve first baseman, Dave Gallagher to the Atlanta Braves for starting pitcher, Pete Smith on November 24, 1993.

The New York Mets traded  first baseman/catcher, Mike Jacobs, along with pitching prospects Yusmiero Petit and Grant Psomas to the Florida Marlins for power hitting first baseman, Carlos Delgado in 2005. This in my opinion was one of the best trades from the Omar Minaya era.

Mo Vaughn has been so distraught by the Mets hot stove so far that he lost his appetite….. That lasted all of a half hour!!!

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Does 2015 Free Agent Market Influence Mets 2014 Offseason Strategy? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/does-2015-free-agent-market-influence-mets-2014-offseason-strategy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/does-2015-free-agent-market-influence-mets-2014-offseason-strategy.html/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 02:16:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131802 sandy alderson

An MMO Fan Shot By Andrew Doris

The two-year plan

The past two seasons, the Mets have finished 74-88. Over that time, they’ve dumped all their albatross contracts (except Bobby Bonilla…) and resolved the Bernie Madoff lawsuit, such that management finally appears capable of investing in the team. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but Sandy Alderson has said the team has about $30 million to spend this off-season if he chooses. This post assumes they are serious, and aims to shed light on the wisest way to invest that money.

It’s reasonable to assume that without any major off-season additions, the Mets might finish 74-88 again in 2014. That might even be optimistic, because they’ve lost two key producers from last season already: Matt Harvey and Marlon Byrd. Perhaps young players will develop and improve enough to replace those losses, but even if that’s the case, they would still just be treading water to match last year’s output. It’s safe to say the current roster is no better than a 74 win team.

With that in mind, it is highly unlikely the Mets will win the World Series next season – there are just too many holes to fill in one off-season with the money and trade chips at Alderson’s disposal. A more realistic approach is to view the next two off-seasons as stepping stones to serious contention – a sort of “two-year plan” to get this team among the league’s elite.

Phase one of this plan should be to improve the team by enough that the fans take notice and tune in for 2014. The piqued interest would increase ticket sales and TV revenue, and ideally enable additional payroll expansions (read: player acquisitions) in phase two – next off-season and beyond.

However, doing this will require a team that, as Fred Wilpon famously put it back in 2004, is “playing meaningful games in September”, and a 74 win team does not match that criteria. How much does Alderson need to improve the roster to make that team a reality?

In a division with the Braves and Nationals, I suspect the Mets will need to win at least 85 games to even compete for the playoffs. Last year the Nationals won 86 and still finished 4 games out of the wildcard race. To actually make the playoffs, they may need to win 90, but I think Mets fans would be satisfied with 85 if it meant they stayed in the hunt until late in the season.

The question Alderson must answer, therefore, is this: how can he improve the team by 10 wins or more this off-season, without impeding his flexibility to make even more acquisitions next year? If the Mets are to navigate this question successfully, it behooves them to consider what options might be at their disposal next off-season. This foresight is particularly necessary at their positions of need, because those are the spots at which the greatest improvement can be made.

As I see it, the Mets’ greatest positions of need are OF, SS, 1B and SP, in that order. I put SP last because it is the only one of those holes that exists only in the short term. With the return of Harvey and the ascent of Syndergaard, Mejia, Montero, DeGrom and even Robles all expected by 2015, pitching shouldn’t be a problem over the long term (unless some of those names get traded filling one of the other three holes). By the time we’re seriously contending for a world series, that hole will ideally have filled itself. Neither OF, SS, nor 1B, however, have any promising minor leaguers nearing an MLB arrival date, so it makes the most sense to target external additions at those positions.

The options at shortstop:

Let’s start at SS. As Mets fans know, this was one of our biggest areas of need last year, with Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla combining for a woeful -1.7 WAR on the season. The 2014 free agent class has two primary options at SS: Stephen Drew, and Jhonny Peralta. Although these are good players, both are on the wrong side of 30 with health concerns, and both may cost around $12 million a year on a multi-year contract. The 2015 class, by contrast, features a whole host of interesting names: Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Hanley Ramirez, and Jed Lowrie. Furthermore, each of those players play on teams that are often open to trading players in contract years, such that Sandy might be able to land them in a deadline deal this upcoming summer depending on where everyone is in the standings.

For this reason, I recommend the Mets hold off on signing a big-name SS this winter, when the market is thin and prices are high. This has the added benefit of giving Ruben Tejada a few more months to turn things around. Even if the Mets don’t view Tejada as their SS of the future, it is unwise to sell low, and Tejada’s value has never been lower. A solid start to 2014 might improve his trade value and net them something better in return than they could get right now.

The options in the outfield:

Next up is OF. Even if we assume that light-hitting Juan Lagares is the answer in CF, the Mets have only one MLB caliber starting outfielder on their roster, with no help from the minors in sight (short of Cesar Puello, who has some questions to answer). If they are to get away with Lagares in CF, they desperately need some offense from the corner OF spots. Thankfully, the 2014 free agent class has several big name outfielders that could serve as the power-hitting cleanup hitter Terry Collins needs. Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Nelson Cruz could all fit that mold, while Jacoby Ellsbury could busy our competition on the market and make those other names more affordable (higher supply of marquee OF’s = lower price for each one). Additionally, there are several big name outfielders rumored to be on the trading block this winter, from Jose Bautista to Giancarlo Stanton to Matt Kemp to Andre Ethier. 2015, by contrast, has very few exciting names under 35 years old. Colby Rasmus is pretty good, but after that it goes downhill fast: Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Jonny Gomes, Emilio Bonifacio, Nate Schierholtz, Norichika Aoki, Chris Denorfia…you get the picture.

Curtis+GrandersonFor these reasons, it’s imperative that the Mets land at least one marquee, power-hitting outfielder this offseason, even if they have to sign him to a long term deal. Ellsbury and Choo may be outside our price range, but I think Curtis Granderson could be an excellent fit. He’s certainly comfortable in New York; in his first three years with the Yankees, Granderson was a superstar, averaging 36 homers per season with an 11% walk rate. Before you argue that was inflated by Yankee stadium, realize that Granderson averaged 18.5 road home runs from 2011-2012, which is more than any current Mets OF could provide in an entire season.

The 2013 season was lost to fluke injuries stemming from two stray fastballs, but before that Granderson was extremely durable, averaging 153 games a season from 2010-2012. His speed and defense will decline with age, but keep in mind what it’s declining from: a speedy, gold-glove caliber centerfielder. If the Mets shift him to LF to accommodate Lagares, he’d still offer plus defense and base-running in the short term, without being anything close to a liability in the long run. Granderson also has a reputation for being one of the most amiable players in the game, making him a fan favorite and a great locker room presence. He does strike out a lot, but that’s nitpicking, especially when you consider the much larger flaws of any 2015 option. In a deep market, Granderson could probably be had on a 3-4 year deal at $14-15 million per year, which still leaves Alderson enough flexibility to sign a SP and some role players for 2014. If they miss out on Granderson, I’d suggest Carlos Beltran or Nelson Cruz as high-ceiling fallbacks. If we felt like signing two outfielders, Nate McLouth might warrant consideration.

The options at first base:

Finally, we have 1B. With Jose Abreu gone to the White Sox, this year’s free agent class features interesting options like Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales, and Corey Hart. 2015, by contrast, has very few good options under the age of 35 (assuming the Royals use their club option to pick up Billy Butler’s contract). Using the above logic, this would seem to imply that if the Mets are to get an external option to man 1B, this is the offseason to do it. If Sandy chooses to go that route, I’d support the decision.

However, I don’t think first base is such a dire necessity as is the outfield, for the simple reason that the Mets have better in-house options to man the former than they do the latter. Between Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Josh Satin, Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy, the Mets have five candidates for one position. With the exception of Flores, none of those candidates have a career OPS below .746. Even if only one or two of those options work out, Terry Collins could probably cobble together moderate levels of production by riding the hot hand. The options in the OF, by contrast, inspire much less confidence: Eric Young Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, and Matt den Dekker. None of those guys have a career OPS over .672 – none have a track record to prove they are major league caliber hitters. Until Cesar Puello (who has his own question marks) gets called up, these four AAAA guys would be competing for two vacancies, and the result would be woeful even if nobody got hurt.

TL;DR:

The bottom line is this: if the Mets are serious on improving the team in 2014 while maintaining the flexibility to make additional improvements next winter, they should devote this off-season to acquiring at least one marquee OF, either via a trade or via free agency. Then, they should sign a high-upside veteran starting pitcher to a short, cheap, incentive laden deal, as well as a backup catcher and some affordable bullpen arms. However, they should hold off on acquiring a SS upgrade until the market thickens, and if money’s tight, they should also hold off on committing to an external 1B until they have more information on the viability of their internal options.

By following this blueprint and getting a little lucky, the Mets should be able to plug all their holes with capable and exciting players in a cost efficient way before the 2015 season, while still improving enough in the short term to make 2014 exciting. Only time will tell if Sandy Alderson agrees.

bleed orange & blue  button

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Featured Post: Does A “Mets Way” Exist? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/featured-post-does-a-mets-way-exist.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/featured-post-does-a-mets-way-exist.html/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 08:03:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131619 wright wilpon aldersonWednesday night marked the beginning of the World Series and the two teams which have been praised all postseason long for having outstanding systems and team building began to battle one another for the championship. While the manner in which these League Champs were built is certainly much more complicated than the way the mass media is letting on, here are the basic structures of Boston and St. Louis in a nutshell. Boston added multiple mid-tier yet talented free agents who were “hungry for the challenge of winning” to fill the holes left by last year’s roster purge which also supplements their homegrown and retained talent. St. Louis built their lineup from within supplementing their previous free agent acquisitions with an emphasis on superior player development in their farm system and winning with a young big league roster.

These two teams have been praised by the media as well as many who follow and report on the Mets. And rightly so. Playing in the World Series obviously means whatever you are doing to build a championship caliber team is working very well. Many have even said the Mets need to follow the lead of either or both of these teams and model their off-season plans off of Boston and St. Louis’ 2013 success. I don’t dispute any of that. But don’t the Mets already have a system of their own in place? Under our current front office, isn’t there a “Mets Way?”

Presumably, yes. Fans have been force fed over the last few years that the Mets have a system as well and that in 2014 we would begin to see the fruits of said system’s labor. What are the cornerstones of the Mets Way? Based on what we’ve seen over the last few years I’d say the Mets Way consists of the following:

  1. Stockpile young power pitching prospects
  2. Hold OBP in high esteem and teach pitch recognition and the importance of getting on base throughout your player development system.
  3. In the off season when filling holes, shop for bargain bin players with high upside that can possibly be traded for more farm depth if your season is tanking.
  4. Do not overpay or offer too many contract years for a free agent. (ex. Michael Bourn vs. Marlon Byrd)
  5. Do not give up your 1st round draft pick in order to sign a “Type-A” free agent.

This is all well and good. The basic idea is to build from within with an emphasis on young power pitching. No sane baseball minded person would argue that that is the wrong way to do things under the current CBA. In taking cursory glances at both teams in this World Series, you will see young homegrown pitchers as well as young homegrown bats. These types of players are cheap and under team control for many years. The idea is to surround them (and fill your holes) with talent from outside the organization with the money you are saving by developing guys in your farm. Add a statistical analytic edge which is taught and hammered down across the various levels of your organization and you have the basics of what we are being sold on as The Mets Way.

terry collins sandy aldersonMany doubt that anything of value will be done this off season based on what we have seen the last few years. I don’t blame them. The Wilpons have not exactly opened their wallets to Sandy Alderson since he and his team have been here. Part of the blame also lies with Sandy seemingly being slow to act. He has been notorious for adding the final pieces just as Spring Training is rolling around, sometimes missing out on some potentially good fits. Whether this is a result of broke owners and negotiating his budget or if Sandy truly is too slow to act and too slow to shell out cash, what’s done is done.

But this year is different. In addition to being the year the front office promised would be the year of making a run at it, money seems to not be of a concern to ownership now. How coincidental! Sterling Equities and Mike “Luxury Condo” Bloomberg have even joined forces to approve plans for construction of a shopping mall and luxury apartment complex right next to Citi Field. To really top it all off Bloomberg Inc valued all the Major League Baseball clubs this week and the New York Mets clocked in at $2 billion.

Is this all for real? The Mets are still visibly losing money at the gate every year. Revenue has dipped to horrible levels, SNY viewership has tanked, and their own flagship radio station just kicked them off the air in favor of the Yankees. How can there suddenly be money to spend? The only thing that truly solves the financial issues The Mets have been facing is winning, and there hasn’t been much of that going on at all either. But if the Wilpons are building shopping mall/condo complexes and Mayor Bloomberg’s company is valuing this franchise as high as they are… could the most dire of money concerns truly be in the past? Was the exchange between Fred and Sandy similar to that of Lieutenant Dan and Forrest Gump?

Forrest Gump: So then I got a call from him saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said, “That’s good! One less thing.”

I will believe in The Mets Way when I see it in action this winter and going forward. Put up or shut up. Ownership knows this to be true. Our GM knows this to be true. Because of that self awareness alone, I believe this team will spend money this winter. Not gobs and gobs of cash like those teams in LA or The Bronx, but money will be spent.

If we sit through another winter of nothing much happening and yet another Opening Day roster of AAA and AAAA players is shuffled out for our viewing displeasure, then mark my words there will be a true fan revolt and a baseball apathy unlike any this city has ever seen will fill the New York City air. Yankees fans are already extremely apathetic about their team and they haven’t even grazed the surface of what Mets fans have suffered through since 2009. The Mets have a serious chance to steal the heart and soul of this town again in the coming years.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Mets fans are among the most passionate in baseball. When this team wins, this city absolutely rocks. If 2014 is another wasted year with no progress, then I’m afraid that passion may finally be extinguished. Here’s hoping I’m right, we are gifted with a real live major league roster, and Sandy finally gives us something to really cheer for.

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Managers May Be Able To Challenge Umpire’s Calls Beginning In 2014 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/managers-may-be-able-to-challenge-umpires-calls-beginning-in-2014.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/managers-may-be-able-to-challenge-umpires-calls-beginning-in-2014.html/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 18:02:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=127210 bud-selig 3The Associated Press reports that baseball as we know it could be changing forever beginning next season.

Major League Baseball is expanding its video review process next season, giving managers a tool they’ve never had.

Commissioner Bud Selig calls it a historic moment for the game in a press conference in Cooperstown after two days of meetings with representatives of the 30 teams. The proposal is to be voted on by the owners in November.

Managers will be allowed one challenge over the first six innings of games and two after the seventh inning until the end of the game. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by a crew in MLB headquarters in New York City, which will make the final ruling.

MLB vice president Joe Torre gave the replay presentation to representatives from all 30 teams on Wednesday and it was discussed Thursday morning.

A 75 percent vote by the owners is needed for approval and the players’ association and umpires would have to agree to any changes to the current system.

Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, a member of the replay committee, says the umpires are receptive to the change. Schuerholz says 89 percent of incorrect calls made in the past will be reviewable.

Wow, I wonder how the owners will vote on this… Usually, Selig always gets his way especially with some strong-arming from his biggest allies like Fred Wilpon…

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Having Cash vs Spending Cash: There Is A Difference You Know… http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/having-cash-vs-spending-cash-there-is-a-difference-you-know.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/having-cash-vs-spending-cash-there-is-a-difference-you-know.html/#comments Fri, 19 Jul 2013 14:22:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=125313 dorothy_oh_my

The top of the food chain on the New York Mets have been out in full force the past 4-5 days with one clear and concise message, “We have plenty of money to spend, and we’re gonna spend it… maybe.”

In a series of four separate broadcast interviews and two print interviews, Fred and Jeff Wilpon have been telling the world: Financial problems? What financial problems?

Both Mets owners have been making the rounds on WFAN, ESPN, and FOX and yesterday Fred spoke to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, and added even more clarification to what the immediate future may hold for the Mets.

“I think Sterling’s position is excellent. The Mets’ business is excellent.”

“We haven’t turned Sandy Alderson down on anything.”

In regards to whether the team will return to a $140 million payroll, Wilpon told Sandomir, “I asked Sandy about that. He said he couldn’t invest that much money.”

Alderson has been saying as much since last December and in fact his first words as Mets GM, even before he realized what he was walking into, was that he saw no reason why the Mets couldn’t win with a payroll of around $100 million. His first thoughts about his new team was that a $140 million payroll was too much even in a market as large as New York City.

I’ve oftentimes wrote here that spending large is not in this man’s DNA and if you expect that to change then you really haven’t figured out what Alderson is about yet. He is not about paying market value or above on any player – free agent or otherwise. Put away those thoughts of Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Perish the thoughts of Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton, it’s not happening.

As I’ve ascertained on many occasions, business is booming at Sterling Equities and the rising values far eclipse any debt that tiny division called the New York Mets may have. To put it more succinctly, the Wilpons are going nowhere.

“We don’t need to sell,” Wilpon said, adding that the Mets had not refinanced their bank debt of $300 million to $400 million, due next year. “We have thousands of apartments; they’re full up and we have opportunities to refinance or sell,” he said.

Jeff Wilpon, only days prior, said that Sandy has always had full autonomy to spend and as to why he hasn’t, one should ask him. “It’s his team, his plan, and his decision.”

When he was asked about this in March, Alderson replied, “I have plenty of money to spend, but that doesn’t mean I have to. If you are unhappy with current payroll levels, don’t blame Mr. Wilpon, blame me.”

Now, nearly four months later, Alderson spoke with David Lennon of Newsday yesterday and said, “the payroll will be substantially higher than $55 million, and could approach $100 million in 2014.”

“There’s a substantial capacity there and hopefully we can use it,” the GM said.

Certainly not a sign that that payroll is to go up anytime soon, even in a year that was supposed to be the metamorphosis for the franchise.

“Was 2014 always a target year? Yeah. It should be an important year for us.”

He also took blame for his run of sizable contracts that have largely been busts. “Something that has disappointed me is the inability to get any real performance out of some of the bigger investments that have been made.”

As I always say, Sandy is a nice guy, but if you think he’s going to dole out money like Frank Cashen did for Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and Bobby Ojeda, or like Steve Phillips did for Mike Piazza, Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura, or like Omar Minaya did for Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez, you’ve got the wrong man.

To bring any marquee free agents to this team will require some serious overpaying – something that won’t happen with Sandy at the helm.

To acquire and major talent via trade will require some heated heated bidding wars that will drive the price up – again, something I don’t see happening.

When confronted with either of those situations this offseason, like a frightened turtle, the Mets retreated into their protective shell. That – in an offseason where there was about $20 million available dollars that went unspent…

There’s something to be said about having ample cash on hand and not spending it, as compared to having no cash at all.  The latter hasn’t really been a valid excuse for almost a year now. The cash is there, however the willingness to spend it has yet to peak its head outside of that protective tortoise shell.

The Mets will have $45 million to spend this offseason and that’s just to keep payroll at current levels and includes no budgetary increase. I doubt very much that it will be enough to dole out raises that are due and still have enough for a signature piece. Expect more Cowgill, Brown and Byrd type acquisitions.

turtle

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Wilpon Joins Alderson In Painting A Better Tomorrow, But I Need More Than Just Talk http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/wilpon-joins-alderson-in-painting-a-better-tomorrow-but-i-need-more-than-just-talk.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/wilpon-joins-alderson-in-painting-a-better-tomorrow-but-i-need-more-than-just-talk.html/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 00:13:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=122304 fred wilpon

Fred Wilpon spoke with Steven Marcus of Newsday on Monday and said he is confident in Sandy Alderson’s plan for the Mets. The Mets owner added that things will improve now that the big unproductive contracts are coming off the books.

“We’re coming to the end of the time when we have had an overhang of players who got hurt or didn’t play well, and I think that Sandy Alderson and his staff have a plan.”

“I know some people are impatient about it. But they do have a plan and they’re executing on their plan and I think things are in the right direction. It’s hard to say that when the team loses four, five in a row.”

“I get it, I suffer with it. I think that we have to see that plan become successful because in today’s world it’s not how much money you spend — although we have invested a lot of money.”

My position remains the same as always, I’ll believe they are spending when I see it. The onus is on them.

As far as I’m concerned Alderson was brought here by Bud Selig to keep the current owners from losing control of the team, and everything Sandy has done since taking over has been to that end. He has helped them to become entrenched and stave off any financial uncertainty.

Alderson actually spoke to fans on Friday and said he was ready to spend and add quality major leaguers.

“This is excruciating, I know,” Alderson said, “It is excruciating for the fans and excruciating for me. I know people don’t want to hear this, but we are approaching the end of the cleanup. I’m not using that as an excuse. I’m not writing off the season. But there are reasons why we are where we are.”

“People want to know when we’re going to have more good players,” Alderson continued. “I believe we’re about to have more good players. Zack Wheeler pitches Tuesday. And if the right trade presents itself down the line, believe me, we’ll make it.”

I wish I could believe that… But we were promised good players before the Winter Meetings. Where are they? We were promised good players after the Winter Meetings. Where are they? This is an awful team. The outfield is still a train-wreck, the bullpen is again the worst in the majors for the third year in a row, and now we have gaping holes at first base and shortstop with no solid options to fill those positions.

As for “The Plan” and the “Rebuild” that is not a rebuild, I’ll weigh in after I see at least one .500 season first. At least that would symbolize a modicum of some progress albeit a small one.

For now, the team is on pace for 100 losses. This much is true.

There’s still a lot of work to be done… We have been losing more games than we’ve been winning for three straight years now – five if you want to count the last regime. Meanwhile all we get is these semi annual pleas for patience…

It’s hard to smell any future success when we are still surrounded by the stench of failure.

Put your money where your mouth is, Fred and Sandy…

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