In 1997, the team had a surprising 88 win season with young players like Edgardo Alfonzo beginning to make his mark, accomplished players like John Olerud rejuvenating their careers, and players like Rick Reed seemingly coming out of nowhere to be good Major League players. With a brash Bobby Valentine at the helm, many expected the Mets to make the leap in 1998.
As the 1998 season unfolded, it wasn’t to be, and that was mainly because their star catcher Todd Hundley had offseason elbow surgery which was going to keep him out for a while.
The Mets did start well. On May 13th, the Mets were 19-15, albeit seven games back in the division. Then, the following day, shockwaves went through Major League Baseball, and not just because the Mets were swept in a doubleheader by the Padres. No, out of nowhere Mike Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins.
It was an absolute blockbuster with Piazza and Todd Zeile going to the Marlins, who just dismantled the 1997 World Series winning team, for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield.
Everyone in baseball knew the Marlins were looking to flip Piazza for prospects, and a talented Mets farm system seemed to make them one of the favorites if they were interested. Problem was, they weren’t interested.
After this trade happened, the Mets would fall to nine games out in the division. While this was happening, Mike and the Mad Dog would take to the air day-in and day-out clamoring for the Mets to go out and get Piazza. Their assault was relentless.
While a noted blowhard, you can never discount how public pressure forces teams to act. After all if we look back to 2015, with all that happened, we did see the Mets swing a trade to obtain Yoenis Cespedes. The public pressure continued in the ensuring offseason with the team, who had already moved on from Cespedes by signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center, acquiescing and signing Cespedes to what was essentially a one year deal.
The team didn’t let things play out after the 2016 season. They jumped fairly quickly, and they signed Cespedes to a four year deal even with full knowledge of his heel issues. Certainly, much of this was the result of the public pressure, which was given a voice on New York airwaves by people like Francesca.
Now? Well, Francesca has gone from being an important voice to being a mouthpiece for the Wilpons.
He is now defending the Wilpons saying they are spending money. He notes how the team has the seventh highest payroll in the majors. That is patently false. Cots, Spotrac and Steve the Ump ranks the Mets payroll 12th. Really, everyone ranks the Mets payroll 12th.
The AP ranked the Yankees, not the Mets as having the seventh highest payroll. Maybe, Francesca read New York and was confused.
Putting the ranking aside, lost in that is the Mets recover 75% of David Wright‘s salary, which, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Jeff Wilpon has admitted does not get reinvested into baseball operations. That means the Mets payroll is actually $15 million less than advertised.
Dropping the Mets payroll by $15 million, the Mets payroll drops to 15th in the majors. With the $3 million saved in the Jeurys Familia trade, the payroll drops to 16th. Yes, a New York market team, who is currently refusing to give Jacob deGrom, currently the best starter in baseball, a contract extension, is in the bottom half of the league in spending.
For his part, Francesca defends this. He will say the Mets spend, but they don’t spend well. Nothing backs this up remotely. Nothing.
Instead of pointing the finger where it belongs, the Wilpons, he will continue to bash Mickey Callaway as if he is the scourge of the Mets organization. He will look at all the surrounds the Mets and mock them while failing to even consider pointing the blame at ownership.
And for all that, I’ve stopped listening to him. After over 30 years of listening to him, I’m done. And I suspect I will not be the only Mets fan who feels this way.