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.
The Mets Fan
How You Became a Mets Fan
I’ve asked myself this question many times. How DID I become a Mets fan??? Well, the answer is . . . I don’t flipping know. To me, it feels like one of those things that just is. Like time. When did time become time? It is man made after all. For me, that’s the Mets. It just feels like it’s always been. My first Met memories though are of being 4/5 years old and me and my brother rubbing this little sculpture in our living room to give Darryl Strawberry “Homerun Power!”
Favorite Mets Player
To pick just one would be crazy. But, ugh Jesus… I have the weirdest players I connect with. Jose Vizcaino was def one, Lance Johnson was my fav player, while with the Mets, certainly John Olerud…. if I had to pick ONE Met that resides above all other Mets . . . Fonzie… Piazza…. it’s tough to pick ONE. All of the above! And Al Leiter. Leiter and Bobby Jones and Rick Reed… haha I could go on forever.
Favorite Moment in Mets HistoryBefore 2015 is have to say Pratt’s HR in the post season. Maybe the 99 play in game vs the reds. That ’99 team was my fav Mets team. Ever. But 2015 was magical. It was a shame we couldn’t guide it home all the way. But that year, we should all be thankful for that magic year.
Message to Mets Fans
Don’t Jump. All things ebb and flow and things will get better. Or worse. Idk. We are in this together though.
The Mets Fan
My name is Derek Carty. I’m the former fantasy manager for sabermetric sites Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times (now part of FanGraphs), but I’m best known these days for my work in Daily Fantasy. I write for ESPN, was on Baseball Tonight during the 2015 season, and put out content through RotoGrinders, including my DFS projection system THE BAT, which has been shown to outperform even Vegas lines.
How You Became a Mets Fan
Favorite Mets Player
Mike Piazza, and it’s not close. Everyone agrees he’s the best hitting catcher of all time, but he was an incredibly underrated defender that got shafted because of the era he played in. He had a bad arm, and that’s all anyone ever focused on back then. But a catcher’s arm is much less important than his framing, and Baseball Prospectus’s retro framing stats show that he was +60 runs above average for his career. He gave some back with the arm, but for his career he was actually a well above-average defender, despite a reputation as a bad one. This is the greatest catcher of all time. Not the greatest hitting catcher. The greatest catcher. Not getting into the Hall on the first ballot was an absolute joke.
Favorite Moment in Met History
2000 NLCS Game 5. I remember listening to “Who Let the Mets Out” on repeat lol.
Message to Mets Fans
“Try not to cry”? That’s been my motto. The way they handled the trade deadline (specifically Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce) was terrible, the Bruce deal this off-season was bad, the way they’ve handled their pitchers has been bad. Seriously, what were they thinking with Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz last year? I really want to be optimistic, but it’s tough. There is *some* reason for it. I like the Todd Frazier deal. I like that they are trying to fix the training staff. I think the A-Gon deal is an okay low-risk move. But as long as the Wilpons are in charge, I have a hard time seeing this organization ever really turning a corner. I have them projected for 84 wins this year, which is solid and could put them in contention for the Second Wild Card, but that’s assuming relatively good health. A team in a market like NYC needs to be better, even if they have to tear it all down first.
In what is a yearly tradition, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a fan vote over which player should be inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame. For a number of reasons, the Mets do not hold such a vote for their fanbase, but in vein of what the Cardinals are doing, the Mets Bloggers tackle the issue of who should be the next Mets great inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame:
What about owners? Nelson Doubleday Jr.
On Sunday, I published a tongue-in-cheek recommendation as to what promotions the Mets should have during the 2018 season. The original concept of the post was the Mets promotional schedule feels like it is lacking this year, and the team should be looking for better ways to honor their players.
With that in mind, I asked the Mets Blogger Roundtable what promotions they would like to see the Mets institute during the 2018 season:
The Mets should re-introduce Old Timers Day. Promotions are nice, but they generally consist of things which either break, get lost, forgotten, or all three. Old Timers Day can be traditional and memorable as fans connect emotionally with the players. Sure, there’s no sponsored bobble head doll, hat, or a fidget spinner that goes with it – sometimes the greatest souvenir can be reconnecting with the past, which is why what such a day would be so great for everyone involved.
There was a character on “Rick and Morty” called “Mr. Meeseeks.” He lived only to fix one problem of yours before ceasing to exist. He wanted to cease to be, is the thing – his catch phrase is “Existence is pain!” Naturally, some unknown hero on the internet created a “Mr. Metseeks.” My interpretation of Mr. Metseeks is Mr. Metseeks cannot die until the Mets win the World Series. We all started kind, then have only grown more bitter, and increasing irritated over the years, when the Mets did not fulfill their destiny. We are all Mr. Metseeks. Let’s have an action figure of ourselves some Saturday in 2018. Why? Because a “Jay Brews” shirt sends the wrong message to the youths.
Ernest Dove (MMO & MMN)
As a South Florida resident and fan of the High-A St. Lucie Mets, I can’t help but suggest the MLB Mets model the St. Lucie Mets with $1 beer $1 hot dog night. With ticket prices continuing to skyrocket, I think it would be a great idea for Mets to win over their fans with a night of cheap food and drinks. I’m not suggesting bottles of beer. I’m talking $1 plastic cups here. It might pack the place. And along with the obvious on the alcohol, this would also allow for parents to ensure all their kids are fed. Do it!
Old Timer’s Day; as a kid I always loved Mets Old Timer’s Day, and frankly, I miss it dearly.
In 2009, the New York Times quoted then-Mets executive Dave Howard: “It was particularly unpopular as a promotion. We didn’t see an increase in ticket sales or interest from sponsors or even from people who already had tickets. It died of its own unpopularity in the early ’90s. We felt we were better served by bringing our alumni back over several days instead of one day.”
Now, I liked Dave Howard, nice guy, but that statement was crap. a) outside of a rare 1986 tribute when the hell do the Mets ever “bring their alumni back?”
Maybe be creative? Maybe call it “Amazin Day,” and combine the old Photo Day with an autograph day, have the former Mets like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Art Shamsky, Mookie Wilson, Rusty Staub, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza, Felix Millan, etc. gather at Citi Field and have a Mets fan’s dream of a day? Yeah, it would cost money, but it’d be sold out and there are a thousand marketing ideas that would make it a must-have ticket (and memorabilia money maker) every year!
The idea that Mets fans wouldn’t embrace a day to celebrate their team’s history is ridiculous.
I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video without doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback, and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity. In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.
Why? If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed? Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans. Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.
With the Mets signing Todd Frazier, the team has added a third baseman who has averaged 30 homers since the 2013 season. In their history, the Mets have seen third baseman who could hit for that type of power. However, there have not been that many who have been able to do so.
Are you able to name the third baseman in Mets history who have hit the most homers? Good luck!
Heading into the 1999 season, the Mets desperately needed another infielder. After debating names like B.J. Surhoff, the Mets went with 30 year old Robin Ventura, who was arguably coming off his worst season at the plate since his first full season in the majors.
While Ventura’s bat may have been a bit of a question mark, his glove wasn’t. At the time he was signed, Ventura was widely regarded as one of the best defensive third baseman in the game – if not THE best. With him alongside Rey Ordonez, the Mets knew from a defensive perspective they were going to have the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.
As it turns out, it was much more than that. With John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets assembled what many regard as the best defensive infield. Both Ventura and Ordonez would win Gold Gloves giving that infield the metal it needed to prove the point.
More than that, Ventura was rejuvenated as a Met. In 1999, he had his best every year hitting an astounding .301/.379/.529 with 32 homers and 120 RBI. He would amass the third most WAR among NL position players, and he would finish sixth in the MVP voting. As we know, he still had some magic left, as with this help of Todd Pratt, he would launch the Grand Slam Single in Game 5 of the NLCS.
After his Mets career, Ventura would eventually find himself as a manger of the Chicago White Sox, and he would manage Todd Frazier, the player who is now looking to pick up his mantle from the 1999 season.
Frazier has built himself a reputation as a good defensive third baseman. In 2017, among players with over a thousand innings at third base, he had the third highest DRS trailing just Nolan Arenado and Evan Longoria. With Frazier now joining Amed Rosario on the left side of the infield, the Mets promise to have the best defensive left side of the infield they have had in decades. Along with the San Francisco Giants, they are on the short list of teams that can argue they have the best defensive left side of the infield in baseball.
At the plate, Frazier is a good hitter. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged a .243/.322/.464 batting line with 33 homers and 86 RBI. That equates to a 113 OPS+ and wRC+. Many will knock him for his declining batting average, but it should be noted last year, he had a career best .344 OBP and 14.4% walk rate. In sum, his batting average is going down, but he’s getting on base more frequently.
Like Ventura, there’s optimism for a much improved season at the plate. We have already seen him become a more patient hitter at the plate. We have also seen him post an absurdly low .236 and .226 BABIP in succeeding years. Part of that is Ventura is a dead pull hitter making it easier to shift against him. Seeing how low those marks are and how hard he hits the ball, there’s some bad luck involved.
All of this makes him a prime candidate for a turnaround similar to what we saw with Jay Bruce last year. The Mets will give him the information and will have him work with Pat Roessler. This should allow Frazier to have a much improved year at the plate.
If that is the case, Frazier is going to have a great year with the Mets. And while he’s admittedly not as good a player as Ventura was, he can have a similar impact. Frazier can be the guy in the clubhouse blasting “Mo Jo Rising,” helps create a great left side infield defense, and deepen the Mets lineup.
And if all that happens, this could be a postseason team, which should give us excitement over what heroics we are about to see next.
Each and every offseason, I have seen the Mets part with players who are easy to root for. In my life, I have seen the Mets part ways with Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Murphy, and many more. Having seen my some of my all-time favorite players depart has never made it easy to see the team depart with some of the players I have come to respect and root for during their time in a Mets uniform – no matter how long it lasted.
Recently, the Mets parted with two relievers, each of whom played less than two full seasons in a Mets uniform. Presumably, the moves were necessary as the Mets needed to make room on the 40 man roster for the newly re-signed Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes. Still, seeing those two relievers, you question if the Mets made the right decision.
The first reliever the Mets designated for assignment was Chasen Bradford.
In retrospect, it is interesting the Mets were even in a position to DFA Bradford. For a number of years, he had been Rule 5 eligible with the rest of MLB not giving him much of a look. The Mets didnt’ either, and if not for the series of injuries that beset the Mets this past season, it’s possible Bradford would have departed the team as a minor league free agent without getting so much as a chance.
Well, Bradford got his chance, and he proved he’s a MLB caliber pitcher. In 28 appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.277 WHIP. After a somewhat tough July, he went on a 12 appearance stretch where he allowed just one run in 16.2 innings.
In fact, from August until the end of the season, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings over 23 appearances. During that stretch, he had amassed 20 scoreless appearances, and he had nine appearances over an inning in length. In sum, Bradford showed he could go out there and get Major League batters out no matter the situation.
There other reliever designated for assignment was Josh Smoker.
Smoker’s story is one of perseverance. After being the Nationals 2007 first round draft pick, he would suffer a torn rotator cuff and labrum. This would cause the Nationals to release him thereby putting his professional baseball career in jeopardy.
A healthy Smoker proved himself in the Frontier League leading to his getting signed by the Mets. Two years later, Smoker found himself part of a bullpen that helped pitch the Mets to the postseason. Given his talent and perseverance, it was not surprise Smoker would be a part of the 2017 Opening Day bullpen.
What was a surprise was how Terry Collins used him. Really, his manager showed a willful disregard for a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues. It was almost as if Collins learned nothing from his handling of Johan Santana and Jim Henderson. Eventually, Smoker had another shoulder injury. Thankfully, it was not as serious as it would not require seasons ending surgery.
Once again, Smoker would have to re-prove himself, and re-prove himself he did. In the second half, Smoker was 0- 0 with a 2.63 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 22 appearances. Perhaps of more importance, Smoker found himself a capable pitcher against left-handed batters making him an even greater weapon in the bullpen.
However, like Bradford, Smoker will be a weapon in someone else’s bullpen.
After being designated for assignment, Bradford signed a minor league deal with the Mariners. To risk not losing him on waivers, Smoker was traded to the Pirates for minor league left-handed reliever Daniel Zamora. With that, the Mets have ridded themselves of two relievers who not only provided themselves capable of getting out Major League batters, but also two relievers who showed perseverance in getting themselves to this point. That’s no small thing to lose.
As we learned during Player’s Weekend, Bradford’s nickname is Black Bear, and Smoker’s nickname is Brown Bear. While it may seem a bit much, considering their nicknames, it’s fair to say it’s difficult to bear knowing neither pitcher will be a part of the Mets next season.
Fortunately for both of them, they are now with new organizations who likely value them all the more. They deserve that, and all Mets fans should wish them the best of luck.
Recently in the news, it was reported former Mets great Al Leiter will be a part of a 20 person class that will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Of all the people inducted, Leiter will be the only baseball player.
It is interesting Leiter is being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but he is not being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Last year, I made the case for his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. Rather than regurgitate the full case here, I’ll quickly note he’s in the Top 10 in wins, strikeouts, and ERA+ in what has been a pitching rich Mets history.
As it stands, from that era of Mets baseball, only Mike Piazza and John Franco have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. As we know, Piazza is a Hall of Famer who has had his number retired by the team. Franco, the Mets leader in saves, had his best years before Leiter even joined the team.
Behind Piazza and Franco, there are some Mets from those late 90s, early 2000s teams that certainly merit induction.
In three years with the Mets, Robin Ventura won a Gold Glove, hit .260/.360/.468, and he had an all-time great postseason moment with the Grand Slam Single.
You could argue John Olerud had a similar, albeit not as great impact, on the Mets as Keith Hernandez. He came over in what became a ridiculously lopsided trade, and once he become a Met, the team had taken off.
With Olerud in the fold, the Mets went from a 71 to an 88 win team. If not for Mel Rojas, that 1998 team probably makes the postseason. In 1999, Olerud was a key part of a Mets team that won the Wild Card and went to the NLCS.
And speaking of that 1998 team, there is Todd Hundley. Still to this day, Hundley remains the Mets single season home run leader.
Certainly, you can make arguments against some of these players, but ultimately, the fact the great contributions of Mets players who helped bring the team to consecutive postseasons has been far overlooked by this franchise. It needs to be remedied, and it can start with Leiter adding Mets Hall of Famer to his New Jersey Hall of Famer resume.
On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.
Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.
Fred: What do you mean build?
Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address. We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –
Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!
Mickey: And I’m thankful for that. But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen. You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go. We need at least one more guy.
Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.
Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.
Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.
Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?
M. Donald Grant: It is.
Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?
M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.
M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?
Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!
M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!
Fred: The horror.
M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.
Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.
M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.
And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?
Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.
Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.
Fred: Am I dead?
Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.
With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.
Fred: What a dump!
Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.
Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.
Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.
Fred: But they don’t understand.
Gary: Let’s see what happened next.
With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.
Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?
Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.
Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .
Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.
Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .
As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.
Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll. We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.
Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!
Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.
Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.
Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.
Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.
Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –
Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll. The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.
Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.
Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom. We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads. We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.
Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.
A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.
Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.
David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.
Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.
David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.
Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.
David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.
Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.
Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.
Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.
Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.
David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.
Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.
Fred: What, what happened to him?
Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.
Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz. Even Zack Wheeler returned. We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.
David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.
Woman: What happened?
David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .
As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.
Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.
Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.
Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.
Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.
Worker 1: Good riddance!
Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?
With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.
Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.
Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.
Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?
Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.
Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.
Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.
As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.
Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .
As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.
Reporter: How do you feel today?
Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.
Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?
Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior. I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.
Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!
Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?
Jeff: Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –
Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!
With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.
The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.
Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!
Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.
Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.
Mickey: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!
David: God bless us everyone!