In their history, the Mets have had a number of truly awful free agent signings. Their foibles on the free agent market have inspired books, and they have led to the Mets having prolonged down periods which have led to the team being under .500 for extended periods and eventually rebuilding. Their mistakes are not limited to just any position. Really, they have made mistakes across the diamond:
C Rod Barajas (1 year, $500,000) – In the Mets history, they have had just four free agents catchers as their Opening Day starter with Barajas being one of them. With respect to Barajas, he was the cheap option in a truly uninspiring free agent group of catcher, and he would not last the season getting released towards the end of August.
1B Eddie Murray (2 years, $7.5 million) – Murray was the first piece the Mets locked down in what was to be known as the Worst Team Money Could Buy. In his previous stops, he was a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. With the Mets, Murray had two disappointing seasons where he hit .274/.330/.446.
2B Luis Castillo (4 years, $25 million) – In 2007, the Mets needed a second baseman, and the team was able to get Castillo for nearly nothing. While that team collapsed, Castillo was hardly to blame hitting .316/.404/.418 over the final month of the season. To that end, it made sense to bring him back but not for the extreme overpay which was immediately panned by everyone. Castillo would disappoint from that point forward, and eh woudl become a symbol of what was wrong with the team with the seminal moment being his dropping Alex Rodriguez‘s pop up leading to the Mets losing a game to the Yankees.
3B Todd Frazier (2 years, $17 million) – After a year in which Frazier had his first ever trips to the deisabled list and he had a careeer worst .390 SLG and .693 OPS, he was an obvious candidate. Frankly, the choice was much easier when you consider how well Robin Ventura played during his Mets tenure and the Mets predominantly using homegrown players or trades to fill the position.
SS Kazuo Matsui (3 years, $20.1 million) – Despite the presence of Jose Reyes, the Mets opted to sign Matsui to be their shortstop. It looked like a great move when Matsui homered in his first ever at=bat, but it was all downhill from there as Matsui disappointed at the plate and in the field. Matsui dealt with injuries, was moved to second base, had a negative WAR in his last two years with the Mets, and he was eventually traded for Eli Marrero, who lasted just two months with the Mets.
LF George Foster (5 years, $10 million) – The Mets first free agent splash was Foster, and in many ways, Foster set the tone for some for the big moves the Mets would make in the future. Foster would go from being an All Star who hit .295/.373/.519 to someone who hit .252/.307/.422 in a Mets uniform. Overall, Foster had a rocky tenure with the team, and he would be released in 1986 after making comments to the press.
CF Vince Coleman (4 years, $11.95 million) – It wasn’t enough the Mets let Darryl Strawberry go to the Dodgers they replaced them with Coleman, a player who tortured the Mets. If Mets fans didn’t despise him enough when he wore a Cardinals uniform, they certainly did during his Mets tenure which featured not just poor play but also throwing firecrackers at a group of fans.
RF Roger Cedeno (4 years, $18 million) Cedeno wasn’t just an important part of the 1999 team, but he would also serve as a key piece of the trade which brought the Mets Mike Hampton. When he was a free agent, the Mets pounced to bring him back. Just three years later, he was a shadow of the player he was leading to his being traded to Wilson Delgado.
SP Oliver Perez (3 year $36 million) – After being obtaine by the Padresx, Perez was great in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, won 15 games in 2007, and gave the Mets every chance to win in the final game every played in Shea Stadium. Despite all of that, there were red flags everywhere, and Perez predictably failed after getting his big free agent deal. He struggled, and he would refuse a stint in the minors leading to the team freezing him out. His Mets career would end in infamy as he was brought into the 14th inning of the final game of the season after not having pitched in nearly a month. He’d be released after the season with a one year and $12 million left on his deal.
RP Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, $37 million) -Needing a close, the Mets went out and signed the closer who just set the single season saves record to a massive contract. In his first year in the deal, he had the second most blown saves in the NL and a then career worst ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9. In the second year of his deal, he was placed on the restricted list after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend’s father in the family room at Citi Field. The Mets finally traded him in the last year of his deal to accomplish both rebuilding and to prevent an onerous option from being activated.
In Brodie Van Wagenen’s first offseason as Mets manager, it is incumbent upon him to navigate through the minefield of potential free agent busts which are lurking. The success of the 2019 Mets and his success during his tenure as the Mets General Manager depends on it.
Entering Arrowhead before the clash with the Bengals, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II was wearing his father’s Mets jersey. What is interesting is that of the six stops in his father’s career, this is the jersey which Mahomes opted to wear:
.@PatrickMahomes5 walks into Arrowhead wearing his dad's jersey!
— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2018
Perhaps, this is because Pat Mahomes best season in the majors was with the 1999 Mets. That year, Mahomes was a crucial long man in the bullpen for a Mets team that needed to win each and every last game. Thinking back on that season, if Mahomes had one hiccup, the Mets don’t force a one game playoff for the Wild Card.
As good as he was in the regular season, Mahomes was even better in the NLCS that year. In fact, if not for his pitching some of the most beloved moments in Mets history don’t happen. If he does not bail out Dennis Cook in the seventh inning and keep the Braves at bay in the beginning of the eighth inning in Game 5, we likely never see Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single.
In Game 6, Mahomes bailed out Al Leiter after he allowed five earned without even recording an out. Mahomes pitching four scoreless innings from there allowed the Mets to tie the game on the eventual Mike Piazza opposite field home run off John Smoltz in the seventh. Sure, that game ended in heartbreak, but the thrill of seeing that comeback was made possible by Mahomes.
Much like each of us Mets fans, the younger Mahomes was likely glued to his seat. Unlike the rest of us, Mahomes got to know the team in 1999 and 2000:
More proof the Mets let Patrick Mahomes Jr. get away: pic.twitter.com/vmNskZ5lly
— Roger Boogiewoogier (@yayroger) October 21, 2018
Whatever the reason, of all the teams Mahomes’ father played for during his career, his son seems to feel a closer to connection with the Mets. As a Mets fan, I was rooting for him to succeed because of what his father meant to the Mets during the 1999 season. Seeing him wear the Mets jersey last night is going to make me root for him all the more.
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.
Well, Opening Day is a week away, and Mets fans are getting excited for Mets baseball. Whether this will turn out to be 2015 or 2017 again remains to be seen. Depending on your point of view, you could argue the Mets winning the World Series just as competently as you could argue them having to once again sell at the trade deadline. With this season really up in the air, we turned to our Roundtable, and we asked them what they expect the Mets to do in 2018:
What do I expect? I expect hope. Pain. Happiness. Sadness. Great tweets. Bad tweets. Excitement. Anger. A reminder of the second half of 2015. A reminder of
#thatssomets moments. “Payroll flexibility”. Health. Injuries. Complicated high fives. Announcers giggling. Anxiety. Feats of power. Feats of nonsense. And I dunno, 83 regular season wins?
I know I am being optimistic, but I actually think Mets will be in contention for a wildcard all year, and if the rotation is healthy, could push the Nats for the NL East. I don’t say this as a Mets fanboy (and I think my record is very clear on how critical I can be), but as someone who believes the new on-field regime can take this club to whole new level. A competent manager who understands pitching, a bench coach who clearly knows what he’s doing, and a pitching coach who’s proven he can do more with less, for the first time since Bobby V and Bob Apodaca changed the culture in 1997, this team has the right guys in place. 90 wins.
It may be my lack of sleep from having a 1 year old, but I believe the Mets will win the East. Before the past few seasons started if the Mets were predicted to win, they lose. This year looks good for us, especially if at least 3 out of the 5 starting pitchers stay healthy.
Michael Mayer (MMO & MMN)
I expect the Mets to contend for Wild Card, though if the rotation returns to health and productivity we could see them at least hang around late in the season for the division.
I believe the Mets left side of the infield defensively is going to give the pitching staff a little boost as well.
If that rings true, the key to the season could come down to what Sandy Alderson does at the deadline to fill needs.
For your latest, my expectation is 84 wins, factoring in reasonable injury expectation. This bullpen has the ability to make a lot of starters unhappy and that will keep the win total down. Come back to me if they sign Greg Holland.
The Mets’ general creakiness at several positions concerns me, as does their tendency toward fragility, but what fun is pessimism? The Mets will compete better and longer than they did last year, and let the wins pile up from there.
I can’t answer these questions, because I’m a Mets fan, and I’ve always – literally, always – been convinced that we’re a few pieces, at most, away from being a pennant-winner. Look at this team – we’ve got what could be a very solid rotation, a lineup that could rake if the dice fall the right way, and a guy who has the potential to be a top closer in baseball when he’s healthy. Are things going to go that well? You tell me (the answer is no). But what fun is it to go through all the nightmare scenarios and predict which one will happen? For now, I’m sticking with the optimistic scenario: we come out of nowhere and shock the world. Doesn’t it sound both desperately far-fetched and surprisingly realistic?
Like most Mets fans, I’m an optimist on Opening Day. Right now, I expect Todd Frazier to be the 1999 Robin Ventura. I foresee Matt Harvey putting his career back together. I am all the more excited watching Michael Conforto healthy and already hitting homers. If you ask me right now, I’m going to say World Series contender.
Putting my enthusiasm aside, I’ll say this – The NL East is a little more open than we originally believed it to be. Daniel Murphy wont’ be ready for Opening Day, and who knows when he’ll come back. For that matter, who knows what he’ll be when he returns. No one can reasonably expect Ryan Zimmerman to produce like he did last year. It was an outlier. The Nationals are relying way too much on Michael Taylor having figured it out, and Matt Wieters isn’t good behind or at the plate. Also, they lost Dusty Baker, who was a manager who seemed to resonate with that clubhouse.
We take for granted the Nationals will win the division because the Mets have so many question marks and because we have seen the Nationals have great year after great year. They may very well have another one, but it’s far from a certainty. Immaculately, I think this is a closer race than we may have originally thought it to be.
So overall, the Mets Bloggers seem to be a little more bullish on the Mets than many other places. If you are curious why they feel this way, please click on the links next to their names to see their superb work which expounds upon their opinions about the Mets further.
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.
During the course of the 2018 season, my hope is to feature a new Mets fan each and every week by having them answer five quick questions about their particular fandom. For me, this is part of a natural outgrowth of the site because part of my intention was to discuss my experiences as a father raising my sons to be Mets fans.
As we know being a fan is a unique experience for everyone, and I’m sure my sons will have a much more unique experience than I have had as a fan. The hope is to have a fun mix of fans – celebrity, media, and average fans like you and me.
So to that end, I will start off the new feature answering the same five questions butchers, bakers, and the people on the streets will be answering.
The Mets Fan:
For my readers, I am the self dubbed Mets Daddy. To my sons, I am just daddy. To my detractors, I am someone that just needs to go away.
Alongside my work here, you can also find my work on Metsmerized Online, Mets Minors, and Gotham Baseball. With a newborn in the house and a four year old, there’s not much opportunity for me to sleep, so it’s more entertaining to write about the Mets than to watch the same terrible late night TV night in and night out.
How You Became a Mets Fan:
My father grew up in a household where my grandfather was a New York Giants fan, his younger brother was a New York Yankees fan, and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Given that environment, you could understand why he would look to ensure his children grew up Mets fans.
As a little kid, my dad saw an opportunity with my love of strawberries. He told me about how the Mets had this great player coming to the team named Darryl Strawberry. When Strawberry was called up to the Mets, he took me to my first ever Mets game to see him play. Seeing my first ever baseball game at Shea Stadium helped make me the diehard fan I am today.
Favorite Mets Player:
When I think of my favorite Mets player, there are a few names I consider. As noted above, Strawberry is on the list. Gary Carter was always a favorite of mine, and growing up, I wanted to become a catcher because of him. In more recent vintage, Daniel Murphy was a person favorite, and how could he not with the 2015 postseason he had. Like any other Mets fan, I love David Wright.
However, my guy will always be Mike Piazza. When he came to the Mets, this went from a nice little team to a World Series contender. I still remember all of the homers including the one after 9/11, which for my money is the biggest home run ever hit. More than that, Piazza is a guy who wanted to big stage, and when Cooperstown came calling, he chose to be a Met partially due to us fans.
Favorite Moment In Mets History:
I’ve been exceedingly lucky as a fan. I was there for the Todd Pratt homer clinching the 1999 NLDS. I was in the park the night of Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single. There was also the Bobby Jones one-hitter. My first real memory as a fan was watching Mookie Wilson‘s little roller up the first base line go through Bill Buckner‘s legs.
However, despite all those classic moments, the one I will always treasure most was going to Game 3 of the 2015 World Series with my dad and brother. It also helped that Noah Syndergaardstood 60’6″ away, Wright hit the first World Series homer in Citi Field history, and Curtis Granderson hit a homer to give the Mets the lead for good that game. The fans even got a chance to sing along to Piano Man with Billy Joel.
Going to a Mets World Series game with my dad and brother had long been a dream of mine. Seeing them win a World Series game and feeling that euphoria leaving Citi Field that night will be next to impossible to top.
Message to Mets Fans:
Some of the best Mets seasons are never the ones you expect. The 1969 team was never supposed to win. The 1999 Mets were put together on a wing and a prayer. Back in 2006, it was hard to believe anyone would ever unseat the Braves as the NL East Champions in the Wild Card Era. Heading into the 2015 season, Bryce Harper was asking where his World Series ring was after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer. As Mets fans, we had Michael Cuddyer.
Point is, even if you are extremely frustrated by the Wilpons and how they choose to operate this team, just remember, when you least expect it, that old Mets Magic is right around the corner. After all, Ya Gotta Believe!
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.
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!
Recent reports indicate Robin Ventura and Brad Ausmus are not interested in the Mets managerial job. For Ventura’s part, it seems he’s just not interested in managing again. With respect to Ausmus, he’s interested in managing again, but he doesn’t want the Mets job. Ausmus is interested in the Red Sox job.
There are also reports other managers with managerial experience were out of the running as well. Specifically, Bob Geren and Chip Hale will not be reuniting with the Mets. Both were assumed to be well respected by the organization, but for unspecified reasons, neither is a candidate for the Mets managerial opening. With respect to these two, it should be noted, it was not known if they took themselves out of the running, or the Mets decided to go in another direction.
Really, the only manager with prior experience who is a candidate for the job is Manny Acta, who due to poor stints in Washington and Cleveland, probably won’t be a candidate for many managerial positions. Unless Acta gets the job, the Mets are going to hire a first time manager, and the top managerial candidate on the market, Alex Cora, appears destined to go to the Red Sox.
It really makes you question why there isn’t greater interest in the Mets managerial position? There may be a number of viable reasons why, but let’s not overlook the fact the Mets managerial position is somewhat of a dead-end job.
Since the Wilpons assumed team control in 2003, the team has gone through four managers. That’s five if you include Bobby Valentine who was fired after the 2002 season. Of those five managers, Valentine was the only one who would ever get another managerial job, and that was only after he first went to Japan, worked as an analyst on Baseball Tonight, and got the opportunity from a Red Sox ownership group eager to hire him. Otherwise, Valentine likely never gets another job.
There are several reasons why these managers never got another job. With respect to Terry Collins, he will turn 69 early in the 2018 season, and there were rumors before the announcement the Mets were reassigning him in the organization, Collins was going to retire anyway. Still, that didn’t prevent the Mets from trashing him on the way out.
It’s quite possible the scathing analysis of Collins as detailed in Marc Carig’s Newsday article was the Mets masterpiece. It may well be the result of all the practice they’ve had.
In a New York Daily News feature after it was announced Art Howe would finish out the season before being fired, Howe was characterized as soft, uninspiring, weak, and lacking credibility with players.
His replacement, Willie Randolph, was treated just as poorly on the way out. In addition to being fired after winning the first game of a West Coast trip, the Mets would again go to assassinate their manager’s character. As detailed by Bill Maddon of the New York Daily News, the Mets let it be known they had their reservations about even hiring Randolph and insisted the team won in spite of him. As if that wasn’t enough, the report stated the team believed Randolph, “lacked fire; the players, especially the Latino players, had tuned him out; he was too sensitive to criticism; he was overly defensive; he didn’t communicate with his coaches.”
Yes, there were other reasons why Randolph never got another job, but in the end, the character assassination levied upon him was a great disservice, and it played an important role in his never getting another job. Same went for Valentine and Howe.
Knowing how the Mets handle the firings of their managers, and knowing how their managers never get another job, why would a top candidate ever consider taking this job?