Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Wilpons’

Money Troubles

Posted by JD on January 28, 2011

The Mets sent out a message to season ticket holders today, informing us that they a). are in discussions to settle the lawsuit filed by Irving Picard, US trustee for Madoff’s victims and b). they are in the process of “looking at a number of potential options”, which might include selling a piece of the team. This was followed up by a conference call during which Fred and Jeff announced that they are looking to sell 20-25% of the team.

Any way you slice it, this is not good news. I’m as critical of the Wilpons as anybody, but ownership changes are most often messy. Recent examples include the McCourt’s messy divorce and the Texas Rangers’ bankruptcy/bidding war. It’s possible that the process could go smoothly for the Wilpons, but it’s more realistic that the search and ownership transfer drag out. The potential for negative press and sensational tabloid headlines exists, to say nothing of the potential implications on the day-to-day operations of the team.

But wait, there’s more. As HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra astutely points out, there’s no guarantee that the Wilpons will be able to keep control. This opens the door for James Dolan, one of my least favorite sports figures, to take control of the Mets. I wrote about this back in March, but I think it bears repeating. An excerpt from that post:

I can tell you this: the Dolans haven’t had viable summer content for their MSG network since SNY debuted. They would jump on the chance to purchase the Mets and have more than enough money to do so. SNY would disappear or become MSG2 and 1050 AM would become the flagship radio station. Every negative surrounding the Rangers’ and Knicks’ front offices would be replicated in Flushing before you could blink an eye. Cronyism may or may not be present in the front office today, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it would become institutionalized as soon as the purchase was completed.

Anything can happen: the process of selling part of the team has barely begun. But I’m inclined to focus on the negative, and it doesn’t get much worse than James Dolan (although I suppose Islanders fans may beg to differ). Hopefully I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (it’s been known to happen), because I’d hate to look back on this day in ten years as a negative turning point; the day the Mets’ ownership situation went from bad to worse.


From the Mets:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members of our families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners. To explore this, we have retained Steve Greenberg, a Managing Director at Allen & Company, as our advisor.

Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations. The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner. You deserve nothing less.

We wanted to share this information with you concurrent with sharing it with all Mets employees and the media. Thank you for your ongoing support.


Fred Wilpon, Chairman & CEO

Jeff Wilpon, COO


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Call Me Skeptical, But…

Posted by JD on October 18, 2010

There are half a dozen or so good candidates involved in the Mets’ search for a new general manager (Patrick Flood analyzes each of them here), but I can’t shake the suspicion that it doesn’t really matter who ultimately gets the job: Fred and Jeff Wilpon will still be signing the new GM’s paycheck, and no matter how many good intentions they have (or how much “autonomy” they concede) the root causes of the current malaise will still be lurking in the background.

That’s not to say that the new GM, whoever it may be, can’t breathe new life into the team. Omar Minaya had a nice run in 2005-06, before the collapses and injuries combined with his lack of a clear vision to derail the team, and Jeff Wilpon steadily assumed a higher profile in the baseball operations.  

I know I’m being unfairly negative. This is a time of change for the organization: the right hire might satisfy the Wilpons to the point that they feel comfortable distancing themselves from the day-to-day operations. The right general manager might be able to change the organizational structure in such way that it can function after he’s gone, and the team might even win a championship while it’s happening. I should at least give the Wilpons a chance to go through their process before writing it off.

But I can’t. I can’t bring myself to buy in to what they’re selling. After all, it was only five years ago that we went through this very process, and look how that turned out. Yes, all good things come to an end, and general managers (and managers) are “hired to be fired,” but the fact that the Omar Minaya era ended in almost the exact same way it began (in a state of organizational confusion) is most disheartening. Yes, ’05 and ’06 and even most of ’07 were good times for the Mets. I won’t discount that. But ’08 and ’09 and now ’10 are so analogous to ’02 and ’03 and ’04 that I cannot ignore the feeling of déjà vu.

I hope very much that I am wrong. I hope that Fred and Jeff have learned their lesson. I hope that they hire someone they trust enough to grant true autonomy, and that they then honor that throughout that person’s tenure. I hope that if it doesn’t work out, they can fire that person cleanly rather than killing them slowly with a thousand cuts of ownership interference. I hope all of these things, and there’s a chance that they could all happen. I just don’t think it’s a very good chance.

Your move, Fred and Jeff. Prove me wrong. Nothing would make me happier.

Posted in Mets, Omar Minaya, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Subway Thoughts

Posted by JD on February 1, 2010

Riding the subway home and thinking about the Mets, this crossed my mind:

  • Ryan Garko signed with the Mariners. I was in the “Sign Garko” boat for most of the offseason, and I was wrong. He’s a nice player and all, but he’s older than I thought (I didn’t realize he was 29) and limited defensively to first base and the outfield corners. Fernando Tatis is no All-Star, but he’s played every infield position and left and right field. He has his flaws but his versatility and price tag make him a better choice than Garko. I’ve got no issues with signing Tatis over Garko.
  • Putz-Gate. Look, at this point we all know that the Mets’ injury strategy is fucked up. In almost any other organization, failing to give a pitcher a physical before acquiring him would be a fireable offense. But this is the Mets, a dysfunctional organization that seemingly cannot stay out of its own way: att this point nothing they do regarding injuries will surprise me. Here’s my point: they’re not firing anyone over this, they’re not changing their injury strategy, and Omar won’t take the fall, so I’m not getting fired up over it. I’m not trying to whitewash anything: this is an organizational black mark that’s not going away any time soon. I’m just not getting worked up over it. My ticket money is already paid, I’m locked in, and I refuse to waste more energy getting upset about the Wilpons’ boneheaded front-office. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get upset. By all means, hold their feet to the fire. I’m just saying that I’m numb to it now…you’ll have to go on without me.
  • Here’s a nice write up by Anthony McCarron on the Mets’ remaining rotation options. Well worth a few minutes of your time.
  • Hockey thought: What the hell is Darryl Sutter thinking? Maybe he doesn’t like Olli Jokinen anymore, but why would he take on the additional two years of Ales Kotalik’s contract? If you’re a Rangers fan, you should be keeping your fingers crossed tonight for two reasons: that Jokinen doesn’t get hurt, and that Sutter doesn’t come to his senses.

Posted in Omar Minaya, Subway Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Robbie Alomar, Revisited

Posted by JD on December 13, 2009

Roberto Alomar made his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot this year*. He was the best second baseman of the 90’s, won two World Series in Toronto, and was part of some very good Baltimore teams that just couldn’t get past the Yankees. He hit, hit for power, stole bases, had a great arm and was a wizard with the glove. But he was almost done by the time he got to the Mets: a 34-year old second baseman who couldn’t catch up to a fastball, couldn’t field his position, and seemed to hate playing here.  It looked to me like he never wanted to be here and I never quite understood why**. Both his dad and older brother played and coached for the Mets and seemingly didn’t hate their time here (as far as I know). His act wore thin quickly: Robbie was an unproductive grump and the Mets soon dumped him for prospects (one of which was Royce Ring).

*Along with Kevin Appier, David Segui, Robin Ventura, Fernando Vina, and Todd Zeile. There’s a murderer’s row of ex-Mets for you. And I could’ve included El Gato Grande on the list, but that’s stretching it a bit.

**Bob Klapisch sheds some light on Alomar’s attitude in a recent interview. It’s worth the read (I don’t want to just copy Klapisch’s words here) but let’s just say that Robbie’s explanation sadly makes perfect sense. It’s no excuse, but at least I understand now.

Robbie certainly didn’t play like a Hall of Famer, posting an 89 OPS+ in his only full season (2002). However, I remembered it as being so much worse. It was below average, but it wasn’t horrible as I’d remembered. I began to wonder whether I might have overestimated how poorly Robbie played. So I set out to take another look at Robbie’s Mets career, comparing it to all the other second basemen that have played for the team.

As a point of reference, here are Alomar’s key stats from 2002: 655/590 PA/AB, 73 runs, 24 doubles, 4 triples, 11 home runs, 53 RBI, 16/4 SB/CS, .266/.331/.376/.708 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS, 89 OPS+. I used Baseball Reference’s suggested (yet seemingly arbitrary) number of 502 plate appearances as a cut-off (I know there’s a reason they chose this number but admit I don’t know what it is). Sorted by OPS+ (which I feel is a more representative statistic when comparing different eras), we get the following results:

Rk            Player OPS+  PA Year Age
1    Edgardo Alfonzo  147 650 2000  26
2    Edgardo Alfonzo  125 726 1999  25
3           Ron Hunt  118 521 1964  23
4    Gregg Jefferies  111 659 1990  22
5          Jeff Kent  110 514 1995  27
6           Ron Hunt  110 600 1963  22
7    Gregg Jefferies  106 559 1989  21
8          Jeff Kent  104 544 1993  25
9           Ron Hunt  102 543 1966  25
10   Gregg Jefferies  101 539 1991  23
11      Felix Millan  100 587 1976  32
12     Luis Castillo   98 580 2009  33
13      Felix Millan   92 743 1975  31
14      Felix Millan   92 699 1973  29
15      Charlie Neal   92 579 1962  31
16   Edgardo Alfonzo   90 519 2001  27
17    Roberto Alomar   89 655 2002  34
18     Wally Backman   87 574 1985  25
19      Felix Millan   78 585 1974  30
20     Carlos Baerga   76 551 1998  29
21        Doug Flynn   62 572 1978  27
22        Doug Flynn   61 580 1979  28

Alomar ranks 17th, which seems realistic (to his credit, however, Robbie is the oldest second baseman on this list). But let’s face it; we’re not looking at a very deep group here. When Carlos Baerga’s 76 OPS+ makes your top 20, you don’t have a tradition of excellence at the position.

However, the Mets do have a history of using platoons at the position, most notably from 1986-88 (arguably the most successful years in franchise history). Let’s lower our plate appearance threshold to 300 to account for part-time players and see what we get:

Rk            Player OPS+  PA Year Age
1         Tim Teufel  153 350 1987  28
2    Edgardo Alfonzo  147 650 2000  26
3    Edgardo Alfonzo  125 726 1999  25
4           Ron Hunt  118 521 1964  23
5      Wally Backman  117 347 1988  28
6      Wally Backman  115 312 1982  22
7       Keith Miller  114 304 1991  28
8      Wally Backman  113 440 1986  26
9          Jeff Kent  111 452 1994  26
10   Gregg Jefferies  111 659 1990  22
11         Jeff Kent  110 514 1995  27
12          Ron Hunt  110 600 1963  22
13     Jose Valentin  109 432 2006  36
14   Gregg Jefferies  106 559 1989  21
15         Jeff Kent  104 544 1993  25
16       Ken Boswell  103 405 1969  23
17          Ron Hunt  102 543 1966  25
18   Gregg Jefferies  101 539 1991  23
19       Ken Boswell  101 436 1971  25
20      Felix Millan  100 587 1976  32
21     Jose Vizcaino   99 402 1996  28
22     Wally Backman   99 499 1984  24
23     Luis Castillo   98 580 2009  33
24   Willie Randolph   93 336 1992  37
25        Tim Teufel   93 309 1988  29
26        Tim Teufel   93 318 1986  27
27       Ken Boswell   93 306 1968  22
28      Felix Millan   92 743 1975  31
29      Felix Millan   92 699 1973  29
30      Charlie Neal   92 579 1962  31
31   Edgardo Alfonzo   90 519 2001  27
32    Roberto Alomar   89 655 2002  34
33      Jerry Buchek   89 444 1967  25
34     Carlos Baerga   87 498 1997  28
35     Wally Backman   87 574 1985  25
36    Roberto Alomar   84 302 2003  35
37     Damion Easley   82 347 2008  38
38       Ken Boswell   82 402 1970  24
39        Bob Bailor   79 404 1982  30
40      Felix Millan   78 585 1974  30
41     Luis Castillo   77 359 2008  32
42     Carlos Baerga   76 551 1998  29
43   Edgardo Alfonzo   75 407 1996  22
44      Chuck Hiller   74 303 1965  30
45       Brian Giles   70 445 1983  23
46        Doug Flynn   70 474 1980  29
47       Ken Boswell   70 400 1972  26
48      Felix Millan   68 340 1977  33
49      Miguel Cairo   64 367 2005  31
50     Wally Backman   62 335 1987  27
51        Doug Flynn   62 572 1978  27
52       Bobby Klaus   62 337 1965  27
53        Doug Flynn   61 580 1979  28
54          Tim Foli   59 312 1971  20
55        Doug Flynn   54 343 1981  30

Tim Teufel only had 279 plate appearances in 1986 and so doesn’t qualify, but he had a 93 OPS+. From ’86 to ’88, the Mets’ second base platoon OPS+ was 113/93, 62/153, and 117/93. Add them up, divide by two and you get 103, 108, and 105. Not awesome, but certainly capable (I know you shouldn’t just combine OPS+ this way, but I’ve already wandered too far off topic).

Adjusting the threshold to include platoons reveals that Alomar’s 2002 season ranks 32nd out of 55. The adjustment also captures Robbie’s second season on the Mets. In 2003, he appeared in 73 games (302 PA) and put up an 84 OPS+, good for 36th on our list. Better than some*, worse than most**, and not as awful as I thought.

* Certainly better than Doug Flynn. Holy crap! How do you amass 572 plate appearances with a 62 OPS+? And then get 580/61 the very next year? That should be illegal. I’d like to think he had naked pictures of somebody in the front office, but this was the same group that traded Tom Seaver, so I think it’s safe to chalk it up to total incompetence.

**Again, it’s worth noting that there were only two second basemen older than Alomar on our list: 36 year-old Jose Valentin (109 OPS+) in 2006 and 37 year-old Willie Randolph (93 OPS+) in 1992. Two thoughts: I didn’t truly appreciate how well Valentin played that year until now, and it’s always a bit disorienting to see Randolph’s name pop-up in discussions about Mets players these days. His time as manager overshadows his Mets playing career so much that it gets a lost a bit.

I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything here; Alomar was bad, and he was a major factor in the Mets under-performance in 2002-03. But I’d argue that it was inevitable, that there was no way he could live up to the expectations created by the trade that brought him here. He may have had a 150 OPS+ for Cleveland in 2001, but it was a career high and he was 33. It wasn’t really smart to expect him to continue producing at that level for much longer, never mind trading several young players to acquire him. Throw in his reputation as a “clubhouse lawyer” and Cleveland’s eagerness to send him packing and you have to wonder how so many red flags could be ignored*. Which brings me to a larger point: Steve Phillips was a horrible General Manager.

*Yet another example of why the Wilpons were so foolish to retain Phillips at Bobby Valentine’s expense. Valentine had his flaws to be sure, but there’s no way he makes that trade. This is a great example of the single worst part of being a sports fan: the utter hopelessness of knowing that your franchise’s ownership is incompetent. Valentine is a free agent as I write this yet the Wilpons would never consider rehiring him. Forget Omar Minaya’s silly contract extension: if the GM position was open today, the Wilpons’ stubbornness would preclude Valentine from getting anything more than a courtesy interview, if that. It’s almost like the fans have to root for the players to win IN SPITE OF management/ownership.

Phillips traded his flagship prospect at the time (Alex Escobar, who never panned out but would be roughly equal in terms of hype to Fernando Martinez in 2008), Jerrod Riggan (a solid reliever) and Matt Lawton (a decent LF who struggled in NY but had an OPS+ of 99, 104, and 114 in three seasons for the Indians) and threw in Billy Traber as a player to be named later (nothing to write home about, but still bouncing around the majors today), and another prospect for a past-his-prime second baseman who all but admitted he didn’t want to leave Cleveland. Alomar may have become a symbol of the Mets’ malaise, but that was a horrible trade. While Alomar’s performance on the field did little to enamor him to the Shea faithful, that ire should have been focused on Steve Phillips for failing to properly asses Alomar’s value and squandering valuable assets to acquire him. It’s no coincidence that Alomar was Phillips’ last major acquisition, and rightfully so.

While I still don’t care for Alomar, I have a better understanding of why he performed the way he did. Considering how much of a cluster-fuck that trade was, his below average performance was less egregious than it originally seemed. The lesson that I’ve learned here? While a player may be responsible for his individual failures, never place all of the blame on that player’s shoulders when management is completely incompetent.

I have a feeling that’s a lesson we all might have to apply again this season, don’t you?

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