That footstep you heard the other day was Fred Wilpon stepping into James Dolan territory as one of the most destructive owners in New York, and more significantly one of the more incompetent owners in all of sports. I’m going to get this out of the way quickly: I do not feel bad for Fred Wilpon. Without delving too deeply into the financial quicksand that he’s been rapidly sinking into for months now, Wilpon could have at least somewhat salvaged his reputation as Mets owner by simply selling the team. The Mets are not – and should not be – anywhere near the top of his priority list at this point.
But instead, Wilpon sabotaged any remaining respect he had in the baseball community. After ineffectively maneuvering different pieces within the organization for years, yesterday Fred Wilpon seemingly put himself into checkmate. Even if in the immediate aftermath, the team bands together and manages to make the season interesting by gutting out a few wins in their depleted state, the long term forecast now appears more grim than ever.
No team, not even the Yankees and Red Sox, can thrive without a fertile farm system, and the minor league fields for the Mets appear to be close to barren. Fernando Martinez has been a disappointment, partially due to nagging injuries, and partially due to the purgatory that he has been subjected to from so many call up’s and send down’s. Wilmer Flores may be something, but it’s way too soon to tell at 19 years old.
Even more concerning is the pitching situation. If the Mets are to effectively play the hand they’ve been dealt with Citi Field, star quality pitching needs to be their top priority. Jenrry Mejia has been given the Joba treatment the past two years, yo-yoing between starter and closer, and unsurprisingly just underwent Tommy John surgery. Matt Harvey is at least a year or two away from even being able to audition for a role in the Show.
The best hope for replenishing the minor leagues came from Carlos Beltran and/or Jose Reyes. Two players who are having good and outstanding years respectively, but unfortunately are languishing in an injury riddled lineup full of career minor leaguers, and players whose talents are minimized in Citi Field (Wright to an extent, and definitely Bay). At the end of this season, Beltran will almost certainly be gone.
As a fan, I’m holding out hope that Reyes will stay because of his exciting adrenaline-shot style of play. But from a realist perspective, a Reyes trade could procure a wealth of young pitching talent that could yield long-term success. By taking unnecessary and unfair potshots at both of them yesterday, Wilpon has killed all leverage the Mets will have in any dealings with these players in their whatever time they have left within the organization.
My bet is that Reyes will get “Crawford money” - or something resembling it - the way he’s been performing this season. The only argument as to whether he’s the best shortstop in baseball right now comes from the Rocky Mountains, but after looking at the numbers, I’ll take the guy with a higher BA and OBP. Up until last week, he had made his affection for the New York area very public, saying he wanted to stay for the rest of his career.
Now the hometown discount the team could have gotten from the most exciting player I’ve ever seen don orange and blue has been cast into severe doubt. In the eyes of many other GM’s, Wilpon has tipped the Mets hand in terms of their intentions to resign Jose. Instead of being offered a bevy of high-level prospects, the Mets will now need to build their case to potential trade partners as to why they should get a king’s ransom for a player that Mets ownership apparently has no intention of keeping.
The Beltran slight is rife with factual inaccuracy. The expectations for Beltran when he was signed were astronomically high, as if the Mets were getting a surefire hall of famer to patrol center for the next ten years. By only those lofty standards did he not justify his contract. For the three years that this team was relevant in a championship discussion from 2006-2008, Beltran cemented himself as a top 3 outfielder in the game, including a 41 HR, 116 RBI, 18 SB campaign from ’06. This year he’s proven that if he can continue to dodge the injury bug, he’s certainly got enough left in the tank to be a starting outfielder on 90% of teams in Major League Baseball. Wilpon was never a "shmuck" for paying for Beltran in the first place, but now has earned the title by tarnishing his trade value at its absolute peak.
But the only low blow that definitely deserves a point deduction was the shot taken at David Wright. I will be the first to admit that Wright has not followed the grandiose path envisioned for him by Mets fans from the day he first assumed the hot corner at Shea. But despite the considerable road blocks the organization has laid in his path since 2008 (a nightmare ballpark to play 81 games in, and a complete lack of protection in the lineup before Ike Davis came up last year), Wright has never uttered a harmful word about the Mets.
When the club asphyxiated in successive September’s, Wright was the only player willing to face the media and calmly conduct a post-mortem, even though there was never any blood on his hands (he batted .352 in September of 2007, and .340 in September of 2008). He’s played at least 140 games in every year since 2005, and although he hasn’t been what fans expected, it’s never been for lack of effort on his end.
I would have to think that Wright knows that on at least 20 other teams, he’d be a perennial all star due to the combination of more confined confines, and a lineup where he wasn’t routinely the sole focus. A shot across the bow at him not only alienates the team’s leader and most loyal defender, but also sends a giant flashing signal to potential free agents that the New York Mets treat even their star players like throwaways.
In each of their own ways, all three of these players have done everything within their power to improve the Mets in their time in New York. By quietly selling a majority stake in the franchise, Wilpon would finally be able to say he’s done the same.