Monday, May 23, 2011

Fred Wilpon, Perception and Reality

Lady Gaga's new album "Born This Way" hit shelves and iTunes today and is expected to shatter her personal records set by per previous albums. The New York Mets face different issues today, and much like Lady Gaga it seems they were born this way. You won't find many willing to argue how the franchise has fallen since the meteoric rise in 2006 and subsequent fall to the cellar only 5 years later, and yet the hardcore fan base still holds out hope for the present and future. Fred Wilpon's comments earlier today may have put even the most loyal fan in a position of discontent.

One needs to look no further than the comments regarding the "home grown" fan favorite Jose Reyes. Fred Wilpon admits that he's a horse but he won't be receiving Carl Crawford money due to his injury laden past. While it's accurate to say that Reyes has a history of leg problems, the most significant amount of time he missed due to injury came in 2009. Even after starting 2010 on the disabled list and having a short stint mid-season, Reyes still played in 133 games. Oh, and from 2005-2008? 161, 153, 160 and 159 respectively. 2011? Has yet to miss a game. Boasting an average of over .300, being a top base stealer in the game and having a great amount of gap power at a premium position isn't something that's easy to come by. Reyes is a top shortstop in the game that's a universal fan favorite, and without this turning into a "don't trade Jose" campaign-alienating a star player by saying what he's worth won't put the Mets in a favorable position if they choose to pursue an extension come the end of the season.

Speaking of true value, Carlos Beltran was apparently paid for his offseason contributions while with the Houston Astros in 2004. While calling the man who paid Beltran a "schmuck", he discounted his abilities and said he was only worth 65-70% of what he was paid.

Before continuing with Carlos Beltran, it's important to note that most of the views expressed by Wilpon in his interview with the New Yorker were shared by fans alike. From Facebook to Twitter you'll find people bashing David Wright for not being clutch, Jose Reyes for being injury prone or Carlos Beltran for being "selfish". Ted Berg went as far as to create a mockery of Beltran's selfishness by tweeting "Selfish Carlos Beltran..." and continuing with a statement of a positive contribution.

Carlos Beltran wasn't a mistake and Fred Wilpon shouldn't refer to himself as a schmuck for signing him to the 7 year, $119M deal prior to the 2005 season. The additions of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez in 2005 re-energized a fan base that needed something to believe in. The young core of Jose Reyes and David Wright desperately needed a strong veteran presence that weren't journeymen scrap pickups. Carlos Beltran came close to winning, Pedro Martinez had just won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox. In the process of signing both, however, the farm system was ignored.

The biggest problem about the comments? While addressing Ike Davis, Wilpon noted "Good hitter....s****y team-good hitter". Wilpon also claimed the team was "snake bitten"

It's not conducive in business to label your product in a derogatory fashion unless you're:
  1. Looking to run yourself out of business
  2. Are admitting past mistakes that were addressed and fixed
The financial issues of the franchise are no secret. In fact, in the article published by the New Yorker it's stated that if the Wilpons lose the lawsuit they'll likely have to sell the team. The inclusion of a minority owner will help alleviate the financial pressure the team is facing at the moment, but it won't help the perception of the team in the public eye. Fred Wilpon is no George Steinbrenner. He's not one known to call out players on the field for sub-par performance and is a huge Mets fan himself. While the comments were made during a time when the Mets were plummeting out of contention before things ever got started, the low value of the franchise alone should make Wilpon cautious about saying anything that could further damage the franchise.

Is Wilpon's perception necessarily jaded? No. He's a fan and he'll be the first to tell you that. He wants to see the team achieve more than they've been able to do over the past few years. Despite this, his stubborn nature is taking away from a franchise that has been beaten, bloodied and battered senselessly by the media, players and fans alike. Whether it be the Bernie Madoff scandal, Jeff Francoeur pleading for his friend David Wright to move the walls in at Citi Field or the dropping attendance, there isn't much reason to be excited about the future.

Face it, barring a miraculous turn of events, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez will likely all see the post season this year with other teams. Valuable pieces such as Angel Pagan, Jason Isringhausen and any over achievers could be moved if the Mets receive any package they like. And unless the Wilpons are forced to sell or they acquire more money than anticipated, the reality of the matter is that not only may Fred Wilpon be right, but the team may be headed for a dark place.