To be written by some combination of Wally Matthews, Anthony Rieber, John Harper, Joel Sherman, Mark Herrmann, Filip Bondy, Harvey Araton, Bill Madden and Bob Klapisch before too long, I'm sure.
The Mets have remained conspicuously silent during the Alex Rodriguez saga. One wonders what they are hiding.
Nothing has surfaced tying the Mets to A-Rod's misdeeds, but the team in Flushing is clearly complicit in any and all wrongdoing. It is their silence that presents the loudest evidence against them.
Let's turn the clock back some eight years to when Rodriguez, then a young, strapping buck with a world of promise and the most potent presence northwest of Derek Jeter, was a free agent. It was known throughout baseball as a done deal, a dead certain lock, that A-Rod would sign with his long-acclaimed favorite childhood team, the New York Mets.
But the Mets, as they did in the 2000 World Series, were overwhelmed by the moment and broke the heart of yet another of their fans. General manager Steve Phillips covered up his ownership's gun-shy “thriftiness” by labeling (and maybe libeling) A-Rod — 25 and exactly what the Mets needed to attain a shred of relevancy in the Yankee-owned New York market — a “24 + 1” player. The Mets missed out on their opportunity for Bronx Bomber bona fide legitimacy and let A-Rod slip away to Texas.
The Mets owe Alex Rodriguez an apology now.
A-Rod copped to Peter Gammons that he felt pressure living up to the contract Tom Hicks gave him for $252 million over 10 years. That is pressure Rodriguez, an undeniable precious natural resource before his exposure to the Cansecoesque element on the Rangers, would have never succumbed to had Fred Wilpon done his job as a large-market owner and signed A-Rod to a more reasonable but still lucrative long-term contract.
Imagine Alex Rodriguez at Shea Stadium from 2001 until now. While Shea might have remained an uninhabitable eyesore, there would have been beauty to behold four or five at-bats per game when A-Rod came to the plate — and more beauty when Alex Rodriguez fielded ground balls at his original position of shortstop. Beyond the wins and instant credibility a young Alex Rodriguez could have brought those Mets as he truly came into his own, baseball would not be suffering its current ills because there's little doubt A-Rod never would have taken the steroid road he wound up stumbling on.
Why? The answer, as ever where good things are concerned, lies in the nurturing persona of Derek Jeter.
Rodriguez as a Met would not have experienced the Texas-sized pressure he felt as a Ranger because Captain Jeter had long established himself as New York's premier pressure cooker. Pressure may gather like storm clouds around Jeter, but in the end it always falls on him like soft rain.
In the case of Rodriguez the hypothetical Met, Jeter would have been his old friend's sturdy umbrella. A-Rod would have been shielded from the tabloid elements simply by being a Met, which will never be as glamorous or alluring as being a Yankee. Rodriguez's current predicament dates not only to his admitted performance-enhancing drug use but to his stepping into the Bronx spotlight. That spotlight will never feel as harsh in Queens — and wouldn't have, even if Alex was hitting home runs out of Shea in a Mets uniform.
By being selfish and penurious, Fred Wilpon may have ruined baseball's last best power hope. The sport could have basked in the glory of Alex Rodriguez becoming its squeaky clean home run king (an honor Jeter could have nabbed for himself had he chosen that path but did not for the good of his team). A relaxed A-Rod surely would have surpassed 600 homers by now and been on a pace to pass Barry Bonds in a matter of seasons. It would have been the best thing for the game since the Yankee dynasty of 1996-2000.
Now that's gone.
Can the Mets make it up to baseball, to New York? Can the Mets erase the harm they have done the national pastime and the city's obsession?
It's not too late. The Wilpons can take their hands out of their pockets and sign Manny Ramirez.
Manny Ramirez is not Alex Rodriguez and never will be, just as Alex Rodriguez will never be Derek Jeter. But Manny is baseball's and New York's new last best hope. These are troubled times, times when a city and a nation turns its lonely eyes to a much-needed distraction.
Manny Ramirez in Citi Field is surely that much-needed distraction. Manny's dreadlocks, his bat and his joie de vivre are just what we all need these desperate days. Some are talking about a depression. Manny Ramirez is the direct opposite of a depression. He is a smile waiting to happen. And he's just what the Mets need to give them the kind of street cred their current cast of too-bland-to-care characters can give them.
True, Manny's unpredictable ways would never fit inside the professional clubhouse overseen by Captain Jeter, but these aren't the Yankees we're talking about. The Mets have proved an inability to win when it counts. If they can't win, they may as well be entertaining. Nobody is more entertaining than Washington Heights' own Manny Ramirez.
Too expensive? The Wilpons have not invested wisely, it is now well known, but they are the Wilpons. They are accepting taxpayer money — blood money, you could rightly call it — to name their new capitalist pleasure palace. They are torturing the honest businessmen of the Iron Triangle in ways that would make the guards of Abu Ghraib blush. And they are doing it broad daylight. It is implicit in the commissioner's “best interests of baseball” powers that Bud Selig should, no, must dip two fingers into the Wilpon wallet and hand over whatever it will take to make Manny Ramirez a Met.
The Mets ruined one future Hall of Famer's career. They ruined an entire era. It's only fair they give us a makegood. Derek Jeter has accomplished much in his storied time, but even the Captain can only be asked to give so much of his sterling self. The next move belongs to Sterling Equities.