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Why It Took So Long, and Why That Was Smart

Back in mid-February, we all pretty much knew Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez were going to be released. Which, come mid-March, led some of us to wonder what the heck was taking so long — and to start concocting the usual woe-is-me Mets fan scenarios. The Wilpons won’t allow Sandy to eat those contracts. Slappy will hang around forever because Murphy and Emaus and Turner and Hernandez look so bad. Ollie will do just decently enough to make the roster, ensuring that he will suck harder than the mutant bastard child of Doug Sisk and Rich Rodriguez, while Jason Isringhausen signs on with the Yankees and pairs with Feliciano to be deadly setup men. We are dooooooomed.

Eh, whatever.

Maybe I’m just still starry-eyed that my team is no longer run by executives who made it rain with ridiculous option years, but I think Sandy & Co. knew exactly what they were doing, and handled the departure of Castillo and Perez capably and professionally. They had at least three constituencies to satisfy, and they managed to do right by all of them.

Fans. We were the easiest. We wanted Luis and Ollie gone, and as long as that got done before we started panicking en masse that maybe it wouldn’t get done, we were going to wind up satisfied. Everything before that point was noise, and not to be worried about. Heck, it gave us something to do: Fan anxiety helps pass the time when there’s nothing else to talk about except dead-arm periods and St. Patrick’s Day hats.

Ownership. The new regime communicated clearly to the first 637,240 people who asked that they were allowed to ditch bad contracts, and a certain firmness of tone to the answers strongly suggested that bad contracts would indeed be ditched. All the same, general managers in that position have a decidedly unenviable task when talking to ownership. “You know those truckloads of money you let my predecessor give to crappy players, making 100% of the media and 90% of the fans say that you’re dumb as a rock? I want to release those guys so everybody talks about how dumb you are all over again, and you’ll have to keep paying those crappy players to play for somebody else for basically nothing, and it’s possible they might have decent years and beat us and then everybody will say you’re even dumber.” Would you like to deliver that message? Me neither. The Alderson regime waited long enough so that the media didn’t instantly demand to know why Omar hadn’t been allowed to turf the Terrible Two, gave the Wilpons sufficiently long looks at Luis and Ollie to make it clear that they deserved what they were getting, and waited long enough for credible alternatives to suggest themselves. (It would be easier if some second baseman was tearing it up, but things aren’t always easy.)

Players. You think it’s easy being an incumbent Mets second baseman and knowing Brad Emaus is in camp at the urging of an Alderson lieutenant — Brad Emaus who has never done anything to make people at Citi Field boo him? Even if you aren’t an incumbent second baseman, you think it’s easy knowing you’re a product of the tainted old regime, and the new men in charge never saw you hit that walk-off or work extra in the cage or drill to improve your footwork? The new bosses gave Luis and Ollie every chance — something Luis may not have wanted to admit, but Perez did. They didn’t cut them loose for vengeful political reasons (though if I were Sandy, I would have bit my lip about Luis and fan reaction), they actually used them in spring training instead of half-heartedly running them out there alongside guys wearing pinned-on numbers, and they even did what they could to minimize the humiliation of being pink-slipped. Mets present and future will have taken note.

Yes, the Mets seem to have finally grasped the principle of sunk costs, and stopped wasting two roster spots. For which the cheers have been well-deserved. But they’ve also walked through a minefield and gotten to the other side unscathed. That deserves cheers too.