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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Death Spiral

I’m at my low point as a Mets fan.

It seems crazy to say it, but I really think it might be true.

There have been disasters before, of course.

I became a Mets fan in 1976, not knowing the team was about 14 months from becoming the baseball equivalent of North Korea. But I was a child in the late 1970s. I had hope, even if it was a child’s irrational hope. I thought the Joel Youngbloods and Lenny Randles and Craig Swans of the world were the basis of a championship team. I thought we would win the NL East until the math said we could not. I’m glad I thought such things at the time, because my fandom might never have taken root if I’d known better.

I was a Mets fan in the early 1990s, when sour free agent signees threw quarter-sticks of dynamite at children and Dallas Green watched the horrors on the field with his mouth hanging open. But that team had money. The horrible free agents got traded and money was spent more wisely and by 1995 there were reasons to hope.

I was a Mets fan in the early 2000s, when Mike Piazza was asked to play first base and Jason Phillips was allowed to play baseball. But that team had money. It eventually was able to escape its own mistakes, and by the mid-2000s there was hope.

I’m a Mets fan now. The team is horrible. It’s astonishingly horrible night after night after night. The stat’s being repeated ad nauseum, but it deserves to be: Since the break the Nationals and Braves both have more wins at Citi Field than the Mets do. No one can catch, no one can play the outfield, and no one can hit. The team is an embarrassment off the field too, so craven and corporate that it won’t even stand up to MLB suits in defense of its own admirable homegrown tradition about honoring local heroes by wearing their caps during one game a year.

None of this is any fun, but how is this disaster different than previous disasters? Because this time there is no money.

For Exhibit A, consider David Wright. What we’re hearing right now through the media is an almost note-by-note re-enactment of the Jose Reyes drama, in which the Mets said blandly hopeful things and then let their star shortstop go to another team. I said then and I maintain now that letting Reyes go was the right thing to do — the Marlins’ contract was insane, and a pretend offer from the Mets wouldn’t have made me feel any better. But Wright is different — not just a more valuable player but also the face of the franchise, or at least the only bit of star wattage left. And the Mets are making the same noises, forcing poor Sandy Alderson to mouth reassurances while others offer evasions and non-answers to rudimentary questions about payroll.

Losing Reyes was sad but understandable; losing Wright would be both symbolic and symptomatic.

The Mets’ ownership escaped a death sentence in the Madoff affair, but they seem to have crawled away from it bleeding out instead of decapitated. At least that’s how I now read the state of affairs — that Howard Megdal has been right all along, even while saying things I didn’t want to believe. Really, the tipoff should have been the team’s typically amateur-hour effort to smear and disenfranchise Megdal: The Mets are never more shrill and self-righteous than when someone has revealed a truth they wanted to keep hidden.

In the absence of even vague candor from ownership, the Mets’ strategy seems to be to tread water next year while they clear the Omarpalooza contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana, sign Wright and R.A. Dickey to 2014 deals, and build around those two players and pitching prospects such as Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Jeurys Familia. But even that relatively meager plan depends on a whole lot going right. And I don’t think enough of it will.

Harvey certainly looks very impressive, but prospects have a way of turning into suspects. Go check the price of a Paul Wilson rookie card if you don’t know what I mean. And even if the Mets do get good results from their young arms, what about the rest of the team? What about the spaghetti-against-a-wall bullpen? What about the pathetic inability to field a major-league outfield? Harvey was terrific tonight, but it didn’t matter — his feckless teammates did nothing to support him, he lost, and the fans who bothered showing up at all trudged home in misery or apathy. It’s a familiar outcome and sight: These days SNY’s broadcasts are a showcase for not only horrific baseball but also acres and acres of unoccupied green seats. The Mets are touting increasingly desperate ticket plans — you can get into Citi Field for a steep discount by bringing a child, a Pepsi can, enthusiasm for R.A. Dickey or, quite possibly, a white flag. None of this matters, because StubHub is cheaper if you actually want to go. And why would you? Harvey has one more start before he’s shut down. Dickey is two wins away from 20, which suddenly seems like an iffy proposition. Those things aside, what possible reason is there to watch this team lose? I’ve often said baseball’s beautiful no matter what, but the baseball played by the Mets for the last nine weeks has been anything but: The team is inept and listless, sometimes aggravating but mostly profoundly boring and unwatchable.

It’s not a new pattern, and it’s killing this team and its fanbase. The Mets’ 2011 second-half collapse and silent offseason hurt their attendance and bottom line this year; the disaster of this year’s second half and another do-nothing winter will hurt 2013′s attendance and bottom line; a season of watching Harvey and Wheeler lose 3-1 and 2-0 games will hurt 2014′s attendance, and in the middle of that year a mountain of debt comes due. (Here’s Howard Megdal again.)

If you’re David Wright, why on earth would you sign up for that even if an offer were forthcoming? Why would you choose to grow old unprotected in a lineup of minimally paid has-beens and never-will-bes? If you’re R.A. Dickey, why would you agree to throw to interchangeable terrible catchers and lose 2-0 games when you could win somewhere else?

Over the last month or so watching the Mets has become a chore. For the first time in my life, I find myself thinking that I have other things to do — things that won’t leave me angry or sad. My kid, raised in a rabidly blue and orange household, increasingly doesn’t watch at all. He’d rather read, or play with Legos, or do anything else. I don’t bother arguing — watching Andres Torres once again forget how many outs there are isn’t exactly going to make him back into a fan. Joshua goes to sleep under a framed picture featuring shots of Reyes and Wright. We haven’t replaced the Reyes picture, because who would the replacement be? When Wright is also an anachronism, I suspect the picture will just come down, with no replacement at all.

I know, I know: The end of the 1982 and 1993 and 2003 seasons were just as bleak. But, again: This time there is no money. The plan, to the extent there is one, appears to be more about survival than resurrection. I doubt even that will work. Eventually the math will finally catch up with the Wilpons, Bud Selig will be finally unwilling to extend them another lifeline, and they will sell. But when will that be? 2014, maybe. But what if it’s 2015 or 2016, or later than that? How much more damage will have been done to the franchise? How long will it take to fix it? And will the new owner even care to do so? What’s going to bring my kid back to the fold, to reignite his guttering fandom? And what about me — probably the second-biggest Mets fan you know?

The Mets are caught in something that looks very much like a death spiral, and for the first time in 36 years I find myself wondering whether it would be better not to go down with them.

70 comments to Death Spiral

  • What was the real story on why Pagan, who when healthy hits .285 with some speed, was traded for a .225 hitter like Torres? I have heard various stories, such as Collins didn’t like Pagan’s D, and Pagan didn’t get along with Collins and some teammates, but to me this trade typifies the bad ones the Mets keep making.

    Pagan is helping the Giants to a pennant — he wouldn’t have made much difference on this woebegotten bunch, I suppose.

    • Didn’t mind that trade. Thought Pagan had regressed, had a terrible attitude and was frankly a stupid player. Thought Ramon Ramirez was a solid pickup. Turned out to be wrong about that one, but you’re right, wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

      The real problem is ownership trying to escape the financial death spiral. That leaves Sandy’s hands tied, meaning even if he makes good trades they’ll most likely be marginal. You’re not going to get half a rotation and 2/3 of a lineup out of the farm system over the next couple of years. You’re probably not going to keep the free agents you’d like to keep. Which further hurts interest/attendance/revenue.

      Translation: The Wilpons stay poor, Sandy stays helpless, we stay screwed.

      • Jacobs27

        I agree with you both that the deal probably had little impact on the season’s results, but:

        On paper it did make some sense, pick up a seemingly solid reliever for our beleaguered ‘pen in exchange for a marginal downgrade from Pagan to Torres. Made sense for the Giants too, since they need offense so badly. Well, Ramirez turned out awful and Torres also worse than expected.

        Say what you will about Pagan and his mental lapses, but he’s as good or better than Torres in virtually every significant offensive category. The defense is a wash: with Pagan’s enigmatically going from above average to well below during his tenure and Torres holding his own, but oddly inconsistent.

        I don’t know whether the Mets are snake-bit with relievers or are actually doing something to make them worse, but the bottom-line is they make virtually no good deals, even the one’s that seem to have potential.

      • Just_Da_Damaja

        Pagan had a bad attitude?

        really?

        exactly what tangible proof do you have of this?

        He had a great attitude in 2009..2010…had a mediocre 2011…and all of a sudden he has “attitude” issues…

        u dont hear of any attitude issues with him in SF…

        care to explain why u thought he had attitude issues?

        • kjs

          In a nutshell, he [Pagan] has problems with his colon. IBS or something. He’d disappear into the toilet during innings and not tell Collins or any of the coaches that his stomach was acting up. Lo and behold, Collins would look up, see no Pagan in CF, and say “WTF!” Their relationship was severed over Pagan’s lack of communication. But yes, over all, he is a better talent to have than Torres, who is old and awful.

        • nym

          There were a few stories about Pagan last year. I think sometimes they questioned his effort. And I think the big issue was for whatever reason…he didn’t want to leadoff for the Mets. When Jose was hurt the Mets had wanted Pagan to leadoff b/c he was really the next best guy they had for the spot but Pagan made it known to the Mets that he didnt want to hit there. He did hit there for a decent amount of times, but supposedly he grumbled/complained enough about it to rub some people the wrong way. He might have complained about hitting 2nd too (I’m not sure on that one) saying he’d rather hit lower in the order. It was weird since he didn’t seem to have a problem hitting 1-2 in prior years and I think he’s hit there in SF…but that was a story last year,

          • Just_Da_Damaja

            Stories written by reporters searching for gossip b/c they are in a town with 4 other major competing newspapers as well as the internet.

            This is NYC…

            if you believe that you also believe that Carlos Delgado was purposely tanking in 2008 ( an option year ) in an effort to get Willie Randolph fired..

            That rumor didnt even go away when Delgado started mashing the ball…2 weeks BEFORE randolph got fired…

            of course, reporters never once accuse Wright or Bay of purposely trying to get their managers fired when they are in the midst of a cold streak..

            Im sure its not a coincidence that the same guys who routinely give interviews with these reporters are the same guys who never get the “bad attitude” labels..

            think about it..u cant believe everything u read…if pagan was really that bad…u would’ve heard about from chicago cubs or SF…or in his minor days..

            never once have i heard pagan had a bad attitude or was a clubhouse cancer til the NY media started that rumor…

            same with delgado…
            same with castillo…

            well i see a pattern here..but im not gonna go there…

          • nym

            I don’t see what the Pagan stuff has to do with the media. The media liked Pagan…they talked a lot about what a nice guy he was. I didn’t buy into the Delgado conspiracy theories FWIW. But in the case of TC/Pagan…TC had said publicly Pagan wasn’t comfortable with leading off…that wasn’t a made up media creation.

            And I don’t know what Castillo slamming stories you were really reading. He got off pretty easy for a guy who performed poorly. Martino even wrote that article accusing Mets fans who didn’t like him of being racist.

          • nym

            And re: Pagan’s previous stops. There were a lot of rumors that Pinella was not a fan of Pagan at all. Probably part of the reason he was available to the Mets.

            I don’t think the NY media had anything against Pagan at all. By all accounts he was a good guy, talked to the media plenty

          • Just_Da_Damaja

            Well this is what im saying…

            i do believe that Pagan and his manager had some issues and TC rubbed him the wrong way…

            well…TC has rubbed ALOT of people the wrong way…

            Remember in the beginning of the year…when rather than picking up the phone and calling someone…TC bashes Ruben Tejada for not showing up 2 weeks EARLY…

            Ruben shows up on time…does pretty decent in his first year as a starter…and has a better year than most of the folks who got there early…

            some things u have to keep inhouse…

            either way…just cuz a player has a rift with his manager…doesnt mean either one is a clubhouse cancer…

            and as for castillo…the media many times said he was a moody clubhouse cancer…

            despite the fact that ex-teammates in 3 different teams praised him for being a good teammate…

            this is NY…they have to sell papers…they will stick to old routines that worked for decades…

            hell if u look at some old newspapers from the 1960′s…Roberto Clemente was described almost the same exact way.

  • Michael Grieco

    Unfortunately you have hit it “outta here” on this one. I have been a Mets fan since 79-80 at about 5 years old.(Despite the fact my parents left Brooklyn for Ma. prior to my birth) The eternal childhood optimism blinded me to the fact they weren’t very good that same “faith” that my son now possesses but how much longer can i tell him stories of Mex and The Kid or The Best Infeld Ever and Piazza. He didn’t understand why Reyes was gone and explaining it to him felt like i was taking a part of his childhood away. Why the first half was fun considering there were no expectations, the second half has been equally horrid night after night. With no R. A. or Wright I cant fathom keeping him interested. Must we keep paying and suffering for the mistakes of The Wilpons.

  • Alex

    I’ve been reading this blog since ’05ish and, sadly, this is maybe the best one. Nailed it. Am a borderline koolaid drinker and even I can’t take it anymore.

    Why don’t they just sell? Is it ego? Awful.

  • Andee

    What is truly bizarre about this death spiral — and what makes it different from similar swoons in the previous three years — is that the pitching has been terrific, especially since Batista was sent packing and Harvey was called up. (Four strikeouts to start the game, whew.) Even the bullpen hasn’t been that bad for the most part, other than Francisco single-handedly hanging Dickey with a undeserved loss last night.

    It’s just freaky. They talk about the importance of pitching, but who can win games when your team doesn’t score even one run? I’m amazed that the pitching hasn’t gone all to hell, considering how much pressure they must have on them not to make one single mistake.

    Thing is, what would you do about this, if you were the GM? Obviously going to super-expensive FAs like Bourne and Hamilton is out of the question, and probably wouldn’t be very smart even if they were rolling in money. You need at least two outfielders who can hit and preferably three. Where are they coming from? Gotta be trades.

    But if the Pons are that broke that even trades for decent players are prohibited, I can’t imagine they will be allowed to keep the team for that much longer. The other owners will start to resent Selig’s coddling of them, and besides, Selig won’t be commissioner forever. And whether his successor is Torre or Alderson, neither of them is going to be in the mood for any bullshit from them either.

    Wright might be a little different from Reyes, in that he’s said that the reason he admired Cal Ripken so much is that he played all his life with one team. That might actually mean something to him, especially growing up a Mets fan. But I’m sure he wants to know that the team is going to acquire some lumber, that he isn’t going to get pitched around forever. Derek Jeter probably hasn’t been pitched around once in his entire life; Wright has been pitched around for probably half of his career at-bats.

    And it might, in the end, be the stupid fans and media who make him want to leave, all this “he’s not clutch,” “he doesn’t inspire his teammates to win,” “he has no passion” kind of stuff. Who wants to play in front of a home crowd that hates you?

    • Just_Da_Damaja

      The Orioles organization also won a title in 1983…Cal’s 2nd year in the league..

      Cal’s entire family was in the organization….His Dad…His Brother….for years they supported the streak…never benched him…played him at 1B or DH…totally different circumstances…

      What’s interesting is that David grew up less than 90 minutes away from Baltimore…grew up idolizing Cal Ripken Jr…the Orioles have a ton of money…and are competitive…and could have a fit for a 3B soon….

      There were a ton of players who played for the same team…

      Kirby Puckett
      Robin Yount
      Paul Molitor
      Tony Gwynn
      Mike Schmidt
      Don Mattingly
      Chipper Jones
      Ryne Sandberg ( not counting his rookie year in Phi )
      Tom Glavine ( if u buy into the theory he was still working for the braves when he had a met uniform )

  • 9th string

    Hate so see you lose the “faith” but man is it being tested now. It’s hard to watch a team NEVER score runs and waste all those great pitching performances. I do think Wright and Dickey will be back – otherwise what will they have to market? Bay and Johan? Murphy? Unless they did the mother of all fire sales – sign the option and trade wright with bay to a team willing to take the rest of the salary and pawn off johan to a pennant chasing team. Move Murphy to 3rd and start over. Go nuclear!

    • I’m sure the Mets will want to bring Wright and Dickey back, if they can scrounge up enough money. But why would they want to return? Would you?

      • 9th string

        In Wright’s case, I’d have to say probably. If I could get $20M a year to play for my favorite team? Probably. Look at Reyes – he took the money and still ended up in last place. I would, however, want to take a really good look at the landscape and see if there was somewhere else I’d rather be personally. He could hit 55 homeruns if he moved to Philly, or live on the beach with Anaheim or the Dodgers. That I couldn’t answer.

        Dickey: Absolutely. Dickey’s playing career has a few more years in it, but his aspirations beyond that are probably pretty high. Author, broadcaster, politician, motivational speaker – any future he has would be greatly aided by staying in New York, especially if he gets paid.

        The Mets have been very good to these guys, and if the money is equal, my instinct is that they’d rather be part of the solution than being hired guns elsewhere. That instinct is the same one that said the Mets would bust out of these doldrums 6 weeks ago, so what do I know?

        • Well said, but I think both of them very badly want to win. I think they will have serious questions whether they can do that as members of the Mets.

          • Lenny65

            And who could really blame them if they decide to bolt? Not me. Imagine you work for a business and the owner tells you, “look, I kinda blew all my money on a scam and business is going to be terrible for the foreseeable future, so I can maybe pay you less than you could make elsewhere for the privilege of staying here and punching the clock and wallowing in misery. But that’s it”.

            Losing Wright or Dickey (or both) obviously wouldn’t play very well in the media or among fans but that’s the thing about the current situation: I don’t think ownership cares. Their heads are elsewhere and baseball isn’t a priority for them right now and for the foreseeable future.

  • Steve D

    As a kid, you root for a team even if Attila The Hun is the owner…as an adult, you tend to make more logic-based decisions on how to spend scarce time and money. I now go to one Met game a year and don’t even buy the yearbook anymore when I go. I refuse to call their new park by its corporate s
    shill name. The major thing that keeps me a Met fan is memories…I live in the past. In my mind, it is often either 1969 or 1986, if I can block out the wasted careers of Doc and Darryl.

    The Mets ownership is an EPIC fail…Fred is a nice guy, but biggest believer in the biggest scammer in history. That is amazing…he put some incompetent relatives in charge to help him run the team into the ground…another rookie mistake. I half joke about how great Nelson Doubleday was…but with him even Fred was able to win a title.

    There is hope though…this team cannot survive financially on its current path…so Met fans, you may need to root for this team to hit rock-bottom, before it can be re-built with new owners. Jason’s post may mean we are close.

  • Sorry this is what baseball is like for you, Jason. If it helps any, I guess you know, as a Mets fan, I enjoy writing about this death spiral as much as we all enjoy experiencing it.

    • Just_Da_Damaja

      Read your book…pretty friggin awesome…

      would love for u to come out with a book on Jeff Wilpon’s rags to riches story..

      how does a complete idiot who goes to community college in Florida, transfer to Michigan for 1 semester…then somehow gets drafted by the expos, after the most impressive 36 AB at the University of Michigan……after 5 days of spring training a career threatening hair injury causes him to switch careers and retire from his lifelong dream…he then decides to help the family pay their bills and keep the lights on by working for his father for free..4 years later he becomes VP of his dad’s company…which takes off to rocketing success…A VP at 23…with no college degree…

      rumor has it that Keanu Reeves is signing on to play Jeff Wilpon in the biopic sponsored by SNY and Sterling Enterprises

  • Dave

    When I got the email from the team yesterday announcing the 2013 schedule, my initial reaction was disappointment, as though I was wishing that they’d just sit out for a year. Redshirt it, they’re not ready. Solution is going to be MLB threatening to make them the next Expos.

  • dgwphotography

    Hammer, meet nail head.

    The result of the legal action against the Wilpons was the worst possible outcome for the Mets. Instead of being forced to sell, the Wilpons have a chance to survive as owners, and we will be taken down with them.

    It’s gotten to the point that I get pissed off when I hear Taking Care of Business played at the gym… There should be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing the use of that song by the Mets…

  • Ken K. in NJ

    ( Those things aside, what possible reason is there to watch this team lose? )

    Come ON, what about Wright’s hot pursuit of Kranepool’s all time Met Hit record?? Gary Cohen for one seems very excited about it. On Wright’s base hit last night he gleefully almost screamed that Wright was only 10 hits behind Kranepool. Like he was closing in on Bonds or something.

    Potential Delemma: What happens if Wright is at exactly .300 as of the last game of the season but needs one hit to top Kranepool? Oh, I know, first at bat he bunts, and…………..

  • 5w30

    The Wilpons are even using their newspaper of record, the New York Daily News, in the David Wright “is worthless” by association campaign. Connecting his agents to PEDs: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/agents-ny-mets-david-wright-investigated-major-league-baseball-aided-players-performance-enhancing-drugs-article-1.1158066

    • Whoa now — there’s a fair amt of evidence his agents ARE connected to PEDs, or at least enough for an MLB/union investigation. I don’t think that’s Wright being tarred by association so much as it is a tabloid riding the local angle hard.

  • [...] the most depressing in Faith and Fear in Flushing history, Jason Fry writes about the Mets’ Death Spiral: I know, I know: The end of the 1982 and 1993 and 2003 seasons were just as bleak. But, again: This [...]

  • 5w30

    I’m a Wilpon conspiracy theorist. I can’t help it. The whole Megdal affair turned me against the Wilpons and their agents e.g. MetsBlog.

    • Just_Da_Damaja

      Yup…I got banned for talking about Jeff Wilpon’s college baseball career ….which resulted in his getting drafted by the expos…despite only having 36 AB in his entire collegiate experience in his 2 semesters at Michigan ( his dad’s alma matter )

      Rumor had it his grades were so poor coming out of HS…he did not get accepted into Michigan..hence why he went to the community college in Florida…then 2 years later transferred to Michigan…where it was said he made the team only b/c his father had been one of the most generous donors to the school baseball team ( they renamed the park after him )

      No amount of generosity was going to force the coach to actually play Jeff though…

      But Dad was able to call the Expos owner and ensure that SOMEONE from the Wilpon family would get drafted into the league…

      Jeff Wilpon quit after his 4th day of Spring Training…

      4 years later at the tender age of 25, ( after his father found a clause in the original contract, allowing him to purchase 50% of the team if the principle owner tried selling the club to anyone else ) Jeff became a VP on a WS winning team in the winter of 1986…

      Our precious club…the one we love so much…has been in a downward spiral every since…with only a faint hope here and there of success…

      since 1986…the mets have essentially put marketing a team first…and then worrying about how to win 2nd…

      now the kicker to that is…

      some of us fans are guilty of enabling them…winning should be the ONLY thing that matters..( now i sound like a yankee fan…)

      but in actuality…when we say things like…

      well David Wright means more to the mets beyond his production on the field…

      you give the mets all the justification in the world to put marketing above production…

      I love David Wright…put him on a team full of productive players and let him be the Robin to someone else’s Batman…and he is perfect…

      But if trading David Wright for a potential future Batman…or 2-3 potential future Robin’s is BEST for this club’s chances of WINNING ( remember…the only thing that matters to me )…then that is as far as I take that discussion…

      I dont care if David is nice…kisses the babies…wins over hearts….thats nice

      Gregg Jeffries was nice too…Ray Knight was a gritty tough, maniac

      To me…David Wright is what the Mets wanted Gregg Jeffries to be…

      He is productive…he is nice…he is good looking and marketable…doesnt make waves…doesnt get in the opposition’s face…has a great relationship with the local media….who almost NEVER write a bad article about him…

      if u dont think that has value….look at how the media treated reyes when he threw a “tantrum” that he was taken out of a game in 2008

      http://articles.nydailynews.com/2008-06-17/sports/17900070_1_jose-reyes-casey-kotchman-jerry-manuel

      Now look at how the media treated David Wright when he got into that heated argument with Terry Collins

      http://www.espn.­go.­com/­new-­york/­mlb/­story/­_/­id/­7936078/­david-­wright-­publically-­voicing-­displeasure-­terry-­collins-­mets-­need

      Jose Reyes was throwing a tantrum ( children throw tantrums )
      David Wright was “voicing his displeasure” …

      almost the same exact action…

      two completely different reactions…

      fact is…both players LOVE the game..are competitive..and want to PLAY…

      This team should have had Reyes and Wright retire next to each other…

      instead they will likely retire as Yankees…

      their met years will be forgotten…

      and we will have to hear smug Yankee fans talk about how their organization turned 2 talented losers into winners…

      so yeah…kill all that noise about Reyes’s contract not being worth it…if Reyes was Joseph Reed from Mineola…and was marketed to fans the way Wright was…this would’ve played out a bit differently

      ( in a down year ) Reyes is still among the top 3 SS in almost every statistical category and has remained completely healthy…

      Among all MLB SS…

      Reyes is 3rd in OBP ( so much for those sabermaticians that thought Jose didnt get on base enough )

      Reyes is 1st in Walks….thats right…Mr. Impatient himself actually leads all MLB SS in walks this year

      Reyes is 1st in SB

      Reyes is 3rd in SLG

      Reyes is 3rd in OPS

      Reyes is 3rd in Hits

      Reyes is 3rd in Doubles

      Reyes is 1st in Triples

      he got paid 10 mil this year…and so far produced 15.4 mil worth of production

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1736&position=SS#value

      thats egg on the face no matter how u cut it…

      so u cant criticize the wilpons for not spending…then say they shouldnt have spent on Reyes when their payroll is looking like this for the next 5 years

      https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tfJWfaPG4VXbDyBscIZf1MQ&output=html

      marinate on that for a second…

      from 2014-2017, our payroll including Wright and Reyes making 20 mil per year would’ve been in the low 60′s…

      • 5w30

        Great post on what Jeff Wilpon’s qualifications are for running a major league baseball team really are. Interesting to note that a high school classmate of mine, who actually did play ball against young Jeff, said he was a terrible catcher even then 35+ years ago. Maybe that explains Thole, Nickeas, etc.

  • I faced a similar dilemma when I abandoned the New York Islanders for the Washington Caps. Granted, that was easy considering I’ve been in DC my entire adult life and have been going to see the Caps play since my college days. Here’s how you need to think of it: consider the Mets to be like a girlfriend from high school or college. You had some good times, but eventually grew apart. Now, while you have some good memories and would never wish that girl any ill will, you’ve moved on.

    Now of course I’m watching the Mets turn into a 21st century version of the Kansas City A’s while the Nats are roaring to a division title. Decisions, decisions …

  • JD

    This is absolutely right on. So here’s (for me) the question. What does one do? A little late on life to become a passionate caring fan of another team to a degree close to how I’ve usually felt about the Mets. My “hatred” for the Yankees ended years ago but I’m never going to be a fan of theirs. There are other teams I like in baseball (Orioles far and awayy second favorite team but they’ve killed me for over 14 years til now and it ain’t the same emotional ties. Outside of that it’s usually more fondness for players or a given team in a given year. More to the point, other than CitiField and Yankee Stadium the only MLB park I can get to with anything resembling frequency is Philly 2 hours awayand THAT ain’t happening.) I like baseball live too much to give it up but the idea of spending one cent at CF makes me ill. Especially since I know that management depends on irrational emotional ties to keep me and my family coming. The ties do count, no doubt, but they have real limits. At this point I almost feel like, for practical purposes it’s 1957 again – the Mets have left town and all we have is an AL team in town. Or maybe better analogy is Boston Braves or Philly As fans. Either way it sucks and I see little signs for optimism, and as the cliche states “insanity is doing same thing over and over and expecting different results.”. Radio meet bathtub…….

  • Ryan

    The Phillies’ success twists the knife. For so much of this year it looked like the Order of Things was changing, but Philly will somehow have everything work out for it again and then spend some more gobs of money in the offseason and be fine. The Mets? For all we know they’re falling down a Pirates/Orioles/Royals-like decade-plus bottomless hole.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Remember our friendly disagreement about the future of this club? I wonder if you are now having second thoughts about my contention that the Mets were not making decisions based on a long-term plan to build a winning ballclub as they were to keep the team solvent enough for the Wilpons to retain ownership.

    The Wilpons were on the verge of losing ownership due to tremendous built up debt and the sudden loss of revenue. Because they have a long-time, personal friend in the commissioner’s office, unusual steps were taken to help them not have to relinquish their majority ownership of the team. Nothing wrong with this, however, that is the reality. I had referred to a countless number of articles from reliable sources confirming the severity of their plight.

    Sandy Alderson’s call was to help the Wilpon’s retain ownership by both downsizing the organization as much as possible to allow for more money to be used to pay off debt and to try and revise the debt schedule (his business and legal expertise). This has always been the case I made about what Sandy Alderson’s responsibilities with the Mets were. That his focus was to straighten out a serious financial debt that threatens the Wilpons ability to retain the team. Consider the enormous scope of the situation which calls for a man with Sandy Alderson’s legal and financial background. Understand he was hired to do the same cost cutting and re-organization with San Diego as it’s CEO and was forced to do the same with Oakland. Remember that he spent most of the last 13 years or so doing extensive legal and business assignments on behalf of major league baseball.

    Things were so bad that they not only needed a loan from MLB because they could not even meet their monthly operational expenses but the due date for paying it back was actually extended for many months because they did not have the money to do so. They then needed a bridge loan to again meet operating expenses. And what about now? The money they did raise through the sale of minority shares has only enabled them to meet their current debt deadlines. It has not added capital to the running of the club. They expect to lose at least $20 million again this season and on top of that have more debt to pay off in 2013. Most of the profits they make from SNY were also used to pay off that debt this year and continue operating of the team at the minimum.

    Where will they get the money to pay off those debts if already in a $20 million hole from this year? By Sandy both continuing to downsize, operate at a bare-minimum budget and trying to extend debt payments so they might be more overall but in lesser increments.
    This is the only way to hang on to the club – to cut to the bare bone until more of the debt is settled so they can again re-invest into the club. They are not broke – and thus they can afford to wait this out for the long-term profits to come in again to at least allow the Mets to break even. And it is not unusual for teams and other businesses to run on debt – in fact, I have found out that it is quite a common practice for ongoing debt is part of what keeps a business going and allows one to expand.

    But this wasn’t ordinary debt. It was taken out to finance the Mets portion of Citi Field, create SNY, and buy out the Doubledays at a time when the Wilpons had a half-billion dollar investment with Madoff and with an annual return of approximately 16%. Add to that the revenue they counted on by high priced ticket sales and luxury boxes that never materialized and attendance falling depsite ticket prices dropping and it is a road for disaster. They let their reach exceed their grasp.

    So one must take the financial crisis the Wilpons seriously enough to understand it affected the operation of the team – and that the publicly stated course as taken by this front office – the rebuilding for the future – was more lawyer spin on behalf of one’s employer than anything else.

    The front office had to dismantle the team and then talk in terms of rebuilding because money was desperately needed for expenses way beyond the payroll, including the wasted money on Castillo and Perez. Those were circumstances that had nothing to do with the team, its performance or its revenue intake.

    One being brought in with a vision for building for the future means focusing more resources on the minor leagues and in the signing as many draft picks as possible – not half of them – and not using up anything near the allotted money one has to sign them. Only one team – the Pirates – signed less draft pick selections than the Mets. And they did not sign one of their number two draft picks – number seventy-five in the overall draft – because they quibbled over $60,000 which would have meant simply giving him the slot money assigned to that pick. And that Sandy was allowed to spend more money on this year’s draft and didn’t, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    IF Sandy had made sever cuts except in player development and instead pursued with vigor (ala JFK LOL) drafting and signing young talent then there could be a valid argument about his vision for the future. But building for the future means assembling raw talent and again, this year 28 other clubs signed more draft picks than we did. It also means keeping in operation all three rookie teams that had been a part of the organization for almost twelve seasons for the more teams the more roster spots and the opportunity to observe more raw talent and the more chances of finding those with possible major leage potential.

    Again, look at the actions and not the conflicting public statements I think Sandy has been forced to make due to the situation he put himself into by agreeing to work for the Wilpons. Sandy now confirms he shopped for “inexpensive” players who could only give a fifty percent return in performance yet when spring training camp opened in 2011, he said the Madoff situation did not affect his operations. Later, he goes on Fox saying that with all the Wilpons lost it would be impossible for that not to have an effect as well and that the Mets losing money as well which meant one cannot go after better quality players

    Agree or disagree about the Reyes move, but remember throughout 2011 he said re-signing Jose Reyes was a priority and yet we learned he never bothered to negotiate with Jose’s agent nor ever presented a contract offer when he had exclusive bidding rights and then told Jose to get back to him after he met with other teams. And now he tells us he has yet to discuss the 2013 budget with his bosses while he is executive in charge – businesses have long-term financial planning and begin the specifics of their coming fiscal year’s budget almost a year before so that is not how one operates.

    There is only so much one can spin before getting caught up in the double talk.

    • 9th string

      Makes a lot of sense to me. The one item I don’t understand – why not trade Reyes when they could? They could have brought back prospects who had already been signed and developed as well as a couple of low priced players? Was it to trick people into by buying season tickets?

      • Joe D.

        In the past the Mets have tried to sell tickets by

        1) Holding a post-game press conference in 2011 stating the doctors said Reyes would not have to be placed on the disabled list and be ready for big upcoming series – and then a few days later on SNY say they were told by the doctors that day that Jose would have to do a stint on the DL.

        2) In the winter of 2010 holding back news news about Beltran requiring knee surgery which would keep him out most of the season knee operations/

        3) Telling us in the winter of 2010 that we might be surprised how quickly Johann Santana might be back on the club.

        • Just_Da_Damaja

          Dont forget telling us that Delgado was 2 weeks away from coming back to the field in 2009….

          they said that every 2 weeks for 6 weeks…

          i went to a fundraiser in the city attended by some ball-players…and 1 said Delgado is unofficially out for the year…

          next day i saw the mets again say Delgado may return to action in 2 weeks…

      • By the time the market for Reyes was ripe in the early second half of 2011 he was damaged goods. At that point I think it made more sense to keep him to try and fill seats than to trade him for a reduced return. Plus the Mets may not have foreseen just how insane the Marlins would get spending in the winter.

    • Second thoughts? Sort of.

      I think the Wilpons’ situation is far worse than I had persuaded myself to believe, definitely. But where we differ — sharply — is that I think Sandy is an unfortunate hostage, not an active conspirator.

      I think Sandy was brought in to remove the Minaya wreckage and start over from a better foundation, but expected to be able to spend the kind of money the Mets had spent in the past, only more wisely. I think he was then confronted with a very different financial picture and a very different job, and since then ownership has constantly moved the goalposts on him. He’s doing the best he can, but past 2013 there’s not much he can do. He expected “Moneyball with money,” but wound up with just plain Moneyball again as GM of the Oakland A’s East. It must be really disappointing.

      If he’s of a mind, he’ll have a hell of a book to write someday.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Jason,

        I have been careful not to blame Sandy for these actions – I do believe this was what he was hired to do and not something he decided to do on his own. And I kind of feel sorry for him because I do not know if he was unprepared for the media blitz and scrutiny he was bound to get in New York that he didn’t experience in San Diego and Oakland. And, of course, there was his personal friendship with the Commissioner and having known the Wilpons for a very long time.

        I do not believe, however that he was unaware of the extend of the Wilpon misfortune – having worked closely with the Commissioner who was not only aware of the problems but must have advised him as to how bad the situation was. If that was not the case, Sandy should punch Bud in the nose!

        We do also have a friendly disagreement upon when Sandy started being really in control of player personel and thus used his analytical ability to decipher saber stats in order to formulate rosters, trades, signings, releases, etc. If one takes my stand that it was Bill Rigney that really made the moves until 1991, then the record Sandy has to show is eight straight seasons of losing clubs beginning in his second year when the team he inherited in Oakland went from 96 wins to just 68 and finished last (not his fault) but resulted in a total six years of “rebuilding” before the club finished above .500 again (which, as GM, was a good deal his fault)and these last two seasons with the Mets.

        Note that when with Oakland, he did have money to spend and through 1995 the payroll never went below the major league average.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Jason,

        Another thought is what about the future as far as new owners as cocerned without the inclusion of at least in part SNY.

        Citi Field in itself would not be able to allow any owner to break even – not at the way prices had to be slashed and it’s limited seating capacity. Back in 2009 the Mets projected breaking even with an average capacity of 38,200 plus the luxury suites based on 2009 ticket prices. No owner can expect that if the prices go back up for nobody again will be able to afford them. No owner can expect to break even if they draw an average 38,200 with the prices so low as they are now – and operate the club with a better budget.

        So for myself, I don’t know how the Wilpons can sell the team without a portion of SNY included for it’s SNY that makes the money.

        Any thoughts besides asking all of us to return our bricks, etc. so Shea can be rebuilt?

      • Jace,

        Alderson’s situation reminds me of Glenn Sather’s with the hockey Rangers. Everyone said, “Look at all the Cups he won in Edmonton WITH NO MONEY! He was able to keep Gretzky and Messier happy on a shoestring! Imagine what he can do with the nearly limitless resources Chuck Dolan and Madison Square Garden Corp. can provide…”

        So he tried it. The result? The Rangers nearly drowned in an Omar-esque muck of bloated, overpriced hubris. The only thing that saved them was a lockout.

        I know Sandy is smarter than that, but it almost looks like he’s overseeing a one-team lockout.

      • nestornajwa

        Cutting payroll isn’t the same as “Moneyball” unless the team’s resources, however limited, are spent on players with value above the salaries they command, but for one reason or another, mainstream MLB overlooks or undervalues these players. Admittedly, it’s tough to play Moneyball in 2012 because just about every team is doing it. The players Sandy has brought in may be inexpensive, but they’re certainly not underpaid. They stink if you measure them with pre-Moneyball stats like wins or RBI, and they stink if you measure them with VORP, WHIP or OPS.

        The Mets and other perennial losers are cutting payroll to the bone, below the levels of reliable revenue sources like SNY, MLB TV money and a new stadium designed mainly to increase the amount of money each fan spends on fancy restaurants and other amenities. Hence the decrease in capacity from Shea; the Mets aren’t trying to attract millions of fans, now or in the future. They eliminated a minor league affiliate, significantly reduced the number of scouts and front-office personnel and they have taken a decidedly indifferent, penny-pinching approach to the draft. That’s not Moneyball. They’ll settle for small crowds who spend twice as much per capita at Citi than they used to spend at Shea.

        It’s hard to believe Sandy’s 2011 statements regarding re-signing Jose were made in good faith. And it’s happening again with David. I don’t know why everyone is assuming they’re going to pick up Wright’s 2013 option. Forget about making an effort to keep him long-term. It’s not happening. I would LOVE to be forced to eat those words. The Mets will justify letting David walk away with blather about conserving resources as part of some master plan to construct a talent-rich powerhouse at some unspecified future date. Every sports fan engages in wishful thinking. But let’s not be delusional.

        And Selig probably couldn’t be happier. The Mets used to be a big-market team that spent lavishly (if sometimes unwisely) on free agents, driving the market for established stars. Leaving the Wilpon-Selig personal relationship aside, from the Commissioner’s viewpoint, the last thing he wants is another free-spending team in New York. So he’ll bend over backwards for the Wilpons while a guy like Mark Cuban will never be admitted into the club, no matter how much he is willing to pay. Sure, Cuban’s a little loony, but he’ll do anything and everything to help his team win championships. That’s not the sort of fellow MLB wants running a franchise in the biggest media market on earth.

        • Andee

          I seriously, seriously doubt they decline Wright’s ’13 option. Even if the owners make Sandy dump his salary, that’s the stupid way to do it, and Sandy is no birdbrain. You pick up the option and then trade him, you don’t let him walk away and leave you with nothing. But I don’t even think they’re going to do that, unless Wright just flat-out refuses to sign an extension. Otherwise they’re just asking to be put into instant receivership. (Would you give up Wright if it meant getting rid of the Pons? I don’t think I would, to be honest with you.)

          And I don’t think Sandy was lying about thinking the team had a chance of keeping Reyes. They would have, if not for the Marlins suddenly getting itchy pockets. No other team was interested on those terms, and there were at least 15 teams that could have used an upgrade at SS, probably 5 or 6 of whom could have afforded him. Everybody else knew what the injury risks were for him over a 6-year deal; the first year figured to be the bargain, and then every year after that it would be harder to justify the ROI. Sandy was probably instructed not to get involved in any bidding wars, and that was that.

          • nestornajwa

            Andee, I really hope you’re right and, again, I’d love to be forced to eat my words. But Jose left for Miami at the beginning of the offseason. How did they use the funds they would have invested in a more reasonably-priced Jose to improve the pitching or the outfield? They didn’t. Instead, they were content to suffer the largest payroll decline in the history of baseball. If Sandy had been empowered to improve the team, he wouldn’t have scraped the barrel for this awful, dirt-cheap bullpen of castoffs. In June, when the division was just hanging there waiting for someone to step up, why wasn’t Sandy looking for better options to patch that gaping hole? But they brought back Banner Day.

            They will decline David’s option for the simplest of reasons: holding on to him, even until he is traded in June, would mean they are on the hook for roughly half of that 2013 number. That’s $9 million. Will the Wilpons pay that to be in position to let Sandy trade for another Wheeler-quality prospect 2-3 years away from the big leagues? I don’t think so. Hey, prove me wrong Fred.

            But I’m kinda lookin’ forward to the possibility of Bobby V coming back in 2013. I like Terry, but he’s not going to make this team any better. If we’re going to have to settle for sideshow baseball, why not go all the way?

  • boldib

    Another of many fine posts you’ve done the last month or so.

    Watching the Mets right now is like getting sucked into an existential void (worse, maybe)….in a land were no Met scores from 3rd with one out…ever….somehow……

    I’ve been wondering about those 12 $20M investors. I read that family members bought in. That’s relevant to me. Why would anyone invest that much money into a position that’s losing huge sums? I don’t believe Wilpon would dupe his own family. I could be wrong. Here’s my hope: Wilpon assured them the team was for sale, they’ll get a piece of the sale price pie and, of course. they’ll retain their % of ownership.

    • Joe D.

      What the Wilpons do have going for them is time. That, in some part, was given to them by Bud Selig.

      I’ve read many articles in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, etc. that it would not be advantageous for the Wilpons to sell at this time because the team is undervalued due to it’s debt obligation and that they can get more for it by holding on rather than selling now.

      And notice they refused to include SNY in any sale of minority ownership share? That’s because the two go hand in hand. Many lose money owning the club while making up that and way more through media ownership. In fact, I have read where the big money makers for the Yankees and Red Sox is not attendance but YES and NESN.

      That profits from SNY have to be used to keep the Mets afloat shows how bad the overall situation is for the parent company, Sterling Equities. Attached is an article I might have posted before but is quite revealing about where the real money comes from.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/sports/regional-sports-networks-show-teams-the-money.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

      • boldib

        I’m not an accountant nor have I seen Sterling’s books so I have no idea what their financial forecast is or, even if the future is bright, whether they’re willing or able to move funds in and out of the Mets as a separate subsidiary. Just don’t know. Certainly, the TV income is something Sterling will not want to part with. But, when all is said and done, it seems like a no-brainer they’ll have to package all or part of SNY.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Jason, this might be the most incisive and on-target manifesto maybe since Martin Luther nailed those 95 theses on the cathedral doors.

    Another nuclear winter. Sigh.

  • Patrick

    I think once Fred and Saul have their dance at their baseball prom next July, the for sale by owner signs then go up.

    They’ll have one hurrah in the House That Bernie Built and then leave well enough alone. Rub elbows and say isn’t this grand then go decay slowly with someone else’s money they got for screwing up the Mets.

  • Dave

    It sounds stupid to say this at this point, but dealing with this is what makes the occasional winning that much better. You think any Yankee fan can differentiate between 1996 and 1999 or whatever years they did whatever? 1969 and 1986 felt so great because we have had the perspective of having to wait for it through miserable periods like this. Only the understanding of ugliness can make one fully appreciate beauty, only wanting makes full the experience of having. One of my favorite books is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (not to be confused with Siddhartha Finch, whose 168mph fastball the Mets could still use in the bullpen even if he’s off playing his French Horn somewhere). The lesson from that story, in a nutshell, is that peace comes to those who learn to wait.

    The counter argument, of course, is we’re not asking for peace, we’re asking for a good baseball team, and why the hell can the former Montreal Expos do it and we can’t?

  • JD

    “Only the understanding of ugliness can make one fully appreciate beauty, only wanting makes full the experience of having.”

    Respectfully disagree. No rewards or commendations or prizes for enduring Grant’s Tomb Redux. Just lots of lost time, money, punctuated by a few decent barbecue sandwiches at blue smoke.

  • Lenny65

    The Wilpons? More like the “Won’t-pons”. While the rest of MLB spends the off-season dreaming about finding baseball players to help them win baseball games, we’ll be treated to (another) off-season of “payroll-slashing” and “cash-flow issues”. Dandy. Meanwhile, the most promising starting staff this team has seen in years withers on the vine, piling up the “L’s” thanks to one of the most inept line-ups the franchise has ever fielded. The second half of 2012 has been one of if not the most depressing and demoralizing period in team history. And THAT is a very, very bold statement to make given our past.

  • Joe D.

    While it’s an interesting theory that one of Selig’s motives to keep the Wilpons as owners was to decrease the number of teams that are free spending – but, as we’ve seen, that hasn’t worked out for the other teams that he forced in new ownership to – the Rangers and the Dodgers.

    My own thoughts are that if the Wilpons survive these years of us wandering in the desert then they are going to begin their irresponsible spending habits all over again for that is their nature.

    BTW – even before free agency, general managers looked into players making less whom they thought could do the job just as well as the more expensive one could. Instead of signing free agents, they would buy the contracts from other teams or low level trades. Money Ball, in my own opinion, goes back to the use of those old time methods in contrast to many thinking that by signing high profile free agents they could buy a pennant.

    Money Ball is just a return to the good old days, minus the reserve clause, when it was common to see unknowns become important links in a new team’s chain.

  • eric b

    I too am disheartened…and in terms of the Mets, I’m usually, inexplicably, a glass half full guy. Somehow, the Mets can’t score any runs, despite the fact that that looked to be their potential strong suit going into the season… The outfield is just a wasteland (throw in the catcher too) … and the infield, while ok, certainly isn’t enough to make up for it.

    It’s only been six years, though, since the Mets looked like the best team in the NL (and they were contenders for two more years after that)… Admittedly, it doesn’t look good for the present (or the near future), but things can turn. They look to have a good core of starting pitching, young and old (Dickey)… Everything depends, as Jason points out, on money… Can they spend it? Will they? It doesn’t look so good, but I can’t bail on the team I’ve been rooting for for 32-33 years (I’m not quite 40 myself!).

    Like everyone else, however…I can bail on this year. If you don’t, it’s a sign of some serious illness.

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  • JohnnyL.

    Great article Jason. IMO one of your best. I do not think David will be here in ’13. They can’t afford him and he is the only player we have that can bring back a couple of inexpesive A prospects. The fact is we are going to have to slum it till the Wilponzi’s have used the final lifelines that MLB, will permit Zelig to toss’em.

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