It’s not easy to push your way to the top of the list of most embarrassing sports franchises. Between incompetent owners, bumbling GMs, apathetic fans and everything else there is never a shortage of teams vying for this crown. I think of the Lions during the illustrious Matt Millen years. I think of the job Donald Sterling has done with the Clippers. How about the Daniel Snyder Redskins? The Pirates streak of 18 straight losing years? Where do the Mets fit in this hierarchy? I’m not sure they would take the top spot, but they are rising fast, and announcing their presence with a previously unseen enthusiasm. Most teams mired in such despair try to stay under the radar, but not the Mets. They’re out there screaming, “Hey look at us, we’re a f*cking disaster.”
When was the last time something went right for the Mets? When did they last catch a break? Do you want to count the 2000 World Series? If you don’t you might be headed back to Bill Buckner. Other than a couple of short runs of success the Mets seem destined to reinforce their status as that other team in New York. So, in terms of them being a colossal mess, where do you want to start?
How about finances? Everyone knows the Mets were tied up with Bernie Madoff, but it isn’t money lost with Madoff that’s the real problem. They’re being sued for 1 billion dollars by the trustee trying to recover Madoff funds, the thought being Madoff clued them in. Losing the suit could cost Fred Wilpon the team. They needed to take a 25 million dollar emergency loan from Major League baseball. They are carrying debt of over 400 million dollars. They just started a 25-year payout to Bobby Bonilla that will cost them almost 30 million dollars. Wilpon says they might lose 70 million this year. I’m no financial genius, I spent a good portion of my college classes on the subject simply trying to figure out the calculator functions, but to me this adds up to Wilpon needing divine intervention to keep his hands on this team. So, in summary, you’ve got a baseball franchise that has become not viable financially in New York. Well played.
Of course, there are then the on the field issues. You can take any team and list terrible free agent signings, but the Mets seem to have more than their fair share, because they do have a willingness to spend money. In 1992 they had the highest payroll in baseball. The season spurned a book called, “The Worst Team Money can Buy.” This is standard operating procedure for the Mets. A selection of free agent contracts through the years (not including the Bonilla deal that they have just begun to pay off):
- Kaz Matsui (3 yrs, 20 million). The Mets would end up trading Matsui for Eli Marrero.
- Luis Castillo (4 yrs, 25 million). Castillo is currently out of baseball (still getting paid).
- Oliver Perez (3 yrs, 36 million). Perez’s WHIP approached the rarely seen 2.0.
- Jason Bay (4 yrs, 66 million). .234 BA, 2 HRs, 8 RBI.
- Carlos Beltran (7 yrs, 119 million). Was worth it 50% of the time.
The contracts just add to what I’d call a general level of frustration that must arise amongst the Mets faithful. You’ve got David Wright who looked like he could be the Mets’ version of Cal Ripken when he first broke in, but he can’t stay healthy, has suffered mysterious power outages, and generally appears to be cursed. Then there’s Jose Reyes. Tantalizing talent and probably headed out of town after this season. Reyes is dogged by character issues and despite good hard numbers hasn’t been able to lead the team to any significant successes. Everyone in a Mets uniform right now is tainted by their recent history of underachieving and collapses in 2007 and 2008. You look at a Mets roster these days and say they’ve got a decent amount of talent, but it’s the Mets. They’ll figure out a way to screw everything up. I’m sure fans are terrified to think of what might happen to Ike Davis.
All of this helps the Mets status as a black eye on the sporting world, but it is their owner, the embattled Wilpon, who has really risen to the occasion over the last couple of days. He’s reminding me of one of those senior citizens that gets behind the wheel of a big Lincoln and just drives with reckless abandon. There isn’t a drop of paint left on either bumper, because they run into whatever they damn well please. They don’t care anymore. If they hit you, they hit you, but they’re going down swinging. Wilpon is certainly taking his cuts right now. He’s lighting up Mets players and himself. He said Jose Reyes is dreaming if he thinks he’s getting Carl Crawford money. He calls himself a schmuck for signing Beltran to his deal. He says David Wright is not a superstar. Ike Davis escapes the firing squad. Wilpon says, “Good hitter. Sh*tty team. Good hitter. We’re snake-bitten baby.”
That pretty much sums it up, I think. I suppose the only thing stopping the Mets from taking the crown is their awareness. Wilpon seems suddenly very conscious of the disaster he’s caused. Maybe the true embarrassing franchises don’t realize what they’re doing. Either way, Meet the Mets, Meet the Mets. Step right up and greet the Mets.