Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crisis Meets Opportunity

  • Talk is no substitute for action:

Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez tore ligaments in his thumb while punching his father-in-law in the face and requires surgery. He'll be out for the year and the Mets are going to look into voiding the entire contract.

You can get the information concerning this mess anywhere so I'm not putting on a reporter's hat and getting into the news-gathering business. I find it hard to believe the Mets are going to be able to void the whole contract with the amount of money that remains, $11.5 million guaranteed for 2011 and with the 2012 appearance/health option at $17.5 million; they'd be stupid not to try and get rid of K-Rod.

The story is what it is. It's ridiculous; it's absurd; it's become fodder for the return to Mets ridicule that went strangely silent when they rose to eleven games over .500 and were legitimate contenders earlier in the season.

That's the point.

I suppose I shouldn't be stunned at the haphazard way in which so-called "reporters" and "analysts" use any small sampling as a vehicle to advance their agendas or write hatchet job stories. No team is immune. The Yankees experience a lull and questions begin; questions like: "should the Yankees be legitimately concerned?"

No. The Yankees should not be legitimately concerned; not with a record of 72-46, that lineup and Mariano Rivera. But it was an easy story to write; to ignore the fact that it had no foundation. Those advancing the suggestion that the Yankees are in trouble didn't even present the bare bones of a viable case for the idea; they couldn't come up with anything original, so they reverted to what was easy----a story of a team in a hitting slump for a few days----to create panic.

This has gone on all year with numerous teams. The Rockies were selected by some to be a World Series contender; they slumped, got hot, slumped, got hot and the club's peaks and valleys were mirrored by reactionary "experts". The White Sox looked awful, were bickering and in-fighting and appeared hopeless. Then they started winning. Now they're contenders.

It's random and it's cheap.

So it's back to the Mets. Considered to be an organization in shambles, badly run from ownership on down, undisciplined, chaotic and borderline sociopathic, scathing indictments (pardon the K-Rod double entendre) are raining down on what's wrong; what should be done to fix it; and why things are never going to get better.

It's funny how the smallest things----good and bad----alter perception.

And that's what this is about.


To take this incident in which a 28-year-old man started punching his 53-year-old father-in-law in the face and blame the organization; or to fold it into a mass of larger problems is the epitome of context switching. What precisely did the Mets have to do with this? How could they have prevented it? Would anyone, anywhere think that one of their employees was going to walk into the family room at his workplace and begin punching a family member in the face? And what is the employer supposed to do to prevent it?

It happened and the Mets are trying to handle it as best they can.

There are many things for which to tear into the organization, but that's not one of them.

For all the random advice being presented----much of it agenda-laden----no one is addressing the legitimate facts.

Any team----and that includes the Pirates, Astros, Diamondbacks, Royals and yes, the Mets (lumped in unfairly with some terrible teams)----can turn around their fortunes and become title contenders within two years.

Any team.

Forgetful out of convenience or simply because they're not all that bright, the "experts" laud teams like the Phillies while blotting out the joke they were from 1994-2006 when they were badly run off the field; mediocre-to-terrible on the field; and a club that routinely blew playoff chances late in seasons. In fact, until their comeback in 2007 and the Mets collapse, they were again going to be on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.

The Yankees? Does anyone remember 1989-1992? When they were a laughingstock and no one wanted to play in the Bronx?

The Mets of 2003-2004 were horrible; the same GM they have now, Omar Minaya, was hired in late 2004, spent money and charmed his way into recruiting free agents and made some savvy trades. Two years after the laughable 2004 season, the Mets were one win away from the World Series.

Player judgment of other clubs is just as fleeting. When Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee were being shopped around, at first it was said they wanted nothing to do with the Mets; then when the club was playing well in June and garnered the reputation as a close-knit, likable group, all of a sudden, the destination wasn't so repellent.

For all the foolish recommendations that are floating around, nothing realistic and implementable is provided. You'll hear the Mike Francesas of the world with his "break up 'da core" nonsense---now presented in a nice, neat new package; but like the "better breakfast" from Subway, it's still crap that you should in no way be consuming for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drive-time. Cheap shot artists like Joel Sherman are going on his familiar rants; and stat zombies trying to shoehorn one of their own (they've given up on promoting Paul DePodesta) into the seat of a big market, big money club.

There is no substitute for action. All the slogans and statements in the world don't replace a plan being put in place and executed. The best example of a club that has done that is the Tampa Bay Rays.

In their prior incarnation as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, they were the stuff of satire. Both ownership groups brought cluelessness to whole new level. There was a time in sports when you could bank on the following: Joe Buck being smarmy; Brett Fav-ruh retiring, unretiring, retiring, unretiring; and the Devil Rays losing close to 100 games.

They deserved and received no respect until they finally stopped letting terms be dictated to them and instituted a code of conduct and took action in exercising the plan. When they changed the club name from Devil Rays to Rays, it was met with derision because the name change----described as a "Ray of sunshine for the Sunshine State" or something silly like that----was not as important as the identity shift that accompanied the conscious decision to jettison troublemaking players like Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young and addicts like Josh Hamilton.

It didn't matter that the players were talented; it didn't matter that the club had invested a lot of money in them; they'd behaved poorly; they weren't going to be part of the solution and the team rejected the principle of bowing to expediency because they had no choice. A better attitude meant a better atmosphere. If players didn't want to be part of the new look Rays; didn't want to behave appropriately, they could go elsewhere.

They were losers anyway; they were mocked anyway; how much worse could things get?

Helping matters on the road to respectability were the roster of number one draft picks that were advancing to the big leagues; that they made some smart and lucky acquisitions of players with good attitudes; and that they got off to a great start in 2008, gained confidence and steamrolled. The attitude of not taking the bullying of "superior" teams manifested in the spring training fight with the Yankees and regular season fight with the Red Sox.

The name change; the policy; the players; and the feistiness all contributed to the pennant winner in 2008 and what they are now. Did anyone see that coming? There were the Nate Silvers of the world who made their name with the claim that they "picked" the Rays in 2008 when in actuality, he said the equivalent of "if the Rays pitching develops, they're contenders". There's a difference. I had the Rays improving from 2007-2008 after their maneuvers, expecting a 76-86 season and rising fortunes.

But what of the mainstream media who have neither the capacity nor the courage to take a bold stand by predicting such a turnaround? Reality be damned, the Rays ludicrous results and indiscriminate personnel history crafted a punching bag for whom it took no effort or knowledge to "predict" another lost season.

You would think that the Mets are 20 games under .500 right now; that their starting pitching doesn't have a perennial Cy Young Award candidate on his way to the Hall of Fame (Johan Santana); two youngsters in their early 20s who are learning their craft (Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese); a resurgent knuckleballer (R.A. Dickey); and a youngster in the minors with an arm that is making scouts salivate (Jenrry Mejia).

It's either tear into them for spending blindly and making absurd trades; or savage them for holding onto their prospects and being "cheap". Which is it? Or is a case of "whatever's there to rip"?

What do they want? Who do they want?

They attack without coming to viable conclusions as to what the organization needs to do to repair the product and image. We hear floating concepts like "get more athletic"; or bring in a "baseball guy".


Is it a flexible statement able to be twisted into the context? Or is it a legitimate suggestion? Unless specifics are provided, how can any conclusion be drawn aside from a self-interested claim of having been "right"?

These "experts" are lazy and ignorant; preferring to laugh and slash rather than thoughtfully and accurately analyze. The resulting work is self-evident in this regard, but it's not going to stop until they move onto the next object to abuse and it's never going to stop unless it's pointed to and dealt with.

I'm dealing with it.

  • Viewer Mail 8.17.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Don Mattingly:

Donnie Baseball a Met? Noooooooo.

This is a microcosm of the reaction that would accompany Joe Torre taking over the Mets and bringing his hitting coach, Mattingly, along with him. If Torre leaves the Dodgers (likely); if Mattingly doesn't get the job (I don't think he will); if Torre takes over the Mets (possible), then you can expect to have to deal with the cataclysm of Don Mattingly in a Mets uniform; and it will be funny.

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets:

Paul, I think you're a bit too easy on the Mets organizational failures over the last few years. Yes, the New York media tends to pile on when they smell blood, and they amplify every bad thing that happens to the club.

Ownership's tepid response to the Frankie Rodriguez fiasco reflects this culture as well, as do the classless way Willie Randolph was let go, the refusal to release Oliver Perez, the insistence on playing Jeff Francoeur at all when one hopes he has no future with ballclub, the repeated mishandling of injuries, and, oh yes, the utterly lifeless play on the field coming down the stretch this season. If I'm an elite player with choices as to where I might sign, I would be looking at the Mets right now and saying thanks, but no thanks.

Max brings up a good point in that I may be glossing over certain aspects of the club failures due to partisanship. I at least hope to be objective enough to present my case.

I'm looking at things from a club point-of-view with Perez, Francoeur and K-Rod. Perez is earning so much money that they don't want to swallow it all even though it might be best for the team. If he does get released, it will be at the end of 2011 spring training. With Francoeur, I still believe in his talent; the team is trapped in the middle. Had Fernando Martinez shown up and started raking, then there's a reason to bench Francoeur, but he hasn't.

They're still----whether people accept this or not----in striking distance of a playoff spot with a weak schedule ahead of them; they have to see if there's a run in there somehow. It's happened before and the starting pitching has been so good that they're remiss if they give up now.

The Randolph firing was clumsy and classless, but was evidence of the niceness that has helped and hindered Omar Minaya in his career. People like him and want to help him; and he feels guilty about doing what must be done such as the firing of Randolph. It wasn't intentional meanness.

Free agents understand one thing: money. The Mets overpaid for Pedro Martinez in 2004, but it was Pedro's signing (and money) that led to the signing of Carlos Beltran that winter; players go where the money is highest and if the Mets pay, they'll get players. Despite their best efforts to imply that the situation is heading the way of the Pirates, it's an idiotic media creation because it's not accurate.

Listen to the Red State Blue State podcast appearance. Click here for the RSBS blog and here to hear it directly.

I'm scheduled to be on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz later this week. Explosion imminent. Evacuate. Now.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Nine days does not a Youth Movement make. Jeff has a coin. One side is the fiasco of 1991~1993(wanna include 2003?). The other side is the second half of 1983, and 1984. It's up to him. I have a 50% faith factor he will get this right. This is year 8 After Doubleday. This is Wilponianism. It is up to him just like Sternberg (the B'klynite) instigated the change in Tampa/St.Pete. Texas recognized with ARod, Colorado with Hampton, and most recently Houston ate cash (without mentioning how much $$ the NYY eat) because they recognized their business needed a correction. We can't have four players on the roster with no role and whom no one wants. That's precious roster space if they're committed to a youth movement. It's unlikely they'll be able to get out of KRod's full contract value. If they do...good, but there still needs to be more. Ollie or Castillo, please, at least one contract needs to be corrected in every sense of the word. I'm sure the Mets book keepers leave a trail of hair follicles everywhere they go. That's why there's so much trepidation. Stop being a jellyfish Jeff. He came on like the cavalry during the Bernazard situation and I'll give him props for going to Atlanta earlier this season to "inspect" his club. That's when this team short after got hot playing well into the all star break. Those guys were not the April guys who stunk up the month. And now that all the Old School is back, so is the angst. Clearly since "they" all got reassembled we've turned right back into the iceberg. April, pre- break and post break are three episodes of this 2010 show. Omar's planets aligned for one season when Valentin jacked 22 HR, LoDuca hit .300 and Delgado slugged like Delgado. But to include those three, Omar has juggled the same LF, RF, 2B, 1B, C positions that needed addressing when he got here. Each position has been a revolving door since 2005. Bay, Frenchy and Barajas are just the latest on growing lists; Castillo withstanding (pfff). I once said this team lacks a strong Baseball minded President because clearly we need separation between Omar and Jeff.
I've been saying since the winter 2010 is the Wilpon's cross road. They are here. What'cha gonna do Jeff?

She-Fan said...

Is there a reason Mike commented five times? LOL. I agree that it's not the Mets' fault that K-Rod acted like an idiot, and I know the Players Association gets involved in these situations, but I keep waiting for someone on the Mets to get really angry.

Gabriel said...

He wants to make his point, I suppose. I agree with Jane, where's going to be the line drawn? The worst part of media situations is that you can't be hard on the press because then they shape your image for their purposes by manipulating the masses. Such power should not go to people that know less than I do about their business.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

: o
I don't know why that's happening.

Jeff said...

Hmmm. I'd like to see the Mets succeed in voiding that contract. I can't remember the last time that was done to success.

Do you, Prince?