By Ed Coleman
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Let’s kiss and make up. Essentially, the Mets and closer Francisco Rodriguez have done just that, resolving the grievance on Tuesday. Rodriguez instructed the Players Association not to challenge the Mets’ decision to withhold his salary for the remainder of the 2010 season – some $3.1 million. In return, the Mets agreed they will not seek to convert the closers’ contract to a non-guaranteed deal, and will remove him from the Disqualified List.
Rodriguez forfeits a good chunk of change, but he still has a huge payday coming his way. He is owed $11.5 million for the 2011 season, and has a vesting option worth a staggering $17.5 million for 2012 that kicks in if Rodriguez finishes 55 games this coming year and remains healthy. If not, he would receive a $3.5 million buyout. As you can see, it was well worth Rodriguez’ time (and bank account) to be contrite and conciliatory, and the Mets were fully aware of the track record of taking on the mighty Players Association regarding any conflict, no matter how much in the right they felt they were. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon stated – “We are pleased that Frankie Rodriguez has accepted responsibility for his actions and their consequences. We have been assured that he is taking steps to address the issues that led to the incident, and that those efforts will continue.”
The “incident” that Wilpon referred to happened on August 11 at CitiField when an angry Rodriguez had an ugly confrontation with his girlfriend’s father, Carlos Pena, outside the family room at the stadium, punching him several times, sending Pena to the hospital and causing Rodriguez to tear his right thumb ligament which required season-ending surgery.
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Rodriguez accepted full responsibility for his stupidity – “I am responsible for my injury that occurred as a result of this incident, and prevented me from finishing the season with the Mets. Personally, I do not feel that it is right for me to take a salary for the period of time in which I could not contribute as a player as a result of my off-field actions. In addition, I am directing each of my $100,000 annual charitable contributions to New York metropolitan area charities that further the purposes of the New York Mets Foundation.”
Rodriguez certainly sounded apologetic and detailed what he had been through since that fateful night – “I deeply regret the incident that occurred on August 11, 2010. I sincerely apologize to Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, Mets’ fans, my teammates, and the entire Mets’ organization. I have worked hard since the incident to make myself a better person and member of this organization. I have been participating in an anger management program since August, and I will continue in the program for the foreseeable future. I feel that anger management counseling is undoubtedly making me a better person and a better father. and will make me a better teammate and member of this great organization.”
Rodriguez continued his contrition – “I appreciate the faith and support that this organization has shown me throughout this matter. I look forward to being a part of the 2011 Mets and hopefully beyond. I want to put these issues behind me, and behind this organization and its fans. I have instructed my attorneys to work toward amicably resolving the other legal matters resulting from this incident. I want my focus to be on my family, my team and being the best closer in baseball in 2011.”
The “other legal matters” are misdemeanor criminal charges pending due to the altercation, but those are expected to be settled before the next court date scheduled for November 10. Rodriguez is progressing nicely from the surgery and plans to pitch in winter ball back in his native Venezuela at the beginning of November.
Meanwhile, the search continues for a new G.M. The first minority candidate will be interviewed on Wednesday – New Jersey native Dana Brown, the Toronto Blue Jays assistant G.M. Brown is a 1985 graduate of New Brunswick High School, and was a teammate of future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio while at Seton Hall. The Mets had also hoped to talk to Tigers assistant G.M. Al Avila, but were turned down by Detroit.
The odds-on favorite – Sandy Alderson – will complete his first-round interview on Thursday at CitiField. Alderson met with Jeff Wilpon and John Ricco last Thursday in New York City. Mets CEO Fred Wilpon and Mets President Saul Katz will take part in the call-back interviews with the selected candidates sometime next week.
Finally, those Met fans who would love to see Wally Backman as manager in 2011 may have gotten a boost on Tuesday with the selection of Mike Quade to go from interim to permanent manager of the Chicago Cubs. G.M. Jim Hendry is not in the strongest of positions after the Cubs’ washout in 2010, yet he selected a career minor-league manager to run his club – as well he should have.
In my book, Quade is the perfect choice. A terrific guy who has the players’ respect, Quade pulls no punches and led the moribund Cubs to a 24-13 record in their final 37 games. Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg – eminently qualified – would have been the safe choice for Hendry, but Hendry followed his gut and went with a baseball lifer to restore the Cubs to relevancy and respectablity. And that’s definitely two attributes the Mets will be shooting for in 2011.