By Jason Keidel
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We have a noble impulse to respect the dead, perhaps projecting values upon them that may not exist. For instance, George Steinbrenner has been hailed as a great man since his passing last summer, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
But he was a great owner. And Fred Wilpon is not. To paraphrase the Nixonian mantra, we may not know what he knew about Bernie Madoff and when he knew it. But for the purposes of his baseball team, it doesn’t matter.
Wilpon is the face of a crumbling club that came within an inning of the World Series five years ago and has gotten exponentially worse since. And now we don’t know if he can literally afford his own franchise. If the buck stops with him – as it always did with Steinbrenner – it’s his fault.
The managers and general managers have been fired. The old stadium that housed too many titanic chokes has been pummeled to dust. There is only Fred Wilpon left, an aging owner in repose who looks like a man ready to bury his head in the symbolic sand.
I don’t know him. He may be a fine family man, a charitable man, a noble man. But as we learned with George Steinbrenner, victory trumps veracity. Despite being banned from baseball twice, we forgave George because he blessed our city with seven World Series championships.
Now the new face of the Mets, Sandy Alderson, has been shoved to the dais more than he would like. But, as he said, he knew Fred Wilpon was at least peripherally involved with Madoff, and any involvement with Madoff is bad.
We can run toward the tangential and hypothetical, but the reality is the Mets are in need of a makeover. Now. With each troubling revelation about this case (and there will be no good revelations), Alderson needs to summon every second of his training as a Marine, Harvard Crimson, advisor, and general manager. Wartime tactics aside, this is probably the toughest job he’ll ever take.
As the story sprouts new limbs each day, Alderson must learn a New York cadence. Speaking in euphemisms about glasses being half-full won’t sell with New Yorkers, who have the best BS detectors on Earth.
Alderson said the mushrooming Madoff story has no impact on his moves this year. That is a non sequitur, since he’s done nothing. (Unless you consider signing R.A. Dickey, a geriatric knuckleball pitcher, historic.)
And the last thing a gasping fan base wants to hear is that you think your $145 million payroll is far higher than you’d like to see next year and beyond. Not with the Yankees across the river, not with your own television network, not with a new park and $5 hot dogs and ten-buck beer and pricey parking. No, that won’t work, Sandy.
Don’t tell your fans that the Mets can afford you and J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta but can’t afford a free agent. None of you will score a run this season, and New Yorkers know it.
If your argument is that it isn’t fair for Alderson to be charged with the daunting task of making the Mets viable in the wake of a scandal that occurred on someone else’s watch, then he shouldn’t have taken the job. He knew the Mets were in deep water, even if he didn’t know how deep. And to borrow Alderson’s new catchphrase, it would be “naïve” to think he didn’t know what this job entailed.
Alderson is already burning in a corporate cauldron. He can’t get the fans excited until he starts winning, but he can’t start winning until he knows the state of the team. And he’s learning on a quick curve that there’s no cauldron that burns hotter than sports in New York City.
You can’t charge Mercedes prices and deliver a Hyundai At the risk of redundancy, you need to slash prices, from foam thumbs to steak dinners to dinners with Mr. Met.
What are you going to do, Sandy? And when are you going to do it?
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
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