By Neil Keefe
» More columns
OK, this might sound weird, but you’re going to need to read this using Matthew McConaughey’s voice or at least pretend you’re using his voice in your head until I say you don’t have to anymore. Starting now…
I want to tell you a story.
Please close your eyes while I tell it. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves. Go ahead. Close your eyes, please.
This is a story about three baseball players. Three baseball players that have been known as the “core” of a Major League Baseball team in New York City. I want you to picture these three baseball players.
Suddenly the front office of these three players goes from one of the wealthiest in the league with one of the highest payrolls in the league to becoming a complete disaster. Devastated by being caught in the middle of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, the team’s off-field problems now overshadow their on-field problems, which are among the worst in baseball.
Through this financial crisis, these players play hard and play hurt. They play to win even though the surrounding pieces on the team would have trouble finding another job in the majors if it wasn’t for the existence of this team.
Now the team has fallen into irreparable chaos with low attendance, lifetime and die-hard fans turning their backs on the ownership’s product and the sports media spending every minute of every day bashing the team. It’s gotten to the point where breaking up this core of players has become inevitable and it’s no longer a matter of if, but when the first of the core will be shipped away for some prospects that will likely never become what these players are.
But the three players are still on the team. Still playing hard. Still playing through injuries and still producing at a high level. But that doesn’t stop the owner that put this team in peril from giving a personal interview with a writer from one of the most famous magazines in the world and openly bashing these core players and some of their teammates.
What do these players do in response? Nothing. They take the high road and take the criticism from the man who has dragged the team and its reputation through the mud for years. They choose the high road because they know getting into a war of words through the media with the man that signs their checks is a waste of time. They choose to respond as politically correct as possible because they know their time with this team is almost over and soon enough they will be free to play for teams with immediate futures. Teams that can win. Teams where the talk about the team revolves around what’s happening on the field and not in the league offices or some courtroom. These players know if they can just hang on a little longer everything will be better because they will be with another team with a new life in the game with a chance to matter again.
Can you see these three players?
I want you to picture these three players.
Now, imagine they’re Yankees.
(OK, no more Matthew McConaughey voice.)
If you’re not shaking or crying or shivering or wondering what the eff just happened, keep reading. If you’re experiencing any of those things, take a minute to calm down. It’s understandable because that was some powerful stuff. I’m experiencing those things and I wrote that intro and made it up.
That’s how scary that FAKE scenario is for me. Scary enough that something I made up off of the ending from “A Time to Kill” has made me think about what it would be like if the Yankees had the problems the Mets have. But I’m glad I only have to imagine what it would be like for the Yankees and Mets to reverse roles. I don’t have to actually deal with this problem because it’s not real for me or other Yankees fans. But it’s very, very real for Mets fans.
Is it possible that I’m actually starting to feel bad for Mets fans? I have always felt bad for my Mets fan friends that they had to deal with the misfortune of being raised as Mets fans and have had to deal with being represented by sub-par, less-than-mediocre and awful teams for nearly their entire lives. But enough is enough. Sell the team, Fred! Sell the team! Please, sell the team!
I have taken a lot of pleasure in reading about the Mets’ problems, listening to Mets fans need to be talked off the ledge and watching the team lose in catastrophic fashion on the field. The only thing I have gotten more pleasure out of in the sports world is what goes on in Boston and in the media there when the Red Sox are losing or when their season ends. But seriously, enough is enough.
I keep hearing about how Fred Wilpon’s one true love is the New York Mets and how the Mets are his life, but I have a hard time believing this. If I owned the Yankees and ran the team into the ground and became the laughingstock of the sports world and knew deep down that Yankees fan would sacrifice a month’s salary for the chance to either kick me in the balls or one-punch me, I’m pretty sure I would have had the team up on E-Bay (or however sports owners sell their teams) a long time ago. I wouldn’t stick around to watch the entire place burn to the ground knowing that I was the one that found the kindling, neatly stacked all the wood and then lit the match, and then after I lit the match, I poured gasoline on it. I honestly don’t know how Fred Wilpon can still bring himself to be watch the team or be around the team, let alone OWN the team.
But we keep hearing about how Fred Wilpon’s life is the New York Mets. How he wants for nothing more than the Mets to succeed, which is obvious by the many superb business and personnel decisions he has made. The only problem is that the Mets can’t and won’t succeed under Fred Wilpon. It’s time that Major League Baseball stepped in and flipped the hourglass on the Wilpons’ time as Mets owners.
Normally I would just sit back and watch the Mets endure another setback and another event that leads to me playing “Meet the Mets” over and over while laughing and watching every angle available on YouTube of Luis Castillo dropping that A-Rod pop-up. But it’s gotten to the point that even I can’t take it anymore because after thinking of this scenario unfolding on the other side of the city, it made me nauseous. Even Mets fans don’t deserve this. Yes, even Mets fans.
Because if you’re a Yankees fan, imagine it’s 10 years ago and replace Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera with what’s happening with David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Mets fans should have a chance to watch their homegrown players of Wright and Reyes play their careers as Mets. They shouldn’t have to see Wright get publicly berated for the next year and a half, or watch Jose Reyes start as short for the rival Phillies next year, or see Carlos Beltran regain his postseason heroics in the Bronx this October (though I will gladly sign up for that). Mets fans deserve to have something to be excited about and something to call their own. Don’t they? Don’t they?!?!
I’m the opposite of a Jose Reyes or David Wright fan, but I have always enjoyed watching Carlos Beltran play and won’t forget being amazed by watching him glide to balls in center the first time I saw him play live. But Mets fans shouldn’t have to watch the face of their franchise transform into Maria Shriver’s face because ownership continues to use a cootie catcher to make their decisions. Mets fans don’t deserve this. Yes, I just said that.
But instead of having the chance to have their own idols and their own heroes, Mets fans get to watch their favorite players put up for sale like a Blockbuster franchise going out of business in 72 hours! Everything must go! They will most likely have to watch Jose Reyes’ prime play out in the City of Brotherly Love and they will have to see him 18-19 times a year leading off for the Phillies. And the only thing I can compare that hopeless feeling to is when Shooter McGavin wins the auction on Happy Gilmore’s grandma’s house because Happy can’t afford it anymore. Except there isn’t a Tour Championship for the Mets to win to be able to retain Reyes.
It’s not fair. I don’t want the Mets to ever win, but at least let them be relevant. Let them matter. Make it so I don’t think that anything other than a Yankees sweep in the Subway Series is a failure. Make it so that I can hear about how the Mets played on the field and not what new public relations disaster their front office created. I want to be able to watch TV or listen to sports radio or go on the Internet without having to hear about Fred Wilpon or Jeff Wilpon or Bernie Madoff or the the ridiculous quirks of Citi Field or the fact that Citi Field is a shrine for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This isn’t just about Fred WIlpon’s quotes from Monday’s New Yorker because George Steinbrenner made similar comments for years and was a hero for it. It’s about all the things wrong with the Mets that have gone on under Fred Wilpon’s watch. This is about the simple fact that I’m tired of hearing about the Mets all the time for all the wrong reasons.
What Fred WIlpon did probably wasn’t the smart thing he could have done. Actually I’m going to say it was probably the worst thing he could have done. When you’re inevitably going to blow up your roster and start to search for packages in return, it’s never a good thing when you tell all the people you are going to do business with about the flaws of your trade chips. Even if everyone knew these flaws anyway.
But it got me thinking … what would other owners say about their players if they were stupid enough to let a New Yorker writer follow them around and then small talk with the said writer and then have people thinking they were snuck up on and made the comments unknowingly? I can’t speak for the Steinbrenners, but I can speak for myself. So, here are some quick thoughts from me on the Yankees in Fred Wilpon form.
Number 2, Derek Jeter, Number 2
The best Yankee of my lifetime. No one will replace him. Jeter could burn down my house and take all my money and I would forgive him.
Number 42, Mariano Rivera, Number 42
See Derek Jeter.
Number 20, Jorge Posada, Number 20
The most underrated and under-appreciated Yankee of the dynasty. It’s too bad his contract ends at the 2011 and not at the end of 2010 because this is getting hard to watch.
Number 13, Alex Rodriguez, Number 13
It’s been a love-hate relationship between us. When things are going well, he’s the man. When they’re going badly, he’s an easy target. I know it’s not fair, but that’s just the way it is.
Number 24, Robinson Cano, Number 24
My favorite position player not named Derek Jeter since Alfsono Soriano was a Yankee. I just wish he wouldn’t look so nonchalant doing things sometimes and would take a pitch once in a while.
Number 25, Mark Teixeira, Number 25
He helped break the eight-year drought, but wish he would be better in playoffs and pop up less. I’m also scared he is transforming into the Giambino because of the short porch.
Number 14, Curtis Granderson, Number 14
I was always scared of him when he would hit against the Yankees as a Tiger. I’m happy he’s on our side now. Hard guy not to like.
Number 33, Nick Swisher, Number 33
I’m close to setting up a countdown on my computer for the day the Yankees can buy out his 2012 option for $1 million.
Number 11, Brett Gardner, Number 11
I wish he would steal more bases. I wish he would not strike out looking so much. I wish he would realize his full potential soon.
Number 55, Russell Martin, Number 55
Already a favorite of mine after not even months. Plays hard and proves he wants to win.
Number 17, Francisco Cervelli, Number 17
I will go pick up Jesus Montero myself. That’s not a joke or supposed to be funny.
Number 52, CC Sabathia, Number 52
I don’t care if he opts out as long as you come back. Please don’t leave! Please don’t leave! Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaseeeeee! Don’t make me beg!
Number 34, A.J. Burnett, Number 34
I only say the things I say about him because I believe in him and his abilities and I want to get the most out of him.
Number 40, Bartolo Colon, Number 40
I thought I would hate him, but I actually love him. I love his demeanor, his personality, his confidence and the way he pitches. I was scared we were getting the 2008 Bartolo Colon. I like stem cell Bartolo a lot better.
Number 34 Freddy Garcia, Number 34
It’s a joy watching him pitch. The most fun I have had watching someone pitch since El Duque’s similiar smoke-and-mirrors routine in 2004.
Number 47, Ivan Nova, Number 47
I wasn’t sure about him, but I think he can has taken the right steps forward. I’m excited for his future.
Number 65, Phil Hughes, Number 65
I miss the Phranchise.
Number 62, Joba Chamberlain, Number 62
I miss 2007 Joba.
Number 30, David Robertson, Number 30
I don’t think you’re supposed to like middle relievers as much as I like David “Copperfield” Robertson.
Number 29, Rafael Soriano, Number 29
Number 48, Boone Logan, Number 48
New York to Scranton via Greyhound is $40. I’m willing to pay.
Follow Neil on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NeilKeefe