Phillips Gone, But Wilpon To Blame Too

A lot of events have occurred since he was hired on that July 16, 1997 day. He was able to get the organization into the playoffs during back-to-back seasons for the first time in the franchise's history, but then came the days when he compiled a $120 million rotisserie team. This is a what-have-you-done for me lately town. Steve Phillips has done nothing, and even that's being generous to a man who turned Shea Stadium into a laughing stock.

A large red target, that should have read "fire me", had been taped to the back of him ever since Bobby Valentine was fired on the day following the 2002 season. Somehow, through it all, he managed to get out of the fire unscathed; until now.

Fred Wilpon made a mistake. Now he realizes it.

"To date, this has been a very disappointing season. Our expectations over the last three years have not been realized," owner Fred Wilpon said at a press conference to a announce the firing. "The team has not produced the results we wanted for ourselves or for our fans."

Steve Phillips knew he wouldn't last the season and, in all honesty, probably is shocked that he survived until June 1. It was overdue. The plug should have pulled a long time ago.

Entering Opening Day, the Mets owned the second highest payroll in Major League Baseball, at roughly $120 million, behind the cross town Yankees. Phillips collected washed up stars, sat back, and watched a 75-86 last place team in 2002 and now a 28-35 rendition in 2003 operate sorrowfully.

F. Wilpon
WHOOPS: Fred Wilpon might wish that he had replaced Steve Phillips when he decided to let Bobby Valentine go in October.
"We will attempt to energize this team this year and in the future years by getting younger and more athletic. We will strive to create a healthy mix of young and veteran players. Our minor league system will be essential to our ability to be successful now and in the future."

Is that rocket science or what? Young players. What a revelation. Steve Phillips was in more love with veteran players than a newly wed couple are. It was revolting to watch him and his creation.

He worked his way all the way up the stairs, playing in the system as a minor leaguer and then gaining his way into an office spot. Soon there after, on July 16, 1997, Joe McIlvaine was out and a man named Steve Phillips was in. The climax was a World Series birth in 2000, but he has been rolling down the steps ever since.

The list of moves that backfired in his face just might be longer than the distance to the sun. Roger Cedeno. Jeromy Burnitz. Roberto Alomar.

The most criticism came when he acquired Mo Vaughn, a designated hitter/first basemen on severe decline, with a contract that makes him the highest played player in the National League and a man still recuperating from a severe biceps injury.

The Mets general manager found himself in a position, way to often, over paying for a need. Think Kevin Appier. Think Todd Zeile. Think Roger Cedeno. It became his trademark since his team's appearance on baseball's grandest stage.

Bobby Valentine was the scapegoat. If one went, then they both had to. I said it then, when covering that firing, and I'll say it now: Neither should have escaped culpability. Why, Fred, didn't you fire him with Valentine in October? "It was our hope he would be able to turn it around."

Yea, sure. Because that really happened. It's time to start over, and that, in the end, might be the best case scenario for the New York Mets and their fans.

Writer Christopher Guy covers the Mets daily for and can be e-mailed at

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