Freddie's (Mets Are) Dead

"Everybody's misused him; Ripped him off and abused him . . . " Poor Fred. Who knew Curtis Mayfield would be such a prophet back in 1972 when he sang these lyrics? While we all have an opinion as to what the Mets should do to fix their team for this upcoming season, you don't need a prophet to tell you what will happen: The Worst Team Money Could Buy, Part II.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my Metsies. As part of my sacred compact with the Mets, each year I purchase a Sunday ticket plan (albeit I haven't figured out if I am a gold, bronze or silver medalist yet), spend at least $50 each game on beer, hotdogs and food from an Asian cuisine stand located in the lower rightfield bowels of Shea (a mere bus ride away from where I sit), and agree – each and every single time – to be held at gunpoint by the City of New York when I park my car in an area of the lot that's a mountain hike away (has anyone suggested parking lot trams to Fred yet?). In return, the Mets promise to put players on the field (in a uniform du jour) to play the game of baseball. Hey . . . does it get any better than that? Perhaps not, but something disastrous this way comes.

While some can take issue with Wilpon's efforts to give Met fans a championship ("Wilpon doesn't want to go all the way" "He's all talk" "The difference between Wilpon and Steinbrenner is that Steinbrenner really wants to win"), no one can deny Fred has spent plenty of money. Something to the tune of $110 million, I believe. But, what does he have to show for it? Not much. Is that Wilpon's fault? If you hire someone to run your store, and he lands up overstocking your inventory because all his great ideas didn't work out, would that be your fault? Don't executives hire people that have an expertise in an area in order get better results than if the executive had done it herself? Enter Mr. Steve Phillips. The expert hired to run the Mets. The man who has always sacrificed the future for the present. Well, the present has arrived, and it's a gift-wrapped canister whose lid is about to go "ka-bang" with the next multi-million dollar free agent signing of yet another aging vet.

It has become a vicious cycle, this thing called the "Mets." Phillips, knowing Piazza, Leiter, et al. are in their last days (and he in his), insists on throwing more good money after bad. "No time to rebuild. It's New York, and the fans want a winner now." Frankly, that's a crock. First of all, if we wanted a winner now, we'd be Yankee fans. Second, we're sophisticated and intelligent enough to know that, as it is with most things in life, good things come to those who wait. All kidding aside, if Phillips really wants the Mets to be like the Yankees, he should stop treating us like morons and use Fred's money wisely. We already have the future Jeter, Posada and Pettite. Now we need Phillips to go out and get us the Paul O'Neills, Tino Martinezes and Jimmy Keys of the world; not the Jesse Barfields, Danny Tartabulls and Ed Whitsons.

And what of the team as presently constituted? While I am of the opinion that anyone suggesting Piazza be traded should be tarred and feathered on the spot, I know a decline when I see one, and Piazza's best days are behind him. Mo? We are stuck with him and a contract that is scheduled to expire when the next James Bond movie is released. Alomar, if he is not hitting and fielding by April 14th like a future Hall of Famer, he should do us all the favor and just stay in Puerto Rico. If the Mets sign Alfonzo, it goes a long way in showing us that the Mets are loyal to their prized products, but not as long in the tooth as Edgardo is. This guy has to be the oldest looking 29 year old on the face of the planet, and the next time I see him pull a hip flexor, I'm going to call for an investigation to determine whether it's really a hip flexor, or osteoporosis. And while Roger Cedeno conceded he should have been more aggressive in stealing bases this past season, I am a bit concerned that it took him until September 29 to figure it out. This list goes on and on, folks.

Fred Wilpon, his promises to retool notwithstanding, has made it clear that the Mets are not going to get close enough to even take a whiff of the $117 million luxury tax threshold. Reading's Anthony Mastantuoni's fine piece on how the Mets are expected to grapple with this very issue, he reported that, given Major League Baseball established the salary threshold at $117 million for 2003, the Mets' payroll could reach $123 million if they raised it as they did the year before. However, given Wilpon's edict, the Mets are expected to, at best, increase their $110 million payroll by only the skin of Glavine's chinny chin chin.

With the signing of Glavine, do we really expect every single player bounce back from the season they had last year? Well, gang, that's what it's going to take to beat the Phillies and Braves next year. Those who believe the collapse was a group effort think it's realistic to think that they all will bounce back together. Well, I ask you: did Robin Ventura really have that much better a year last year than in 2001? How about Todd Zeile (sans the Coors Effect)? What if the Mets had kept those guys? Things would have been as bad, but at least their contracts would have been over and done with by now. Not that I am trying to second guess Phillips, because I was excited as the next guy in March of last year. But when does the organization just sit back, take an accounting of their inventory, and decide signing players like Glavine for $10 million for four years is just not worth it? As hard as the Mets try the quick fix to get Piazza a ring, time simply can't be saved in a bottle.

Adding to the luxury tax mess are the daily media reports led by Met-hater, Bob Klapisch, which painstakingly details the Mets (those lovable fools) attempts to peddle Burnitz and Ordonez to every team in baseball, only to be asked by teams whether there's a "Magglio" in front of one of those names. In short, the Mets are a quickly becoming recipe for disaster.

What the Mets needed to do was start all over again. Keep Piazza, package Alomar with Ordonez and Burnitz, package Leiter and Benitez with Mo, and package Phillips with a Rolex. Save your money, and load it as ammo to go after the likes of Vlad and crew in 2004. I would not have minded...really. But the signing of Glavine shows the Mets will not commit to rebuilding. Our first FA signing of the offseason is a 37-year old veteran, surely on the decline in his career...or at least will be at some point in his contract.

All signs are pointing towards: The Worst Team Money Could Buy, Part II. Just get me that parking lot tram.

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