Sunday, January 17, 2010
Mets Need to Clean House
Which brings to mind a giant billboard that covered the close right-field wall at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia in the 1930s, when the Phillies might have been the worst team in baseball -- although, with the Athletics literally just down the block (Shibe Park was at 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue, Baker Bowl at Broad & Lehigh) having been broken up for financial reasons, the Phils might not even have been the worst team in town. The ad was for soap: In small letters, "THE PHILLIES USE"; in much, much larger letters, "LIFEBOUY." And the joke was, "And they still stink!"
(The Red Sox also had a Lifebuoy billboard on their close left-field wall, before all the ads on it were taken down before the 1947 season, revealing the green paint underneath, resulting in the nickname "The Green Monster.")
The Yankees have had 2 "collapses" in the post-1973 George Steinbrenner era, 1982 and 1989 -- and while the "rebound" from the 2nd, which began in 1993, finished the job, the 1st, in 1985, didn't.
By contrast, the Mets, in the post-1980 Fred Wilpon era, have had 3 collapses: 1992, 2002, and 2009. The first two led to rebounds that included, respectively, a Pennant and a Division Title that came within one run of a Pennant. But, still, the competence that the Yankees showed in building the 1993-present contender, and the 1996-2003 and 2009 champions, has never been there.
Any team can have bad luck with injuries. Certainly, the Yankees have, at various times since I've been old enough to watch them. But, on occasion, they've managed to win in spite of those injuries: David Cone's aneurysm in 1996, Derek Jeter's shoulder in 2003, Alex Rodriguez's hip in 2009. They've managed to hold on long enough for those players to come back and make an impact, because they've made the management decisions necessary to get the players to fill out the roster and to fill in the gaps.
By contrast, the Mets have gone the 1980s -- and 2002-08 -- Steinbrenner route of "I want big stars and I want them now! Winning will follow!" And it hasn't worked in Queens any more than it worked in The Bronx. Steinbrenner got Steve Kemp, Rickey Henderson, Steve Trout, Jack Clark, Steve Sax... nothing. After the 2001 oh-so-close World Series, he let Tino Martinez go and signed Jason Giambi, and got Gary Sheffield, and brought Roger Clemens back for a not-nearly-as-successful second go-around. None of it worked.
Getting CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira? None of those guys were as big of a star at their signings by the Yankees as the preceding were -- winning has made them bigger than those guys will ever be. They were team players.
So it's time for the Mets to clean house: Get rid of Omar Minaya. Have Fred Wilpon pull an Ed McCaskey (Chicago Bears) and take the keys to the car away from Sonny Boy. Get proven winners: Omar Minaya is not one, any more than Billy "Pennant? What's a Pennant?" Beane in Oakland is. And fix the organization, top to bottom.
The right people are out there. The Mets found them in time to build 1969 and 1986, and they need to find them again if they ever want to be respected like the Yankees are -- or to be respected at all.