Saturday, August 14, 2010

K-Rod is a Symptom, the Mets' Disease Is Spreading

Met closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has now served the 2-game suspension his team gave him for having been arrested on a charge of assaulting his common-law wife’s father. (His common-law father-in-law?)

This is like the situation on Friends when Joey (Matt LeBlanc), having previously played Santa Claus while working at Macy’s, got demoted to Elf, and he came into the apartment wearing his costume, and Chandler (Matthew Perry) was overwhelmed: “Too… many… jokes… must… mock… Joey!”

How many different Top 10 lists could I have made about K-Rod? Worst Ballplayer Freakouts. Biggest Met Transaction Blunders. Worst Moments In Met History. Worst Free-Agent Signings In Baseball History. Most Overrated Pitchers. Most Annoying Relief Pitchers. (Not worst, but most annoying. I have to admit, there are times when Joba Chamberlain would qualify for that.)

K-Rod wouldn’t make any of those lists, except maybe the last, for the simple reason that, except for the last, he has not had the chance to stand the test of time.

But Yankee Fans have disliked this guy ever since the 2002 American League Division Series, when he was the closer for the team then (and should still be) known as the Anaheim Angels, and he shut the Yankees down and had too intense a celebration, on the way to the Angels winning the World Series.

K-Rod is a showboat and a jerk, but if he's pitching well for your team, you overlook that. But he's been a liability for the Mets this season, and Wednesday night -- even if the father-in-law was at fault -- he did something that obscured even a typical Met bullpen blowup, the kind of game that puts the M, the E and the T in "MELTDOWN." (Paging Mel "tdown" Rojas.)

Yesterday, the New York Post’s back-page headline was, "JAILHOUSE ROD." They even put K-Rod's face on Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock costume, coloring the prison duds orange and blue instead of black and white.

If I were a Met fan, right now I would be praying for a falling-out between Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, for one to buy out the other, and for the bought-out one to then buy the Mets from the feckless House of Wilpon and bring the Big Stein attitude. If something like what K-Rod did had happened on the Early George Yanks (1973 to 1979) and especially on the Middle George Yanks (1980 to 1990), heads would roll -- probably the pitching coach's head as well as K-Rod's.

When the Mets had similar disciplinary issues, as well as being terrible on the field, in 1993, then-GM Gerry Hunsicker (who went on to considerably more success in that role with the Houston Astros) said, "We need to stop being reactive and start being proactive." And WNBC-Channel 4's Len Berman said, "But what if they become radioactive?"

Too late then, Len, and too late now, Fred and Jeff. Blow it up and start over. If even someone as obstinate as Orioles owner Peter Angelos can do it, so can you.

Except for K-Rod, all the Mets and their fans have had to worry about this season has been bad baseball. This is a far cry from the aforementioned 1993 season, when Bobby Bonilla was threatening reporters with bodily harm, Vince Coleman was setting off firecrackers in a parking lot and injuring a child in the process, and Bret Saberhagen gave a new meaning to the words “bleacher bum,” squirting bleach at a reporter.

Then, with nice-guy manager Jeff Torborg replaced by Dallas Green, his tough-guy reputation intact then as now, the disciplinary problems stopped, and the Mets lost "only" 103 games that season, instead of threatening their modern-day major league record of 120 losses from their 1962 debut. He couldn't stop the losing, but he could at least make them act like professionals.

Jerry Manuel is doing neither, and with a team that, at least in theory, is considerably more talented than the '93 Mets, who should have won a lot more considering they had Saberhagen, Bonilla, Coleman, Jeromy Burnitz, Tony Fernandez, Frank Tanana, John Franco, future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray, and 1986 holdovers Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez and Howard Johnson.

The Met situation is not going to improve until Jerry Manuel goes. I don't think even that will do any good until Omar Minaya goes. And that won't happen until Fred Wilpon takes the keys to the car away from son Jeff.

As much as I hate the Mets, I think it's a good thing to have both of New York's baseball teams doing well. In fact, of the Tri-State Area's 9 major league sports teams, only 3 made the postseason in their most recently completed season: The Yankees (World Champions), the Jets (advanced to the AFC Championship Game before losing), and the Devils (lost in the first round). The Giants and Rangers both fell a little short, and in each case did so because they made fools of themselves in their season finales. The Mets, Knicks, Nets and Islanders couldn't see the postseason with binoculars.

The Knicks and Nets still look pathetic, but at least they give the impression that, however weakly, they are trying. So do the Giants. The Rangers and Islanders are still spinning their wheels, and in the Isles' case this could be fatal, at least as far as their residency in the Tri-State Area is concerned. So, as my boss (a Staten Islander) would say, these teams gotta get crack-a-lackin' here.

The Mets? They're just crackin'. And K-Rod's crackup isn't helping.

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