Monday, January 31, 2011

METS: Martin, Exit This Situation!

So... because of the money they lost investing with Bernie Madoff, Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon have announced they are selling 20 to 25 percent (1/5th to 1/4) of the ownership of the franchise.

One group has already come forward, with an interesting pedigree. It's led by a stockbroker named Ed Kranepool. Yes, the Ed Kranepool who...

* Was signed by the Mets out of James Monroe High School in The Bronx in their first season, 1962.

* Was called up at age 17, couldn't hit, was demoted to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons (who are, again, the Mets' top farm club), then demoted again, and was the subject of a banner at the Polo Grounds: "IS KRANEPOOL OVER THE HILL?"

* Was called up for good in 1964, having played a doubleheader for the Bisons, then played a doubleheader for the Mets the next day, against the San Francisco Giants, the second game of which went 23 innings, meaning he played 50 innings in 2 days.

* Was a member of the 1969 World Champions, although he was not the regular starter in either of his main positions, right field (enabling Ron Swoboda to make his catch that saved Game 4) or first base (enabling Donn Clendenon to be the Series Most Valuable Player).

* Was a member of the 1973 National League Champions, although he was not the regular starter at either right field (Rusty Staub) or first base (John Milner).

* Made two commercials for Gillette Foamy in 1978, including one that played on the superstitious nature of baseball players. It stated that, from 1962 to 1970, he batted .227; then switched to Gillette Foamy, and since 1971 had been batting .283. "What do you think of that, Ed?" "I don't know, but now I shave every other inning."

* Was the last original Met, and the last member of the Miracle of '69, to still be on the roster, in 1979 (although Tom Seaver returned in 1983).

Kranepool's group includes Donn Clendenon Jr., the son of his late teammate.

It also includes another son of a famous father, Martin Luther King III, who runs the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, his father's hometown.

Uh... The last time the Mets made a move for someone identified with Atlanta was when they signed Tom Glavine, labeled "the Manchurian Brave" by Greg Prince, author of the blog and book Faith and Fear In Flushing. (See the link to the right.)

I don't know if Martin III knows anything about baseball. If he doesn't, he'll fit in perfectly with the Mets.

Is selling an ownership stake to the son of Dr. King the Mets' attempt to convince black fans to switch from the Yankees to the Mets? If so, history is not on their side. The transactions of Omar Minaya did very little to convince Hispanic fans to switch from the Yankees to the Mets. And while Willie Mays and Monte Irvin were both better players than Jackie Robinson (though not by much), it didn't convince black fans to leave the Brooklyn Dodgers for the New York Giants.

Maybe Martin III really does know a few things about baseball. Anyway, he certainly has the right to buy into the team, assuming he's got the money. Maybe... cliche alert... he has a dream.

If so, and if this dream comes true, the dream will become a nightmare. These are the Mets we're talking about. I don't think his father ever imagined black men and white men sitting together in the boardroom at a baseball team's stadium, saying, "In this room, we are all equal... equally miserable in watching our team lose!" (After all, Dr. King died a year and a half before the Mets went from worst to first.)

If Martin III buys into the Mets, there will come a day when he's had enough, and sells his share. And when that day comes, he may very well say, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty -- and the fool who bought my share -- I'm free at last!"

I'm not saying Martin Luther King III is a fool. But if he does buy into this particular baseball team, he'll be on his way. His father tried to tell us that love is a greater force than hate, that peace is a greater force than war, that justice is a greater force than evil. He was right. But is there a stonger force in the universe than Met ineptitude?

There will always be at least one Major League Baseball team whose owner is thinking of selling. He should find another.

I know Reggie Jackson has tried to put together ownership groups to buy the Oakland Athletics and the Whatever They're Calling Themselves Now Angels of Anaheim, both of whom he played for, but was rebuffed with both. Maybe Reggie should give Martin III a call, and see what they can do together. Certainly, Martin will have a better chance of avoiding frustration than if he buys into the Mets.

METS: Martin, Exit This Situation! You'll thank me for it later!

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