Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Amazin' Mess

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Why is the above man smiling? Doesn't he know he's in the same shoes as the guy hired to captain the Titanic?

For the record, that's new Mets GM Sandy Alderson. So, Mr. Alderson, what kind of year are the New York Mets going to have?

After last year's horrendous debacle, the Mets' big wigs (Fred & Jeff Wilpon) held a press conference promising sweeping changes and a thorough overhaul of the team. At the management level they held true to their word, giving manager Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya the boot and bringing in Alderson and former Astros and Angels manager Terry Collins to run the team.

But um, as for the guys out on the field, you know, the ones who actually win games, the Mets did absolutely nothing in terms of bringing in championship-caliber talent. Absolutely nothing with a capital N. Well, unless you consider pitchers D.J. Carrasco and Chris Young power moves. Um, not really!

The Mets are pretty much going to field the same cast of characters who have shown promise but have imploded for 4 consecutive years and counting. The word around camp is that the players are all "healthy" and the energy Collins has brought along is "infectious". But like I said, these are the same cast of characters, so should we expect different results?

Yes, they are saying all the right things to the media regarding the upcoming season. Carlos Beltran is talking about how good he feels and is looking forward to a monster year. Hmmm? David Wright is talking about how the mood has changed and how excited everyone is. Hmmm? Jose Reyes is saying that he feels better than ever and that he thinks this team can compete with anyone in the NL East. Hmmm? As a disgruntled lifelong Mets fan, who has a pretty good inkling on how their culture works, I must say I have to see it to believe it.

The truth of the matter is, the Mets are a mess. A financial mess. Not only are they prisoners to some bad (really bad) contracts (i.e. Oliver Perez & Luis Castillo) orchestrated during the Omar Minaya-era but their alleged-involvement in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme has put them in a financial pickle. The word on the street is that Major League Baseball has lent the Mets $25 million to help them with their finances but has also vowed not to lend them another penny. And to make matters worse, the Mets owners are facing more allegations, aside from the $300 million lawsuit already filed against them, for ignoring the obvious warning signs that Madoff was a crook. In a nutshell, the lawsuit claims the Wilpons profited handsomely from their investments with Madoff and turned a blind eye on the fact that maybe there was something wrong with those huge earnings when the stock market wasn't doing well and everyone else, who was legitimately investing, was making little or no profit.

Here's a very simple and down to earth hypothetical for those of us who don't really follow (or care about) these complicated lawsuits: Let's say, Bernie rolled up to the Wilpon's house with a big fat check back in 2000 when the market crashed due to the Microsoft antitrust beef. And let's say, the Wilpon's blindly took the loot. The lawsuit claims the Wilpon's should have "smelled a rat" and said, "Uh Bernie, where is all this dough coming from? Didn't the market just crash?" And if Bernie offered no legit explanation, they should have reported it to the feds. Got it?

Of course, the Wilpons are fighting the lawsuit, claiming they too were victims of the Ponzi scheme, losing millions themselves. I guess we have to respect their right to innocence until proven guilty. But there is no doubt the Madoff thing has become a nuisance for the team.

In the end, I'm not going to completely throw the Mets under the bus. In their defense, they do spend a lot of money on players but, more often than not, they just don't get a bang for their buck. Whether it's an epedemic of injuries to key players or the thug-like behavior from closer Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez or simply lack of effort, for some reason something always seems to go wrong. And something tells me this coming season is going to be no exception. I just hope they prove me wrong.

But I'll put my money on me.

On a personal note--

Back in 2009, I was actually performing jury duty not too far from where the Madoff trial was being held. Each day, after being dismissed, I would hang around the federal courthouse just to soak in the media circus that spilled all over the courthouse and the surrounding area. I was able to snap the above picture the day of the verdict as Bernie was escorted from the building. It happened so quickly that Madoff was already in the vehicle when I snapped it. It was an interesting experience, I have to say.

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