Fred Wilpon is Scrooging the Mets and Their Fans Over

By Ethan Marshall

 

Fred Wilpon may very well be responsible for turning a talented Mets team that’s a few pieces away from being World Series contenders into a franchise in no-mans land.

Despite a high amount of ticket sales in 2017, including at the minor league level (thanks to Tim Tebow), the Mets expect to have a much lower payroll in 2018, down from $155 million to around $130-135 million.  This announcement came after the team traded away most of their pending free agents around the deadline for basically nothing.  Rather than taking on at least a portion of the remaining salary from players like Jay Bruce and Neil Walker in exchange for better prospects to replenish a dried up farm system, the Mets took no-names and long-shots while their trade partners took on the remaining salaries.

Why, then, are the Mets lowering their payroll at a time where they’re doing well financially and have a great opportunity to be contenders?  The blame can be placed on owner Fred Wilpon, who, unlike Derek Jeter, refuses to face his critics or even explain his actions to the New York media.  According to a New York Post story, Fred Wilpon gets upset whenever the Yankees make a big move, like their acquisition of 2017 N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton.  While this alone frustrates Mets fans to no end, as the team has done nothing but sign reliever Anthony Swarzak, Wilpon managed to make himself look worse.  Wilpon apparently believes the Yankees’ willingness to spend money in excess in order to compete almost every year is not a good long-term formula for financial success.  The Yankees have been doing this for the last 20-30 years, and show no sign of slowing down.  They are the definition of success.  Wilpon’s logic makes zero sense!

If this is Wilpon’s best argument for refusing to allow general manager Sandy Alderson to even know how much money he has to spend this off-season, then he shouldn’t be the owner of a major league baseball team at all, let alone one in the big market of New York City.

 

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Mets owners (from left to right): Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon.   Photo credit: Mets Merized Online.

The Mets should be pursuing free agents like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.  While they’ve been attached to free agents like Jay Bruce and Addison Reed, who could both be very useful, they’ve shown a reluctance to spend big on these candidates, to the point they haven’t even made any offers.  Instead, the player the Mets have been most closely attached to at this stage of the off-season has been Adrian Gonzalez, who will be 36 next season and is coming off a season in which he suffered major back injuries, because he’d only need to be paid the major-league minimum.  Additionally, the Mets may have wasted their opportunity to acquire second baseman Jason Kipnis from the Indians, who are now more reluctant to trade him than during the winter meetings.  Negotiations stalled when the Mets were reluctant to take on most, if not all, of the $30.5 million on Kipnis’ remaining contract through 2020.

There is still plenty of time left this off-season for the Mets to fill the holes needed to be corrected, but with only $10 million believed to be left to spend, this wouldn’t be enough to inspire much optimism for a big signing any time soon.  There has been no reason given as to why the Mets are cutting their payroll, which was just the 12th-highest last season, by $20 million.  The Mets window of competing won’t last much longer.  If the reason behind this is because Fred Wilpon doesn’t think the starting rotation can live up to expectations or stay healthy, this is not a good excuse.  Regardless of how the rest of the rotation performs, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom can be one of the best one-two starters in the MLB.

Several Mets fans, upset at ownership’s lack of confidence and financial investment in the team, are considering boycotting the team if nothing is done this off-season to inspire confidence.  These fans are talking about cancelling their season-ticket orders and not tuning into Mets games on TV or the radio.  While the Wilpons have never been liked by Mets fans, they are facing hostility from their team’s fanbase not seen since the fallout from the Madoff scandal, which left the owners in financial ruin.  With the Wilpons acting as though they are in financial trouble, fans have again called for them to sell the team, so that both sides may benefit.

There is no reason a New York baseball team that was in the World Series just two years ago should be run like a small-market team.  There is no reason the Mets shouldn’t be in the market for players like Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas.  There is no reason for money to get in the way from signing Jay Bruce and Addison Reed, with the former providing a solution at both first base and right field and the latter being perhaps the final piece to a potentially strong bullpen that would also consist of Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak.  There is no reason small-market teams like the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals, and rebuilding teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, should be out-spending the Mets.

Mets fans are under the impression that most of the money coming towards the team is just ending up in the Wilpons’ bank vault, where there is enough money for them to dive into and swim in, similar to Scrooge McDuck.  If the Mets’ needs aren’t addressed this off-season, there is a good chance that this time, the fans will fight back by not spending on a team whose owners refuse to spend on.  Fred Wilpon needs to stop questioning the Yankees’ model for success, and start following it.

Panic Time for the Mets’ Rotation?

By Ethan Marshall

 

The disaster that has been the 2017 Mets season thus far has fans thinking “How can this get any worse,” every day.  With Yoenis Cespedes and now Noah Syndergaard sidelined indefinitely with injuries, the Mets need to right the ship without their best pitcher and hitter.

Noah Syndergaard walks off the field with trainer Ray Ramirez after suffering a partial tear of his right lat muscle yesterday in Washington.  Photo credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass.

Syndergaard’s injury may prove more costly in the long run.  With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz still weeks away from returning from their own injuries, the Mets are without a decent replacement.  The current plan for Friday is for Rafael Montero to start, but he’s failed to prove he belongs in the big leagues time and time again.

Assuming the Mets sign free agent Doug Fister (which they should), he would likely need two or three weeks to get himself ready to pitch in a major league game.  As early as it is, the Mets could explore the trade market for a pitcher that can eat up innings.

Bartolo Colon, who the Mets let go in the offseason because they felt they already had enough pitching depth, could be a suitable target for Sandy Alderson.  The Braves are in rebuilding mode, and with Colon signed on a one-year deal, he seems likely to be traded at some point this season.  Colon proved incredibly reliable in his Mets tenure, eating up innings while pitching well.  The Mets could really use a pitcher with a rubber arm like Colon’s right now.  With the Mets beginning their first series at SunTrust Park in Atlanta tonight, this could be a good time for Alderson to talk with Braves general manager John Coppolella about working out a deal for Colon.

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Bartolo Colon pitching at Citi Field against the Mets.  Photo credit: Getty Images.

 

The Mets and Braves have gotten along well in recent years on the trade front.  In July 2015, the Mets traded minor league pitchers John Gant and Rob Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  In June 2016 the Braves again traded Johnson to the Mets, this time for minor league pitcher Akeel Morris.

Of course there may be problems in negotiating a deal for Colon.  The Braves may try to take advantage of the Mets’ desperation by asking for higher tier prospects in exchange for Colon.  Additionally, Colon has an ERA of 5.59 in 29 innings pitched.

The Mets can’t afford to throw Montero out to the mound every five days for at least the next three weeks.  Whether it’s through the waiver wire, free agency or trading, the Mets need to find a replacement that can give them a quality outing each start.

Perhaps one way to negotiate with the Braves is to consider offering media magnet Tim Tebow.  The Braves just opened a new stadium, and need a way to sell more tickets.  Arguably nobody draws as much a crowd as Tebow.  While he alone wouldn’t be nearly enough for the Mets to give up for Colon, he could still draw the attention of the Braves if he continues to produce in the minor leagues.  While he is only batting .237 for the Class A Columbia Fireflies, he did go 6-21 last week, posting a .285 average.  Trading Tebow for Colon may just be stupid enough to work.

 

 

Mets’ Fab Four Won’t Pitch in a Game Until March 5th: By Ethan Marshall

The Mets have and will continue to be cautious in the workload of their young starting rotation.  Terry Collins told reporters today that Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz won’t be appearing in a spring training game until as early as March 5th, and that Zack Wheeler could be seeing action in the Grapefruit League as early as March 8th.  In an effort to keep them healthy, the Mets’ starting rotation has been kept to a lighter workload so far this spring.

Each of the young starters dealt with injuries in 2016 following their run into the 2015 World Series.  Harvey was very ineffective before he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, requiring season-ending surgery.  deGrom experienced fatigue early in the season, with his fastball velocity decreasing from the mid-to-upper-90s to the lower 90s. deGrom would catch the injury bug in September when he required elbow surgery to move the ulnar collateral ligament.  Matz was diagnosed with a large bone spur in his pitching arm early last season.  He attempted to pitch through it, but was eventually shut down in September after missing about a month due to a shoulder impingement.  Wheeler hasn’t pitched in a major league game since September of 2014.  After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, Wheeler suffered a series of setbacks in his rehab in 2016, before being shut down.  Syndergaard was the only one from the young staff able to make it through the season, though he did so with a small bone spur in his pitching arm.  There is also worry that Syndergaard may one day require Tommy John surgery.  He is the only one of this young and dynamic rotation to have never had the surgery.

The Mets understand that they need to be conservative in how they use their starters this spring.  They need to make sure the rotation is healthy and fresh, but not rusty.  The Mets’ 2015 pennant-winning run likely contributed to at least some of the injuries on the starting core.  With a whole offseason to recuperate, the Mets are optimistic that their rotation can stay intact this year and possibly lead them back to the World Series.  There is no need to rush these pitchers into games.  They don’t need to be throwing every single workout day.  2017 would mark the first time that all five of the Mets’ prized pitchers would be healthy and active at the same time.

Still a Billion-Dollar Rotation? Who can the Mets Keep Long-Term?

During the 2015-2016 MLB offseason, 5 of 6 MLB executives pegged the value of the young Mets starting rotation as being worth at least a billion dollars.  However, this came after the young studs helped to lead the Mets to the World Series.  Since then, the value of some of these pitchers has likely diminished.  All of them dealt with injuries to some degree last season.  The real question the Mets need to ask themselves is who they want to sign to extensions in the near future, and who they will be willing to part with in trades or free agency.

Matt Harvey may be the least likely to land an extension with the Mets.  Despite the fact that he had a miserable 2016 due to the fact that he was pitching with thoracic outlet syndrome, he would still be likely to ask for a long and expensive contract.  Harvey will be the first of the young studs to be eligible for free agency, with his contract ending after the 2018 season.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle that the Mets would face if they were to try to re-sign him or give him an extension is Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras.  Boras is known to try to get his clients deals that would be considered by many to be valued much higher than what the player may deserve to get.  He also notoriously screwed the Mets over when he represented Oliver Perez and got him to re-sign with the Mets for a three-year, $36 million contract after the 2008 season.  Perez underperformed, showed less effort, and refused to be sent to the minors when he struggled in the majors.  The contract Boras got for Perez became a headache for the Mets organization.  Additionally, Boras is known to prefer that his clients opt to go for free agency rather than to sign extensions.  The few extensions signed by Boras clients include Jered Weaver’s 5-year, $85 million extension in 2011 (in which he went against the advice of Boras) and Stephen Strasburg’s 7-year, $175 million contract in 2016.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Mets attempt to trade Harvey after the 2017 season in order to gain value back for a player they know they probably won’t be able to re-sign.

Zack Wheeler would become a free agent after the 2019 season.  He may be of the least value of the Mets starting rotation at the moment, mostly due to the fact that he hasn’t pitched in a major league game in September of 2014.  As a result of him being undervalued at the moment, the Mets may have a chance to lock him down long-term within the next few years.  Wheeler was at one point viewed by scouts to be better than Matt Harvey.  For him, he just has to be able to stay healthy and consistent.  2017 may be a very important season for Wheeler in order to prove himself as a talented major league pitcher.

Jacob DeGrom is scheduled to be a free agent following the 2020 season.  He, along with Noah Syndergaard , have been the most open to talking about contract extensions with the Mets.  Considering how many years DeGrom has left on his current contract, the Mets don’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to start talking extensions with him.  Injuries led to some poor performance for DeGrom in the 2016 season.  Despite this, DeGrom still had an ERA of 3.04, including tossing his first career complete game, a one-hit shutout against the Phillies.  It can be argued that DeGrom may have been the most affected by the World Series hangover, considering his velocity early in the season was lower than normal for him.  Regardless, he stands as the second ace of the talented rotation at this point, showing that he has been able to pitch well even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.  He has quietly become one of the best pitchers in baseball, and hopefully the Mets reward him soon with a long-term deal.

Noah Syndergaard, arguably the most talented of the rotation, is due to become a free agent following the 2021 season.  As it stands now, he is the guy that would likely get the ball on opening day.  Despite the health concern with him due to the fact that he is the only one in the rotation not to get Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard was the healthiest of the young starting pitchers in the 2016 season.  Despite being diagnosed with a small bone spur on his pitching arm, Syndergaard continued his stellar pitching, even earning the ball for the Wild Card game against the Giants.  Syndergaard showed in that game and in the 2015 postseason that he can be trusted to take the ball in big situations.  Despite the fact that the Mets lost the Wild Card game to the Giants, Syndergaard was able to match Madison Bumgarner, not allowing a hit until two outs in the 6th.  Syndergaard would end up allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out ten batters in seven shutout innings.  He has the potential to be the next Nolan Ryan.  The Mets hope that since Syndergaard is built like Ryan, maybe he can avoid needing Tommy John surgery like Ryan as well.  It’s no secret that Syndergaard enjoys being in New York.  Hopefully, the Mets can keep him in New York.  In my opinion, he is the one that the Mets can’t let get away from them more than anyone else.  There aren’t many pitchers with the talent and ability that Syndergaard has displayed.

Steven Matz, like Syndergaard, will be a free agent following the 2021 season.  Matz’s value has likely been lowered since the 2015 World Series, not due to his performance, but due to the fact that he has yet to be able to stay healthy.  Throughout his pitching career, Matz has dealt with several different injuries in his journey to the majors.  Matz started his 2016 season looking like he might take the Rookie of the Year award from Cory Seager.  Unfortunately, after a game in which he shut out the rival Nationals over 8 innings, Matz was  diagnosed with a large bone spur in his pitching arm that would require surgery at some point.  While Matz would try to pitch through the injury, he wasn’t as effective for the rest of the season.  After an August game in which he carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Padres, Matz was unable to pitch for the rest of the season due to issues with his shoulder.  While the Mets still have plenty of time before they need to think about discussing a contract extension with Matz, one advantage that they may have is that Matz may be willing to take a slight home-town discount due to the fact that Matz was born and raised in Long Island and grew up a die-hard Mets fan.  He is living his boyhood dream right now as a stud pitcher for the Mets.  He just needs to stay healthy.

The Mets still have plenty of time before they need to worry about contract extension talks with most of these pitchers.  Unless they are willing to spend a lot of money, the odds are that the Mets won’t be able to keep one or two of these pitchers.  The Mets window to win is basically as long as these young starters are able to perform to what is expected of them while staying healthy.  The billion dollar rotation has the potential to win the Mets at least one World Series title.  We’ll see if they can prove their potential value come 2017.

10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 1

Many would agree that 2016 has been a very difficult year.  From all the celebrity deaths to the U.S. presidential election, many people just can’t wait for the year to end.  But through this difficult year came many fascinating moments in the world of sports.  Here are 10 of many notable events that occurred in the world of sports in 2016.

#10: The Rio Olympics

Many were expecting the Olympic Games in Rio to be a disaster, given the troubles facing the country, from pollution in the water to the high crime rates to the fear of the spread of the Zika virus, many athletes were hesitant to participate.  The Olympics went surprisingly well (unless your name was Ryan Lochte).  Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt continued their utter dominance in their respective categories.  Phelps broke an Olympic record dating back over 2,000 years when he won his 13th individual Olympic medal, passing Leonidas of Rhodes for the most by any Olympian.  Leonidas won 12 individual Olympic medals from 164 B.C. to 152 B.C.

Ryan Lochte became one of the most hated Americans when he, along with some swimming teammates, vandalized a gas station bathroom after getting drunk.  He later claimed that he and his friends were robbed at gunpoint.  Shortly after this incident, he got on a plane and went back home to America.  While in America, it was revealed through security footage by the gas station that Lochte was lying.  Lochte’s teammates were detained while they were still in Rio.  Lochte’s lies and his abandonment of his teammates led to him being scorned by many in the world.

#9: A Cespedes for the Rest of us

When Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the Mets at the 2015 trade deadline, nobody would have expected him to carry the team as much as he did.  Cespedes ended up batting .287 while hitting 17 homers while driving in 44 runs in his two months with the Mets.  At one point, there was even talk of him being considered for the N.L. MVP despite the fact that he had only played two months in the N.L.  He quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his clutch hits and ability to perform under the bright lights of New York.  While many Mets fans wanted him back for 2016, the ownership and management didn’t expect to get him.  Luckily for them, Cespedes fell into their laps late in the offseason.  The Mets signed him to a 3 year, $75 million contract with an opt-out after the first year.  Cespedes continued to entertain Mets fans.  In spring training, he made daily headlines thanks to his tricked out rides that he would take to the field.  At one point, he and Noah Syndergaard even rode Cespedes’s horses around the spring training facility.  When the season began, Cespedes was able to prove to fans as well as players around the league that he wasn’t a one-trick pony, batting .280 while hitting 31 homers and driving in 86.  Cespedes was rewarded by the Mets this offseason with a four year, $110 million contract, with a no-trade clause.  Ceaspedes will be sticking around in Flushing for quite awhile.

 

#8: The Rise Of Lugo and Gsellman

Nobody doubted that the Mets starting rotation entering the 2016 season was one of the best, if not, the best in the MLB.  The Mets had Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon, with Zack Wheeler scheduled to return around July.  Unfortunately, the Mets 2015 run to the World Series appeared to have a hangover effect on many of the pitchers.  Harvey struggled in 2016 before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in July.  His season ended when he elected for surgery to fix it shortly after the diagnosis.  Syndergaard and Matz were both diagnosed with bone spurs in their pitching arms, with Matz’s being large and requiring surgery at the end of the season.  While Syndergaard was able to pitch through the season with little to no effect on him from the bone spur, Matz struggled to pitch as well as he did before the diagnosis, as well as to stay healthy.  Matz was eventually shut down in late September.  DeGrom had issues with his velocity early in the season.  While he eventually recovered from this, he was eventually shut down in September when he needed surgery to repair an ulnar nerve.  The 43 year old Colon would end up being the healthiest and most consistent of the Mets starting rotation in 2016.

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were eventually brought on to try to replace Harvey and Matz.  From the moment that they joined the rotation, they shined brightly.  Many fans had not even heard of these two pitchers before they were brought in as reinforcements.  Gsellman ended up going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA while Lugo went 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA since joining the starting rotation.  Both pitchers were key reasons as to why the Mets clinched a playoff birth for a second straight season for only the second time in franchise history despite all of the injuries that the team suffered.

#7: The Sanchize?

Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene with the New York Yankees in 2016 after making his season debut with them in early August.  In 53 games, Sanchez batted .299 with 20 homers and 42 runs batted in.  He tied Wally Berger as the fastest player to hit 20 homers to begin his career, at just 50 MLB appearances.  Yankees fans consider him a catalyst for the upcoming youth movement for the franchise.  The fans and organization hopes that Sanzhez will continue his strong play in 2017, and that some of the other top prospects in the organization can show promise just as Sanchez did in 2016.

 

#6: The Farewell Tours of Kobe and Big Papi

2016 saw the end of an era in Los Angeles and Boston.  Kobe Bryant announced that his 20th season in the NBA, all of which were with the Lakers, would be his last.  Bryant won 5 NBA championships as a member of the Lakers, winning MVP in 2 of the finals.  He was an 18 time NBA all star, including 4 all star game MVP awards.  He won the 2008 NBA MVP award.  Throughout the 2015-16 NBA season, he was greeted cheerfully by opposing players and fans in opposing arenas.  Kobe added to his hall of fame career in his final game when he led the Lakers to a victory over the Utah Jazz by scoring 60 points in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  He ended his career with one last legendary performance, cemented his status as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Shortly before the start of the 2016 baseball season, Red Sox star David Ortiz said that this would be his final season.  He then went on to have one of the greatest final seasons by an athlete.  Ortiz batted .315, hitting 38 homers, and leading the league in doubles with 48, runs batted in with 127, slugging percentage at .620, and OPS at 1.021.

In his 14 seasons as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz was a 10 time all star, 7 time silver slugger award winner, and 3 time World Series Champion, winning World Series MVP in 2013.  Ortiz played a critical role in ending the curse of the Bambino in 2004 when he led the Red Sox to a comeback to beat the Yankees after trailing them 3 games to none in the ALCS.  Ortiz hit the walk-off homer in the 12th inning of game 4 that extended the series, and hit a walk-off single in the 14th inning of game 5.  In the 2004 ALCS, Ortiz became the first DH to win the ALCS MVP award, batting .387 with 3 homers and 11 runs batted in.

Ortiz became the face of the Red Sox franchise in his years there.  It was only fitting that he give a powerful speech in the first Red Sox game at Fenway Park following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  He concluded his speech as any Bostonian would- by swearing like a sailor.  He told the fans “This is our fucking city, and no one is going to dictate our freedom.  Stay strong.”  Ortiz and the Red Sox would face off against the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 ALCS.  Ortiz had another dramatic moment in him when he stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 2, representing the tying run.  Ortiz belted a game-tying grand slam homer that was just out of reach of the leaping Torii Hunter in right field.  The image of the ball landing in the bullpen and the raised hands and joyous expression of a Boston police officer in the bullpen became very iconic for the city of Boston.  The Red Sox would go on to win the game, and later, the series against the Tigers, before beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

David Ortiz established himself as one of the most clutch hitters in postseason history.  He finished his career with a .289 batting average in the playoffs (including a .455 average in 59 plate appearances in the World Series), with 17 homers and 61 runs batted in during the playoffs.  He transformed the Red Sox from a team that was cursed into one of the most dominant franchises of the 21st century.

 

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of this list.