Are The Wilpons Crying Wolf In Remaking The Mets?

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This week, this little gem found itself in the Daily News:

Toughness: The Mets are looking for an executive who will stand up to players, and shrug off criticism from the New York media. There is a perception among some major league executives that in recent years Mets players have become accustomed to getting their way too often.

Really?  Well, maybe if the writer who covers the Mets for the Daily News these days had actually been around for the last 10 years or so (or maybe did a little research) he’d know that the current mishmosh of what the Mets call a chain of command exists because Fred and Jeff Wilpon have allowed that to be the case.

The open door policy of ownership has made for a completely fuzzy chain of command for a long, long, time.  Allowing underling front office execs like Steve Phillips (when  he was under Joe McIllvaine) Al Goldis, Bill Livesey and Tony Bernazard (avove, left) to have direct lines of communication to the owner, has  allowed for “end arounds’ around every single GM the Mets have had since Frank Cashen.

Then there’s this:

Balance between traditional scouting and newer statistical analysis: The Mets will never hire a GM who professes blind faith to sabermetrics – the club has long admired Terry Ryan’s work with Minnesota, a more traditional team – but are looking for some openness to that perspective.

You know why the Mets would never hire a sabermetric GM?  Because then, the “baseball-savvy” Wilpons would have nothing to offer at the meetings, that’s why.  Of course there’s also the fact that there’s no such thing as a purely sabermetric GM.  In any event, Jim Duquette had that blend of advanced metrics / traditional scouting and had a great staff in place in 2004.  But rather than be allowed to run his team, he was forced to deal with Goldis and Livesey from day one.

”We knew when Jim took over that that we had to hire two superscouts right away,” said Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ owner. ”Now Jim has two guys who are very, very important to him.’

I have interviewed several former Mets employees for my upcoming book and one of them nearly fell out of his chair when I told him that it’s been portaryed as if Duquette had asked for permission to bring in the two “superscouts” and had hired them mimself.

“That is so much (bleep),” said the former front office exec.  “Jim has been around baseball for a long time, he knew all about the horror stories that came with Goldis (in Cincinnati) and Livesey (in Tampa).  He already had a core staff pf guys he trusted in New York, and why the hell would he have hired a guy (Goldis) who was friends with the owner?”

Well, it is true that Duquette had worked in front offices, including the Mets, for years.  So, why would he need two outsiders from other organizations, both of whom whose most notable successes were nearly a decade — and a team or two — in the past?

And the Goldis hire is even more bizarre.  While it’s a fact that Goldis is a member of the Scouts Hall of Fame, he had been paid by Fred Wilpon to be a hitting coach for Jeff Wilpon when the latter was a kid in the 1980’s.  To portray him as a Duquette hire, or to suggest it was Jim’s idea is preposterous.

In any event, the article introducing Mets fans to the superscouts had another few nuggets:

Goldis and Livesey are using spring training to help Duquette evaluate the organization and will spend the season watching the Mets’ home games, traveling to minor league affiliates and scouting amateurs around the world.

Amid speculation that the Mets could package prospects and trade them to Texas for ALFONSO SORIANO, the team owner, Fred Wilpon, said the club had no intention of dealing SCOTT KAZMIR, its top pitching prospect. ”He’s not going anywhere,” Wilpon said.

Now am I bringing up past history to write “Bad Stuff ‘Bout the Mets”? Hardly. What I am doing is pointing out that the Wilpons don’t ever give up input, and seem to truly believe that they are the best suited to make baseball decisions.

What more important baseball decision is there to be made then hiring a new President / GM?

Now Fred Wilpon, who was dazzled by Art Howe, openly opined for Omar Minaya and handed the keys and bags of money to Al Harazin is huddling with Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz to determine the next era of Mets baseball?

Forgive me if I am overly skeptical.

In 1980, Nelson Doubleday owned over 90% of the Mets when he hired Frank Cashen, Fred Wilpon owned about 2.5 % at that time.

Since 1987, when Fred Wilpon became a full partner (and in 2003, the Big Kahuna), the Mets GMs have been either assistants of the man they replaced, or ex Mets execs who returned from another organization (where they hadn’t won diddly).

Duquette, who was given 1 1/2 years to clean up the SP / Wilpon messes of 2001-03, was forced to get on a plane to go to the DR to explain to Jose Reyes that he had to move to 2B to make room for a Wilpon brainstorm (Kaz Matsui).  He was also forced to offer Vlad Guerrero the most ridiculous contract ever offered a Type A free agent.

But none of this is news to anyone who’ever had the guts to really look deep into the infrastructre of this team.

MetsToday’s Joe Janish wrote this great post last summer:

And just in case you thought things wre different now, here’s some tidbits from the Times:

The Mets may not come to any conclusions until the end of the season, leaving open the possibility that they could miss out on other potential candidates while they agonize over their front-office setup and composition.

The wait and see approach really worked last winter, didn’t it? Will Carroll from Baseball Prospectus says that the Mets have already started to interview GM candidates, but that was after yesterday’s report from the New York Times that said otherwise.  Ah, those media-savvy Wilpons.

Minaya’s future with the team is in the hands of the three top executives in the Mets’ organization — Fred Wilpon, the chairman and chief executive; Saul Katz, the president; and Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer. Those three must first agree on the direction the team will go, then pursue the person they want to lead it.

The track record is astounding, so Mets fans should be relieved.

The Wilpons and Katz will not interview potential candidates until they determine the professional fates of Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel, and inform both men. They will also refrain from hiring a manager until they determine whom the top baseball executive will be — whether it is Minaya or someone else — to avoid foisting a manager on a new executive without his input.

What is there to evaluate? How much more uninspired, bloated roster baseball do you want to watch?

With Towers going to Arizona, another potential candidate could become available. Jerry Dipoto, a former Mets pitcher who grew up in New Jersey as a devoted Mets fan, had served as the Diamondbacks’ interim general manager. He is known to the Wilpons, and the Mets have a history of hiring people they are familiar with.

He loves the Mets, once pitched for the Mets and the Wilpons know him. Helluva resume. Then again, it was far more substantial than Tony Bernazard’s was when Minaya handed over the organization to him.

When the Mets were looking for a new manager in 2005, they interviewed Willie Randolph, Jim Riggleman, Terry Collins, Carlos Tosca and Rudy Jaramillio and “flirted” with Jim Leyland.  So far, it looks like they are setting up Mets fans for another one of these dog and pony shows.  I’ll be there when they have the Press Conference to announce the new GM.  I just hope for the Mets fan sake that it will be  day of real anticipation, not the same old Wilpons crying wolf. In the meantime I’ll be covering a postseason full of teams with more of a will to win than massaging their own bruised egos.


16 thoughts on “Are The Wilpons Crying Wolf In Remaking The Mets?

    GDHebner said:
    September 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Great stuff Mr. Healey. For the sake of the Mets organization and their fans don’t ever take your foot off the gas pedal.

    Mark Healey responded:
    September 24, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I never will, GD, because I’m as big a Mets fan as there is.

    Jason A said:
    September 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Any talk of the Mets’ future has to begin and end with this depressingly prescient Doubleday quote from 2003:

    Doubleday especially had some harsh words for Jeff Wilpon, Fred’s son, who is heavily involved in the daily operation of the franchise.

    “Mr. Jeff Wilpon has decided that he’s going to learn how to run a baseball team and take over at the end of the year,” Doubleday told the newspaper. “Run for the hills, boys. I think probably all those baseball people will bail.”

    What’s going to change until that’s addressed? Moan and complain all you want about Minaya, Manuel etc… but there are fatal flaws in the management structure of this team.

    It sucks. It looks like we’re suck with James Dolan II.

    Joe said:
    September 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Great article, but also sad. The Mets are such a porrly run organization. It makes them difficult to root for.

    Things are going to be bad for a while. Too many bad contracts. As an aside, starting this year they have to start paying Bobby Bonilla over $1 million a year for the next 20+ years.

    acerimusdux said:
    September 24, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Well said.

    “He loves the Mets, once pitched for the Mets and the Wilpons know him. Helluva resume. Then again, it was far more substantial than Tony Bernazard’s was when Minaya handed over the organization to him.”

    DiPoto is the one of the nearly two dozen names that has been speculated on so far that really bothers me. The Diamondbacks right now are looking like an even bigger failure than the Mets, and unlike Byrnes, DiPoto really doesn’t have any significant experience anywhere else to fall back on. It’s a very thin resume. He might be a bright guy. But he seems as though he was already in over his head as a scouting director.

    The fact that he might be another friend of Jeff is yet another red flag.

    Just_MLB said:
    September 24, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    how can u be so sure that Omar hired Tony Bernazard ?

      Mark Healey responded:
      September 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

      Because they are best friends?

        Just_MLB said:
        February 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

        and exactly what previous connection tells u that they are/were best friends ?

        tony was actually hired by bud selig to work for the league a few years ago, had done tons of work with MLB..and his career started off working as a rep for the mlb union ironically enough.

        it was tony’s relationship with the UNION AND Bud Selig that got him the job with the mets…

        here is an interview with Omar in 2004 after hiring BOTH Tony and Sandy

        Bernazard and Johnson will spend much of their time as talent evaluators. The Mets and first-time manager Willie Randolph still have to fill out a staff, with Sandy Alomar Jr., Rudy Jaramillo and Manny Acta in the mix to become coaches.

        Minaya said he didn’t yet have a “full, clear picture” of what the roster would look like as he tries to reshape a team that went 71-91 last season. He said talks were continuing with pitchers Al Leiter and Kris Benson, who both filed for free agency.

        Bernazard, 47, had been a special assistant with the union since 1992. He will start Dec. 1.

        “Tony brings credibility,” Minaya said at the GM meetings. “He’ll be around me with the major league club.”

        Among his duties with the players’ association, Bernazard helped make sure Latin players were involved in the union.

        Johnson, 64, hired Minaya to work for the Texas Rangers about 20 years ago. He had been special assistant to Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola since 1996. He will start this Saturday.

        “There is NO baseball executive I RESPECT more in this game than Sandy Johnson,” Minaya said. “Whether it be scouting, player development or international play, Sandy has been involved with it all. I was with him in Texas and I can’t tell you how EXCITED I am to be with him again here with the Mets.”

        “I got my job in Texas on Oct. 31, 1984, and I think I hired Omar two days later,” Johnson said. “I’ve pretty much done everything there is to do in baseball and I’m here to do whatever Omar wants me to do.”

        Me thinks if Tony Bernazard’s name was Tony Smith…You wouldn’t be so quick to assume he and Omar were best friends

        JimmyBX said:
        November 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm

        Such a white boy answer…lol

    Gene said:
    September 24, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    The sad truth is that as a Mets fan I find myself wishing….dreaming…. fantazing of the only real solution here, and that is, that because it’s painfully clear that this fish stinks from the head on down… The NY Mets need new ownership!
    That , my friends is where the problem is…was and always will be!
    These guys ( Wilpons, Katz and whom ever else) made their big bucks in real estate and now would like to keep the Mets “in the family”….”for the kids”. How nice, the Kids have their play toy. What do the fans have,? We have this…. the worst run sports team in America. The embarressmente of MLB!. Thank you Wilpons!
    While They own the team, we have nothing to look forward to.
    What do we have….we have wishes and dreams and fantasies of the Wilpons selling. That’s what we have.

    hsimms said:
    September 25, 2010 at 12:56 am

    The overarching question is whether the Mets will ever be a winning franchise with the Wilpons in control.

    Allen Keyes said:
    September 25, 2010 at 3:01 am

    As long as the Wilpons live, this franchise is dead

    acerimusdux said:
    September 25, 2010 at 5:30 am

    One more thought. Seems to be a lot of buzz lately that they may hire Bobby Valentine. It may be that a big name GM isn’t going to be comfortable with that, and that Bobby V. is also going to insist on having some say on roster moves. DiPoto, who pitched for Bobby briefly in 1996, might be the guy Bobby is comfortable working for, and the guy who is comfortable being stuck with Bobby.

    Just speculation on what might explain some of the sudden DiPoto buzz.

    Mark Healey responded:
    September 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    First of all, guys thanks for visiting the new Gotham Nation. I’ve been tweaking the design and trying to figure out which direction to take things, so the comments and readership is awesome.

    Secondly, to address acerismusdux’s comment, as much as I really want Bobby V back, the GM has to make the call on the new skipper; for better or worse.

    […] READ MORE […]

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