Einhorn Or No Einhorn

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Amid their egocentric beliefs that they’re influential in the big business that is baseball ownership, you can read the clumsily presented and agenda-driven Mets stories from those who have neither the skill nor the nuance to even try to hide their contempt for the Wilpons.

They’re everywhere.

Or you can read what Bill Madden wrote yesterday in the NY Daily News.

It says something that there are very few in-depth, verifiable narratives regarding the deal collapsing apart from broad-based assumptions and outsider statements of what’s “obvious”.

We don’t know what happened; Einhorn said his piece, rife with corporate cliches; the Wilpons have said nothing.

Don’t automatically think that the supposed “white knight in a bad hairpiece”—Einhorn—is being entirely forthright as to the chain of events and that the Wilpons’ silence is an admission of “guilt”.

The main issue that’s being debated now is how much money are the Mets going to have to spend this winter to improve the club and who’s in their price range.

You’ll find your answers if you care to look for them.

Here are the facts: the Mets have prohibitive contracts coming off the books; there’s not much available via free agency; the Mets improvement—if any—in 2012 will come from rebounds, returns from injury and young players stepping forward.

The contracts of Luis Castillo ($6 million) and Oliver Perez ($12 million) are expiring; and they’ve already dumped Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

The one free agent the Mets are absolutely going to pursue and will pay is their own free agent, Jose Reyes.

Apart from that, here are the big name free agents this winter: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Lance Berkman, Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, K-Rod.

The Mets don’t need a first baseman; they could use Buehrle and Kuroda, but neither is coming to the Mets; Jackson is big and durable and I’d go after him, but the Mets aren’t giving him the $70-90 million (at least) he’ll get on the open market and he’s represented by Scott Boras. Given what the front office believes about relief pitchers, they’re not paying for Bell or Papelbon; if they go after a closer as a backup to Bobby Parnell, it’ll be a Brad Lidgetype on an incentive-laden contract.

What free agents are they missing out on sans Einhorn?

On the trade front, they could go after B.J. Upton or Marlon Byrd; check in on Brandon Phillips. There are useful though not earth-shattering free agents like Jason Kubel and Josh Willingham.

These are ancillary acquisitions who would help, but not throw a scare in the NL East that the Mets are coming.

The Mets improvement in 2012 will stem from finding out what’s wrong with Jason Bay and getting him into some semblance of what he was with the Red Sox and Pirates, or trading him for another heavily-paid underachiever like Chone Figgins.

The rotation will be solid if Johan Santana comes back and gives them 180 innings at 75% of what he was; if Mike Pelfrey is serviceable; if Jon Niese steps forward; and if R.A. Dickey continues to pitch as well as he has.

They’re not spending big on the bullpen. Teams build superior bullpens with castoffs and retreads and, money or not, that’s what the Mets were and are going to do.

Offensively—with or without Reyes—they’ll have enough to score a fair amount of runs with David Wright, Ike Davis, Bay, Lucas Duda and an improved Angel Pagan.

The size of the offer they present to Reyes will be a greater window into the financial circumstances of the club; not a pieced together extrapolation that pops up—without disclosed sources—in the blogosphere or on Twitter.

When the Reyes negotiations start, then we’ll know.

And not before then.

//

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A Rocky Solution

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players


How about a Troy Tulowitzki-style deal for Jose Reyes and the Mets?

Because the fan reaction has been so loud and Reyes’s play has been beyond superlative, the Mets shortstop is making the lives of the front office very difficult in a good way—for now.

In the near future, it’s an issue that has to be handled; in the not-so-distant future of the winter, it’s a big problem and potential public relations disaster for a club that doesn’t need more ridicule.

Sandy Alderson is going to talk with Reyes’s people in the coming weeks about the parameters of a contract extension.

Speculation is fruitless.

The dollar value; years; whether the Mets are going to seriously explore trade options if they can’t sign him; or don’t think the team will have the money to pay him—all are byproducts of the landscape surrounding the Mets.

They’re not dealbreakers in any context.

The Mets have played far better than anyone could have expected partially due to league-wide parity and with a large amount of credit due to manager Terry Collins. But everything must be on the table regarding Reyes.

So here’s an idea: a long, long, long term contract with a dollar value that would satisfy Reyes’s financial desires and keep the team finances in order until the ownership issues are settled.

The Rockies don’t have a ton of money to work with—their 2011 payroll is $82 million—but they sign their players to longer term deals than the norm to keep them. They’ve done so with Todd Helton, Carlos Gonzalez and Tulowitzki.

Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

But they keep their recognizable stars.

The Tulowitzki deal was criticized—by me as well—because he was already signed to a team-friendly contract through 2014; they chose to keep that current contract in place and extend the extension through 2020 with a 2021 club option.

It’s value comes to $157.75 million for 10 years.

Would that type of offer satisfy Reyes? Give him the chance to spend his entire career with the Mets, keep his home, his children in school and be a Met for life?

The discussion has centered around Reyes wanting to match Carl Crawford‘s contract with the Red Sox of 7-years, $142 million. It’s been done so in embarrassing fashion because of the New Yorker article profiling owner Fred Wilpon. This has never been said by Reyes or his people—at least publicly.

A Tulowitzki-type deal would extend a lifeline to the Mets in keeping Reyes, placate the fans and send a signal that the club isn’t looking to slash payroll to minimalist proportions.

It would be reasonable for all sides and it should be examined closely.

Very closely.

//

The Present And Future Of The Mets

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While the situation is still fluid, judging from the reporting of the Mets pending deal with David Einhorn, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides.

According to this NY Times article, in brief and to the best of my understanding, Einhorn is infusing the organization with cash to continue operations and will have the option of purchasing the entire team if the Wilpons lose their case in the Madoff mess. If the Wilpons are able to maintain control of the franchise, Einhorn will keep a minority stake and get his investment money back.

The debate as to the wisdom of this will rage with those knowledgable and not weighing in, but from what’s being publicly divulged, it sounds good for both sides.

As for the reactions to a financial guy buying into the Mets and the attempts by the media, bloggers and fans to “influence” the negotiations in some way (stopping Einhorn; entreating Mark Cuban; “forcing” the Wilpons to sell), here’s my advice: wake up.

Using Fred Wilpon’s comments in the new issue of the New Yorker as a cause célèbre is a convenient way to complete a column and try to exert phantom power, but MLB and the Mets aren’t going to care about the desires of outsiders; they’re not going to pursue Cuban and beg him to buy in because some perceive him to be the answer to the Mets prayers; and they’re not going to shun Einhorn because he’s not “of the right background” as if his genealogy is not adequate to gain his membership card; he’s a Wall Street guy and Wall Street guys are the ones with the money.

And, um, the lauded Rays front office is loaded with Wall Street/financial guys.

I discussed the Wilpon comments last week; you can read that posting here.

As for the Mets current struggles on the field, what were you expecting?

This team isn’t good. They’re not equipped to contend even in the watered down National League; they’re in the toughest division in the NL and plainly and simply do not have the talent to hang with the Marlins, Braves and Phillies throughout the summer. Whether they win 73 games; 78 games; 80 games or whatever is largely irrelevant for 2011.

Mets fans don’t want to hear that; Mets club personnel don’t want to say it; but it just is.

This season is designed for GM Sandy Alderson to reconstitute the club from top-to-bottom; that might include trading Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. The borderline derangement at the thought of Reyes either being traded or allowed to leave as a free agent is typical of the response which caused prior club regimes to undertake acts that are now retrospectively ludicrous; maneuvers that were done only to accrue the short burst of positivity that comes from doing what the fans and media want.

The problem is that’s how they got into this mess to begin with.

So Mets fans and analysts have to ask: do we want to aspire to be the Red Sox—who were as much a laughingstock as the Mets are currently before John Henry (another financial guy) bought the team—or do they want to remain the “Mets”; not the noun Mets; it’s the adjective “Mets”—a meaning we don’t have to go into here because it doesn’t need to be explained.

The rampant panic as to the potential loss of Reyes is ignorant of reality. The Mets hired Alderson because he has a history of doing what he feels is right for his organization in lieu of what’s popular. Of course some of that was wrongheaded and selfish as was the case when, as president of the Padres, he tried to validate his role in Moneyball instead of making sound decisions; but given his statements since taking over the Mets, he’s learned from his mistakes as any competent executive must do.

The fleeting nature and crisis-a-day atmosphere is part of the 24-hour news cycle and it can be a detriment to running anything correctly.

This current club is not the one that will return the Mets to glory. Fans calling for the signing of Reyes immediately to preclude his departure; for aggressive (and stupid) player moves are the same fans who wanted Omar Minaya fired for the past 3 years after Minaya did what they called for him to do!

That’s what Jeff Wilpon, Tony Bernazard and the rest of the crew who were in charge of the club since 2004 created.

So conscious of public perception, the Mets were a creation of that stimulus response; it was a vicious circle; the pattern must be interrupted and altered for it to change in the long-term.

Regardless of the residue of what that management did and didn’t do, the Mets under that dysfunction, came close to winning it all in 2006; and were undone by circumstances and self-destruction in 2007 and 2008; by 2009-2010, the entire foundation came crumbling down.

But these things are rebuilt quickly and rarely is it done with one player such as Reyes; if he leaves in one fashion or another, it’s up to Alderson to figure out how to move forward; judging such a departure as catastrophic is short-sighted and leads to desperate stupidity.

Deranged ranting and self-indulgence won’t help this team in 2011, a known “bridge year”; once the sale to Einhorn is complete and the financial health of the club is stabilized, more will be known. They might choose to try and retain Reyes or they might not, but it won’t be that one decision that will make-or-break the franchise; in fact, dealing Reyes might be the building blocks of a return to prominence for the Mets—you don’t know.

The Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Reyes, Beltran and possibly K-Rod moneys are all coming off the books; which players from other clubs who might come available in a trade for a variety of reasons renders doomsaying for the future meaningless.

Let it shake itself out and trust the baseball people.

There’s really no other choice.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

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Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here and recently received a 5-star review on Amazon.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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//

New Yorkered

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Did you hear?

Mets owner Fred Wilpon allowed New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin insider access for a piece in the new issue—link—and the antics of the embattled owner have become fodder for more ridicule hurled at the organization.

This is on top of the Bernie Madoff mess; the on-and-off field player issues; and the attempt to sell a portion of the team while still maintaining control for the Wilpon family.

Dissected everywhere by voices credible and not, it would take far too much time to selectively retort to individual analysts. Some make salient and sensible points; others use this as ammunition to tear into the Mets and Wilpon.

This is a story because it’s a prominent piece in a reputable magazine; the Mets are always a target for abuse; and there are agenda-driven writers making it out to be more than it is.

Fred Wilpon has always been a yeller, but has shied away from actual interference in the club machinations; son Jeff was seen as the meddler, not Fred. His contribution has been signing the checks and getting his dream ballpark built. That he watches games and criticizes like a fan is unsurprising and no different from any involved owner who cares about his team.

Billy Beane was seen to have been tearing into his manager’s moves during the Moneyball fantasy and he was the hard-charger whose actions were evidence of the organizational boss who wanted things done his way; Wilpon does it and it’s more humiliation flung at the organization.

But Beane was considered an infallible genius; Wilpon a clueless fool.

It’s all about perception and framing.

For all the things that were published in the piece, we don’t know what else was said regarding Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran. Didn’t it occur to anyone that if Toobin was following Wilpon to the degree in which he was able to write a 12 page article on the Mets owner, that Wilpon probably said quite a bit more—much of it likely positive—than what was printed?

Could it be that Toobin and the editors of the New Yorker knew what the reaction would be? What the number of webhits would be? How many extra copies of their somewhat pompous magazine would sell to the Mets fanbase—a fanbase that is generally more blue collar and presumably isn’t a regular reader of the New Yorker?

The majority of the piece isn’t even about the Mets. It’s about Bernie Madoff; it’s about the way Fred accumulated his fortune; about his family and the reaction to the Madoff disaster.

Did anyone bother to read it or were they taking the same tack as Toobin, picking and choosing that which was more convenient to reach the end result of another tool to swing at the Mets?

It looks bad to have the criticisms against players in print, but in truth it won’t matter at all in the grand scheme; players are notoriously pragmatic when it comes to getting paid; if the money is there, then they’ll willingly sign with the Mets.

As for the statements about Beltran, Wright and Reyes, they were harsh to be sure, but were they inaccurate?

Carlos Beltran has been a loyal Met; he’s played hard and brilliantly, but he signed with the Mets for one reason: they offered the most money. And this was after he and agent Scott Boras tried to sell Beltran to the Yankees for fewer years and less money than what he got from the Mets.

David Wright is a terrific player, but is he a mega-star along the lines of Alex Rodriguez? Of Albert Pujols? No.

Reyes wants to make up for the signing of the far below market value contract he signed in August of 2006; a deal that precluded his arbitration years and cost him a lot of money; a deal he signed simultaneously to Wright signing his longer and more lucrative extension. Reyes is going to want “Carl Crawford money” as Fred said. If the Mets offer the highest amount of money, he’ll stay (if he’s not traded first); if not, he’ll leave.

The number of players who do as Cliff Lee did and go to the venue of their preference at the expense of money is very, very few and far between; Jim Thome did it as well, but these are veteran players who had either gotten paid already and were in the twilight of a great career (Thome), or were going to get their money one way or the other (Lee).

Reyes is not one of those players; he’s looking to cash in. All will be forgiven if there are enough zeroes on the check.

Fred has never openly meddled with the player moves as Jeff has been perceived to have done. It’s going to be up to GM Sandy Alderson and the money available whether the Mets offer is higher than other clubs pursuing Reyes and, given his history, Alderson isn’t going to take the money that’s coming off the books—Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, possibly Francisco Rodriguez, Beltran—and hand it all over to Reyes at the cost of 3-4 pieces that might provide more use to the club over the long term than one player.

The implication that Wilpon’s comments will scare off potential free agents or employees is ignoring both the past and present in terms of owner/player relationships.

George Steinbrenner was a raving maniac; a convicted felon; a twice suspended owner; a reviled and loathed madman for whom no one wanted to work—until he offered them enough money to look past his faults; beyond the rampant and repeated lunacy of the appropriately nicknamed Bronx Zoo. He got away with things because he spent cash and his teams won. Lo and behold, upon his death he turned into a “great man” rather than a capricious, mean and bullying force who embarrassed baseball and his club times too numerous to recount in a small space.

I don’t know if you can go through the list of sports owners and not find a vast percentage who were clownish and brutal in their treatment of underlings. Marge Schott; Jeffrey Loria; Ray Kroc; Tom Hicks; Peter Angelos; Drayton McLane; Vince Naimoli; Frank McCourt—all said and did things that created controversy and a media frenzy.

You can focus on their negatives or their positives based on whatever’s convenient.

Steinbrenner donated tons of money to charities and paid for the educations of the children of killed-in-action firefighters and police; Loria’s team wins under a minimalist budget; McLane’s teams were successful and his overruling his baseball people turned out to be right several times; Angelos’s teams were successful early in his ownership; McCourt’s teams have been a pitch or two away from back-to-back World Series appearances.

Had the Mets gotten one extra hit in 2006, 2007 and 2008 there was a legitimate possibility of three straight World Series appearances/wins.

How would that have altered the view of the Mets and their ownership?

Skilled writers who clearly had an agenda like Toobin can adjust stories to highlight points that will draw the most attention; the media-at-large can take that to establish or bolster their own personal biases and beliefs.

That’s what’s happening now.

It’s meaningless.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s a farce.

You can say the same about the Mets if you want, but it won’t be due to this article by Jeffrey Toobin or the over-the-top reactions to it.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here. Conveniently, it’s about the Mets.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

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//

Emergency Powers—Selective And Despotic

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Anytime you have a decision made based on the good of the community and delivered by unquestioned decree, you should question its motive and whether said decision has been made based on facts alone or ancillary influences.

Such is the case with MLB’s decision to take over the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt.

You can read the details here—NY Times.com.

Under no circumstances am I defending the behavior of Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, but there’s an aspect of piling on and  flinging everything into the bonfire as if lawlessness has taken hold and the powers that be had no other option.

The reviled autocratic leader—McCourt—has been forcibly removed after metaphorically robbing from the state’s coffers in treating the franchise as a personal cash machine to supplement delusions of a growing empire.

But what about baseball’s despot; also autocratic—yet likable in a rumpled, befuddled sort of way—Commissioner Bud Selig?

McCourt, scrambling for cash to pay his bills and maintain the Dodgers, was desperately seeking a buyer or a loan to maintain the team. Baseball was right to step in before it truly got out of hand and one of the signature franchises in the sport was bankrupt and unable to function.

But the selective enforcement allowed by the “best interests of baseball” clause bear an eerie similarity to a dictatorship that simply decides to eliminate an enemy without trial.

Anything can be explained by legalese, smooth talk, evidence as to the damage being done or sheer loathing raining down on the persecuted; but is it fair? Should baseball be able to do this at a moment’s notice just “because”?

McCourt has financed his lavish lifestyle using the Dodgers as a lever to gain more and more credit and buy more and more “stuff”; the divorce from his wife Jamie and legal battle for the franchise has been an exercise in humiliation like something from the shlock-mill of Aaron Spelling; but in looking at the team itself, has he been a terrible owner when assessing results on the field? Has he interfered with the club operations to its detriment?

How is what McCourt has done to the Dodgers in any worse than the way the Pirates have degenerated into a laughingstock? It’s notable that the Pirates are now—conveniently—being terribly mismanaged by a longtime Selig ally, Frank Coonelly.

Why is it that George Steinbrenner repeatedly ran afoul of baseball protocol (such as it is) with his antics and frequent suspensions, but was never permanently forced out as owner?

Baseball stepped in with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria when it was discovered that he was fiddling with the revenue sharing dollars he received from richer clubs, pocketing it rather than spending it on players as was intended; but the Marlins are a profitable, successful franchise that provides better bang for their buck than just about any other team.

The allegation that Fred Wilpon’s close relationship with Selig has assisted him in getting a loan and time to straighten out the team’s legal issues is reasonable and calls into greater question the way MLB has snatched control of the Dodgers from McCourt.

You can compare the differing circumstances in a myriad of ways and justify the takeover of the Dodgers; but so too could you wonder why it’s the Dodgers with whom they’ve stepped in so forcefully but not the Pirates or Mets.

For all the ridicule that the McCourts’ ownership has engendered, have they faltered on the field?

They’ve made the playoffs in four of the seven years he’s owned the team.

Have they scrimped on signing players?

They doled lucrative contracts on Derek Lowe, J.D. Drew, Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones and a host of others.

Have they shunned paying for their draft picks?

The Dodgers gave a $5.25 million bonus to 2010 1st round pick Zach Lee which was $4 million more than the preceding selection, Jesse Biddle, got from the Phillies—perceived as an organization that runs their club correctly.

Has McCourt overtly and negatively interfered with the on-field product and told his manager or GM what to do?

It’s possible, but from what I can see based on the GM maneuverings since McCourt bought the team—and that includes former GM Paul DePodesta and present GM Ned Colletti—he let them to do whatever they wanted.

He hired the biggest name manager in Joe Torre when he came available and the team has been consistently good.

Adding the violent assault on a San Francisco Giants fan in the Dodger Stadium parking lot to the list of McCourt transgressions is equivalent of tossing another charge into the indictment since it’s there and easy to use as an extra tool to pry the club from McCourt’s clutches.

The admission that there wasn’t enough security to prevent the beating is legitimate, but have you ever seen ballpark security? It’s not as if there are moonlighting cops or former CIA operatives running around to watch over the customers as they head to their cars; many times the security personnel are worse than the troublemaking fans themselves!

The personality-based viewpoint with which McCourt has been pigeonholed and the way baseball pushed him aside is justified by rule of baseball. It’s better to intervene too early rather than too late, but why the Dodgers and not the other teams and owners mentioned above?

Of course baseball had to take over the Dodgers; barring a miracle or owner-friendly negotiation with the creditors, McCourt’s ownership was no longer tenable. But the timing and seemingly capricious handling should be scrutinized more than it has been.

A lack of fairness and whimsical action without due process should be a concern to all. Practically and by delineation of powers, Selig had a right to do what he did and he had to do it; but the proffered justifications are troubling considering the way other clubs and owners have skated by without meaningful repercussions for their actions.

This was clearly personal. And that makes it all the more worrisome as to the broadbased powers allowable in the “best interests of baseball”.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s good for fantasy players and everyone else.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

Concessions

Hot Stove
  • Trades and no-trades:

Michael Young has formally and publicly requested a trade from the Texas Rangers.

This is fine.

Getting past the wide range of assessments of exactly how useful Young is, the two major sticking points in dealing him are his salary ($48 million guaranteed through 2013); and his no-trade clause which only allows him to be dealt, without his consent, to the Cardinals, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Rockies, Dodgers, Angels and Padres (according to MLB Trade Rumors).

These are not small hurdles.

We saw a similar dynamic last year when Roy Oswalt finally asked out of Houston and appeared to be trying to shoehorn his way into a destination of his choosing; the Astros pulled him off the market before the frustration and absence of options got the better of him and he made drastic concessions to go to Philadelphia. Had he been in greater demand; had more options in where he could be traded, he might have been able to force the trading club to exercise his 2012 contract option as a precursor to waiving his no-trade clause.

This also happened with Jake Peavy as he refused to be traded to the White Sox, then did an about-face a few months later.

Neither Oswalt nor Peavy, with their hefty contracts, had much choice in where they were going if they wanted out of Houston and San Diego respectively.

If I were a club executive and negotiating a contract with a player, and the no-trade clause was a demand I was comfortable with, I’d have a precondition in the deal that if the player formally requests a trade, then the no-trade provision is null and void.

It works both ways. The player wants the no-trade to maintain some control as to where he plays; the club would prefer not to give that much power to an employee.

In certain cases, the no-trade clause with only certain teams on the list is seen as an admission of “fear” in going to a city like New York or Boston. Such was the case with Joakim Soria. But the truth is that a player like Soria—who took a shorter salary in a contract extension, essentially a hometown discount for the Royals—doesn’t want that team-friendly contract to be used as a weapon for his club to extract as much as possible via trade from a team like the Yankees or Red Sox.

The trading GM can use the contract and absence of no-trade protection as a hammer to say, “Look, he’s signed long-term at a pittance to clubs with your financial might; I want three blue-chip prospects for him”.

A player like Soria wants that protection in not being dealt to the Yankees/Red Sox and not getting a pay bump commensurate with their salary structure. It’s business and has little to do with a fear of playing on the big stage.

How badly does Young want out of Texas?

Supposedly he’s said he’ll expand his list of clubs to whom he’ll accept a trade on a case-by-case basis. If I’m Rangers GM Jon Daniels, that’s not good enough. If Young wants out, he wants out. The number of teams that can absorb his salary or have similarly pricey contracts to exchange for him is highly limited; he has to give a little if his true desire is to leave the Rangers.

We’ll see how this plays out; how toxic the relationship between Young and the Rangers gets because judging from his statements that he’s been “misled and manipulated”, it won’t take long for things to degenerate into a circumstance where they won’t simply want to move him, but they’ll have to move him; then they’ll really get nothing in return and pay a significant chunk of his salary to get him out of town.

And that’s the last thing they want.

  • The Wright/Reyes debate:

Mets fans are fighting amongst themselves about which franchise cornerstone—Jose Reyes and David Wright—is more valuable long-term; whom would be more economical and practical to keep.

On so many levels, I have no idea as to the purpose of this debate.

Wright is signed through 2013 and the absence of decent third basemen available make it senseless to trade him unless a bounty is coming back; Reyes is a free agent at the end of the year and is going to want Carl Crawford money if he’s healthy and on top of his game. Given the financial stakes involved, you can bet he will be.

Would the Mets like to keep Reyes? Of course. Will they bust the bank—a bank that’s currently staring at the Wilpons with arms folded and feet tapping waiting to see if their loans are going to be repaid? No.

Value is relative.

Reyes is one of the most dynamic players in baseball and can do anything and everything on the field, but this current Mets team has many holes and with the uncertainty of Reyes’s long-term future with the club, it’s insane to suggest that they “can’t” entertain trade offers for him especially if—as expected—the team is out of contention in the summer and new GM Sandy Alderson can bring in multiple pieces for Reyes.

This isn’t a self-indulgent, contrary Mike Francesa rant based more on pomposity and injecting one’s name into the public consciousness with an entreaty for the Mets to “break up ‘da core” for reasons other than what’s good for the club.

It’s pure, cold-blooded, realistic baseball assessment.

It’s objective truth.

And the objective truth for the 2011 Mets is a nightmarish division; an uncertain situation in ownership; waiting out the expiration of the onerous Oliver Perez/Luis Castillo contracts; hoping that Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t reach his 2012 contract kicker; looking towards the heavens for lightning with the likes of Chris Young and Chris Capuano; and altering the culture from the poisonous, factional and outright anti-social to one crafted with a coherent strategy constructed with a blueprint that creates a consistent pipeline of talent.

To argue endlessly over the merits of Wright vs Reyes is akin to decorating a beautiful and unfinished home with expensive furniture and priceless works of art—it’s missing the point. What good do Reyes and Wright do if the entire structure is crumbling around them?

One, both or neither: what’s the difference?

Viewer Mail 2.5.2011

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove

Norm writes RE Mike Francesa, the Wilpons and Bernie Madoff:

Listening to Francesa’s newfound financial ‘expertise’ re. Madoff, ponzi schemes, the SEC etc, I cannot help but think that he should next tackle the Egypt crisis. He is quite versatile.

Btw, I find it amazing that no one at the Fan or in Franceca’s family (for example his little kids) have told Mike that he should stop talking about certain matters because he just reveals his ignorance and idiocy. I.e. anything involving basic mathematics—Mike should probably stop trying to do basic math on air.

I haven’t listened to him all that much regarding the Madoff thing but from what I did hear, I have to provide him with a lukewarm defense in that he was expressing his lack of knowledge regarding the investment machinations.

Of course, knowing him, it was a reaction to the backlash against his pompous and omnipotent “I know everything about everything” tone that he exhibits about, well, everything.

It’s quite odd to me when someone openly admits they just “give the money to their financial guy and tell them to do whatever”; this is how these Ponzi schemes and lost fortunes happen in the first place.

Francesa clings to things—it’s what he does. It might be a fervent belief in what he thinks; or, more likely, it’s a desperate attempt at being seen as “right”.

The smart, credibility-accumulating maneuver would’ve been for him to say, “I thought the idea that they owed a billion dollars was ridiculous and I said so; we won’t know ’til the details come out, but it might be a billion dollars!”

Then he could’ve deferred to financial people who can explain it succinctly; he has so many listeners especially in New York and in the financial arena, it would’ve been easy to find someone to teach it like a college professor and tell everyone what the case against the Wilpons entails.

Again, I’ve listened to him briefly, so he might have done that already.

Francesa wants credit. It’s an egomania that’s fed with accolades whether they’re valid or not.

In the battle of credit vs credibility, I always prefer credibility. It takes longer to build, but it’s more worthwhile in the long run.

Two comments from Jeff at Red State Blue State relating to the Yankees, Bartolo Colon and Andy Pettitte:

I think Bartolo Colon is worth signing for that ridiculous haircut alone.

Personally, I’m glad this story is over. I’m a bit tired — no, make that EXTREMELY tired — of hearing the whining from Yankees fans. In fact, the pleading and whining and crying they’ve been doing this offseason was starting to make them sound like Red Sox fans.

I’m still trying to get past Colon’s listed weight of 185 lbs. I’m 185 lbs!!!

As I said earlier this week, I have no issue with them signing Colon or Freddy Garcia—both have proven relatively recently that they can possibly be of some use; the Mark Prior signing was worth a gamble; but now they’ve signed Eric Chavez.

This is a colossal waste of time because he is not going to stay healthy—no way, no how and it literally makes no sense even as a shrugging, “let’s have a look” move.

With Pettitte, it really was enough in every conceivable sense. Saluting a baseball-related warrior is one thing; going on and on endlessly with whimpering as if the man died is another. And the tributes? How long is this going to go on?

It is refreshing to see the Yankees not get everything they want as a matter of course; naturally you see some ignorant fans take their frustrations out—like an abusive older sibling—on the Mets; this is more of a reflection on them and their rampant insecurities than anything else.

Pattie writes RE Andy Pettitte:

“Pettitte has been as clean off the field as he was gutty on it; he wasn’t going to wilt in the spotlight; Knowing someone’s going to be there and not cower in the face of danger is a valuable asset; always consistent; durable and money in the playoffs; he’s the guy you want protecting you. If he lost, it wasn’t due to a lack of conviction or courage; it was because he got beat; he won five championships; he behaved professionally and with class; he made a lot of money; and he told the truth” That’s out of your own mouth. He’s also been in the top 10 Cy Young voting 5 times; he’s the second-winningest active pitcher in baseball (240 wins), and the winningest postseason pitcher (19 wins) of all-time; best pickoff move in baseball. All this isn’t great? I usually agree with you, but come on, your lordship, give the man his due!

“Greatness” is a subjective term and you can make a case for Pettitte being a better pitcher than other pitchers who are perceived as “great” because he was able to perform amid all the pressures of New York and in the playoffs.

The Cy Young voting, many times, is based on competition more than individual performance. He won all those post-season games because the playoffs added a third tier right when Pettitte broke into the big leagues and he was on teams that made the playoffs every year.

In order to truly determine his worthiness for the term “great”, all of these things must be taken into account.

Calling me “your lordship” is a good way to get me to see your side of the argument though!

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Andy Pettitte:

Good summary of Andy and his career. There’s nothing like having a pitcher you can always count on to give you 100%. Andy did that and more.

It’s hard to be cynical when he sounded so sincere in that his passion wasn’t there and his refusal to sign on if he wasn’t all in; this is in spite of people calling him, begging and telling him how much they needed him and, especially, that his family was on-board for another season.

The $12-15 million is another factor that is hard to fathom turning down.

Joe writes RE the Yankees and Pettitte:

Good post. I agree that Pettitte isn’t a HOF. And even though I hate the Yankees, I believe Clemens, Jeter, Rivera, and maybe even Posada are HOF’s. Unsure about Posada though.

As a catcher on five championship teams with those offensive numbers and dealing with an eclectic group of pitchers in both mood and stuff, Jorge Posada is a Hall of Famer. More so than a Barry Larkin-type and definitely more than Tim Raines.

In fairness, I have to eventually do as I did with John Smoltz and Bert Blyleven and examine Pettitte’s career from beginning to end—gamelogs, competition, other pitchers in the league in comparison—and truly decide whether he has a case for the Hall of Fame. At first glance, it’s a clear “no”; but it was the first glance that kept Blyleven out for so long. Perhaps Pettitte has a legitimate case for serious consideration.

I’ll withhold judgment….for now.

Laughable Or Not

Hot Stove
  • Inspirations for wit:

It’s easy to take potshots at teams that have bad off-seasons especially when one of those teams is the Yankees. Certain signings have looked odd and created the cleverly snide comments designed to denigrate; but the fact is that they’re decisions for which there’s nothing to lose.

There’s a significant difference between asking, “what are they expecting from him?” and openly ridiculing without basis.

We’re seeing it now with the picking amongst the scraps that has led to the Orioles signing Justin Duchscherer; the Yankees Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia; the Mets holding an introductory press conference for Chin-lung Hu; the Indians looking hard at Jeremy Bonderman; the Brewers signing Mark Kotsay; and the Braves signing Rodrigo Lopez.

Because these players are still out on the market and relegated to taking a “why not?” minor league contract or signing with teams for whom they’re not going to play much, they’re open targets. But the truth is that it’s sometimes these small, seemingly insignificant signings that end up being big successes.

Just this past week we saw one with the Mets and journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey agreeing to a 2-year, $7.8 million contract with an option for a third year. Dickey’s career is the stuff people write books about; and Dickey—an English major in college—is bright enough and well-spoken enough to write the thing himself.

A first round draft pick of the Rangers in the 1996 draft, it was a photograph of the U.S. National Team that raised the eyebrows of the Rangers front office when they saw the bizarre crookedness of his right arm. Dickey had yet to sign his contract and when he was examined closely by a concerned Rangers staff. They were stunned to find that he didn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament in his arm.

For all intents and purposes, he shouldn’t have been able to pitch at all. The Rangers lowballed him in the negotiations not expecting him to be able to last very long, let alone make it to the big leagues.

He did make it to the big leagues, but didn’t have much success even after making the switch from conventional pitcher to being a knuckleballer…until last season.

Was it opportunity? Luck? Or did it simply take him a few years of learning how to throw a pitch that few understand, teach or explain?

Regardless, people laughed at the thought of Dickey as anything but minor league filler; his rise is not complete because the Cinderella story can end at any moment, but at the very least, he has two things going for him: he throws an unconventional pitch that has, historically, allowed pitchers to last well into their 40s; and he’s got a guaranteed contract and spot in the rotation for the first time ever.

Objectively, Colon and Garcia are highly worthwhile shots in the dark for the Yankees. Colon was serviceable with the White Sox in the first half of 2009 before he got hurt; Garcia, despite having no fastball left, pitched well last season. They’re on minor league deals, what’s there to lose?

The Mets inexplicably—much of what they do is in this same vein—held a press conference to introduce Hu. Why? I don’t know. It had a similar feel to last year when the news was coming down that the Mets were about to announce a deal as if it were a cataclysmic event and it turned out that they’d acquired Gary Matthews, Jr.

The Mets bring this stuff on themselves sometimes.

Duchscherer’s not going to stay healthy, but why not?

Bonderman? Why not?

Kotsay? Why not?

You’d be foolish to expect a Dickey-like rise, but they happen; they’re inexpensive; if it doesn’t work, they can be dispatched with no remorse or financial hit.

People either need to gain some more baseball knowledge or find better joke writers because it’s decisions like these that end up paying off big once in a while. And nobody’s laughing then.

  • Viewer Mail 2.2.2011:

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez:

Whether you like him or not, it seems to me that Ichiro has got to finish his career in Seattle. Even though Hernandez and Gutierrez may be more valuable, Ichiro is the franchise player at the moment. I can’t say for sure, but I’d bet that the fans would be none-too-happy if he doesn’t retire in their uniform.

Plus, he’s 37 or 38 now. Might as well let him see out the rest of his career at Safeco. It’s not like the M’s could trade him for that one solid piece that will make them a World Series contender.

On the subject of Gutierrez, I really wish the Rangers could make a deal for him. He’s a more sure thing [than Borbon] to keep Hamilton out of CF, which is exactly what needs to happen from now until the end of time.

I understand the fan considerations especially for a team that has few players aside from Felix Hernandez that will draw specifically to watch them; and I do believe that the Ichiro factor has negatively affected club operations. His demanding nature; clashes with former manager Mike Hargrove; quirkiness; and “star” status has given him far too much power for such a selfish and unproductive player in the team sense. In context, I suppose he does have to finish his career in Seattle if for no other reason than to get fans to come and watch the Mariners.

I doubt they’ll trade Gutierrez and probably not within the division.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mets:

Uh oh… don’t get the Prince started on another Ichiro battle! Haha!

From what I understand the Wilpons got duped like everybody else, and I can’t help but feel sorry for them… for that reason alone, though, the Mets’ recent identity problems haven’t been to kind to the owners either. Double empathy!

I won that battle. Anyone wants to scrap, they know where to find me…

As I said earlier, sometimes the Mets invite this stuff; with the new regime, they’re getting away from what they did before and are trying to craft an organization not in the Moneyball mold, but in the Red Sox mold; Sandy Alderson and his staff weren’t going to walk in and clean everything up in two weeks; the whole operation has to be changed after the mess that was left behind. I like what they’ve done so far. And I’m a tough grader!

John Seal writes RE Mike Francesa and the A’s old-school uniforms:

If you could describe Mike Francesa with only one word, that word would, of course, be ‘fungible’.

As for those new A’s unis, all I can say is “tweet!”…er, I mean “sweet!”

My West Coast Spiritual Adviser returns!! Just in time too. I may be salvageable. Or incorrigible. One of those.

I find Francesa’s actions to be strange as if he must somehow save face by casting a glow of omnipotence; whether that includes alterations of past statements or out-and-out ignoring when the inconsistencies are pointed out are irrelevant to his ends; he doesn’t grasp that it makes him look like an egomaniacal fool.

I try to learn from the things I got wrong and hearken back to my thinking at the time to possibly get it right the next time. Sometimes it even works.

I burst out laughing when I read the “tweet” comment. I’m waiting for the Astros to bring back the “tequila sunrise” uniform tops. I’m all for reminiscing and sentimentality when it doesn’t harm team operations and the new uniforms are a talking point, but those 1970s uniforms were ghastly.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets and Bernie Madoff:

I think you’re right and the lack of spending probably was unrelated to the Madoff thing. I sure hope the Wilpons didn’t encourage their good friend Koufax to invest with Bernie.

Sandy Koufax doesn’t even like answering his phone; I doubt he was involved in any big time investing.

The thing that needs mentioning when talking about the Madoff/Mets/25% sale is that anyone who buys the Mets in whole or part is going to have CASH!!!! The league isn’t going to approve someone who doesn’t have the money to spend and keep them competitive because it’s bad for business to have a weak Mets team. It’s not going to be the Padres/Athletics situations that Alderson went through before because baseball won’t let it happen for a large market team.

Stories

Hot Stove

The Mets-Madoff mess continues with no end in sight.

As the muck is sifted through, the stories go on and on as to the future of the club under the Wilpons. Will they find a buyer for the limited percentage and “cash infusion”? Will they have to sell a portion of the television network? Who and why would anyone be willing to pay a load of money to have no say in what’s going on? What affect will all of this have in actual player operations?

Analysis is rampant, the majority of it coming from “sources” and “experts” who don’t—nor could they—know what’s really going on with the loans the Wilpons have against the club; the circumstances surrounding SNY; how the government’s lawsuit seeking repayment for the Madoff gains is going to work out and whether a settlement is possible without the need to sell the Mets.

Educated guesswork is still guesswork.

We don’t know, we won’t know until the smoke from the announcement on Friday is completely clear. It’s going to linger for a good long while.

The on-field product has been a hot topic of discussion lately as Sandy Alderson was asked if he would’ve taken the job as GM had he known this would happen. Alderson spoke on the subject yesterday—NY Times Story.

Alderson claims that he didn’t know about this when he took the job, but was aware of the chance that there could be some upheaval regarding Madoff and the Wilpons. A smart man, he had to have accounted for this happening at some point.

Some of the speculation has centered around the Mets lack of spending this winter. Did the looming threat of legal action prevent the Mets from buying players? The conspiratorial answer would be yes; but the realistic and logical answer would be no.

The Mets would have had no interest nor capability in acquiring any of the big names that changed teams this winter via trade or free agency and it had nothing to do with money. Taking a look at the bigger players who were out on the market and you see that none had much attraction to the Mets and vice versa.

Cliff Lee? If he was coming to New York, it would’ve been to join the Yankees; at his age, the last thing he needed was to enter a team straddling the line between clearing dead salaries and moving forward with younger players.

Carl Crawford? Where where the Mets putting him?

Zack Greinke? He would have cost Ike Davis and Jonathon Niese to start with and there are the lingering questions about Greinke’s ability to handle New York.

Adrian Gonzalez? Again, a package of prospects then the long-term contract to keep him. And the Mets have a first baseman.

Jayson Werth? Even if they had the money, the Mets weren’t going to match the Nationals contract. Nobody was.

There were no “name” players to avidly pursue who were going to make an impact this season for the Mets. This is more of a market force than lack of cash.

It would’ve been overtly stupid for the Mets to again go with the quick fix scheme of throwing money at any and all holes since they have so many holes to fill. With Alderson’s hiring, that’s exactly what they’re trying to get away from.

It was known that this was going to be a so-called “bridge” year for the Mets. Any good executive or organizational boss is willing to take the hits—if he has support of ownership—for the greater good. If the Mets want to build a sustained pipeline of talent; if they want to invest in players who have winning qualities on and off the field, they’re required to sit through this season, likely struggle, wait for the end of the financial commitment to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo; hope they have a way to get rid of Francisco Rodriguez; bring in pieces that contribute to the future at reasonable prices; and see what comes available with the extra money they’ll supposedly have to spend.

The comparisons of the prior Alderson stops—the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics—and their ownership issues with those of the Mets are simplistic and wrong.

Alderson gained the reputation for frugality during his years with the Athletics and Padres, but it was somewhat misplaced. His championship contending Athletics teams were always among the highest paid in baseball and he had a star manager in Tony La Russa. When the team was sold, the money was no longer available and the Athletics sunk to the bottom of the division. Years of bad drafts and a dearth of money to buy players relegated them to living on their wits; then the wits—La Russa and Dave Duncan—left and things got worse.

I find laughable the suggestion that Alderson was the “father” of the stat-based “revolution” because he had the foresight to hire Billy Beane; that the injecting of objective analysis was a byproduct of his legal training and time in the Marine Corps. When the A’s spent money under Alderson, they won; the Beane Athletics didn’t take flight until Alderson had left and his contribution to those teams was minimal.

Left to their own devices with little money and prospects, in the final days of his tenure as GM, Alderson was reduced to gimmickry and desperation like bringing Jose Canseco back in 1997 to reunite The Bash Brothers with Mark McGwire. The team lost 97 games.

This is the type of maneuver that would’ve taken place had the Mets followed through on the “do something even if it doesn’t make sense” edict.

With the Padres, the divorce of John Moores had a limited influence on what Alderson was doing. Those Padres were a case study in the logical conclusion of Moneyball with Alderson at the top of the pyramid and tacitly encouraging factional wars between numbers crunchers and scouts. It also has to be remembered that Alderson was not the GM of the Padres; he was the team president which is an entirely different job than executing the player decisions on a day-to-day basis.

So what was he supposed to do this winter?

With money available or unavailable and examining what was feasible, he did the right thing. Building a bullpen through cheap pitchers off the scrapheap is the only efficient way to build a good bullpen—the “cheap” nature of said bullpen is a natural result of that strategy. It’s not due to being cheap specifically; it’s due to being smart.

As for the other options, what were they to do?

Jose Reyes has been under the microscope as a “will they or won’t they” be able to sign him? Will they trade him? What happens with Reyes?

Obviously, Reyes is a player—if healthy—you want to have as a centerpiece; but realistically, they have to examine the reality as the summer rolls around.

If the Mets are hovering around .500 or under, you can bet that Carlos Beltran will have his bags packed and ready to go. Reyes will be up for bid as well. The Mets will have to weigh the offers they receive vs the draft class from 2011. If Beltran and Reyes are playing well, would they be better served to let both leave as free agents and take the four compensatory draft picks they’d get? Or would they prefer to get packages with players who are closer to big league ready?

It’s not as simple as “trade ‘im” as you’ll hear repeatedly on the call-in radio shows.

The thought that the Mets can’t let Reyes leave is ludicrous.

Teams have moved on from their signature stars and been better in the long run because of that cold, rational decision that they could sign three pieces for the huge contract the one player is demanding.

The turmoil in the front office with the Dodgers and the McCourts’ divorce hasn’t stopped them from buying players when they need them; it’s unlikely to interfere with the Mets either as they slash through the jungle of lies and another casualty in the Madoff scam—the reputation of Fred Wilpon and, maybe, his beloved baseball team—faces the fallout. Maybe permanently.

Viewer Mail 1.31.2011

Hot Stove

Joe writes RE Milton Bradley:

No one hits like Albert Pujols. I am sure they would put up with Milton Teixeira though :)


Jeff at Red State Blue State also writes about Milton Bradley:

Hell, if the dude hit like Wilson Betemit they’d— wait, nevermind, the dude does hit like Wilson Betemit. But he’s making more cash than Wilson could ever dream about.

The M’s have become laughable. It’s sad really.

He was a terrific risk for the Mariners a year ago since, for no other reason, it got Carlos Silva‘s contract out of town; Silva was owned $25 million guaranteed; Bradley $21 million.

Bradley had an MVP-quality year in 2008 with the Rangers and whether you chalk up a large portion of it to playing in Texas and their hitter-friendly ballpark, he was good enough on the road for the Cubs to expect production—2008 splits link.

Feeling they could control him wasn’t far-fetched since he behaved in Texas. Lou Piniella had the reputation that suggested he’d handle a hothead like Bradley because Piniella himself is a hothead. Coming off their failed run in 2008, the Cubs needed a bat the type which Bradley was in 2008 for the Rangers.

On the field his numbers with the Cubs were somewhat respectable—albeit not in the stratosphere they were in 2008 with the Rangers. But there were the repeated incidents that hover over Bradley like a vulture.

In retrospect, the Mariners got rid of a pitcher, Silva, who was a disaster for them and saved $4 million on the contracts; but Bradley was a terror off the field—again—and he didn’t hit.

Taken by itself, this latest incident is unresolved and wouldn’t be enough to dump Bradley and eat the remaining $12 million on his deal. But it’s not an isolated incident; it’s an endless pattern in the history of Milton Bradley.

Add in that the Mariners were a dysfunctional, poorly behaved nightmare on and off the field last season and the question has to be asked: When is enough is going to be enough?

New manager Eric Wedge has a lot of work in front of him straightening out the on-field product and heading off the disciplinary issues that doomed Don Wakamatsu; he managed Bradley in Cleveland and they didn’t get along there either; do the Mariners really want to put Wedge in this situation where it’s a matter of when, not if, Bradley does something else? It could be arguing with an umpire; fighting with a teammate; or something worse off the field.

It’s interesting that you mention Wilson Betemit, Jeff—Betemit was much better than Bradley last season and not only in the context of the year Bradley had. Betemit had 13 homers in 315 plate appearances; batted .297 and had a .378 OBP and the Royals had him on a minor league contract!!

There is no reward to having Bradley on the team. Even if he comes back and plays well—and he’s been written off before and come back—what’s the trade-off? The Mariners have no shot at contention and a message needs to be sent to the rest of the team that they’re not going to tolerate misanthropic behavior. His mere presence is more of a negative than eating the money would be and I wouldn’t let him anywhere near spring training.

Mike Fierman writes RE my Saturday posting on the Mets and Bernie Madoff:

One of your best- I don’t even think the LaRussa/Ankiel comparison was needed.

I’m not one to shy away from compliments!

You may be right about the Tony La Russa/Rick Ankiel analogy, but I wanted to get something on-field and baseball-related in there to make clear how insane it is that the red flags of Madoff’s operation were missed by some very smart people.

In this NY Daily News story, Fred Wilpon and family are said to be “devastated” by the lawsuit and implication that they knew what was going on.

Naturally we don’t know what they knew and didn’t know.

A kind and generous man, I do not think that Wilpon “knew” what Madoff was doing; but because he wasn’t paying close attention to the preposterous nature of the consistent gains regardless of economic times, he’s not absolved.

As I said on Saturday, what was he going to do if he did find out about it? He could’ve pulled his money out and blown the whistle, but sometimes it’s just easier to feign ignorance when the evidence of a “too good to be true” nature is everywhere.

Savvy people can sense when something in their realm of expertise is off; someone close to Fred Wilpon had to have sensed something. They had to have.

Norm writes RE the Mets and Madoff:

The funniest thing about the Madoff-Wilpon story has had to be Mike Francesa’s take on it. He went from months of berating callers who were trying to explain how the Wilpons lost tons to a complete about-face yesterday without anything close to a ‘whoops’ or a ‘my bad’.

Apologize?

Acknowledge being wrong?

Mike….Francesa?

Are you kidding?

I don’t have an issue with saying the words, “I don’t know” when I don’t know. But Francesa, so immersed in his own ego that he can alter any event into him having a Nostradamus-like foresight as to its outcome—whether he said it publicly or not—won’t ever say those credit-accumulating words: “I…was…wrong.”

It’s not hard; nor is it an admission of weakness to not know everything.

On a whole other level, if he were to admit to having not known the scope of the Wilpon financial hit, his self-proclaimed image of an insider would disappear. The Wilpons were in financial trouble and no one told Mike Francesa about it?

If he didn’t get wind of the story from a credible source off-air, then it couldn’t be true. In his mind anyway.

Come on, Norm. This is a guy who had his football picks altered to be more accurate than they were; were you expecting any utterance of contrition for being wrong about this? NEVER!!!!

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Randy Levine and Chuck Greenberg bickering over Cliff Lee:

I care about what Levine said to Greenberg. I think other Yankee fans care too. And the consensus is – Good for Levine! Greenberg has been sniping at the Yankees and their fans since Mrs. Lee whined about having beer dumped on her at Yankee Stadium. He was apparently made to apologize by MLB. But it continues. I think Levine was trying to say, “Enough already. Just worry about your own team.”

I think they both need to keep quiet.

Levine could’ve turned around and said exactly that. “Worry about your own team.” But he didn’t.

The “welfare “stuff was ridiculous.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats has two comments; first RE Levine vs Greenberg:

From what I understand, Greenberg didn’t direct his comment about Lee at anyone in the Yankee organization. He was asked a question by a fan at the local Ranger Fan Fest and he gave his [purely speculative] opinion.

He wasn’t sniping at anyone, as far as I can tell. Somebody seems to be a little overly sensitive [speaking about the Yankee front office, not Ms. Heller above].

I’m channeling my inner Don King when I suggest a fight between Levine and Greenberg under the promotional title: Greenberg vs Levine—Two Jews Slap-Fighting.

And RE the Mariners:

As far as the Mariners go, I feel bad for those poor fans up in the Pacific Northwest. I am a Rangers fan and I grew up hating [but respecting] Griffey Jr. and his organization.

Still, to see them fall so far in recent years, after their one decent stretch in the ’90s, leaves me with a fair amount of sympathy.

They need to rebuild. They need to do what the Rangers did just 4 years ago and tell their fans “Please stick with us, we won’t be this terrible forever. We’re turning this ship around.”

Part of that process would probably involve letting their GM go, as he seems both dazed and confused most of the time. Then you sell off the pieces you don’t absolutely need and get younger.

Off the top of my head, I would hold onto King Felix, Gutierrez, and Ichiro. I suppose you also give Justin Smoak an opportunity to prove himself [I never understood why fans around here were so excited about the guy or why the M’s seemed just as excited].

After that, restock your system and put a few warm bodies on the field until fresh talent comes up.

I suppose all of that sounds easier than it is, but at least it’s a plan. Right now they just seem to be wandering in the dark, hoping some natural disaster wipes out the rest of the American League or something.

Jack Zduriencik is a very intelligent baseball man who made a lot of moves to slash money, import and dispatch players.

His three biggest downfalls stem from the appellation of “genius”—which wasn’t his fault; the over-aggressiveness to get better fast rather than let the team grow organically with a cautious approach; and the shunning of responsibility and personal conduct exemplified in the blame game firing of Wakamatsu; and the bad actors brought into the organization.

I’d give Zduriencik a pass for the player moves that failed; but the lack of discipline in the organization is inexcusable.

I would not move Felix Hernandez; I’d keep an open mind on Franklin Gutierrez but wouldn’t be inclined to deal him.

I’m not a fan of Ichiro Suzuki; I think he’s a losing player who senses which way the wind is blowing in terms of club fortunes and goes for stats once the season is lost; he’s overpaid and underproductive. Last season, I got into a monthlong series of debates about Ichiro. I insist he could hit for more power if he decided to do so but would prefer to accumulate his gaudy hit totals with singles to left field.

That’s neither here nor there.

Apart from these players, if you look up and down the Mariners roster, there’s a limited number of players other teams would: A) want; or B) give up anything of significance to get.

We won’t know about the Zduriencik drafts for some time and he may not be there to reap their rewards, if any.

Pat Gillick lives in Seattle. And the Hall of Famer hasn’t officially retired.

I hope I’m not being cryptic.