The news today was good for all parties—good for KRod, good for the Mets, and good for Met fans.
When Omar signed Francisco Rodriguez, most fans were justifiably pleased. He was young, had little injury history, had pitched for a title team and had lots of pennant race and postseason experience, had four years in a row with at least 40 saves, had just set the save record, and filled the team’s clearest and biggest need.
His contract, while generous, was far less than the numbers which had at first been thrown around, and after the performance of the team’s 2008 bullpen members down the stretch, KRod was a welcome addition.
All in all, at the time, it seemed like one of Omar’s better signings in all ways.
The last two years, of course, have thrown a few wrenches into that assessment.
KRod has been injured (after all, he is a Met, isn’t he?) and while he has been good, he has not been quite as good as had been hoped.
He also has shown, again and again, a quick temper and a penchant for losing it. His altercation with his girlfriend’s father showed unquestionably terrible judgment. Even if, as has been suggested, KRod’s mom was being disrespected, attacking anyone—especially a much older man—in the family area of one’s own stadium shows shocking lack of control and awareness.
Still, in today’s sports world, we must face the fact that Charles Barkley was right all those years ago—most of these guys are not role models. After a few years of success at the highest level of sports, they are extremely wealthy, coddled, sheltered, and isolated beings who almost always get exactly what they want. Saying things like “I’d be fired if I did that!” may be right, but could not be more irrelevant. In a world of sports hero-worship and supply and demand, people like KRod get away with things most of us do not.
Even clear violence like this—which, almost comically, resulted in yet another injury which ended KRod’s season—would almost certainly not have been enough to allow the Wilpons to void or downgrade KRod’s contract.
So what are we left with?
Despite the situation with all of the prohibited text messages, KRod seems to be doing the right thing. He has gone to anger management classes, repeatedly apologized, and accepted the loss of over $3 million for the missed part of 2010.
He will be back in 2011, and the cold, hard fact is that the Mets and KRod clearly need each other.
This team, despite the optimism felt by some, is almost certainly 1-2 years away from again being taken seriously in a very difficult division. The team will again have key players returning from injury, and will be counting very heavily on unproven youngsters to play many big roles. Pitching was the team’s strong suit in 2010, and, especially with Johan being out for an indeterminate time, every proven arm the squad can count on will be hugely important.
With or without the return of Takahashi and/or Feliciano, KRod will be massively important for this team next year. There figure to be many close games to save, if indeed the pitching promise of Dickey, Pelf, Niese, and Gee is fulfilled, and if the offense is even nearly as anemic as it was this year. We may see many 2-1, 3-1, 4-2, etc., types of games when the ninth inning rolls around, and a proven closer like KRod could make the difference between having a .500+ season or not.
In addition, KRod is facing the biggest controversy of his career and certainly will be booed by some at the outset. A few saves to start the year will quell most of this, and surely he will be motivated as never before to be healthy, to perform, and to behave.
Is this an ideal situation? Of course not. Will a successful season which makes KRod’s huge 2012 option a reality be a positive for this team? That is a huge question.
The feeling here is that, all things considered, this could all work out well for all parties. A good year from KRod could help this team make serious strides back toward contention. Should this occur, and if his option vests, then in 2012, we may have a team ready for contention, with a veteran closer who will only be 30 years old, heading into a walk year motivated to succeed.
While all parties would unquestionably have been far better off had KRod left the room in Citi that night to cool off without striking anyone, clearly lemonade can still be brewed here.
Let us hope that KRod’s words and actions of late are the true man, maturing and eager to put this outrageously inappropriate and ill-timed incident behind him.