Last night it was announced that MLB has in effect taken over the Los Angeles Dodger from the McCourts. After years of infighting and a bitter divorce, one of MLB’s flagship franchises in a major market became, essentially, a ward of the state. As the Mets lost again last night, getting off to the worst home state in franchise history (and that’s saying something) many a fan were left to wonder: are we next? When does Selig take the keys away from the Wilpons? A better question would be “has it already happened?”
First off, a major reason Selig took the bold action he did, stripping Frank McCourt of the ability to run the Dodgers on day-to-day basis (a move which McCourt is suing to block) is simple: people around the game f***ing hate Frank McCourt. Word is that he is notoriously difficult to deal with, kinda shady in finances, and is running a storied franchise into the ground. Did Bud Selig act in the best interest of the game and the dodgers by taking the franchise away from him? Probably. Did he experience schadenfreude in watching McCourt get humiliated publically? Again, probably. As far as Selig is concerned, the sentiment to the McCourts is ‘don’t go away angry, just go away’.
Which brings us to the Mets. This may sound strange to us die hards, but Fred Wilpon is genuinely liked and respected around the sport (perhaps for making everyone else look good by comparison?). He’s a personal friend of Selig, who has no interest in shoving his face in the mess he made. However, a major franchise in a major market cannot be left to float adrift the way the Mets have under Wilpon’s guidance. Enter Sandy Alderson. At some point in high school or college, I’m sure Alderson bussed tables or something one summer. That does not mean he should be referred to as a busboy today. When the Mets GM spot opened up, Bud Selig could not recommend Alderson for the job strongly enough.
In effect, he was telling his old friend whom to hire. When you are the Commissioner, you get to do those sorts of things. Sandy, as we all know, was once the GM of the Oakland A’s. In the early 90’s. He hasn’t worn that hat in a while. In the interim, he was the president of the San Diego Padres, and most recently running MLB’s operations in the Dominican Republic (with a mandate to clean up the mess it had become). Becoming a run of the mill GM, who has to answer to an owner, is the sort of thing that should have been behind Alderson at this point in his career. Yet he took the job – at the behest of his boss, who was less playing matchmaker and more giving everyone marching orders. Immediately, Alderson is making moves that, let’s face it, under a Wilpon-selected GM would never have been made. When Billy Wagner was traded to the Red Sox, the Mets got back a Rookie level first baseman and a journeyman minor leaguer – all for an established reliever whom the Red Sox, a team with a deep farm system, desperately coveted. Why? Because the Wilpons are not in the business of eating salary, or paying someone NOT to work for them. They also have no idea what the term “sunken cost” means. Thus, Omar Minaya had to settle for the chaff of the Sox system rather than pay Wagner’s remaining salary (already budgeted for mind you) and get something of value.
This year? Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were paid a combined $18MM to go away. You tell me, who made that decision, Freddie Coupons or the man MLB ordered into the franchise to right the ship, from top to bottom? It is apparent someone other than Fred or his son Jeff are in charge.
After seeing what happened to the Dodgers, Met fans awoke this morning wondering “are we next”? But there is another question.
Were we first?