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An Open Letter to the New York Mets

April 22, 2009 1 comment


Dear Mets,

I have officially had it. With each passing day I am getting more and more numb to what I am witnessing on the field. Looking back on the past three years, I am truly embarrassed to be a fan of your franchise. You have cost me hundreds of hours and dollars each year with zero payoff to show for it. I am twenty years old and already have a gray hair on my head – I attribute this to you. I guess I should take back my prior comment that you haven’t given me anything.

What we have lived through over these past few years has been unbearable. We watched our team crumble in the playoffs to a vastly weaker opponent. Largely this was not your own fault, as the injuries to El Duque and Pedro in 2006 were simply bad luck. This was the start of a run that I assume the entire organization would largely attribute to “bad luck.” I call it failure.

Over the last two seasons, how many runners on third base with nobody out have been stranded by this team? How many opportunities to get that clutch hit with RISP to break the game open have you squandered? How many games has the bullpen blown in agonizing fashion? How many times have you seen a team come into New York clearly wanting to kill the Mets, without so much as a fight from our players? Is it any great surprise that the team’s season has ended on the last day of the season two years in a row, at home? It has gotten to the point over the last couple of years where from the 7th inning on, most of the time I have been able to predict exactly what is going to happen, as friends who have watched games with me can attest. This sense of impending doom, of waiting for the next shoe to drop hovers over this team every single day. The only thing that changes is which shoe drops.

Management has been as complicit in this failure as the players. The executives completely botched the firing of Willie Randolph. The executives botched the signing of Derek Lowe. The executives botched the signing of Manny Ramirez (invest with someone other than Madoff next time, or at least admit to the fans that this is why you didn’t so much as talk to his agent about him). The executives pushed Ryan Church to return from a concussion early, potentially putting his cognitive functions at risk; that is, they put his effective livelihood in danger for no good reason. The executives to add insult to injury have constantly put Church down, with many questioning whether or not he can make it in New York, or even if he is a better hitter than Daniel Murphy (even if Murphy is better, why would you denigrate Church?). I guess it wasn’t enough that he played Gold Glove defense and was your MVP before he got injured last season; or that this year he is batting .350. Even a marginal player like Figueroa has been treated poorly when he has had success at the big league level. Why do you seem to hate all of the good guys?

You also managed to pick the worst of the investment banks to sponsor your stadium…you couldn’t quite think to do what the Yankees did of simply having your insolvent banking pals advertise all over the stadium while still giving it a name loyal to the history of the team. And while you built a beautiful stadium, outside of the pictures hanging from the outside, you wouldn’t even know the Mets played there. There are more quotes and pictures from Jackie Robinson than there are of Mets in the whole stadium. Your facade while beautiful is Ebbets Field, while your fence is Giants-colored. You would think the team was embarassed by its history. Even if it is, our fans revel in our history, however checkered. Show some respect to the people that are the lifeblood of the franchise.

Despite vowing coming out of Spring Training this year for this team to come back with a team-first attitude and focus, so far it has been a bunch of individuals putting up great numbers, while collectively remaining inconsistent, unclutch (look at the numbers) and lifeless. The Mets continue to lose one-run games. They continue to strand astronomical amounts of baserunners. They continue to fail in the most agonizing of fashions – two dropped fly balls, and Beltran who apparently doesn’t know how to slide.

You Mets lack all consistency on a day-to-day basis. When you get great starting pitching (see Johan Santana) you can’t hit. When you club the ball, it is usually only for a few innings, and even when it is for a sustained period, you fail to pitch. This team is totally dysfunctional. Most frustrating of all is the fact that in every loss thus far (besides perhaps the Josh Johnson game which was again, lost on an error), the team has never actually been outplayed by an opponent; the Mets are their own worst enemy, always beating themselves. This is perhaps the only thing consistent about the last 2+ years.

And another thing. If you went to war, would you prefer to do it with Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino or Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes? To be sure, you have some pieces that are solid. Your bullpen seems to be much improved. You have a handful of guys that seem tough and willing to run through walls like Putz and Johan and Murphy and even Wright (though I still think he is softer than most of the Phillies guys). But you seem to lack the killer instinct as a group. Would you ever see the Mets go into a stadium like the Marlins have done on the last weekend the last two seasons and say, “We hate your team, and we are going to make your lives a living hell for the next three games.” Heck, watching David Eckstein hit against us last week, I was more scared of him due to his peskiness and pertinacity than I would be pitching to most of the Mets in a big spot, or fighting the Mets in a bench-clearing brawl. That little guy shows more heart than most everyone on our team combined.

What I am trying to get at is that while you have a few solid, hard-nosed players, the nucleus needs to be blown up. As a collective unit, this team continuously fails. They never put all of their talent together and play as a team. They are a bunch of talented individuals who cannot and will not ever gel. Unfortunately, the fans who want nothing more than for their beloved team to win have to live with this mediocrity, constantly stabbed in the back in the most painful of ways. We are sick of this. Fire the bums!

Sincerely,

A disgruntled Mets fan

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Citi Field Chicanery

February 4, 2009 Leave a comment


First let me state a few qualifiers when it comes to the Mets’ now infamous Citi Field. Citi Field is gorgeous. The team that will inhabit it is not as gorgeous. It is outrageous that the taxpayers are backstopping the bank which made the naming deal with the team. It is embarrassing to an organization that has already suffered epic collapses the last two seasons to be going into a new stadium dealing with this kind of headache. With this in mind, let me proceed to the broader controversy regarding the naming deal.

Today in the New York Times, representative Dennis Kucinich argues regarding naming deals that “Treasury has the power under TARP to make broad changes, They have to. It’s not whether they can or should; they have to. The legal issues are very easy to maneuver.” According to Kucinich, Citi Field represents “an egregious example. But we have a list of other banks we’re working our way through. We’ll hold hearings.” I do agree with Kucinich that naming deals such as Citi’s with the Mets represent extravagent, and probably poor expenditures. I don’t know how Citi projected that it would recoup their $400 million investment in the naming rights to the stadium, but investment banks made all sorts of investments far more ridiculous over the last decade to be sure.

Further, given that taxpayers are the ones who are responsible for propping up the company responsible for this deal, it should anger all of us. But what Congress (Mr. Kucinich excluded given his populist rhetoric against the bank bailouts) fails to realize is that were it not for the government’s decision to bail out these institutions, these types of issues would not exist. As Citi unwound its assets during its bankruptcy, the naming rights deal could be nixed and purchased by another company. Where were Kucinich’s angry colleagues when it came to bailing out Citi in the first place?

The outrage amongst politicians when it comes to naming deals not only masks their lack of appreciation that this would not be an issue were it not for propping up failing ventures, but also masks the greater implications of their intervention. Since we all are now shareholders in these institutions, the government will tinker with their management. This begins with caps on executive pay, but who is to say that it will end there?

As poorly as some of these institutions were managed, and granting that a lot of their poor management was due to incentives created by government intervention, I would guarantee that government control of the banks will be even worse. Do you think that Nancy Pelosi knows how to create a DCF model in Excel? Does Barney Frank know how the market for CDO^2’s works, let alone what a CDO^2 is?

Much as I think that President Obama could give a hell of a pitch to investors on the virtues of a closed-end real estate fund, there is no way that the government can ever run these businesses properly. Command economies have always failed. The government lacks the profit motive and the knowledge to successfully manage these companies. Putting the firms under the purview of government represents the greatest moral hazard of them all.

Remember, these are only the direct effects of strict government regulation of the banking sector. There would also be a great effect on the markets. If the government is to have say over the operating activities of the major banks, what kind of implications will this have for retail and institutional investors? Will money flood out to less-regulated private equity and hedge funds? Will those shops then become as regulated as the (remaining) big banks? What kind of confidence will exist in the markets when the biggest broker-dealers are being managed by politicians? Will people not recall what happened to all of the other GSE’s?

There are a plethora of problems with these institutions being managed by the government. The Citi Field naming rights deal is very small relative to the big picture, but it exemplifies the direction the government is going. I am just as angry as everyone else that we are responsible for keeping the Citi naming deal alive, but we must remember that it was because of government intervention that we got ourselves into this mess in the first place. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Mets aren’t going to pursue Manny Ramirez, now us tortured fans have to deal with this pathetic situation.

Twenty Greatest Mets Follies

January 16, 2009 4 comments


Given that the world is collapsing politically, socially and economically before my very eyes (and outside of the Bank of America debacle and the Gaza war which I am temporarily holding off on writing about, there isn’t all that much other exciting stuff going on), yesterday I turned my thoughts to the back fields of Port St. Lucie, Florida, where pitchers and catchers are due to report for the New York Metropolitans in less than 30 days. While I assumed this might be a bright spot in an otherwise dark world, upon further review I realized that the Mets’ recent history (and actually their entire history) has been just as depressing as that of modern-day America. Thus, in my venting, without further ado I present to you the twenty greatest follies (from present to past) of the New York Mets; follies that put even the US government to shame:

1. The new Citi Field inaugural season patch getting lambasted by everyone from ESPN to the NYT (Stephen Colbert too!)

2.The fact that Citi Field is already rusting (thank you unions)

3. The fact that the Mets chose Citi as their sponsor in the first place

4. The fact that of all teams, only the Mets lost money to Madoff

5. The handling of the firing of Willie Randolph (they actually made us feel bad for him…sort of)

6. Calling yourselves the “team to beat” (Beltran said this no less), only to lose the division to the Phillies…again…they won the World Series too

7. Blowing leads of 7 and 3.5 games with 17 games to play during the last two Septembers, while being officially eliminated (at home) with losses to the Marlins on the last day of the season both times

8. Our entire bullpen last year (throw in Guillermo Mota there too even though that was 2007)

And this is just IN THE LAST TWO YEARS mind you. Lest we forget about:

9. Trading for Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn (note Mo’s Carnegie Deli sandwich)

10. Jeromy Burnitz circa 2002

11. The Arod “24-plus-one” mishap (for better or worse)

12. The whole Mike Piazza gay thing

13. Bobby Bonilla circa 1999 (read the comments); also, note that from 2011-2035 we will be paying him approximately $1.2 million a year; thanks again for that present, Steve

14. Generation K

15. Jeromy Burnitz circa 1993

16. The “Worst Team Money Could Buy” of 1992…oh and Bobby Bonilla circa this same year

17. The incredible waste of talent of the 1980s Mets, in addition to their 1986 “Let’s Go Mets!” music video

18. The entire decade of the 1970s (1973 excluded); this isn’t just about the Mets, I mean everything about the decade in general (especially this)

19. Every single overhyped prospect, including, but not limited to: Billy Beane (he should have been our GM, not our player), Gregg Jefferies, Alex Ochoa, Alex Escobar, Fernando Martinez (rushing to judgment here, but do you really have faith that he is going to be a star) and the aforementioned Generation K (outside of Izzy to an extent), not to mention all of the guys they missed out on

20. Last but not least, trading away: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, David Cone, Scott Kazmir (for Victor Zambrano…wrong Zambrano guys), Mike Scott (who then almost singlehandedly cost the Mets the ’86 pennant), Lenny Dykstra, Jeff Kent and somewhat less painfully, Melvin Mora

I leave out the 1960s because that wouldn’t be fair, though the ’62 Mets (aka the worst team ever) further add to the franchise’s lore. I also exclude Shea Stadium (may it rest in peace) because I grew up there. Oh yea, and as for Armando Benitez (I’ll give Mel Rojas a break), much as I hate him, he got on my good side last time I saw him pitch.

Now with all that being said, imagine being a die hard Mets fan and a liberty-loving, staunch free-marketeer these days…welcome to my world. Still, I am reminded of the late great Met, Tug McGraw, who said, “I never smoked AstroTurf,” er…rather, “Ya gotta believe.” Hope always springs eternal in the lush, rolling meadows, of a little place I like to call Flushing.