The Mets Big Coup of 2012???
I’ve always been this weird kind of closet Mets fan. Maybe fan isn’t the right word. I was a kid during the greatness-before-the-fall-from-grace years of Doc Gooden and DARE – EL and I marvelled at how frickin’ amazing those two Mets were. But it doesn’t stop there. I met Bobby Ojeda, Ed Hearn, and Tim Teuful outside Busch Stadium in a late August series in 1985 (might have been 1986- forgive me – I am old now and remember things like Ollie North and Roger Clemens) and talked with all of them and they seemed really cool. I cheered for the Cardinals but secretly didn’t mind if my new “friends” were successful.
Then Straw walked by while we were waiting to purchase tickets. Holy friggin’ mother of god – he was easily the biggest and tallest human being I had ever seen (mind you, I was 12 or 13 at the time). Then Keith Hernandez arrived with like 22 blonde bimbos on his arm. Davey Johnson pulled up in an Abrams Tank and was escorted in by the Secret Service. Okay – it was one bimbo on Mex’s arm and the tank the skipper got out of was a yellow cab.
My point is – the ‘Mazin’s were cool; whether you were a fan or not – they were cool. Even with all the bullshit (and by bullshit I mean heaps and heaps of cocaine and a couple of cases of Coors) they still had swagger and they still won ball games. They were nothing short of a truly great, truly flawed ball club.
Lately – and by lately I mean the better part of this century – they’ve just been flawed but for different reasons. Here’s a few names and numbers to refresh your memory on what I’m talking about.
- The team has nearly $700 million in debt
- The Mets are losing about $10 million/year including depreciation and interest payments on the debt
- Attendance is down 19% from 2009 and down 35% from 2008
- SNY is profitable but is leveraged to roughly six times it’s earnings before interest
- The Wilpon family refinanced about $375 million in loans and kept $75 million for themselves
More recently the team attempted to bring David Einhorn on bored for a much needed cash infusion. Einhorn is the 42-year-old president of Greenlight Capital Inc (read: big damn money machine). The $200 million the Mets were praying for fell through and now they’re back to pan handling infront of fellow multi-millionaire’s houses in hopes of getting any and all capital on board to keep from having to pull a Dodgers and abandoned ship.
In a statement to the Associate Press, the Mets’ ownership group, led by Fred Wilpon and family, said it has “provided additional capital to cover all 2011 losses and is moving forward with the necessary resources to continue to operate the franchise.” Mets owners will now attempt to sell shares of family members and other potential investors at $20 million a pop without risking the possibility of losing a controlling interest in the team.
The funny thing about all of this is the Mets are still a seriously valuable commodity even with more debt than California. New ballpark, big contracts coming off the books (slowly, but coming off) a few decent young players they can hang their hats on and an entire city who would love to get behind them and push them all the way to another Subway Showdown.
So if the money troubles begin to (through smart management – Wilpon or no Wilpon) to correct themselves there is no reason why the Mets shouldn’t be able to participate in an off season that helps restore the franchise to – at the very least – respectable status.
So I offer this nugget of chance and see what others think. If I was the Mets GM - a nice chap by the name of Sandy Alderson – I would take this opportunity to speak to the owner and say “What will turn us around financially? Winning usually does the trick. So here is what I propose we do. I want to bring in a blast from my most successful past – Tony LaRussa.”
And with Tony LaRussa comes Dave Duncan. Duncan’s uncanny ability to take a raw talent (Read: Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Chris Capenter, etc) and turn them into perennial Cy Young candidates is legendary. Imagine if he got a hold of a couple of young Mets arms who need just the right advice to turn into elite hurlers. You bring in LaRussa and his entire staff (save Jose Oquendo who would most likely be the next Cardinal manager – and a damn fine one at that) and you tell the baseball world we are in this regardless of problems.
And as exciting as that signing would be it could lead to bigger things – namely the inside track on Albert Pujols.
Pujols and LaRussa have a father and son type relationship. On many occasions Pujols has stated he couldn’t possibly imagine playing for anyone other than LaRussa. If the Cardinals were to stumble on any level of contract negotiations with either man is it possible Sandy Alderson could lure his old field boss away from the Gateway City and in doing so bring along the game’s greatest hitter?
Now I know what you’re thinking – Thomas, lay off that “special” barbecue sauce you’re basting those ribs with. And I agree (about the craziness of the Mets pulling this off – not about my special sauce) it is one helluva long shot.
But just imagine if the Mets pulled that off. How many other free agents would follow? Remember the mass exodus of Oakland players who followed LaRussa to St. Louis a decade and a half ago? You could have renamed them the St. Louis A’s there were so many. Adam Wainwright is free agent after 2013. Chris Carpenter will be a free agent this year. What about Edwin Jackson who has pitched superbly under Duncan – he’s a free agent this off season as well. The Mets could be contenders in just a season or two.
And I state again – this is probably not going to happen – and by probably I mean there’s a better chance of Howard Johnson making a baseball comeback – uhhh…wait a minute – bad example.
But seriously, the Met’s (fixing the money problem or not) probably can’t afford even if Pujols was open to following LaRussa and the Cardianls sure as hell can’t afford it bcause there would be riots in the streets. If all this happened the Cardinals would have to go by a new name – The Cubs.
What say you, dear reader? Could this happen? Would LaRussa leave St. Louis and if so would the game’s best bat follow? Or is this just another one of those crazy ideas that looks interesting on paper but would never really come to pass? Speak now and speak loud.