As baseball fans across the nation prepare for another season of Major League Baseball, many typical preseason questions are once again looking for a variety of answers.
Which team is the favorite to win the World Series? Which team is going to win the most games this season? Who is due for a slump?
Another commonly posed preseason question is: which team will be the worst team?
I believe the 2011 New York Mets should be given this dishonorable label.
By way of end-of-the-season collapses, questionable personnel decisions, awful management and sleazy connections, the Mets are now the eyesore of the MLB.
What might be the most amazing aspect of the Mets’ current situation is that they managed to go from World Series contender to absolute joke in just four years.
The 2006 Mets were a strong team. The club won its division and took the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the National League Championship Series. The 2007 version of the Mets was billed as a serious contender, as many of the core players from the 2006 team returned and some areas of the team appeared to further improve.
Then, with 17 games left in the 2007 campaign, it happened: the Mets collapsed. They watched their 7.5-game lead within their division disappear. The team missed the playoffs. Some of the moves made prior to the start of the 2007 season had ended up hurting rather than helping the team.
In 2008, the team suffered another end-of-the-season collapse. The Mets’ transition from contender to pretender was in motion.
The 2009 season saw key players such as Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado miss significant playing time due to injuries. It also saw big-name pitcher Johan Santana underachieve. The 2010 season featured much of the same and included Beltran and two other Mets skipping a trip to a children’s hospital. The 2011 season doesn’t appear to have much more to offer.
The team’s four-year swoon can certainly not be blamed entirely on the players.
Former general manager Omar Minaya was a toxin in the organization from 2007 until his firing in October 2010. While he made all the right moves when putting together the 2006 club, he did nothing right in the seasons following.
Some observers believe that several of the players Minaya traded away prior to the 2007 season could’ve helped prevent the Mets’ collapse that same year. While Minaya signed several big names over the next three seasons, most of them have either underachieved or been oft-injured.
Minaya’s biggest failure within the Mets’ organization, however, had nothing to do with the signing of players.
In the middle of the 2008 season, he fired team manager Willie Randolph. Although Randolph’s job had been insecure for weeks prior, the way Minaya went about firing Randolph was questionable.
Randolph was fired in the middle of the night after the first game of a road trip—a game the Mets won—in his hotel room. The first public notice occurred three hours later and many Mets were informed by members of the media. This year, the Mets will be led by their third manager in six seasons.
The final problem confronting the Mets heading into this season is one that cannot be easily removed. It lies in the team’s ownership and is the result of the biggest Ponzi scheme the world has ever seen.
Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, two of the owners of the Mets’ organization, are currently being investigated for possible ties to Bernie Madoff’s fraud on Wall Street. The two may have benefited financially from Madoff’s scheme and may have to sell parts or all of the team to get Irving Picard, the man who is attempting to recover money lost in the scheme, off their backs.
Wilpon and Katz have resorted to name-calling and statements of denial directed towards Picard—on the Mets’ team website.
Add that to the recent announcement that the duo is attempting to raise $200 million to get the team out of financial burden and it’s clear that this team is run by fools.
With so many problems facing the Mets, is there any way they can shed this “worst team” label at some point during the 2011 season?
The way I see it, there’s not a chance.