Wilpon’s curveball

I listened to most of this weekend’s Subway Series while driving. And because my car has terrible AM reception, I suffered through a whole lot of the Yankees’ broadcast on XM radio. I wanted to hear what was happening in the games, but I was instead treated to the mostly uninformed thoughts of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on the various complicated decisions facing the Mets in the coming months.

(Is it me – are my ears and brain just not accustomed to their broadcasting style – or do Sterling and Waldman often just ignore what’s actually going on in the baseball game? I felt like they’d often be in the middle of a conversation and Sterling would casually note, “the 2-0 pitch,” without having mentioned the first two pitches in the at-bat or even the name of the batter. How can that happen? They call the game like it’s television and the listener can also see the action. It’s baffling.)

Anyway, I came to the office this morning planning to write again about how, though the opinions of many members of the media – and many of my fellow Mets fans for that matter – can be difficult to bear sometimes, it is easier to ignore all the negativity this season because we can take comfort in the hope that the Mets’ front office, for once, seems to be run by people that understand the nuances of the team’s situation better than the sensationalists writing and reading the New York Post.

I thought I would briefly recount a ridiculous Twitter spat I had on Friday in which someone accused the Mets’ front-office of “cronyism” for selecting Brad Emaus in the Rule 5 Draft – as if 51-year-old executive J.P. Ricciardi and 25-year-old career Minor Leaguer Emaus might be cronies, smoking cigars, drinking scotch, chuckling about all the other obvious second-base options the Mets had coming into the 2011 season. And I’d have tried to explain the screwed-up way in which defending the club that partially owns the TV network that signs my paychecks knifes at my punk-rock soul, the messy self-consciousness I feel doing it even when I’m confident that what I’m writing is correct and, in my best judgment at least, not biased by anything more than the ways I watch and understand baseball.

Then I read “Madoff’s Curveball,” Jeffrey Toobin’s profile of Fred Wilpon for the New Yorker, in which the Mets’ owner declares David Wright “not a superstar,” alludes to Carlos Beltran striking out to end the 2006 NLCS, speaks candidly about Jose Reyes’ contract status and calls the team “shitty” and, worse, “snakebitten.”

Well that doesn’t help anything.

But it’s probably important to put the quotes in context. As Adam Rubin pointed out on Twitter this morning, clearly Wilpon spent lots of time with Toobin for the feature and at some point let his guard down. The profile is otherwise a sympathetic piece about Wilpon’s financial saga, and the game Wilpon was watching with Toobin was the April 20 loss that left the team 5-13 – inarguably the low point of the season.

Does that make it right? Of course not. Understandable? Maybe a little bit.

Still, in a season when it seemed the ship had finally been set back on course, it’s disappointing to hear the owner of the team resort to the same blame-Mighty-Casey rhetoric bandied about by WFAN callers screaming to send Wright packing.

Each one of the quotes can and will be turned inside out and debated, and though it’s tempting to join in, I’m not really eager to do so here. The most troubling one, I think, is “snakebitten.” Though in context – “we’re snakebitten, baby!” – it sounds like Wilpon is being at least a touch sarcastic, it’s the type of purposeless woe-is-me defeatism seemingly so prevalent among Mets fans these days, and something I waste an awful lot of words railing against here. There is no curse in baseball that cannot be overcome with smart management and a little bit of good fortune.

As for the short- and long-term fallout from all this? I don’t know. Seems like people have already determined conclusively that Wilpon’s words will a) create a distraction for the current club and b) make it so future free agents will not want to join the Mets. Both seem possible, but also quite possibly overblown.

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