Zack Wheeler & Travis d’Arnaud: Fred Wilpon Makes an Immodest Proposal

Scene: The ramshackle office of Fred Wilpon. The Mets owner sits at his desk, staring into the screen of an ancient IBM-PC, gently tapping it with a small hammer.

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Enter: Mets GM, Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Morning, Fred. (Pauses.) You should really consider upgrading your computer.

WILPON: What? And throw money out the window? This old thing works perfectly fine.

ALDERSON: I understand. Waste not, want not. I feel the same way about outfielders.

WILPON (grows wistful): I saw that poll about Travis d’Arnaud at Metsblog. Did you read it?

ALDERSON: Of course, everyone reads Metsblog. We don’t waste our time on the other blogs.

WILPON: It says here that ninety┬ápercent of Mets fans want to keep Travis d’Arnaud as far away from Flushing as possible. Ninety percent!

ALDERSON: I know! That’s so great! Mets fans are so patient, realistic, and defeated. We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.

WILPON (bursting into tears): They love me! They really love me! I mean, all those fans looking out for my bank account. They all want me to save money!

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ALDERSON: Well, yes, but –

WILPON: Same thing with this kid, Wheeler, too. Nobody wants him in Flushing. It’s unbelievable. What a sacrifice these fans are willing to make for Dear Old Fred. If I had human emotions, I’d cry like a baby.

ALDERSON (laughing): I know, it’s beautiful. If we just dismiss this season entirely, and bring those two up in late June, we could retain their rights for another year while holding off their arbitration eligibility. You won’t have to pay them good money for an extra year . . . (coughs, then whispers into his hand) . . . maybe.

WILPON (frowns): But sooner or later, I’m going to have to pay these boys?

ALDERSON: Well, they are talented, Fred. Both are top prospects. So, yes, if they play as well as we anticipate, we’ll need to offer them a nice contract at some point. Sort of like we did with Niese, at first.

WILPON (frowns): Hmmmm.

ALDERSON: What is it, Fred? You look troubled.

WILPON (brightens): I have an idea. Let’s push it back another full year! Don’t bring them up until, say, July of 2014. That would be a tremendous savings. Our fans would love that! They are sooooo patient!

ALDERSON: I don’t know, Fred.

WILPON: Or what if (snaps fingers) . . . what if . . . we don’t bring them up . . . ever? How much money would that save?

ALDERSON: Excuse me?

WILPON (wipes out huge calculator, excitedly punches numbers): Do the math, Sandy! If we never play these boys, I could save an estimated $300 million dollars over ten years!

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ALDERSON: I’m not sure that’s prudent.

WILPON: Frankly, I’m peeved at you, Alderson. These are expensive players! What were you thinking?

ALDERSON: Well, according to our master plan, in our dogged pursuit of excellence, we –

WILPON: Excellence! Eck gads, man, are you out of your mind!!?? According to my calculations, the best course of action would be to take them out to a back field at St. Lucie, and shoot them both in the knee caps.

ALDERSON: Fred, we can’t –

WILPON: I know, I know. Damn this legal system! Hey, we could ship them to Siberia. Or better yet, send them to Vegas and hope they lose their focus because of the close proximity to prostitution, drug abuse, and easy gambling. (Shakes head.) No, that might not work. These boys seem dedicated. Hmmmm. I’ve got it, Alderson! LET’S SEND THEM TO THE YANKEES!

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ALDERSON: You want to trade them away?!

WILPON: No, Alderson. That would only perpetuate the problem! Players are expensive, and excellent ones are such a bother. I’m saying, GIVE THEM to the Yankees. That’ll fix those pinstriped bastards! We’ll send our problems to the Yankees! Ha-ha-ha!

ALDERSON: Hold on, Fred. I’m not sure you’re looking at this correctly. I mean — imagine the day when we actually let them PLAY at Citi Field. It might be good.

WILPON: Bull hockey, Alderson!

ALDERSON: I know, it sounds crazy. And I can’t believe I’m the one actually saying this. But imagine if they played baseball in New York. People might start coming to the park. Buy jerseys, hats, and sushi. Ca-ching. That’s revenue, Fred. We could finally stop the bleeding. Look at this way, Fred. You are losing money NOW. Why worry about savings that may or may not materialize five years down the road? We could invest in the product right now!

WILPON: I don’t like it. Never invest in product, that’s my motto. I’ve spent money before and it never works!

ALDERSON (warming to the idea): But listen, Wheeler and d’Arnaud would help the team win games. I’m sure of it. This lineup now, without the right-handed bat of d’Arnaud, it simply won’t function. No one will throw a strike to Ike. And as for Wheeler, that kid is a sensation waiting to happen. Fans will line up to watch him pitch. He’d bring joy to the ballpark, Fred. Do you remember joy?

WILPON: Joy? I think so. Didn’t she work here as a temp for Steve Phillips? I’m not sure that worked out so well.

ALDERSON: Um . . .

WILPON: You just don’t get it, Alderson. They will want money, damn it! My money! You read that poll in Metsblog. Ninety percent! Those fans love me and want me to KEEP MY MONEY in my pocket, Alderson — in my pocket!!!

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ALDERSON: Wait, Fred. Maybe you are looking at this the wrong way. Consider the Yankees right now. They are expected to have a down year, a roster littered with old players in decline. Their fans are discontent. The Mets have an opportunity right now to capture the imagination of the city. You’ve squandered the good will of an entire generation of fans. Players like Wheeler and d’Arnaud could help us turn the tide. Why wait for the Yankees to retool? Let’s strike now!

WILPON: You should be ashamed of yourself, Alderson, bringing these greedy players to my ball club. They’re all after my money! You read the poll, Alderson. The fans have spoken.

ALDERSON: But sometimes it takes money to make money. We can’t –

WILPON: Get rid of them, Alderson. Show ‘em the Bronx! Let them become the Yankees’ problem for now on. They’ll be writing checks for years! BWA-HA-HA-HA!

 

 

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11 comments

  1. Dan says:

    Seems to me that is exactly Met approach. I say the hell with that , I want the future to begin now.

  2. blastingzone says:

    Wow that was scary for a minute I thought I was a fly on the wall in that office!
    I believe Travis is ready now (he was in AAA last year before he got hurt) and
    should go north with the mets but there’s that dam service time thing? It seems
    to me they are going to pay him big money anyway what the hell is one year?
    Wheeler looks like he’s ready now too or at least close so a few months at
    AAA couldn’t hurt but if I had my way he would have been given every chance
    to make this team out of ST but the mets had there minds made up allready!!
    Honestly I don’t see how two or three months at Vegas where the balls fly
    out of the ball park like rockets is going to help Wheeler but on the other hand Travis should have a field day!!

    • At this point, Blastingzone, I understand that plans have been made to block Zack Wheeler’s path — for now. The Santana situation has to come into greater clarity. Plus, Wheeler’s injury made him unable to open eyes in camp. I do believe he’s ready to meet the challenge of major league baseball. But recognize that it would be unwise to bring him up in a stopgap scenario; Hefner is better suited for that role. I see that the Braves have slotted their top pitching prospect into the rotation — but they’ve always been smarter than the Mets, and have typically shot higher, dreamed bigger, as an organization.

      As for d’Arnaud, I believe he’s ready as a player. This is just another punt, as far as I’m concerned. As we’ve said before, the future is never a certainty. He might get injured, or fall far short of expectations, or get traded. Or, perhaps, help ignite a resurrection of a failing franchise — helping to earn the team new revenue at the gate, with merchandise, on SNY, etc.

      I realize that according to recent polls, I’m in the 10% minority here. That’s okay. I’m comfortable with the position that the Mets should attempt to field the best team position — and should also attempt to play these season in earnest. This idea of abject surrender before the season begins sickens me. But you look at the outfield and realize, well, that’s simply the case. The 2013 team did not have to be this bad right out of the gate.

      The other plan that was set before camp began was to relegate Valdespin to infield only. He was not in the outfield competition; Collins was clear about that. Fortunately, his strong play — combined with the sorry efforts put forth by the players brought into camp — forced the organization to move, reluctantly, off their initial (dumb) position.

      JP

      • Michael Geus says:

        I will take it a step further with TD. The time to declare that barring injury he would break camp with the Mets was at the time of the trade. He has played close to 500 games in the minors and was the centerpiece in a deal where we shipped off the reigning CY Young Award Winner.

        Months of ticket selling opportunities, season tickets, fifteen game plans, etc., have been ongoing. This is not 1950 when the day of game sale was huge, families keep giant calendars on their walls and schedule everything. It is important to give the marketing department something to market before it is too late.

        Announcing it now would be okay with me, but a smart team in our marketing position would have been aggressively selling this guy since they got him.

  3. In 2008 and 2009, Braves fans were realistically counting on Tommy Hanson to develop into a frontline starter. Clearly, that was the plan. However, after an impressive 11-4 debut in ’09, things happened and the Braves traded him to the Angels right before his arb-eligible year. Never had to pay the guy. But if he was great, they would have gone the other way. My point: We just don’t know what will happen, these futures are written in the sand, and I’m dubious about all the Excel Spreadsheets that folk conjure up about savings 4-5 years down the road. What about Revenue?

    JP

    • The Braves contrary to the Rosin Dust the GM Fairies attempt to sprinkle on fans who don’t do research are the entire opposite of the “all teams do it” model of delaying a players call up.

      Heyward, Freeman, Kimbrel, Venters, Jurrjens, Hanson these are but a smattering of the players who they did not play calendar tag with. Is it coincidence they are a winning franchise? I would say no.

      What is equally important with anyone who has prospects that are on the move for 2013, the current CBA expires on December 1 2016. So NO one can claim what rules will even be in effect for players in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

      For example lets say that 97 out of every 100 new roster additions for organizations own players do not occur until May 1st and then of those 85 out of 100 occur after June 15th. I would think at that point in 2016 the union and their representative leaders would say this system is being manipulated.

      • Excellent points, again, Patrick. Appreciate that you cite facts rather than bromides such as, “Keep ‘em down for three weeks and you get another year for free!” Which we know to be false.

        Back when we competed with the Braves in the late 90′s, in particular, I used to say, “Hey, they might be smarter than us, but at least we have more money!”

        Now that’s no longer true, and the difference between the organizations is vast. The last four seasons, they’ve won 60 more games than the Mets, an average of 15 games per that will surely repeat itself again in 2013.

        Back to the matter at hand, one could argue that the Braves are in a different situation than the Mets, therefore feel more urgency to win — and win now. To which I’d respond: EXACTLY!

        The 2013 season did not have to shape up to be this abysmal. If Alderson addressed the outfield — only partially — the team would have had a fighting chance this year. If d’Arnaud played from Day One. If, perhaps, Wheeler comes up early. Last season, the issue was the bullpen, all year long. And, yes, again, the addition of one professional platoon bat against RHP would have helped. Does that make them pennant winners? No. But it might have made more of a difference than the sum of its parts: winning is contagious, infectious. (Which is why, as an aside, I’ll never go with the folks who argue, “Well, X would have only given you an extra 2.35 wins.” The team effect can’t be reduced by a simple set of calculations. So, again, d’Arnaud maybe gets some big hits, helps the Mets win a few exciting games in April; the mood changes; the gate picks up; fans buy jerseys; revenue increases; ownership, newly optimistic, makes another small move; etc. I mean to say: I hate that this organization has surrendered out of the gate for three seasons in a row. It’s antithetical to the essence of SPORT.)

        Meaningful games in September? How about this: A competitive team in April!

        JP

        • I’ve been going through this for quite literally what seems like a slogging eternity with other friends and fans. They are simply brain washed by the “all teams do it crowd”.

          Playing on a losing team that was perhaps not ready did not seem to hurt Joey Votto’s career in 2008.

          I get the hesitation with Wheeler as he is two years behind d’Arnaud in age and three in professional prep with only a handful of inning at AAA on top of which there is control issues.

          Travis d’Arnaud has 2,000+ career pro plate appearances since being drafted in 2007. The only professional I can find who had more before getting on a major league club were Ryan Howard who was blocked by a silly deal with Jim Thome and Nelson Cruz. Then Votto who had a nearly incomprehensible 3,004.

          • Well, I’m comfortable with holding the minority position — but I’m genuinely shocked that the majority is such an overwhelming number. There are so many assumptions that have to take place for it all to work out in the savings department. For d’Arnaud: he could be a bust, he could be injured, he could be traded (ala Hanson). The future is uncertain. The state of the team at the point, unknowable. Or he could be fabulous, and the revenue starts pouring in, the team wins, but again the organization would likely never let it get to arbitration anyway. Look at Wright, Reyes, Niese. Or he could be great and get traded, as Alderson should have done, first thing, with Reyes. The biggest worry these fans have is that d’Arnaud is so terrific that he’ll want to make big money. And I think, well, if he’s so terrific, let’s pay the man. Cost of doing business.

            I’ll say this: All these patient fans, they aren’t buying tickets, they aren’t going to the games. Or certainly not at the rate they used to attend. The numbers show it. Is Fred still broke four years from now? It seems like he could use some extra walking-around money now, today.

  4. Eric says:

    It’s as simple as this: If you’re playing to win, you have your best 25 guys on the team….most especially, you have the best guys starting.

    The Mets concerns are NOT winning but rather MONEY. It’s NOT that they are comparing the Money Scenario to the Baseball Scenario—-the Baseball scenario is Not being included.

    Of the two players, d”Arnaud has the most to gain from Major League AB’s (an extra hundred or so versus staying in the minors for 20 or more games) and has little to gain from repeating a level he has conquered in an offensively juiced league.

    As for Wheeler—- there is some debate about having him pitch in the Ether of Vegas, but he hasn’t had a full spring…..and he’ll get regular un interrupted (by rain) work at Vegas—I wouldn’t allow the Contract/money situation to keep him there.

  5. […] this team could be if Travis was hitting like he is now on April 1, 2014. And when the team made its dopey decision to send him down, they didn’t even know they would not have Harvey in 2014. It was awful planning and saving […]

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