One advantage of your team firing their manager and general manager is that the team’s owners have to stand before a gaggle of hungry media types and answer questions. This is a rare occurrence; usually, the most you can hope for is a fleeting (and misunderstood) question shouted across a parking lot. But today, Fred and Jeff Wilpon batted back feisty reporters for 45 minutes, explaining why they fired Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, and a whole lot more. As you’d probably expect, they looked as befuddled and frustrated as any Mets fan who watched the team for the last four years. But they also looked a little relieved.
So you know, Fred Wilpon took the 2007–10 seasons as hard as you did.
“The last four years have been the most painful and disappointing of my 30 years with this team. We thought we were on the right track.”
He later added that there was a time that Minaya and Manuel “could have been voted in as mayor and governor,” which is hilarious in about 54 more ways than Wilpon presumably intended.
Minaya took the news in stride, or as well as he could, and Manuel took it as well as might be expected from a manager with enough of a sense of humor to pitch Oliver Perez in his last inning as manager. But the Wilpons took this hard. Jeff said, “We failed; we are all responsible,” and Fred darned near broke down when asked about Bernie Madoff, saying, “Losing the money smarts, but the betrayal is something I’ll never forget.”
This all broke down quickly, in baseball terms; it took the Rays almost a decade to reinvent themselves and put a halfway decent team on the field, but it took the Mets only two years to turn from a team with one of the most exciting futures in baseball into Major League Baseball’s joke. Fred insisted that running the Mets is “a very good job,” and the fact that he had to say that, that he had to insist, is a glimpse of just how empty being a Mets fan is right now.
Which is why the Mets have to start over, which is its own kind of pain. Both men emphasized they would hire a general manager first and let that person hire a manager, and noted that there were “no internal candidates.” This will be the first GM from outside the organization since Joe McIlvaine, who had been with the Mets his entire career before a two-year sojourn in San Diego right before being hired. The Mets are going to have to try something new. The Mets are throwing up their hands and finally, finally admitting that this just isn’t working.
It seems like forever that they’ve been off the right path, but it hasn’t been; four years is nothing, really. Sure didn’t feel that way, though. When asked whether it felt strange to have to start over again, just like they did when they hired Minaya in the first place, Jeff said, “It doesn’t seem like that short a time ago we were doing this. The last few years have been long, long years.” Don’t we all know it. The Mets have a massive amount of work to do, but today, they took the first step, at last admitting that they have a problem. Mets fans can just hope that finding the right prescription doesn’t take nearly as long as diagnosing the disease did.