$5.9 million dollars.
To me, that sum of money would change lots of things. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t think I was done working or anything, but I will say it would make a lot of things a tad easier. Millions of others could say the same thing. That sum of money, while significant enough to change lots of individual fortunes, completely changed the fortunes of an entire franchise by associating them with idiotic move after idiotic move.
The New York Mets.
For those of you who don’t know here is the back story:
In 2000 the Mets were desperate to free up payroll. They were coming off a season in which they lost the NLCS to their division rival (Atlanta Braves), and felt that relief would allow them to go get an impact player to push them over the hump and get to the World Series. It just so happens that Bobby Bonilla, making $5.9 million in 2000, was prime for the move considering his relationship with the team and the city had soured. So his agent negotiated and came up with an unbelievably good for Bonilla (but head scratching-ly bad for the Mets) deal to pay Bonilla $1.2 million dollars per season starting in 2011 until the year 2035.
That is not a misprint, 22 year installment payments of $1.2 million dollars every July totaling close to $30 million dollars when all is said and done.
The good part for the Mets is that in 2000 they were able to get pieces (namely Mike Hampton) and they did reach the World Series where they were steamrolled by the crosstown “rival” (rival is in quotes because can we really consider that a rival?) New York Yankees. The bad is that kind of thinking, putting off the real problem for now for instant gratification, is a mentality that has all too often sunk the New York Mets. Not understanding the importance of smart allocation of resources and developing from within (i.e. keeping your top prospects) has kept the Mets out of the playoffs 11 of the last 12 seasons.
I call it “Bobby Bonilla Logic.” It’s the thinking that not addressing the issue and gambling it all today will reap consistent reward. After a pedestrian 82-80 2002 they brought in Jeromy Burnitz (via trade) and (inexplicably) took on the Mo Vaughn contract from the Anaheim Angels. Burnitz, who averaged 33 home runs and 102 RBI’s in six seasons with the Brewers, he hit a total of 37 in his season and a half in Flushing. Vaughn, who didn’t play in 2001 because of injury, didn’t do much better hitting 29 home runs with 87 RBI’s in just 166 games played with the Mets. He was out of the game by 2004, with the Mets still on the hook for $17.16 million (after already paying him over $30 million for 2002 and 2003). It didn’t matter that both were past their primes, in their mid-30’s, and coming over to a hitters park. What mattered was keeping up with the Joneses in Atlanta (literally) and the Yankees.
They finished fifth in the NL East in 2002 and 2003 and fourth in 2004. And all it cost was their common sense.
Bonilla Logic reared its ugly head again from 2005-2007. By then the Mets finally had something going within their farm system as David Wright and Jose Reyes were coming through their system and getting ready to make contributions. But they went out and signed Beltran, signed then 39-year old Tom Glavine (3-years, $39 million dollars) away from the Braves, as well as Cliff Floyd and a host of others they thought would push them over the top. In 2006, like in 1999, they came close (lost in seven games in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals) and wanted to make another run. But instead of investing wisely, and putting emphasis on the farm (where their two best players came from) they gambled and found themselves out of the playoffs in 2007.
Whiff after whiff goes by in New York. All with good intention, all with bad results. Johan Santana was the most dominant left-handed pitcher in baseball with the Twins. Yet the only team to give in to his outrageous contract demands were the Mets (six-years, $137.5 million dollars; performance option for 2014 at $25 million) and he has yet to be that same pitcher over the course of a full season. Jason Bay came (six-years, $66 million) and went (26 home runs, 124 RBI’s, .234 BA in 288 games) just as quickly. Yet the Mets are still on the hook for $21 million dollars until 2014.
The moves eventually cost them Reyes (signed with Marlins) and almost cost them Wright. But what it really cost them is respectability as their outfield is the worst collection of warm bodies north of double-A. What is even sadder, Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay are the Mets highest paid outfielders. One is playing in Seattle and the other has been retired since 2001.
And we won’t even get into the Bernie Madoff situation.
Kudos to Alderson who seems to be fixing this franchise the right way. The damage done by Omar Minaya and Steve Phillips and their shortsightedness has made the Mets, new ballpark and all, a joke to behold.