by Taryn “the Coop” Cooper
As I’ve mentioned before, I am compiling a list of the Top 50 Most Notorious Mets. This is sort of a warm-up, since all notorious teams would never exist without an inept front office, management and even more clueless ownership. This isn’t necessarily ranked “in order” but I can’t help if I have selected a pecking order in how this list ends up.
So sit back and enjoy rehashing some of the men who have orchestrated some of the head-scratchingest, dumbest and leaving us fans questioning “Why?” afterwards moves in Mets history.
50.) Jim Duquette, Mets General Manager 2003-2004
This one is almost too easy. Well, it is. But that’s besides the point.
So the Duke is named Interim GM after Steve Phillips (#49 on this list) is let go. But Duquette was hamstrung by a few things, namely the Wilpon’s reluctance to open their checkbook or their Hamlet-like hesitation on making deals that could have, you know, HELPED the team, like signing Vladimir Guerrero. But no. Duquette for whatever reason was encouraged to have a consensus view on deals, even including players in his decision-making such as Senator Al Leiter and the Commish John Franco.
If nothing else, Duquette was good at shedding dead weight such as Robbie Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz (notorious Mets in their own right).
Then Black Friday occurred under his watch. Honestly, I felt kinda bad for Duquette, because he wanted to pull the trigger on some big moves, and was kind of coerced into trading his top pitching prospect at the time in Scott Kazmir, but the reality is the buck stops with him, and he has to take the blame for that shortsighted mess. Again, another deal that snowballed into something that could indirectly have made the Mets the way they are today. Trading Kazmir for crap on a stick (Victor Zambrano) led to a snowball effect in the Mets bringing in Omar Minaya, which led to Willie Randolph as manager, which led to Jerry Manuel being manager, which led to Tony Bernazard ripping off his shirt and challenging a minor leaguer to a fight…ah, I digress. This is about Duquette, after all. This was a panic move that has given Mets fans post-traumatic Mets disorder (PTMD) for years, and leave us cringing at trading deadlines about what young prospect will we be losing for Grade F talent?
As concerned fan Fred “Senor Solly” Solomon (@fsolomon75 on Twitter) said, “Hey Jimmy, don’t trade your #1 pitching prospect when you’re 6 games out by the deadline. It looks really bad when you’re 9 games out 3 days later.”
And as Studious Metsimus and Kiner’s Korner Kontributor (also my husband) Ed Leyro says, Jim Duquette makes his list for “The ill-fated 2004 trade. No, not Kazmir for Zambrano. But the Jose Bautista and Ty Wigginton for Mr. Anna Benson trade.” Sometimes, the deal not made is the best one…
49.) Steve Phillips, Mets General Manager 1997-2003
Skill Sets, anyone? Seriously, an offhand remark by one of our esteemed owners (who also makes the list) has translated into years of punchlines and eye-rolling from Mets bloggers. But Phillips notoriety was not just determined on the day he was named GM of the Mets. No, Phillips to this day is the gift that keeps on giving.
In no particular order, he’s been charged with harassment, has openly cheated on his wife with assistants (his own and production assistants at ESPN) and has subsequently lost jobs over this behavior, wanted to trade both David Wright and Jose Reyes in his tenure (and then took full credit for the Mets later success with these two players), and sure, he gets credit for signing Mike Piazza and changing the dynamic and made those late ’90s teams special…but the moves NOT made also came to bite him in the ass. As Solly so eloquently said, “That ‘+1’ in the 24+1 scenario probably would have saved your job, Steve.”
Yeah, remember, there was a chance to get Alex Rodriguez on the Mets at one point. Not that I would want that drama queen, but the man has won two MVPs since that giant contract he signed. That counts for something, right? He could have helped a little. All I’m saying is, as much success as those late ’90s teams had, it had more to do with the prospects that Joe McIlvaine had scouted and drafted in his time, then Phillips quickly cashed in those chips and gave us a limited run.
So screw him.
48.) Jeff Wilpon, COO of Mets and Sterling Enterprises buffoon, current
How this guy has a job is beyond me. Oh wait, I know why: he won the lucky sperm club, the DNA lottery if you will. Mini Wilpon has a reputation of being a meddler, but since he was indirectly blamed for losing Scott Kazmir in 2004 ( by allowing players he liked to weigh in on personnel decisions), he can also be directly blamed for not taking a gander on Vlad Guerrero, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career. As our concerned fan Solly says, “Take that silver spoon you were born with and shove it straight up your candy ass, kid!!”
47.) M. Donald Grant, Chairman and Mets Minority Owner 1962-1978
Do I really need to insult one’s intelligence with THIS choice? Realistically, MDG could have made the Official Top 10 but due to a technicality has made the official Most Notorious Front Office Personnel list. Seriously, anyone who trades away a) the best Mets pitcher in history, 2) the best Mets developed player in their history and D) the FRANCHISE for crying out loud deserves not only a place on this list, but a spot reserved in Hell.
Ed Leyro says that Grant makes his list for “ripping out the heart of the Mets fans on June 15, 1977.” Seriously, this trade set the organization back at least a decade, possibly more since it’s a scar that it seems we’ve tried to recover from for years, but books still talk about it and relive it. The hurt only went away after the Mets won the World Series in 1986.
46.) Willie Randolph, Mets Manager 2005-2008
I was never a Willie the Wonker fan. I was willing to give him a chance but…he was sort of the Wally Backman of his time: the guy without experience but given a short leash. I felt bad for him, the way he was fired, but you know, that’s the way the turd curls, especially in business.
So why does Willie make the list? As Senor Solly eloquently writes, “‘We played hard, tip your cap to the other team’, blah blah blah. You had a WC-ready team in ’05, a WS team in ’06, and presided over the worst collapse in regular season history in ’07.”
That says it all right there, friends. I remember being LIVID in 2005, when the team wasn’t winning the games they should be winning, and Willie having not only a defeatist attitude but perpetuated the whole Mets vs. Yankees rivalry. Then it hit me: Willie is a Yankee in Mets clothing. That year, every Mets win was like one for the Yankees (even saying not all closers, in reference to Braden Looper, can’t be like “Mariano.” Seriously, dude? Seriously? I was done with him then). In 2006, they won in spite of him not despite him (especially since apparently Carlos Delgado had a stronger hold on that clubhouse than he did).
And don’t get me started on the whole “Champagne is sweeter” incident in 2007. Your team is letting their monster lead in September fall to the wayside, and this is your rallying cry? The travesty wasn’t his late-night firing in 2008, it was the fact he was allowed to return after losing his team in a crucial pennant race. They haven’t been the same since.
As Solly concluded, Randolph is “like the opposite of The Blues Brothers, (he) could turn gasoline into goat piss.”
45.) Art Howe, Mets Manager 2003-2004
BWAH HA HA HA HAHAHA HA HA HA
Okay, back to reality. Remember when Joe Torre came to manage the Yankees, and the papers called him “Clueless Joe.” Man, they looked dumb after all those championships they won under his watch, right? Well, the papers really missed their calling with Art Howe, who wore that moniker well.
Howe was known for being the manager of the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s, and even made the postseason with limited funds and scrappy ballplayers. Imagine what he could do in a big market with a larger payroll and better players? Right? Right???
How about, take nine million steps backwards? True, some of the moves were out of his control, like when Duquette traded Kazmir and gave Howe two hurt pitchers in Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson? And aging Brave-in-Mets-clothing Tom Glavine?
I’m getting odge just thinking about it.
But the gift that keeps on giving with Howe is the way he was hired, and the description from esteemed owner Fred Wilpon. Lights up a room? On what planet? In a paraphrase of what Solly said, he couldn’t light up a room with a blowtorch and a floodlight.
And that is all you need to know about Art Howe.
44.) Jerry Manuel, Mets Manager 2008 – 2010, Bench Coach 2005-2008
Jerry Manuel makes this list not because the Mets were just gawd awful during his tenure, especially in 2009 and 2010, but because of his crappy attitude about winning and…for having Cliff Floyd swing away in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. You did know that was HIS call and not Willie’s right?
Jerry, go fly a kite. Kthxbye.
43.) Al Harazin, General Manager 1992-1993
Another buffoon who had no business running a baseball team. As Metstradamus wrote in his Inaugural Hate Hall of Fame piece, “Oh lord Harazin was beyond bad…he wasn’t even a baseball guy, he was a lawyer posing as a baseball man. I think he’s actually teaching a law class now. This was the man that not only wheeled David Cone, but put together that awful 1993 team. Frank Tanana? Tony Fernandez? Butch Huskey? Harazin wins…hands down!”
Harazin holds the distinct honor of having a book written about the time he was GM….uh, that’s not a GOOD thing. The craftmaster of the Worst Team Money Can Buy, Harazin believed that buying high-priced free agents who had better years with other previous teams would keep a winning record on. YEAH RIGHT. 59-103 in 1993? Talk about your PTMD kicking into high gear with this guy.
42.) Omar Minaya, General Manager 2004-10
Some people accused Omar Minaya of pursuing Latin players, trying to build “Los Metropolitanos” under his watch. I thought that was unfair. I mean, after all, if these players were good, who cares what their race/nationality/creed was?
But something I can accuse Minaya of? Crony-ism, pure and simple. He hired his BFF, Tony Bernazard who tore off his shirt and threatened a minor leaguer…when ownership forced Minaya’s hand in firing Tony B and his back against the wall, Adam Rubin-gate occurred, when Minaya called out the respected Mets beat writer in saying he was lobbying for his job.
Say what? Yeah, that was common with Omar. You spent most of the time trying to decipher what he was saying, by peppering his statements with “You know what I’m sayin’?” No, we don’t Omar.
I mean, not having good communication skills is one thing. Not being able to orchestrate trades at the deadline and only spend the Mets money was the only thing he was adept at. And those deals weren’t even good! From his very first deal, for Pedro Martinez, Minaya overpaid in years and dollars, setting a trend for anyone who may have wanted to come to play in New York always knew they had a chance if they were B-rated talent and you get paid like you are a super-duper-star. I mean, how else can you explain Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Jason Bay?
Of course, Senor Solly chimes in, “Two words: Oliver Perez. Two more words: Luis Castillo. Even two more: Jason Bay. For all that talk about making deals, he failed to improve playoff-ready teams every trading deadline. Shawn Green? Luis Castillo? You could have flipped Milledge for Manny and you wound up getting Church and Schneider? Awful.”
That says it all, man.
41.) Fred Wilpon, Ownership Group from 1980 – current
Oh, where do I begin with dear sweet Fred?
Wilpon from most accounts is a charitable, honest and nice guy. Nobody ever says a bad word about Fred. But hey, give him a soap box and he’ll throw his best players under the bus for no good reason!
Let’s see…a few after the Mets won the World Series in 1986, the Doubleday ownership group had to find a 50% investor fast and the Wilpon/Katz consortium came in and became equal owners. This was not a friendly partnership, as Wilpon kind of liked the limelight, but Doubleday was hands off (if you notice, the team had its most success when no one talked in the front office). Wilpon took responsibility when the Mets were floundering which, hey, is honorable but when you KEEP MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES OVER AND OVER AGAIN…chances are, the fans are going to think you are crying wolf.
Like bringing in your buddies to run the team. Al Harazin, Steve Phillips, Omar Minaya? This is the best you can do in New York? Thank goodness Bud Selig strong armed you into getting smart baseball guys in the organization now.
Like getting ALL your finances, including the very money that bought the remaining 50% from Doubleday in 2002, involved in a Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff. Madoff then turned around and pulled the three-card Monty, as Steve Keane from Kranepool Society related in one of our podcasts, and had Bobby Bonilla’s annuity payment in interests from today till 2035. Yay!
The biggest indictment against Fred is the fact that he wears his Brooklyn Dodger colors proudly. And hey, you know what, good for him. But when you use that and shove it down Mets fans throats is not cool. Ebbets Field II with Brooklyn Dodger sentiments front and center? Seriously, Fred? When he said it was a miscalculation on his part…uh, yeah ya THINK???
I’m not the only one. Fred Wilpon’s name caused quite a strong reaction with some of our participants in the survey.
Metstradamus: “In all the Mets misery since their last championship in 1986, there’s one common thread, and that’s Fred Wilpon, the owner. After years of blaming the players, the manager, and the general manager, people are now starting to realize that garbage rolls downhill, and Wilpon is pushing it. His involvement in the Bernie Madoff scandal which is ignorant at best and kniving at worst, puts him square in the cross hairs of infamy. His latest attempt at showing the masses that he cares about his team through a New Yorker columnist ensured that those cross hairs belonged to a gun that Wilpon himself was holding.”
And of course, Senor Solly brings it home with “I love Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax, but they never played for the Mets. How you built a stadium centered around a team that left NY half a century ago was a slap in the face of every fan that went through Shea’s turnstiles from ’64 to ’08. Were you really that clueless that you didn’t think Mets fans would actually want a Mets-themed ballpark? You and your kid have done enough damage to this franchise, please sell it.”
I’m a little surprised by how long this was, so I hope you all stick around to read it. Of course, there will be four additional parts to be published each morning of All-Star week until Friday. So sit back and enjoy…and a tell a friend!