New York Mets: Bad Smell Starts at the Top

Tom LianosContributor IIIJuly 28, 2009

4 Mar 2000: Owner Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets looks on during the Spring Training Game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Dodgers 7-3.

The Wilpon family have been involved with the Mets since 1980, first as minority owners and team president (1980 - 2002) and finally as sole owners. Over that span, the Mets have a World Series victory, a World Series loss, and countless bad headlines in between. 

What are the common threads that can lead to both a World Series title and the bizarre firing of a VP of Player Development? Hubris and a lack of accountability. 

The Mets' World Series victory in 1986 is the prime example of hubris and lack of accountability. The two signature players of the mid-1980's Mets are Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Their talents were Hall-of-Fame worthy. In that magical 1986 season, they were able to fully utilize their talents, along with Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra, Gary Carter, and others to achieve their goals. 

Instead of a dynasty in the making, Gooden and Strawberry became poster children for the Wilpon error. Great talent wasted by hubris and a lack of accountability. Cocaine was their vice of choice, but it could have been anything. These two were going to go down hard. 

In the early 1990's the Mets again reloaded with more bad characters with a lack of accountability known more famously as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy". 

In the mid 1990's, the Mets heavily promoted Generation K (Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson) as the future of the franchise. Anointed as saviors without having thrown a pitch in the majors, only to see each succumb to injury and bad play. 

The team saw a brief period of success in the late 1990's and early 2000's with the acquisition of Mike Piazza, John Olerud, and Robin Ventura and the home grown success of Edgardo Alfonzo. This culminated in another World Series appearance. 

The most memorable storyline of the Piazza era was his feud with Roger Clemens.  Unfortunately, the feud was completely one-sided with Piazza taking the hits and not receiving any help from his organization at any level. 

Piazza eventually declined and was replaced with the new faces of the Mets—David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran. 

During this period, key personnel moves like trading stud pitching prospect Scott Kazmir turned the Mets' upper management into a public relations sensitive group. When your player and personnel moves are being judged first through the prism of public perception, it is not a good sign.

In 2006, the Mets had a fantastic run culminating in a Game Seven loss to eventual champion St. Louis in the NLCS. Was this the start of a new ERA?

Unfortunately, no.

The 2007 season was the height of Met hubris. The players acted as if they had won the World Series. The Mets were despised throughout the league. Naturally, they proceeded to blow a seven game lead to the Phillies with only 17 games left to play. The defining loss was the last game of the season with Tom Glavine giving up seven runs to the Marlins. Glavine's response to the loss was indicative of the Mets' reign under the Wilpons. 

In 2008, the Mets did not come out of the gate humbled nor hungry. A midseason firing of Willie Randolph (stabbed in the back by Jerry Manuel) combined with a half season of dominant play by Carlos Delgado, still resulted in the Mets falling short of the playoffs. 

The defining moments of 2008 was the play of Jose Reyes not running out grounders and general lackluster play. When your top players don't play hard, the rest of the team takes note. Delgado and Reyes were the key contributors to the Mets' failures in 2008. 

The 2009 season started with high hopes.  

A new stadium and a restructured bullpen promised a deep playoff run. Unfortunately, the Mets also brought back the same nucleus that failed to win over the last three years.   Injuries and a lack of fundamentals cause the hinges to quickly come off. 

The Mets front office and field managers do not preach accountability and respect for the game or for each other. 

When a group of octogenarians sends a baseball team a video of baseball fundamentals, you know that you sunk to a new level. 

The best teams in sports always have the best owners. Without failure, the owners value the contributions of every member of the organization. They hold everyone to the same standard of accountability.

The best models for this are the NFL with the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. You can find this in baseball too, with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels, who have been two of the most winning teams in the 2000's due to their overhaul of their organizations. 

The Mets will occasionally have periods of brilliance for a year or two, but they will always fall apart, until the Mets' ownership changes.

Unfortunately for Mets fans, this is not going to happen in the near future.