Has there ever been a sports franchise that has sunk so low as fast as the New York Mets? They went from challenging for championships to being the laughingstock of the major leagues in the blink of an eye.
To put it another way, things can’t get any worse for the New York Mets.
Or can they?
Earlier this week, Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ new GM, and Terry Collins, the Mets’ new manager, met with left-handed pitcher Oliver Perez to discuss his future. According to MLB.com, the three agreed that Perez would proceed through the Mets’ spring training camp as a starting pitcher prospect.
Unfortunately, Oliver Perez is no regular prospect. He’s in the third year of a $36 million contract, and he’s arrived in Mets training camp to protect the last $12 million he will squeeze from the team. The Mets have the option to pay him off and cut him loose. Unfortunately, by inviting him to spring training, the Mets are empowering Perez to destroy what’s left of their fragile team.
Here’s how having Perez around hurts the Mets.
Makes it clear that Mets don’t have a viable pitching strategy
Why are Alderson and Collins even talking to this guy? Perhaps it’s because they’re woefully short on pitching talent and are looking for clues on how they’re going to fill so many holes in so little time. But instead of being the light at the end of the tunnel, Perez represents the bottom of the barrel.
Should the Mets cut their losses and pay off Oliver Perez?
Damages team morale
Think about your job. One of your coworkers is making about 10 times more than you take home. Yet he’s doing no work. In fact, his presence is a detriment to your company. Would that make you work harder? Would that make you feel good about your team? Welcome to the Mets with Oliver Perez.
Reinforces the message that the Mets aren’t serious about winning
Take a look at Oliver Perez’s nine-year major league career, and it becomes painfully obvious that this is a minor league-caliber player at best who had a few lucky years in his early career. Not someone you’d want to build a winning team with.
Makes the new Mets management look like losers instead of leaders
The Mets gave Oliver Perez a $12 million paycheck in 2009. He responded with a 3-4 record and a 6.82 ERA. Last year, he was 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA, and he received another $12 million. He played minor league Mexican ball this winter and managed a 5.28 ERA with 7.26 walks per nine innings.
Someone on the Mets needs to step up and say these numbers are not good enough—Perez must go. That someone is Sandy Alderson. That someone has failed his first major test.
Takes a spot from a prospect with true potential
Spring training is not summer camp. It’s limited to the chosen few. Oliver Perez is hogging a prime spot. So while the Mets play nursemaid to their $36 million failure, an up-and-coming pitcher is being passed up. Might have been the next Tom Seaver. We’ll never know.
Extends the Mets' practice of lying to their fans
It’s a wonder that the Mets have any fans left at all. They’ve lied about injuries. They’ve lied about prospects. They’ve lied about their finances. And they are lying now about Oliver Perez.
Here’s what pitching coach Dan Warthen told MLB.com after watching Perez pitch this week: "He’s looked better there today than he did at anytime last year. He seems strong. Just grabbing him, he's bigger. He's stronger." Wishful thinking that extravagant is nothing less than a lie.
Indicates that the Wilpons are still meddling in the management of the team
Mets owner Fred Wilpon is understandably miffed that Perez is bilking him out of $36 million. To Fred, Oliver must seem like Bernie Madoff with a pitcher’s mitt. So Wilpon must be hoping for one more good year from Perez. It is he who must be pulling the strings, because a big-time baseball man like Alderson must be aware that Perez doesn’t have a prayer.
Perez’s motivation comes from greed, not from the heart
Consider the case of Gil Meche, a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. Like Oliver Perez, Meche has a contract that pays him $12 million for pitching this year. Also like Perez, Meche has lost the ability to consistently get hitters out. But unlike Perez, Meche retired from baseball last month, saying he doesn’t want to take the money and do nothing to help his team.
“I think it really reaffirms and validates why we signed Gil Meche,” Royals GM Dayton Moore told the Associated Press. “The integrity and the class, and the respect that he’s displaying—we appreciate it very much.”
The integrity. The class. The respect. Oliver Perez. One of these things just doesn’t belong.