Why the Mets Should Make Biggest Gamble in Franchise History On...Alex Rodriguez

Bob KlapischFeatured Columnist IAugust 20, 2020

CORRECTS TO LOS ANGELES DODGERS, INSTEAD OF ANGELS - Former New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez watches batting practice before a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

You are one of those New York Mets fans who have reached the breaking pointin other words, a soldier in a vast army counting down the days until the Wilpon family finally sells the team. You've suffered through decades of bad ownership with too little money, too few winning seasons and not nearly enough respect from those obnoxious New York Yankees fans.

Finally, though, Flushing's nightmare is coming to an end. A new buyer will emerge after the Aug. 31 deadline for the best and final offers. Your knight in shining armor just might be...Alex Rodriguez?

You swallow hard, trying to think of anyone less qualified to rebuild the Mets than a confessed steroid user and an ex-Yankee to boot. A-Rod and his group of investors don't even have the biggest portfolio; that claim belongs to mogul Steve Cohen, who's sitting on a war chest estimated to be worth $14 billion, and made a reported $2.6 billion offer in February.

But a source told the New York Post's Thornton McEnery that Jeff Wilpon hates Cohen. He'd reportedly prefer to sell to A-Rod's team or charge Cohen double. Leave it to the Mets to play nasty politics to the end. If Rodriguez does prevailand there are plenty of observers who still think he won'the'll begin the journey under a dark cloud.

Think of his introductory press conference, peppered with a series of burning questions: Why would A-Rod want his own team? Just to compete with Derek Jeter, who owns the Miami Marlins? To launder his legacy? To improve his chances of someday getting in the Hall of Fame?

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

There's every reason for a skeptical Mets fan to dislike and distrust A-Rod. He cheated his way through at least part of his Yankees years, with MLB determining in 2014 he took steroids and lied about the pharmaceuticals that were oozing out of his pores. Rodriguez sued everyone in his path, including his own union. He ended up with the longest performance-enhancing drug suspension in the game's history. What a guy!

But the Mets' army shouldn't care about any of that. Honestly. There's nothing that says a successful owner has to be a saint or a prince or even a remotely model citizen. After a generation of servitude as New York's second team, the Metsand their fiercely loyal fan baseshould come at Rodriguez with just one litmus test.

Do you have the money to make us a winner? And if you do, are you willing to spend it?

That is what the 29 other owners who'll vote on whether to approve Cohen or A-Rod will be considering after the final bids are in. They'll be skeptical, too, learning the hard way that a big-name star as a frontman is no guarantee of success. Witness Jeter and Bruce Sherman, who were awarded the Marlins for $1.2 billion in September 2017 after convincing MLB they'd save baseball in Miami.

It turns out their plan was a mirage. According to documents leaked to the Miami Herald, Jeter and Sherman promised to potential investors in August 2017 that the club would turn a big profit with unrealistic gate sales and cash infusions from a phantom TV deal. None of that happened. Immediately after the sale, Jeter started slashing overhead, firing advisers, laying off employees and trading away the franchise's jewels: Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.

The result wasn't pretty as the Marlins proceeded to lose 203 games in Jeter's first two seasons of ownership.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

According to industry sources, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is determined to preserve the Mets' status as a legacy franchise. With the Wilpons exiting out the back door, he wants to replace them with (almost) anyone's money, as long as there's plenty of it.

Cohen has baggage, having pleaded guilty to insider trading charges in 2013. But he also has an ace in the hole: reminding MLB's other barons that the Mets lose up to $80 million per year, according to sources. Forget the glamor, the argument goes. What they really need is a sustained stimulus package. Cohen's biggest plus is not being under-financed.

So what would A-Rod bring to the table that Cohen wouldn't? Surprising as it sounds, it's his rap sheet.

Rodriguez, who ironically grew up a Mets fan, is now obsessed with atoning for his crimes. One person who's known the former slugger for many years said, "Fixing the Mets would be Alex's way of paying New York back for the way he [messed] up. In all his time with the Yankees, he still feels a tie with the Mets."

Here's the other half of that equation: Unlike Cohen, A-Rod has a deep-tissue understanding of the game itself. He's been in enough clubhouses to know the difference between good and great playersbetween actual winners and those just faking it for the big payday. Player evaluation would be Rodriguez's strong suit.

Finally this: Unlike Jeter, who invested virtually none of his own money to buy the Marlins, A-Rod and fiancee Jennifer Lopez are willing to put up nearly $300 million to make it clear how serious they are about resurrecting the Mets, according to sources.

And if A-Rod needed one additional character witness, it could be any of his ESPN peers, who'd likely vouch for his commitment to the Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts. Rodriguez has poured himself into the job and comes to the booth loaded with facts, stats and anecdotes. Like the countless hours he spent watching video and honing his swing in the batting cage, A-Rod has turned his job as an analyst into a fixation. He promises to do the same as an owner.

All well and good, you say, but you still think A-Rod is full of it. No one could blame you. Because who really knows if he'd actually roll up his sleeves and help Luis Rojas become a better manager, or teach Pete Alonso how to cope with year-after slumps, or put Jacob deGrom at ease about wasting the best summers of his career in a sea of no-decisions.

Matt Sayles/Associated Press

If you're convinced Rodriguez wants the Mets as a vanity possession, like a fancy new car that never leaves the garage, have at it. He and J-Lo are the ultimate globetrotters. The Mets could be nothing more than another stop on the world itinerary.

Funny thing is, these factors aren't deal-breakers. If Cohen has the inside track, it's only because he's richer. What A-Rod has going for him is the heart and stomach to make a difference in Flushing. If he's got the greenbacks, let's see 'em.

And if he does, he's got my vote for the biggest gamble in Mets history.