The start of spring training usually brings about something refreshing for baseball fans. Long Islanders begin to dream of warm weather and the smell of the perfect green grass as we slowly make our way to our beloved stadiums this April.
But sadly most of the talk during the first week of pitchers and catchers has had to do with a historic ponzi scheme that still lingers in Flushing, and the weight loss and weight gain of a couple of Yankees pitchers. But make no mistake about it, no amount of donuts or whatever Joba Chamberlain ate this winter will steal the headlines away from the Mets for the time being.
Let’s take a glance at the news that allowed the Yankees to dominate the headlines during spring training the last couple of seasons.
In 2009, the Yankees kicked off the season after a spending spree that brought in C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira after failing to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1994—a strike-shortened season.
In 2010, the Yankees were back in spring training as defending champions for the first time since 2001, when they beat the Mets in the first-ever Subway Series and won the first World Series of the new millennium.
If only the Mets were that lucky.
Now, in 2011, the Mets have stolen the back pages but for all the wrong reasons. The pounds that relief pitcher and former flamethrower Joba Chamberlain put on, or even the 25 pounds that C.C. Sabathia lost, isn’t enough to excite New York’s tabloids.
Spring training so far has been all about the Mets and their legal woes, as they are in the midst of $1 billion lawsuit that alleges they should have known about about Bernard Madoff’s fraud.
On Jan. 28 the Mets announced that they were interested in selling about 20-25 percent of the team, to help off-set the cost of the lawsuit filed by the trustee, Irving Picard, for the victims of Bernard Madoff. The lawsuit alleges that the Mets’ parent company, Sterling Equities, along with Saul Katz, Jeff Wilpon’s uncle, and his father and owner Fred Wilpon, should have know better.
Then possible suiters were being mentioned to purchase a quarter of the franchise.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban first came to mind, but in all honestly he’s not the kind of guy whose going to just buy a small percentage of the team. Even Martin Luther King III was named to have interest in buying the Amazin’s. Then, it just got ridiculous, as fans started bringing up the name of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Donald Trump’s name was thrown around this week, but again, Trump isn’t going to buy a team unless he gets controlling interest. That’s when Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer of the Mets, popped into Port St. Lucie to fan the flames.
And then, Fred Wilpon told reporters that the Mets will be “vindicated,” and the team has “nothing to hide.”
Hopefully for the Mets, yesterday was the last time the Wilpons would have to answer questions about the lawsuit. It’s a distraction for now, but if it’s brought up again in the middle of the season it can hurt a clubhouse that has been accused of being fragile in the past.
It’s finally time to concentrate on baseball. But for Mets fans, knowing that Oliver Perez is still in discussion to hold a spot in the rotation, and the idea that Johan Santana won’t be available until July 1 at the soonest, is a little disheartening. At least the Mets will be discussed for baseball reasons.
So lay low for now, Wilpons.
Let’s learn a little bit about your new manager Terry Collins. Or let’s learn about the new ace of the staff, Mike Pelfrey, as he tries to follow up his great pitching in the first half of last season. Even Francisco Rodriguez can be a feel good story if he puts his troubles behind him after pleading guilty to attempted assault last year.
After all spring training is about a new beginning. And that’s exactly what this franchise needs.