Thursday, February 4, 2010

Worst Owner in Baseball?

On Monday in Forbes online there was an article which openly wondered if Mets owner Fred Wilpon was the worst owner in baseball.

While I can understand the sentiment, I think it's misplaced, especially when the MLB is home to owners with names like Loria, Angelos, Nutting, Reinsdorf, and Wolff. I recognize that you won't know some of those names, but let's say that one is a cheapskate (Loria), two have teams with Mets-like money whose teams have not met expectations for years (Angelos and Reisndorf), one wants to move his team (Wolff), and one has presided over the slow-murder of an MLB team in a major American city (Nutting). That's to say nothing of the Dodger's (McCourt) divorce situation, or the Rangers (Hicks) lack of money, the Cubs (and Rangers) attempts to sell (Tribune Co. - Ricketts) out hamstringing their GM, or the Astro's (McLane) lack of baseball knowledge leading to continually bad baseball decisions, or the Royals (Glass) perpetual ineptitude.

Wow, their are a lot of bad owners out there...
Let's dig in a little and see if we can make sense of the author's claim that Wilpon belongs near the top of the worst-owners list. The author says;

"Wilpon's two biggest problems: his assumption that New York fans demand a winner each and every year, and his apparent obsession with the Yankees."

Okay. These are far from Mr. Wilpon's worst problems, but their is some truth to the claims. The Mets cannot be afraid to rebuild over a two to three year period, it would be far better to suffer over 2-3 years of seasons like 2009 knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel... then to keep trying to make a team that doesn't work - work.
Secondly, I haven't noticed an obsession by the Wilpon family with the Yankees, only with a desire to put a winning product on the field. This is hardly a character flaw, in fact in most MLB cities it's admirable. Most MLB fans would prefer to have an owner interested in building a perennial winner, than an owner looking to make some money (again I turn to Jeffrey Loria of the Marlins).

No, the Wilpons biggest sin is involving themselves too much in the day to day operations of the baseball product being produced. It is born out of a genuine desire to see the best for the New York Mets and the team's fanbase, but those feelings are misguided. The Loria's have placed their trust in a GM (which may be misplaced) and he must be given freedom to work otherwise it will continue to make a bad situation worse. A hard budget must be set in place, and only in the case of that budget being exceeded should the ownership be brought in to discuss a possible acquisition. A plan must be set in place and allowed to work without involvement from the Loria family, as well intentioned as they may be.

The Wilpon's are far from baseballs worst owners - but they must look at history (Peter Angelos and the Orioles of the 2000s, Steinbrenner and the Yankees of the 1980's) and realize that anytime an owner becomes too involved in the teams day to day operations the team suffers.

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