An in-depth profile of Fred Wilpon, with bonus Reyes, Beltran and Wright-ripping

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If you have the time — and if you don’t, I suggest you make the time — go read this profile of Fred Wilpon in The New Yorker. It’s easily the most in-depth thing I’ve ever read about him, his life, his ownership of the Mets and — of course — his dealings with Bernie Madoff.

My biggest overall takeaway: Wilpon seems like a very nice and thoughtful man who truly loves baseball, and the story of his journey form Bensonhurst to the top of the real estate and sports world is impressive.  You can see why Bud Selig — who also fits that description, minus the Bensonhurst — is far more willing to work with Wilpon and help see him through his ownership issues than, say, Frank McCourt who is off-putting in just about every way imaginable. You can also see that, if it ever comes to that, Wilpon will probably do very well with a jury, even if he certainly has to hope it never comes to that and if the author of the story, Jeffrey Toobin, believes that a settlement of the case is inevitable.

None of this really changes the basic situation with Madoff and the lawsuit — that’s a story about numbers and risk-management, and what someone in Wilpon’s shoes should have known and when, not a story about personalities — but the story certainly does put a human face on a situation that is so complex that it is often rendered in the most cartoonish terms.

On the baseball side, the biggest takeaway is probably going to be what he said about Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran.  Of Reyes: “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money … he won’t get it.” Wright: “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” Also, when a supposed “Mets curse” was mentioned, Wilpon pantomimed Carlos Beltran not swinging at the famous Adam Wainwright curveball that ended the 2006 NLCS and he called himself a “schmuck” for giving Beltran his $119 million deal.

Of the Mets overall, Wilpon said “we’re snakebitten, baby” and referred to them as “a shitty team.”  You can understand where the “let’s kill our best players” mentality and the self-loathing that surrounds the Mets comes from.

Oh, and this paragraph, which has little to do with Wilpon’s overall story, is nonetheless a key insight into the baseball ownership business:

He and his partners bought the Mets just before the real-estate market began a sustained boom. And he didn’t anticipate that owning the Mets would boost his seemingly unrelated business interests. “No one had heard of us before we bought the Mets, and afterward the change was dramatic,” Wilpon told me. “I don’t think someone has not returned one of my telephone calls in thirty years. It’s a small club, owning a baseball team, and people want to be near it.” As Katz told me, “You take the chairman of the board of a bank, with his grandson, on the field to meet David Wright, and make that grandfather a hero, and you do business the way we do business, it opens up everything.”

The business of baseball ain’t all about tickets sold.

Anyway: clip and save this story and read the whole thing when you get the time.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.