What should we make of Fred Wilpon’s comments to the New Yorker?

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I’ll admit that when I read that Wilpon story in the New Yorker this morning my primary focus was what it all meant for his ownership situation and the Madoff mess, but based on the initial response today, it’s clear that the immediate fallout is going to be all about Wilpon’s comments regarding the Mets in general and Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran in particular.

For those who didn’t see, he implied that Reyes is delusional regarding the money he’s going to want as a free agent, of Wright he said he was a very good player, but “not a superstar,” and he slammed both Beltran’s strikeout to end the 2006 NLCS and his contract, which he called himself a “schmuck” for giving him.  Of the Mets in general, he called them “a shitty team.”

I’m of two minds about this.  On the one hand, the owner of the team CAN’T be saying this stuff, especially in New York. Not unless he wants a media firestorm on his hands, which is what he’s clearly in for based on early reaction.  Moreover, this will not go over well in the Mets’ clubhouse because the last thing any player needs or expects is to be ripped by his owner.

On the other hand, is this anything we haven’t heard from Mets fans and the media that covers them?  People have ripped Reyes, Beltran and Wright for years, often in the very same terms Wilpon did. I disagree with much of that criticism, but Wilpon won’t be giving Jose Reyes “Carl Crawford money.”  The Beltran contract wasn’t the best one Wilpon ever game out, even if Beltran (in my view anyway) has made it respectable in an overall sense.  David Wright is great, but he probably isn’t a “superstar” in the way that we tend to think of that term, so that’s not really a slam in my view.

Moreover, if you’re a fan of a “shitty team,” don’t you like it that the owner acknowledges it rather than play the Baghdad Bob routine and pretend that everything is sunshine and daisies? I want my team’s owner to acknowledge my frustration, even if I may take issues with his specific critiques and agree that he shouldn’t be the guy saying this stuff publicly. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if Wilpon said that Carlos Beltran’s contract was a bargain, Jose Reyes and David Wright were megastars and if he said that the Mets are fantastic and positioned for greatness?

I’m not defending Wilpon’s decision to say this stuff.  Because yeah, this is going to be a P.R. disaster for Wilpon and no, if I’m in his shoes I don’t say this stuff publicly because there is nothing good that can happen for me or the team if I do. But on some level, I have a better opinion of Wilpon after all of this. P.R. disasters come and go, but an honest glimpse into the mindset of an owner is a rare, rare thing. And I think that there is at least a portion of the Mets’ fan base that will appreciate it, even if it goes over horribly in the short term.

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.