Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sorry, Squawker Jon, Fred Wilpon Is No George Steinbrenner

Squawker Jon writes that "Fred Wilpon is George Steinbrenner without the success." I take issue with that comparison. Steinbrenner was a winner; Wilpon, with all his "snakebitten" talk; is just a whiner.

Mike Lupica, who slammed the Yankee front office last week for not covering up for Jorge Posada's sitdown strike, has a much more positive take today on Wilpon throwing his stars under the bus. (Shocker, I know.) He writes, "Steinbrenner used to say everything about everybody, even Don Mattingly, then trash the Bronx for good measure. Now we build monuments to him." Um, no. Steinbrenner didn't get a monument for calling Dave Winfield Mr. May. He got it for winning seven World Series rings.

Fred Wilpon has one ring, back from when he co-owned the team with Nelson Doubleday. And it was Doubleday who, back when he co-owned the team, pushed for them to sign Mike Piazza, the way George Steinbrenner would have. If it had been up to Wilpon, the Mets would still be looking for another playoff appearance since the late 80s. And the only monument Wilpon will ever get is a monument to stupidity.

Whatever you can say about Steinbrenner, he was a Yankee fan through and through. And he really had a feel for Yankee tradition. It was The Boss who brought Mel Allen back into the Yankee fold, over a decade after he had been unceremoniously fired by the Yankees front office as a broadcaster. Steinbrenner also got Roger Maris to put on pinstripes again, and later retired his number. (Yes, Mets, people actually get their numbers retired. It's 25 years since 1986, and there hasn't been a single Met with his number retired from that era. What's up with that?)

Even when The Boss fought with people, he eventually brought them back in the fold. Like Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, and even Dave Winfield, who suffered the worst of Steinbrenner's wrath.

Steinbrenner's "Yankee way" pep talks and signs may have made some players roll their eyes, but there is no doubt which team he loved: The New York Yankees. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that Fred Wilpon's first baseball love is the Brooklyn Dodgers, with the Mets just an afterthought to his childhood dreams.

Citi Field when it first opened was more of a tribute to Ebbets Field and a time long gone than it was to the actual team playing there. Here are Fred's comments to New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin on the issue:
“The first day the architects came to the site, they started saying blah, blah, blah, and I said to them, ‘Let me tell you how this is going to work,’ ” Wilpon told me recently. “ ‘The front of the building is going to look like Ebbets Field. And it’s going to have a rotunda—just like at Ebbets.’ And then I said, ‘Guess what. Here are the plans for Ebbets Field.’ And I handed them over.”
He also told Toobin:

Today, as Wilpon negotiates with possible investors, he says it’s clear that the team is worth more than a billion dollars. “There’s one National League franchise in New York,” he said. “Fifty years from now, there’s going to be one National League franchise in New York. That’s a very valuable thing.”
I'm sorry, I'm not really feeling the Mets love here -- he can't even muster up the name of his own team when saying how valuable it is!
While Wilpon did eventually acknowledge that he overdid it in Citi Field with the Brooklyn love: "All the Dodger stuff—that was an error of judgment on my part," he tells Toobin, he still seems more interested in walking down memory lane than embracing the team he currently owns. George Steinbrenner grew up a Cleveland Indians fan, but the closest he came to embracing his childhood team was hiring Gabe Paul and Bob Lemon, both of which were good moves.The rest of his life was all about Yankeedom.
Finally, Steinbrenner would never have agreed with Wilpon calling his team snake-bitten. Instead, The Boss would surely have agreed with Oprah Winfrey's quote that you make your own luck. Here's hoping that Wilpon makes his own luck for the Mets, and sells the entire team. Enough already.


Uncle Mike said...

Lisa, how can you say Fred Wilpon is not a true Met fan? You quoted him talking about the National League, like it was something special. That's how Met fans think: Only the National League is "real baseball." (I wish I knew why they thought that way; they thought that way even while trying to "conceive" the Mets in 1958-62, so it's not JUST about the DH.)

Don't forget another Indian that George hired, without whom the '78 title would not have happened: Al Rosen.

"Luck? I never believed in it. A good team makes its own breaks." -- Miller Huggins. Yankee Hall-of-Fame manager. Who has a Monument.

dkresh1 said...

I just posted this on my wall. Great post.

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