City Sports Report

Don’t pile on the Mets

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By Lloyd Carroll

The New York Mets have taken a lot of heat for their penny-pinching ways and if you’ve been a reader of this column then you know that I have been a frequent critic of their ways of doing business way before most people ever heard of Bernie Madoff. Nonetheless I take pride in being tough but fair.

A story broke last week that a number of Mets players were paying out of their own pockets to take part in organized workouts at the team’s Port St. Lucie, Florida spring training facilities. Needless to say, the blogosphere quickly fired up with snarky comments about the Mets’ cheapness. A few columnists from the dailies even got in on the fun.

As easy as it would be for me to pile on Mets management, the truth is that they are being unfairly criticized here. Mets players can work out during the off-season at either Citi Field or at Tradition Field (St. Lucie) at no cost. If the Mets were to fund organized off-season workouts supervised by personal trainers then they would be in violation of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association. The union could claim that the workouts were not truly voluntary in nature and infringe on the negotiated off-time of its rank and file.

If the workout story wasn’t enough, outgoing baseball commissioner Bud Selig served up red meat to Mets critics by announcing that team CEO Fred Wilpon would be heading Major League Baseball’s finance committee. Yes, you can insert your Bernie Madoff joke here. In fairness to Wilpon, he has financed many multi-million dollar real estate projects. One has to hope that he learned a few lessons from the Madoff debacle.

A far bigger concern to Mets fans should be the fact that the vastly talented Washington Nationals just added to their arsenal by signing 2013 American League Cy Young-winning pitcher Max Scherzer to a long-term contract.

Granted, it’s been six years since the Mets have had a winning season so it may be premature to worry about winning the National League East title, but many Mets fans remember how even very good Mets teams futilely chased the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s and had to play for wild card berths. The Mets now appear to be looking up to the team from the nation’s capital for years to come. You can be sure that some of the Flushing faithful are probably missing the days when it was understood that Bronx Bombers owner George Steinbrenner would outbid everyone to sign a player of Scherzer’s caliber for the New York Yankees.

You can’t say that the Mets have neglected their outfield, at least its physical structure. They started moving in a good chunk of their fences during November and last week they announced that the center field scoreboard will be both enlarged and have more high definition resolution in 2015.

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