Like a five-year-old getting a little too close to the fireplace, the New York Mets have absent-mindedly stumbled into trouble once again.
Continuing the franchise’s linear tradition of incompetence, the orange and blue are in the recruiting process for their third manager in four months. First, Mickey Callaway — who claimed his closer was “electric” after he gave up a game-winning home run and once batted his lineup out of order — was let go in early October. A month-long search for a manager commenced, with the front office zeroing in on and hiring former Met Carlos Beltran, who had no coaching experience and retired from baseball in 2017. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen and others within the Mets’ braintrust cited Beltran’s baseball acumen and his presence on the championship-winning 2017 Houston Astros as an unofficial coach.
Unfortunately, he was a coach in more ways than one.
Just over a week after his hiring with the Mets, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich first reported that the Astros electronically stole signs in 2017. Several more reports of this came out shortly thereafter and also swept up the 2018 Boston Red Sox. With these brazen rule violations in tow — the Astros dugout pathetically banged a trash can to signal offspeed pitches that year — both organizations were in deep, deep trouble. Houston was the first to act, letting go of general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, who could not save his job despite twice attempting to destroy a monitor behind the team’s dugout that was used to steal signs. It is still unclear if he tried to destroy the equipment or just lost control of the Wii remote. Either way, he is now unemployed.
The Red Sox took action the next day, mutually parting ways with manager Alex Cora, who is facing a long suspension (Hinch and Luhnow are each suspended through the 2020 season). Boston’s general manager at the time, Dave Dombrowski, is no longer with the organization, so Boston’s action was done there.
In comparison to these decisive actions, the Mets acted like a kid on a swing set with a house burning in the background.
New York ultimately arrived at its decision on Thursday, saying that it agreed to mutually part ways with Beltran and file for divorce after a marriage that lasted just four days longer than that of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. The team said it would be extremely difficult for Beltran to manage the Mets under these circumstances, and although you can argue with how it arrived at this decision, the organization probably made the right call.
The problem here is not necessarily the handling of this isolated and extraordinarily absurd matter. The issue is, in and of itself, the New York Mets.
You see, some teams in sports are just snakebitten: the Mets, the Jets, the Knicks, the entire city of Cleveland. Some organizations just can’t get out of their own way. The Mets are one of them.
When Major League Baseball announced the findings of its investigation into the Astros and Red Sox on Monday, Beltran was the only player on the 2017 Astros named in the report. This was extremely questionable, as he likely was not the only player involved in the scheme. Even before November, there were rumblings around the sport of the Astros’ mischievous ways, and despite interviewing him for eight hours — which sounds like hell — in their managerial search, the Mets never asked Beltran about this potential issue. When reports made news in November and December, and in the two months between the first reports and the announcement of MLB’s findings, the Mets still never asked Beltran anything other than to cooperate with the league’s investigation (which shouldn’t have to be said out loud).
That is not the mark of an organization that has its ducks in a row. And who can blame them? The team may be in the middle of a sale to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, and fans practically rejoiced when it was announced that Cohen was planning to buy the team from Jeff and Fred Wilpon, who were infamously caught in the middle of the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history not so long ago. It was true then and is true now; the Mets just can’t stay out of their own way.
Finally, the worst part for Mets fans is that, unlike Boston and Houston, the team received no benefit from the dugout tomfoolery. The Astros and Red Sox won titles in 2017 and 2018 while the Mets — completely abiding by the rules — stumbled to 70 and 77 wins in those two seasons. If that doesn’t tell you what you need to know, then I can’t help you.
The Mets received no benefit from the biggest baseball scandal in 100 years, and yet somehow, despite every known law of the universe, they wound upright in the middle of it.