For most teams, firing a hitting coach is a non-event. The team doesn't hit, and the hitting coach is replaced as a move to try and appease fans and generate more offense. The New York Mets, however, have managed to turn firing a hitting coach into an inside look at the dysfunction of their front office.
The madness started when departed hitting coach Dave Hudgens went on a media tour to air his grievances. Early interviews started off with Hudgens blaming the fans and media for the Mets' struggles to hit at home, a public relations disaster in its own right. Hudgens backed off of his criticism of the fans and directed it towards ownership in later interviews, indicating his beliefs that GM Sandy Alderson was being prevented from doing what he wanted by ownership. This jived with a report that was released this morning indicating COO Jeff Wilpon ordered Alderson to fire Hudgens on Monday.
Hudgens told ESPN Radio's Michael Kay that the Mets would get better if "they" would allow Alderson to do what he wanted to do. Hudgens also indicated his belief that the Mets could build a winner quickly if the Wilpons would loosen the purse strings for Alderson. The Mets have been cloak and dagger with their finances for years, but Hudgens is the first former employee to essentially confirm public suspicions that the Mets have severely limited Alderson's ability to add players via payroll.
Things got even weirder when Alderson went on with Kay right after Hudgens' interview. Alderson denied Hudgens' claim that he was being restricted on payroll and said that Hudgens "wasn't in my office" to make payroll decisions. Alderson also said that higher payroll doesn't guarantee you will win, but it does increase the probabilities.
Kay and his co-host, Don LaGreca, asked Alderson why the Mets don't add to their payroll. Alderson again re-iterated the company line about how the team needs to generate more revenue to add to the payroll. In layman's terms, Alderson's quote essentially challenged the fans to show up to more games before they improved the product. In other words, the Mets will build it if the fans come. LaGreca also called out Alderson for sounding like a small market GM with the payroll limitations and main selling points being young prospects.
There are couple of concerning factors here. The first is the Mets' idea that the fans need to show up before they improve the product. That is a terrible way to run a business and is a big middle finger to their paying customers. If a Broadway show cast a bunch of under-performing actors and said they would improve the talent if audiences came, they would be out of business in weeks. The Mets also are apparently bothered by the booing at home according to Hudgens' comments, so the Mets essentially want more fans to show up and be nicer to them when they are there.
The Mets don't get a pass because they are a professional sports franchise. If the Mets insist on charging top dollar prices for a subpar product, they won't win the entertainment dollars in this market. The Mets aren't only competing with the Yankees for business, but also concerts, other sports teams, movies, and the city itself. Considering the way the Mets play at home, there isn't going to be a huge demand for home attendance.
The second thing to be concerned about is the idea that the Mets are trying to sell a small market attitude to their fans. The attitudes that Alderson was conveying in his interviews are the same types of attitudes you hear in Pittsburgh and Kansas City before a baseball season. The Pirates have made the playoffs once in 20 years, and the Royals haven't been in the playoffs since 1985. If the Mets insist on acting like a small market team, they may well find themselves in a long playoff drought as well.
This is not to say that Alderson is faultless in the team's current struggles. Alderson knew there would be budget concerns facing the Mets when he took the job, but he hasn't made the most of his limited free agent dollars. Alderson has continually failed to find effective relievers for his bullpen, which shouldn't be that difficult to find on a budget. Chris Young, who was Alderson's first choice for an outfielder this winter, entered Wednesday's action hitting .200 on the season. Bartolo Colon has struggled as well, and the jury is still out on Curtis Granderson, who is hitting well in May but still has three more years after this contract.
Either way, the Mets don't seem to be on the same page at all, which is concerning. It seems strange that Dave Hudgens turned into the Mets' version of Deep Throat, but the idea that the Mets let a former employee go on a media tour to air his grievances is absurd. The front office has different ideas on how the team can get better than the manager, and this all is becoming a massive distraction for the players. The players don't want to be answering questions about payroll and who is in charge of the team, but the Mets' general ineptitude has made that a reality. In a town where many considered the James Dolan led Knicks or Woody Johnson led Jets to be the most dysfunctional franchise around, the Mets have managed to out do both teams in three days.
Tags: Baseball, Dave Hudgens, Jeff Wilpon, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Sandy Alderson