Following their press conference at Citi Field yesterday, Omar Minaya, Jeff Wilpon, and Dave Howard appeared on Mike Francesa's WFAN program for an exclusive, no holds barred, 90-minute interview. You can listen to all three parts, but make sure you've carved out a healthy chunk of time to do so. For his part, Francesa was candid and even somewhat affable, and asked plenty of non-softball questions of the Mets' brain trust. Here are the highlights.
- It was Omar's decision to bring back Jerry Manuel. Why? It was a bad year. He thinks Jerry deserves another opportunity to succeed.
- Jeff pointed out that the 2009 Mets lost 1400+ games and more than $51 million to players on the disabled list. The next closest team lost $27 million or so.
- What bothered Jeff the most about this team? Scoring runs. They had a good batting average (#2 in NL) and on-base percentage (#7 in NL) but just couldn't get the runs across.
- Jeff Wilpon was adamant that his family's bilking at the hands of Bernie Madoff has had, and will continue to have, no impact whatever on the New York Mets. They are separate entities, which is the same thing we heard early in the season.
- The Mets will again have one of the highest payrolls in baseball.
- Jeff will give Omar the resources he needs to put a championship team on the field. Whatever that is. There is no set number; there are no plans to reduce payroll, and they do plan to be aggressive in the free agent and trade markets.
- If there were any concerns about team revenue they wouldn't have reduced ticket prices as they have.
- As we already knew, season ticket prices will be reduced by 10% on average and as much as 20% in some places.
- Francesa aptly pointed out that all of the Mets' core players are coming off of bad or injury-plagued years and the team wouldn't be likely to get fair value in return. He also talked about the Mets' nucleus being "exciting", and basically said there was no reason to trade Wright, Reyes, Beltran, or Santana (and to a lesser extent Rodriguez, Francoeur, and Castillo) because those are players you build around; they make up a core that you should look to augment with other players. Omar seemed to agree, which I guess is a relief.
- Omar doesn't believe the Mets need to do a massive reconstruction of this team. Jeff doesn't either, but mainly deferred to Omar.
- Jeff thinks the market -- specifically, the money being thrown around -- for free agents this offseason will be even softer than last offseason. As a result the trade market may take some time to develop as well.
- Among the many criticisms levied against the Mets this season, Jeff was asked if any of them were unfair. "Not about the team, but maybe the ballpark, because I don't think we did anything to slap anybody in the face. It wasn't something that we said, 'Gee, we're going to honor the Brooklyn Dodgers and we're not going to honor the Mets or the Mets' history ... We're going to make changes to correct it. It's a proper criticism".
- When pressed for specifics about planned changes to Citi Field, Jeff indicated that they would add outside and inside imagery honoring Mets history.
- Dave Howard said they will be adding a Mets Hall of Fame to Citi Field, and that it will be "prominent", "highly visible", and will be in a location that will "allow maximum traffic".
- Jeff added that they're going to rename some of the gates and other areas of the park to be Mets-centric.
- If you had a mulligan would you take back the Oliver Perez deal? Omar still feels Perez has the ability to pitch like he did in 2007 and 2008 (sic?), and thinks he will turn it around.
- Francesa carped about Daniel Murphy and how he can't play the outfield and he's not a good enough hitter to play first. Omar still feels Murphy can be a solid everyday player, but wouldn't say where. Francesa's "scouting report" was that Murphy couldn't be an everyday player. Minaya says, "We don't see him as an outfielder".
- Omar isn't bothered by the fact that people think he can't speak English. He lobby Jeff to hire an interpreter (not really).
- Omar understands the complaint that he prefers to acquire Hispanic players, that it comes with being the first Hispanic GM, and that it's not true. He looks for talent first, regardless of the player or his heritage.
- Johan Santana feels great following surgery.
- Josh Thole is going to play Winter Ball this year.