There's this old fan's tale that ties the derisive "Break up the Mets!" chant to the history of the ballclub.
The story goes that upon the team's first win in team history and after nine consecutive losses to open the 1962 season, journeyman catcher Joe Ginsburg bursts in to the Mets clubhouse and says, "Break up the Mets!" The exclamation caught on for better or worse, but mercifully (or mercilessly, depending on your purview) only erupted 39 more times that season.
But it never quite went away. It carried on ever after in fits and spurts, among future Mets clubhouses and fans at the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium. In their book The Year The Mets Lost Last Place: The Most Amazing Year in the History of Baseball, Paul Zimmerman and Dick Schaap recalled fans sitting behind home plate at Tom Seaver's near-perfect game against the Cubs in July 1969 starting that exact chant during a Cubs pitching change. It's been used as headline fodder then and now, making for a sarcastic blog post title or a spontaneous utterance.
Call me crazy, but it sounds like the chants are in full force again. We have rampant speculation that Alderson may break up the roster and rebuild without actually uttering the word. We have a dire prognosis for the financial well-being of the Wilpons and calls for MLB to step in and break up the ownership.
So maybe we haven't found ourselves in this particular doom-and-gloom scenario before, but this franchise has a history of shooting itself in the foot and coping with self-deprecating humor. Why stop now?I'm a firm believer that the Wilpons will not voluntarily sell the Mets. There's simply no incentive as it doesn't fill in any meaningful financial holes for them. And if you haven't admitted to yourself that baseball is a business first, then you should start coming to grips with the fact that the Wilpons keeping hold of the Mets is looking out for themselves -- which is hardly a new phenomenon in professional sports. If you want to own the Mets, you will need to pry them from the cold, dead fingers of the Wilpons via bankruptcy or MLB intervention.
That's just the worst-case scenario, though. If Alderson can build a club capable of playing meaningful enough baseball (i.e. not effectively eliminated by the All-Star break) that would entice you to pony up for tickets in September, then the club could start paying for itself again and leave the Wilpons to work on climbing out of their bigger holes. If the economy turns around and real estate starts booming again, the Wilpons will find themselves flush with cash once more. There are both unlikely scenarios, but the former's not beyond the realm of possibility considering Alderson's track record while the latter is the carrot the Wilpons chase while plugging every hole in the ship in the interim.
There exists a very real possibility that the Mets could enter a dark era rivaling the one following the Midnight Massacre or The Worst Team Money Could Buy. But unlike those eras, we're entering this one with our eyes wide open. No M. Donald Grant to blindside us. No Al Harazin, Steve Phillips, or Omar Minaya adding lousy contract after lousy contract to bury us. No lack of a meaningful framework that allows for successful baseball without a bloated payroll.
I don't know where this trail goes, but I'm very interested in seeing it through. If Alderson pulls this off, it will rival any accomplishment he's achieved in the baseball wing of his decorated history. If the Wilpons come out of this alive, it will be a miracle -- and aren't we rooting for the club that makes believing in miracles one of their core principles?
Break up the Mets? Why? We're just getting started.