Right on the heels of Mookie Wilson’s comments complaining of being treated as a “hood ornament,” Mets VP of Player Development Paul DePodesta has recently come under fire from several anonymous members of the 1986 Mets (as quoted by Mike Puma of the New York Post - who else?) for quotes he allegedly made during his inaugural staff conference. You can read more about this here.
DePodesta denies saying this at all, and if he didn’t this is just another instance of Mike Puma trying to stir the pot. But even if he did say “I’m tired of hearing about the ’86 Mets,” is that not EXACTLY the sort of thing we Mets fans want our front office to be saying? As Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting, DePodesta’s job is not to revel in the nostalgia of the past, compiling sentimental video montages of how great the Mets were 30 years ago. His job is to acquire and develop baseball players so talented and skilled that the Mets can be great right now, and in the future. Sports fans only need to look back and reminisce about the past when the present product isn’t giving them anything to be excited about. Expressing frustration with hearing so much talk about old teams strikes me not as a jab at our team’s heroes so much as an encouraging sign that DePodesta cares much more about the current team, and wants to make it good enough that it draws the attention and praise Mets fans are currently lobbing back at players who’ve been retired for 20 years.
Besides, even if the organization really is eschewing the 86’ team, the likes of Mookie Wilson doesn’t have a whole lot to be upset about. Leave aside the fact that Wilson was a fairly mediocre baseball player (average defense with a career .314 OBP, .700 OPS for a 96 OPS+…100 OPS+ if you count just his time with the Mets, or exactly average offensively. His +3 WAR at his peak in 1986 made him a solid regular, but not a star). What made Mookie Wilson valuable to this baseball team was mostly one thing: his speed. He averaged a very impressive 38 steals per 162 games in his MLB career, topping 50 steals in a season twice. He should be remembered fondly for that. But that speed is long since gone, which makes him about as useful going forward as his fame and name recognition can make him.
So why is it surprising, or something Mookie has a right to lament, that he has “no decision-making role at all” in his job today? His decision making ability was never what made him useful in the first place! Why does he “deserve to hear some words to justify the actions” of the Mets organization? To me, it seems those actions are pretty easy to understand by just comparing his strengths to the requirements of various jobs.
Paul DePodesta, on the other hand, was one of a select handful of individuals who truly revolutionized the game of baseball. The success of his experiment in Oakland changed the entire way we approach and evaluate the sport. Crusty old timers and jealous jocks may not like to hear it, but his contributions to the sport far outstrip those of a good but unspectacular starting OF in the 80’s. If Paul DePodesta and Mookie Wilson really are at odds, and the organization can only pick one of them to help inform the teams’ personnel decisions moving forward…I’ll take the guy who went to Harvard, please.