JOY IN METVILLE, the front-page headline of the New York Post read Thursday.
I could have come up with some other suggestions:
METVILLE WATERBOARDING CONTINUES
Or METVILLE DUMPSTER BLAZE TO BURN 5 MORE YEARS
When I woke up to read that billionaire hedge funder Steve A. Cohen was nearing a deal to buy the New York Mets from the Wilpon family, everyone was elated.
After a decade of post-Madoff penny-pinching and excuse-making by Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Mets fans were finally getting a deep-pocketed owner expected to spend whatever it takes to build a champion.
But then the full picture dropped like an anvil: The Wilpons would retain team control for five years until Cohen assumed his full 80-percent ownership.
There’s always a catch with the Mets. We get the free-spending billionaire owner, but he comes with another half-decade of failed skinflint management. We get the new Cadillac . . . with the powertrain of a Dodge Dart.
And the timing of the Wilpons’ lingering-like-a-hemorrhoid could not be worse. The Mets, despite the constant missteps and unwillingness to act like a large-market club, have managed to build a team on the cusp of competing for the postseason. This year.
But on the same day the pending ownership deal was announced, the Mets let their former young stud pitcher Zack Wheeler — who loved being a Met — defect to the archrival Phillies without even making him an offer.
It came days after the fast-rising Braves, also ahead of them in the division, signed starting pitcher Cole Hamels and closer Will Smith — two arms the Mets desperately could have used. The crosstown Yankees, meanwhile, were in California negotiating with the two premium pitchers on the market, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the kind of free-agent talent the Mets haven’t sniffed in a decade.
And what did the Mets do to counter all the bad news swirling around them?
They traded for a backup outfielder, Jake Marisnick from the Astros, who has a career .227 batting average, effectively taking us out of the running for the star center fielder we really needed, Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte.
Classic Wilpon bait-and-switch.
Meanwhile, some Mets fans are willing to just write off the coming season as a lost transitional phase. Columnists are already waxing poetic about 2021, when Cohen could spend his money (a few years early) on future free agent Mookie Betts and the Mets will finally arrive as a contender.
Wait until 2021 to compete? My astroturf.
Are we so beaten down by years of bad trades (Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jarred Kelenic); bad signings (Bobby Bonilla, Jason Bay, Yoenis Cespedes); bad luck (David Wright, Johan Santana, a perfect Adam Wainwright curveball); bad financial decisions (Bernie Madoff, aversion to high-end free agents), that we believe we deserve another losing season under Wilpon stewardship? Cohen needs to back up the money truck to Citi Field now. Not a year from now. Not five years from now. Do it while Cole and Strasburg and Anthony Rendon are still out there on the market.
There are now rumblings Cohen could exert his power sooner than later. The Wilpons need to step aside and let this happen. Or they need to assure fans that a tiny portion of the $2.4 billion they are getting from Cohen will be spent on good ballplayers — $75 million for the 2020 season ought to do it.
It’s not too late for the Wilpons, with Cohen’s help and wallet, to gracefully exit with a winning legacy. Five good years will make Met fans forget the 35 awful-to-mediocre ones. The Wilpons were heroes to us once — ridding us of the miserly Paysons, building the juggernaut 1986 champions, spending money like an NYC franchise should.
They can be heroes again.
Paul McPolin is the deputy editor of the Sunday New York Post and a lifelong, long-suffering Mets fan.