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Floundering Mets have become baseball's worst franchise


Entertained the annual worst-movie-of-all-time debate with a friend the other day.

I said Godzilla is the worst because the plot is utterly ludicrous, the special effects are mediocre and Matthew Broderick, starring as Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, turns in a performance that evokes the pleasure of a festering boil. "Nothing happens!" I said. "The movie goes on for two hours, and absolutely... nothing... interesting... happens."

My friend nodded. A Steven Spielberg die-hard, in 2001 she waited on a four-hour line to buy tickets for A.I. "I knew everything about the production, about the plot, about the characters," she said. "A.I. had a $100 million budget, and if Spielberg is spending that sort of dough on a project, you know it'll be fantastic. But A.I. wasn't fantastic. I fell asleep."

I am unmoved. Godzilla universally bombed. Kids hated it, adults hated it, critics hated it. Factually, it was a worse film than A.I.

"Maybe," said my friend, "but did you have any reason to think Godzilla would be good?"

"No," I say. "I didn't."

She nods knowingly.

End of argument.

* * *

Nine years after A.I. rotted the brains of millions of Americans, the film has finally found its baseball brethren. Throughout the majors, there will always be Godzillas -- teams like the Royals and Pirates and Nationals that offer customers low expectations and a product to match.

Yet in the 2010 New York Mets, we have found the ultimate summer blockbuster gone to crud.

We have also found the worst franchise in baseball.

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Blessed with the majors' fifth-highest payroll (a staggering $132,701,445) and a roster featuring seven players with All-Star resumes, the Mets have defied the odds by putting to sleep the nation's largest city. Oh, at 58-59 the Mets are neither especially bad nor especially good. They won't contend for the playoffs and they won't fall below Washington into last place in the NL East. They won't dazzle, they won't irk. They merely exist. Yawn.

To call the Mets dreadful is an insult to dread. The 1962 Mets were dreadful, but in an endearing sort of way. The 2003 Tigers were dreadful, but nobody expected much of a club starting Warren Morris at second base.

No, the 2010 Mets are simply worthless. They are a listless, heartless, wretched baseball team; an entertainment value sans entertainment, playing ugly within the confines of beautiful new Citi Field. When the biggest story of the year is Francisco Rodriguez, your star closer, beating up the grandfather of his kids, well, you've for problems.

What's wrong? Let us count the ways:

• Ownership: Because they keep tight-lipped on the matter, we have no idea how profoundly the Bernie Madoff scandal has impacted the Wilpon family's desire to spend. What we do know is this: A franchise once willing to battle the Yankees for big names has withered. With the exception of the disastrous Jason Bay signing, the Wilpons have spent little on improving the ball club.

• Omar Minaya: Perhaps his hands are tied. Perhaps he sleeps with his eyes open. Perhaps the Keebler Elves have kidnapped his brain. Whatever the case, within a two-year span the reputation of the Mets' general manager has morphed from young genius to Chuck LaMar II. He overpaid on Bay (four years, $66 million) and Oliver Perez (three years, $36 million), gave $37 million to the vastly overrated K-Rodand put his trust in players like Luis Castillo, Jeff Francoeur and John Maine.

• Jerry Manuel: The Mets manager since midway through the 2008 season is, unambiguously, one of the game's nicest people. He's funny, smart, candid -- and the wrong man for this job. The Mets need an ass-kicker; someone to come in on the first day of spring training, as Davey Johnson did in 1984, and say, "You're either with us, or you're out of here."

• The roster: Put simply, the Mets' roster doesn't work. Jose Reyes is one of the best shortstops in baseball, and David Wright can say the same at third. When healthy, Carlos Beltran is an elite center fielder. Ike Davis looks excellent at first base. Angel Pagan makes a superb fourth outfielder. Johan Santana still throws nasty stuff and, uh.... That's about it. Save for Wright, the middle of the lineup is a wasteland. Castillo, once an All-Star with the Marlins, might be the least-motivated ballplayer in America. Maine hasn't contributed anything good in 2 1/2 years. Perez is a head case. Jon Niese reminds one of Joe Price.

Without question, New York has yet to recover from the back-to-back choke years of 2007 and 2008. Those dual collapses, in which the Mets coughed up multi-game NL East leads in the final weeks of the season, continue to weigh on the franchise like a waterlogged life jacket, and if there is a solution, it is this: Clean house.

Fire Minaya and replace him with someone who can handle the New York spotlight. Fire Manuel and bring in a replacement with heart (Bobby Valentine); with passion (Bobby Valentine); with the ability to guide the Mets to a World Series with Jay Payton and Benny Agbayani holding down outfield spots (Bobby Valentine).

Most important, get excited.

Really excited!

Opening day 2011 is less than eight months away.