Brodie Van Wagenen is not only dealing with Noah Syndergaard, the hot stove of the Mets is starting to rise to over 200 degrees; there is the perpetual ghost of Nolan Ryan who haunts all phone calls and text messages. It does not just hit the tires of Robinson Cano; there is the eternal specter of Carlos Baerga and Robbie Alomar hiding, lingering, strolling.
And, in truth, he does not only represent Brodie Van Wagenen.
He fights the ghost of Bob Scheffing. Or at least, the words of Bob Scheffing on Friday, December 10, 1971, the day after the end of the winter meetings in Phoenix, after GM's pursuit of a big hitter – Nate Colbert, Lee May Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Richie Allen – everything worked for nothing, and instead, in what Scheffing insisted was a stroke of patience and genius, he had landed the biggest fish possible: Jim Fregosi.
All for the low low price of Frank Estrada, Don Rose and Leroy Stanton.
And – oh yeah – a blistered pitcher. Lynn Ryan Jr.
I went by his middle name. Nolan.
"I do not do transactions for the sole purpose of doing them," Scheffing said defiantly. "I would not give up more than I had."
(We'll have a break here, in a moment, so that the laughter trail disappears.)
"I could not see what these clubs were asking these other players. If we give up the people they asked, we would be worse off than when we started. "
(Laugh, cry, throw the newspaper across the room, take all the time you need.)
Yes. That's what Brodie Van Wagenen has to face. For nearly 47 years, every time the Mets think about a business, the people who are most interested in it want to instinctively find a fallout shelter or other safe place until the conversation is over. It is the thickness of the scar tissue. That's why fans of the Mets now linger in a legal vacuum, waiting to see what the new guy is doing, hoping for the best.
And in the meantime …
Well, put it this way. Van Wagenen's boss, Jeff Wilpon, said something incredibly stupid a few weeks ago when the topic was raised about Syndergaard, and asked if the Mets were serious about dealing with it. Wilpon said, "If [Van Wagenen] think the performance is out of proportion to the value of Noah, so I guess he will propose it and we will go ahead. … It should be rather unbalanced.
You can not say that kind of thing as a baseball man. You can not. You look like a dupe, you look like a cube, it's totally unworthy of a leader, let alone an owner.
Of course, as a fan, it's exactly what you hope for. You want one of those classic Red Auerbach crafts, where you end up with three Hall of Famers for a Dutch Masters cigar box and two folding chairs. You want Lou Brock-for-Ernie Broglio. You want Frank Robinson-for-Milt Pappas. You want Keith Hernandez-for-Neil Allen-and-Rick Ownbey (you see, this has not always been a one-way road to Flushing).
You want a mulligan on Jim Fregosi (who hit .233 with five homers and 43 RBIs in 146 games) for Nolan Ryan (who, after leaving the Mets, won 295 games, retired 5,221 hitters, lost 3, 15 ERA and launched seven non-hitters).
That's why there is so much more to do on Syndergaard for Van Wagenen, more than he could have known if he had not consulted Howie Rose or Gary Cohen, unofficial (but undisputed) historians. of the team. This is why the proposed pieces and the parameters of the so-called agreement with Cano have been studied and examined more closely by the Mets fans than by the Pentagon Papers.
Every transaction in sport has a risk factor. But when you're GM, there's Ryan-for-Fregosi at the record. There is Amos Otis-for-Joe Foy. There is Lenny Dykstra for Juan Samuel and Kevin Mitchell for Kevin McReynolds and Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. And Tom Seaver. There are crusts here. Cynicism is inflexible. You must be right.
And you must not be unbalanced to be right. When the Mets exchanged their title against Gary Carter (13 years to the day after Ryan-for-Fregosi), they abandoned Hubie Brooks (an All-Star twice after leaving the team). Productive years with the Mets and was a popular kid of the country) and Herm Winningham (who was as appreciated as any potential customer of the Mets), and two others for what was, in essence, only a good three years. Carter, who was just as old and worn out at 31 in 1985 as Cano, is now 36, probably a lot more.
Of course, without Carter, the Mets do not win the series 86, so we remember the transaction. This really benefited both teams, which trades are supposed to do. Unless you are a fan of Mets who remembers only those who did not work. And now sits on the jury of Brodie Van Wagenen.