The delusions of James Dolan and Fred Wilpon seem to be growing by the day. While never known for sharp, intelligent, quick decision-making or level-headed analysis of what is going right and how to fix what is wrong with their organizations, Dolan and Wilpon must be going senile. That's the only explanation for their actions and comments of the last few weeks. The Isiah Thomas fiasco (is there any other word to use when referring to Thomas) was a kick in the gut to Knick fans everywhere - and all New Yorkers really - and Wilpon's vote of confidence for Omar Minaya followed by the Frankie Rodriguez fists of fury incident where Met ownership hid behind a short statement tepidly condemning the episode should be the last straws for these two boneheaded owners. Oh, to live in a world where Dolan and Wilpon never dipped their toes in the pool of sports ownership.
Ever since both men have taken over controlling interests of their teams - Dolan in 1999, Wilpon in 2002 (he bought a one-percent stake in the Mets in 1980, went halves with Nelson Doubleday in 1986 and eventually bought out his partner), their franchises have been nothing short of a laughingstock. Hiring the wrong people, public relations and communication nightmares, sexual harassment suits, players being arrested, unwavering loyalty to undeserving employees, media paranoia, horribly bad contracts - Dolan and Wilpon have a lot in common (though Wilpon actually seems like a nice man, as opposed to the surly, petty guy who runs the Garden). Knick, Ranger and Met fans are some of the most loyal groups of fans in the country, and it's as if both men are doing everything in their power to drive them away.
James Dolan was handed the keys to the kingdom by his dear old dad, and what has he done while controlling two of the most storied (though maybe not successful) franchises in the NBA and NHL? Run them into the ground. He not only hired Isiah Thomas, who has failed at everything he's done and everywhere he's gone (with the exception of playing the game of basketball), once but tried to do it again, while breaking all sorts of league rules to do so. And he once unceremoniously fired Marv Albert, arguably the greatest voice in the history of the NBA (not to mention the NHL). That right there is about all you need to know about the man, who hides from the media himself. Thomas' decision-making while running the Knicks was enough of a fireable offense many times over, but when throwing the Anucha Browne-Sanders sexual harassment suit into the mix, it was banish to Siberia time. But Dolan kept him on as long as humanly possible. How many millions of dollars was Thomas going to flush down the drain - Larry Brown's contract, Browne-Sanders' suit - not to mention bringing in guys like Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry. Yet, Thomas was actually given a contract extension at one point for having the Knicks in playoff contention for about three days. Meanwhile, the Rangers went almost a decade without a playoff appearance, and while not a total disaster, they're stuck in a cycle of mediocrity, with Glen Sather appearing to have been given tenure. It was only the implementation of the salary cap that's saved the Rangers from themselves.
Over in Queens, the Mets, almost a decade into the Fred Wilpon era, have been an embarrassment, with one humiliating lowlight after another, the 2006 division title notwithstanding. We were blessed with Art Howe lighting up a room, two years of Mo Vaughn eating his way through New York City and finger pointing over who was responsible for trading Scott Kazmir. I don't even want to mention Rey Sanchez's haircut. Remember when the Yankees were the biggest circus in town? The Mets have taken over in that area, but they don't even add winning to the recipe of craziness. There is not now nor has there ever been any accountability when it comes to the world of the Mets. Sure, they can do the easy thing and fire a Tony Bernazard, but they even turned that into another time bomb with Omar Minaya's infamous press conference. The latest episode of incompetence involving K-Rod last week saw ownership nowhere to be found, with only a two-game, slap-on-the-wrist suspension for the angry closer (apparently they wanted to make it longer but their hands were tied by the union, though the Cubs somehow kept Carlos Zambrano away from the team for a month), and once again sending Minaya out with a smattering of "ya knows" mixed with a shtickel of "know what I'm sayin'?" as if K-Rod were arrested for jaywalking.
There are conflicting accounts of what the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme has done to the Wilpon empire (they lost $700 million! No, they made $48 million!), but it doesn't seem like the family will be selling the Mets anytime soon. And now with the second generation firmly in place, is there any hope at all? Fred is on record as saying his son is doing a good job. What exactly are his bullet points of success? Season-ending collapses? Fourth-place finishes? Luis Castillo's and Oliver Perez's contracts? Jerry Manuel's crazy managerial techniques? The well-thought-out plan of plugging holes with disparate and uncomplimentary pieces to the roster? Fights in the team's "family room"? When the highly entertaining Hank Steinbrenner took over the Yankees, the family quickly realized he was a little too highly entertaining and made him disappear, with the competent, intelligent Hal taking over. The Giants even have a capable, able son in young Mr. Mara. So why do Met fans get stuck with Jeff? Aren't there any other Wilpon offspring to turn to? Isn't there a Michael or even a hot-headed Sonny? Why do we end up with Fredo?
David Stern once said of James Dolan's Knicks, "They're not a model of intelligent management." That's probably the understatement of the world. That sentiment could also be applied to the Rangers and Mets. Donnie Walsh was furious when he found out about the latest Thomas hiring, and almost quit. If the league didn't nullify the contract, what would things have been like at the Garden? Would there have to have been tape put up to divide the World's Greatest Arena, a la the Brady Bunch, separating Thomas and Walsh? Is that the kind of atmosphere Dolan wants to foster? Apparently, the answer is yes.
The Knicks haven't made the playoffs since 2004, and haven't had a winning season since 2001. The Mets have the knack for turning every little adventure into the apocalypse while ignoring or downplaying the big ones. And the Rangers are stuck in neutral with Sather inexplicably signed on for life. Unfortunately, the men who gave us Stephon Marbury, Isiah Thomas, Wade Redden, Oliver Perez, and on and on are going nowhere. Every fan in New York would give their first-born to send James Dolan and Fred Wilpon packing, but we'll most likely have to have our children or grandchildren enjoy that day. For if Dolan and Wilpon were employees, the only two people in the world who wouldn't fire them for what they've done to their franchises are James Dolan and Fred Wilpon.
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