Thursday, December 2, 2010

The End of the Beginning

As I (intermittently) listened to New York State Governor David A. Paterson co-host Mike Francesa's afternoon show yesterday on sports radio station WFAN, I was reminded of a statement by Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Second World War.  After the Allied Forces victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein, Churchill said, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." (R.D. Laing was fifteen at the time, and Scottish as well, so probably no influence on this formulation.)

Paterson, who took over when Eliot "Client 9" Spitzer resigned as governor, has been self-destructing since his first full day on the job, when he revealed both he and his wife have had extra-marital affairs.  Paterson's greatest misstep was the bungled appointment of a replacement for Senator Hillary Clinton, a job it is widely believed was promised him when he joined Spitzer's ticket as lieutenant governor.  He was also investigated for contacting a domestic violence victim who filed a complaint against a top aide.  His acceptance of free Yankees tickets was investigated as well.  During the domestic violence incident he announced he would not run for re-election and now leaves office at the end of the month.

Paterson has not decided what he will do next.  Having said in the past that he would consider hosting a radio program, there was conjecture his appearance on the "Mike'd Up" show was an audition.  After an interview with someone from the St. John's University basketball program, Francesa commented, "Governor, you were well prepared."  From what I heard, he seemed quite knowledgeable about several sports.  Paterson said he was "talking to a few schools" about teaching jobs.  So, is this the end? -the end of the end? -or the end of the beginning?

I initially became interested in Governor Paterson as sports commentator when he was a guest of Tony Paige, also on WFAN, in mid-May.  Paterson predicted the Mets would have a .500 season in 2010 and they ended 79-83, close enough.  The team was 53-53 at the beginning of August, when I posted an update.  Ignore the hat above; Paterson is a Mets fan and on air he presented his bona fides, including attendance at the team's first game ever.  What I really wanted to hear was the governor's thoughts on the Mets.

Every Mets fan knows the 2010 starting rotation was ineffective, a situation made worse by the loss of Johan Santana for much or all of next year.  Paterson said the team needs to acquire two quality pitchers, maybe a closer, maybe an eighth inning set-up man.  I think Francisco Rodriguez, whose season ended embarrassingly, will be the closer next year given the amount of money owed him in the final year of his contract.  But the Mets released Hisanori Takahashi* and probably lost Pedro Feliciano (92 games, 3.30) to free agency, so the team does need relief pitching.  In a conversation with New York Times reporter Vincent M. Mallozzi in mid-November, Paterson said, "I don’t understand why Takahashi wasn’t in that mix."

Paterson also questioned the "chemistry" of SS Jose Reyes, 3B David Wright and CF Carlos Beltran, saying they are "not a winning core" and "do not get key hits."  He said it is time to "shuffle the deck," although it was unclear exactly what he meant by that.  As an aside, he said the team is not going to trade Wright.  When he spoke with Mallozzi, Paterson suggested making Angel Pagan the starting center fielder and moving Beltran to one of the corners.  I think that is as far as the team can move Beltran, since he spent most of last year on the disabled list and will have a large salary in 2011. "What I’m looking for is a fundamentally sound team," Paterson told Mallozzi. "The Mets lost a lot of games on errors, base-running mistakes and mental lapses as much as lack of talent in the past couple of years. Now I want to see competitive baseball."

Governor Paterson comes out of Harlem Democratic party clubhouse politics—his father was once New York State Secretary of State—so I don't want to go overboard about his integrity, although I will miss the straight-talk his lame duck status afforded him.  I will also miss an elected official who doesn't just put on a baseball cap for a photo op', but can actually talk about the game.  As far as it goes on Baseball Byways, however, this is probably really the end.

* The day after the above post, the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles signed Takahashi to a two year deal for $8 million, according to  Noting his versatility and success—Takahashi went 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 53 games, 12 as a starter, and converted all eight of his save opportunities—Richard Near said on his Saturday morning show on WFAN, "The Mets lost a very, very nice player and that is not an auspicious start for [new general manager] Sandy Alderson."  The Mets have said they were not re-signing Takahashi because he was insisting on a three year contract as a starter.  The Angels have said Takahashi will pitch in relief, so I guess the Mets got it wrong on both counts.

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