Blood dripped from Zombie Frank Cashen’s chin.  He sat across from Fred Wilpon, sole owner of the New York Mets since 2002, who squirmed uncomfortably in his chair behind a large, dark brown desk spattered with crimson droplets.

“Argghh,” growled Zombie Frank Cashen (which translated to “Do it now”).  He nodded at the desk.

“OK,” Fred peeped.  He picked up the phone and dialed ESPN. 

“Hello, Mike? It’s Fred Wilpon…Yes…We let Omar and Jerry go…Yes…We’re in the market for a GM and a manager…No, we have no one in mind as yet…OK, I will…Bye.”  He slowly hung up, keeping his eyes on Frank.  “Um…is there anything else, uh, I can do for you…Frank?”

“Brrraaaaiiiinns!”  Cashen licked his fingers after downing the last bits of Omar Minaya’s cerebellum.  He hiccuped and belched and licked his chops. “Grrrrrrrr. (Let me tell you a story.)”  He stared at Fred.

“Arrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhh!  Errrrrrmmmm, gaaaarrrrr!…(The Mets were once on top of the world here in New York.  Back in the mid-80s, they were the toast of the town, and I was the architect of those teams.  In the late ’70s, especially after the Yankees won it in ’77 and ’78, no one would have believed that the Mets would own the city for the next decade.  Do you remember the Mets won more games in the 1980s than any other team in baseball?)

“(It was a mess, just a mess, before I got here—the laughingstock of the city, I tell you—1977, 1978, 1979.  Last place three years in a row.  Doug Flynn?  Craig Swan?  John Stearns?  Willie Montanez??  Elliott Maddox??  Bruce Boisclair???…Joe Torre????!!  They traded the franchise, Tom Seaver, in ‘77, for Pete’s sake.  Then they lost countless games.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Well, I would have none of it.  And I wouldn’t have taken the job if that fine man Nelson Doubleday hadn’t given me carte blanche to do what needed to be done to turn this organization around.)”

He paused at that, something in his teeth, and used Jerry Manual’s pinky as a toothpick to dislodge the bit, one of those small ear bones.  Then he tossed the pinky back like a french fry.

“Ylllllaaaaaarrrr grrr baaaahhhrrr…(I remember the day Mr. Doubleday called me before the 1980 season, just after his firm purchased the team.  He was a smart and patient enough man to recognize what it was going to take.  I told him straight up…a championship team wasn’t built overnight and that it would take four or five years to turn this team into a contender.  And I was right on the money.)

“(It was tough in the beginning.  Those first four years, 1980 to1983, we finished next to last twice and then last twice.  It looked like we were going backwards.  But don’t let that fool you—1980 was the beginning of something big.  From that season on there was a different feel.  We were rebuilding—out with the old, in with the new.  We put a new face on the team even as we lost, and we began to put the pieces together.  One of the first things I did was sign Darryl Strawberry right out of Crenshaw High School in LA.  We drafted him with the first pick of the draft in 1980.  We signed Kevin Mitchell as an amateur free agent back then, believe it or not, and brought Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman and Hubie Brooks up from the minors that first year, too.)

“(And we didn’t stop there.  In ’81, we drafted this fiery kid from California, Lenny Dykstra, out of Garden Grove High.  To shore up the bullpen, we promoted Jesse Orosco from the minors for good and began developing him into a premier reliever.  We originally acquired Orosco in a trade with the Twins, for Jerry Koosman.  Then, in 1982, we hit the national stage, signing that curmudgeon George Foster.)

“(But that wasn’t all.  That was the year we made our greatest stride in building a strong, dependable pitching staff.  To the chagrin of many fans, we traded long-time Met favorite Lee Mazzilli to the Texas Rangers for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell—one of my best moves, by the way, which would pay further dividends later on.  We also drafted Roger McDowell out of Bowling Green State University in Ohio and signed this fire-throwing phenom, Dwight Gooden, with the fifth pick in the first round out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida.  Yeah, ’82 was a good year.  But I wasn’t done, not by a long shot.)

“(We had all these kids in our farm system and young players on the field. What we needed was some veteran, experienced leadership between the lines, so I snagged clutch Keith Hernandez from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals in ’83.  And I continued to focus on pitching, drafting Rick Aguilera out of Brigham Young University, and trading for Sid Fernandez from the LA Dodgers.  We brought up Darryl that season, too, and wouldn’t you know it, he won Rookie of the Year.)

“(But still, with all of those moves and all of that nascent talent, we came in last again, so clearly there needed to be a shakeup at the top.  So we handed that awful skipper George Bamberger a pink slip, and then did the same at the end of the season to his interim backup, the oafish 6’7’’ Frank Howard.  I brought in my old friend from Baltimore, Davey Johnson, to manage the team in 1984.  We also picked up Rafael Santana after he was released by the Cardinals, and in one of my personal favorite trades, got Ray Knight from the Houston Astros in August of that year.  He would later be the MVP of the 1986 World Series, you may recall.  Oh, one more thing, how could I forget, we brought Doc up from the minors in ’84, too, and wouldn’t you know it, he won 17 games and Rookie of the Year, too.  And with that, we had our first winning season in eight years.)”  He leaned forward and with a bloody paw clutched a rectangular wooden box on Wilpon’s desk.  “Arrf? (May I?)”

“Why, yes, yes…by all means,” sputtered Fred.

Zombie Frank Cashen opened the box and took out a Cohiba, lit it with Fred’s Mr. Met lighter and sat comfortably back in the plush leather chair, crossing his legs.  He pulled a long time on the stogie, then tilted his head back and slowly exhaled, savoring the memory.

“Mmmmgrrrrr (Ah, yes.  We won 90 games that year, most since 1969.  We came in second to the Chicago Cubs, but we turned the corner for good.  As a team and an organization, we felt we were very close to winning it all.  There was one glaring flaw left.  Weak-hitting Mike Fitzgerald was our catcher, and not only was he a liability in the lineup, but I was concerned we needed someone more skilled to develop our young pitching staff.  So, following the 1984 season, I shipped off Hubie and three others to the Expos for All-Star catcher Gary Carter.  Oh, baby.  I remember his first game as a Met:  He launched a home run in the bottom of the 10th against the Cardinals to win the game, 6-5.  The Cardinals would have the last laugh that year, though, and go on to the World Series.  But we won 98 games in 1985 and could taste a championship.)  Glllllggghh?”

There was a knock at the door that startled both Zombie Frank Cashen, who craned his head around to see, and Wilpon, who briefly sprung from his seat like a cat only to plop right down.

“Fred, It’s Hojo,” came the voice from the other side of the door.

“Um…uh, it’s not a good time…I…uh…think you should come back,” rushed Fred.

Just then, Zombie Frank Cashen rose from his chair and shuffled over to the door.  He didn’t bother opening it; he crashed his arms though the wood to grab hold of Howard Johnson and pull him in through the opening.  Wilpon turned his head away and curled up in his seat frozen, unable to watch.

A few minutes later, Cashen returned to his seat, still enjoying the Howard Johnson ribs special.  He licked his fingers and continued.

“Arrr Glll—burp—Quaaaaahhhhrrrr! … (Ah, yes, I almost forgot, before the ’85 season we traded Walt Terrell (from the Mazzilli trade) for Howard Johnson.  Hojo was a good player.  I was fond of him, but a batting coach, he is not.  I’m sorry, Fred; he had to go.  Now, where was I…oh, yes…we won 98 games in 1985, but still didn’t make the playoffs.  There was only one thing to do—I heeded the old mantra that pitching wins championships and went out and got an arm to cinch up the best staff on opening day in 1986.  I traded Calvin Schiraldi and some no-names to the Boston Red Sox for Bob Ojeda.  Another steal.  And, to round it all out, I added utility infielder and pinch-hitter Tim Teufel from the Twins.  Lastly, for good karma, we picked up Lee Mazzilli in the middle of the ’86 season when he was released by the Pirates.  He took the place of George Foster, who we released in August.)

“(That was it.  The team was complete.  And in 1986, thanks to all those moves and a few others—the best pitching staff in the league, a clutch, powerful lineup, genius management, a never-say-die attitude and a character equal to none—we won it all.  I was the architect of that team, with the help of others of course, and it was the proudest moment of my life.)”

“Why, that’s marvelous, Frank.  So, well, why are you so angry?  I mean, that’s fantastic.  Is there anything I can do?” served Fred.

Zombie Frank Cashen looked down at the floor and fingered his skewed bowtie. “Wwwwuuurrrrr (It did not last, and it was expected to.  We were supposed to be a dynasty with all of that talent, but we still felt we needed to get a little better.  Perhaps we got so used to not resting on our laurels that we couldn’t rest on our laurels.  I don’t know.  We thought after the 1986 season, could this team catch lightning in a bottle twice?  We at least needed more pop in the outfield, so we traded future MVP Kevin Mitchell and a few others for dud Kevin McReynolds.  When we missed the playoffs in 1987 and were bounced out in the first round to the Dodgers the following year, we felt we had to do more.  So we broke up the team.)

“(Mind you, it wasn’t just that.  This was a rowdy bunch, addicted to a certain lifestyle, maybe an accident waiting to happen.  We weren’t 100 percent sure their main focus was winning anymore.  I’m ashamed to tell you what happened next, but I must purge myself.  So, beginning in 1987, we started to dismantle the team.  We let the very heart and soul of the Mets championship team go…and like a deal with the devil, got nothing in return.)

“(We dealt Jesse Orosco before the 1988 season in an elaborate three-team trade that got us the talents of Jack Savage, Kevin Tapani and Wally Whitehurst.  After the ’88 season, we traded Wally Backman to the Minnesota Twins for Jeff Bumgarner and two other ne’er-do-wells.  In the middle of 1989, we traded Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to the Philadelphia Phillies for bust Juan Samuel.  Finally, after a couple of platooning seasons, we did not re-sign either Keith Hernandez or Gary Carter following the ’89 season, opting to go with Dave Magadan at first and Barry Lyons behind the plate.)

“(And if I was hated that time I let Mazzilli go back before ‘86, then I was downright reviled at the conclusion of this poor wheeling and dealing. The Mets never achieved such heights again.  I was blamed by the media and by the fans, and deserve some of that blame.)”

Zombie Frank Cashen stood up again, cigar in hand, and pensively walked over to the oak wet bar. Fred eyed him diligently.  Frank poured himself a cognac and stood with his back to Fred, looked up and took in the portrait of the ’86 team that hung above the bottles.  “(It will be 25 years this season since the Mets have won the World Series and my soul will not rest until they win another.  I am here today to change how things are, to redeem myself…and to demand changes in this organization that are long overdue.)”

At that moment, Fred managed the courage to leap from his chair and make a run for it, slipping through the hole in the door.

“ARRRRRGGGH!”  Zombie Frank Cashen shrieked and dropped his glass to the floor, where it shattered.  He chased, crashing through the splintered remnants of the door, and turned left down the hall in waddled pursuit, Fred just in his eyesight.  Frank shouted after him.

“ARRRRRGGGH!  (This team has been so bad for a decade!  I can’t take it anymore!  Big changes are needed in every department from the top to the groundskeeping, even!  I have to take off both shoes and socks to count all the things wrong with this franchise!  Finally, we’re rid of those numbskulls Minaya and Manuel and Johnson…)”

“Hey!  What’s going on out here?” yelled Dan Warthen (who?) as he exited a side office.

“ARRRRRGGGH!”  Zombie Frank Cashen turned on him and bit the arm of the former pitcher, then engorged himself on Warthen and his 12-21 career record.  “(…and you’ll need a new pitching coach, too!)”

Fred scooted right at the end of the hall.  Frank shouted after him, “(But that’s not all.  This Mets team is completely devoid of any guts.  They’re heartless.  Where is the fire in this team’s belly, like in the 80’s or even under Bobby Valentine a decade ago?!  They seem to play only six innings, then coast whether they’re winning or losing.  How come they never score any runs for Johann Santana?!  A bunch of bores collecting paychecks!  The Mets need a manager who will breathe some life into these bad news bears, kick up some dirt and cause a scene—not a corporate, unemotional wonk.  I want to see the Mets skipper get in some umpires’ faces, too!  Let’s brush back some opponents and get into a scuffle or two.  It’s not like we have to worry about anyone getting hurt—they get hurt anyway!)

“(Yeah! What kind of a medical staff are you employing here?  Is it run by Freddy Kruger or something? It’s as if this team has been at the World War II front for the past couple of years, collecting a seemingly unprecedented number of injuries.  We have players, like multimillion-dollar Carlos Beltran, on the lam from our doctors, for goodness sake!  With doctors like these, who needs illnesses?)

“(And that’s not all.  Enough of this horrible, sloppy play!  They need a manager who ingrains the fundamentals into them.  For years now, they’ve been too good to take part in standard drills—and it shows, as they make mistake after mistake on the basepaths and in the field.  No one knows how to bunt or steal third…they get thrown out at the plate and miss the cutoff man…how about legging out a hit in case the ball is bobbled?  Yes, it’s THAT bad.  They look like minor leaguers out there, on a good day.)

“(They don’t play like winners at all.  Look across the river at the Yankees, who set out every year to win a World Series, and believe they can do it.  The Mets are mum on championship goals.  The Yankees are connected strongly to their championship past and their stadium displays it proudly in larger-than-life tributes.  The Mets, on the other hand, seem shy of their history—and only after a fan outcry was Citi Field adorned with more historical tapestry.  The Mets should look at their past with pride and feed off it—use it to connect them to winning; it should be festooned all about the clubhouse and the ballpark.  If you ask me, there still isn’t enough Mets history pinned on the walls yet.  Shameful!)”

Wilpon exited the hall into a fire stairwell and the heavy door slammed behind him.  Zombie Frank Cashen caught up, opened the door and followed Fred, who was flying down the stairs as fleetly as his spindly legs could take him.  The door clanged shut and Cashen’s snarls echoed loudly off the walls.

“GGGGRRRRAAAAAHHH!  (Where is the leadership on the field?  None of these guys could hold Keith Hernandez’s…well, you know.  David Wright has failed to be a leader and his play has been just as mediocre.  And the same for Reyes!  Who are these guys behind the plate?  Will somebody get John Maine some Quaaludes, please?  OK.  OK.  There are some bright spots, I admit—like Ike Davis and John Niese, R.A. Dickey and Angel Pagan.  But this is New York City, for God’s sake, and a couple of glimmers don’t make a shine.  I wouldn’t say there is a single Met who is untradeable right now!!  No one is safe!)”

At this, Zombie Frank Cashen’s blood pressure swelled his head a bright red and his eye popped out.  He continued descending after the winded Wilpon, eyeball hanging in a claw of tendons.

“(And how could you let these ridiculous contracts get by you, you…you!  Fifty-two million dollars for Pedro Martinez?  Thirty-six million dollars for Oliver Perez?  Carlos Delgado’s option?  Luis Castillo? Who was the putz who signed Putz?  Even Beltran and K-Rod.  Yuck.  Santana’s contract is beginning to look like an albatross, too.  I’m not even going to mention Mo Vaughn…and Bobby Bonilla, who the Mets are still paying and will continue to pay until—get this—the year 2035!)”

Wilpon, out of breath, exited onto the basement floor, again slamming the door behind him.  He tried a few doors, finally finding the janitor’s closet and barricaded himself inside.  He heard the muffled sound of Zombie Frank Cashen’s feet and bellows.

“ARRRRRRGGGGHH!  (And why did the Mets not sign any good free-agent pitching in the last two years…because Mike Pelfrey, our second-best pitcher, is on the verge of winning a Cy Young?  What about Halladay and Lee?!  Or even Beckett, or Lackey, or Pettitte, Garland or Marquis!  Any of those guys would have been good…)”

Wilpon heard the stairwell door close and hid behind a mop in the dark, watching the light under the door.  He quietly fumbled for his phone and dialed security.  A shadow paused in the light.

Zombie Frank Cashen leaned into the door. “Hrrrrsssss (…is it because you have no more money left?  Don’t get me wrong, I love the stadium…that was a must, but it did cost you.  And that’s on top of that whole Madoff mess.  First it’s reported you lost $700 million in those dealings, then some time later, you come back and say you actually made a small profit.  I don’t know what to believe, but the tightened purse strings are quite evident!  Open your wallet or take the time to strategically build a team the right way!!  I can be happy with either!)”  He began to pound on the door with both forearms.


“Hey Steve.  It’s Fred.  Fred Wilpon.  Listen, this is an emergency…You have to believe me…Frank Cashen has risen from the dead and is a Zombie.  He’s stalking me!!  Hurry!  He’s already eaten Omar and Jerry…and oh, dear me…I’m in the basement…Hurry!”

“Ha ha.  Oh stop, Fred.  Zombie?  That’s impossible…”

“No!  No!  I mean it, here listen….”  Fred reached out and put the cell as close to the door as he could.  Frank pounded.

“ARRRRGGGHH GAAARRRH!! (Why did you sign Jason Bay?!!  Why did you sign Jason Bay!!!)”

“See…Steve…he’s a Zombie and he’s coming to get me!”

“Fred.  Calm down.  Frank can’t be a Zombie.”

“What??  What are you talking about?!”

“Frank Cashen is still alive.  I just saw him this afternoon enjoying a rice pudding in the commissary.”


* * * * *

Zombies of the world, unite! We’re not going to take it anymore!  We want a championship team!  At the very least, we want a team that plays like champions, not minor leaguers.

Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins were not my first choices for GM or manager.  Ho-hum.  But even if they were, they would be on trial.

One way or another, Mets fans need to see some results—either in the form of immediate wins, or more likely, a proper rebuilding of a championship team.  If they perform the latter deftly, the brass might be able to buy a little more time from a graciously overpatient fanbase.

Sign up for Mets Weekly Newsletters and updates at Bleacher Report’s Mets’ Site.  I found out about Terry Collins first from Bleacher Report.

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