Francisco Rodriguez: The Mets Only Now Realize He's Not a Nice Guy?

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In case you weren't sitting in front of your computer last night at 8:29 p.m. EDT, you might have missed the announcement that the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance against the New York Mets in support of Francisco Rodriguez. The only surprise is that it took the union so long to decide to take action on what is going to be -- take our word for it -- an open-and-shut case.

Briefly put, the Mets placed K-Rod on the disqualified list Tuesday, six days after he punched out the father of his girlfriend -- perhaps "common-law wife" is more appropriate.

In the process, he appears to have injured the thumb in his pitching hand -- K-Rod swears the injury occurred before the incident -- and will now miss the rest of the season recovering from surgery.

The apology police have been out in force demanding some sincere public display of regret. Filip Bondy in Sunday's Daily News was typical. "Soul-searching," Bondy wrote of Rodriguez's brief statement to the press, "was nowhere to be found."

Personally, we could care less about the contents of Francisco Rodriguez's soul, and 58 seconds of sincerity was just fine with us. And, apparently, with Jerry Manuel.

What we want to know is why the Mets are acting in a manner more self-destructive than K-Rod. The team placed him on the disqualified list and are demanding the right to withhold his pay; they are saying that they will exercise a contractual right to convert the remainder of his three-year, $37 million deal to what, in legalese, is referred to as "non-guaranteed." In plain English, they want to dump him and his salary.
It very much looks like their plans are to cut K-Rod at the start of next year's spring training at the cost of nothing more than 30 days termination pay. Why, exactly?

The knowledge that Rodriguez may not be a nice guy is hardly a revelation at this point in his career; are the Mets trying to make K-Rod a scapegoat for a disappointing season? Or are they simply trying to throw a bone to fans, as if to say, "See, we're as upset about this season's debacle as you are?" That, more than likely, and an attempt to save the bulk of what's left of his contract.

But what is the point of that? Where do the Mets think they're going to get a better closer than K-Rod for anything like the same money? Despite some rough patches hits year, Rodriguez has 25 saves in 53 games (just about his career ratio), striking out 67 batters and walking just 21 in 57.1 innings, with an ERA of 2.20 (0.30 lower than his career number).

While the Wilpons make a big public show of nodding in the direction of the fans and saying, "See, we're doing this for you. We don't expect you to tolerate this kind of behavior," they're also shortchanging the fans by trying to save money on a player's contract in a season where they don't figure to win anything anyway.

In any event, this ploy isn't likely to work. Judging by the standards of past decisions, it would seem that Union leader Michael Weiner was correct in his e-mail to the Associated Press on Tuesday when he said that the Mets actions were "without basis." A hearing date has not been set, but the decision will be made by a neutral arbitrator, Shayam Das, who was previously agreed on by both MLB and the Players Association.

There is no history of a team taking such action which Das could base his decision on, and we'll give odds that in a face-to-face meeting with Das, the Mets, union representatives, Rodriguez and his agent, some sort of deal will be cut in which K-Rod would be released. He would thus become a free agent , giving him a clear shot at making a new deal before next season. This will leave the Wilpons and a substantial portion of the press satisfied, but Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya frustrated as they scramble to find a replacement.


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