The stains on this Mets season are so ingrained that even bleach wouldn't wipe them away - not that anyone is advocating that. The point is, the troubles of 2010 call to mind 1993, which was marked by Bret Saberhagen spraying bleach at reporters and Vince Coleman tossing a powerful firecracker at spectators.
But the legal issues involving current Met Francisco Rodriguez have not proven as combustible for management as those of Coleman back then. In 1993, Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon said, decisively, at a news conference, "I can tell you, he will not play here again - as a Met."
Wilpon, who kept that vow, was at Citi Field Sunday for the Mets-Phillies game, but he no longer is the spokesman for the franchise. And he definitely wasn't talking about Rodriguez. When he was approached by reporters as he left the area that houses the manager's office and coaches' room, he declined to stop and speak. As he kept walking, he said, "Got to go to the University of Michigan."
No, he wasn't humming "Hail to the Victors" on his way to orientation at Ann Arbor. He was heading to a function he was hosting at the ballpark for his alma mater's New York-area incoming freshman. Still, his presence and silence were jarring reminders of another troubled summer 17 years ago, when Los Angeles police charged Coleman with a felony for tossing an explosive - compared to a quarter of a stick of dynamite - following a game at Dodger Stadium. A 2-year-old girl was injured. He ultimately served 200 hours of community service.
Rodriguez was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly throwing punches at his fiancee's father after a game. He pitched Saturday night, having spent Wednesday night in custody at the park and served a team-imposed two-game suspension.
Circumstances are different involving the players in the two eras. Coleman was an unproductive outfielder whose salary that season was $2.3 million. K-Rod is the team's closer, making more than $12.1 million. The most official rebuke was a statement Thursday from Wilpon's son Jeff, the club's chief operating officer, saying: "Ownership and the organization are very disappointed in Francisco's inappropriate behavior and we take this matter very seriously."
Many people booed K-Rod when he entered Saturday. Judging from comments on websites and radio shows, Mets fans are hungering for an impassioned response like the one Fred Wilpon had in 1993. Back then, he said, of Coleman, "This man, even though he might have good statistics next year, we don't want him to play for us."
And, 17 years ago, the principal owner added, "We are not only in last place in the standings, we're last in conduct off the field."