Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon said he believes the franchise is headed in the right direction and that general manager Sandy Alderson is on course to improve the team.
The Mets had a record of 25-39, 13 games behind the division-leading Braves, before starting a five-game series Monday night in Atlanta.
"We're coming to the end of the time when we have had an overhang of players who got hurt or didn't play well, and I think that Sandy Alderson and his staff have a plan," Wilpon said Monday during an interview with Newsday about the July 16 All-Star Game at Citi Field. "I know some people are impatient about it. But they do have a plan and they're executing on their plan and I think things are in the right direction. It's hard to say that when the team loses four, five in a row.
"I get it, I suffer with it. I think that we have to see that plan become successful because in today's world, it's not how much money you spend -- although we have invested a lot of money. Some of it has been wasted because right now we have a [$102.2 million] payroll and 50 percent of the payroll is not playing."
Wilpon, 76, was largely referring to the injuries of former ace Johan Santana, who is owed $31 million, closer Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and reliever Scott Atchison ($700,000). Atchison is close to returning. The Mets paid a lump sum and deferred some of the $21 million due outfielder Jason Bay when he agreed to have his contract terminated last November.
"That's a shame," Wilpon said. "It might be very different if they were [available]. But that's part of life, you have to go on and see how you can address that, and I think as an organization, we're addressing those needs.
"Hopefully, the young people, with veterans, and with great players that [Alderson] may be able to acquire to fill with the young people and veterans, turnarounds sometimes come a lot faster if the fundamental issues have been addressed. Not just dreaming a turnaround is going to happen, but if the fundamental issues have been addressed, then there's a good possibility turnarounds can occur faster than people think."
Wilpon said he wants the turnaround to happen with the right type of players.
"I found that character, good character, does help," he said. "People say, 'What do you care about a ballplayer's character?' Let me tell you something, it's indicative sometimes of their honesty to perform at their best level. That kind of character that David Wright has and Derek Jeter, I think it's meaningful."
Sunday was a good day to be a Mets fan, especially for Wilpon. He was at a wedding when word quickly spread that Kirk Nieuwenhuis had completed a four-run rally against the Cubs in the ninth with a walk-off, three-run homer.
"I didn't want to be taking my iPhone out every 10 minutes, I didn't know until the game was over," Wilpon said. "Everybody else at the wedding reminded me that we won the game. He's a nice kid. You just hope that these kids could do well. We have a bunch of really nice kids. [But] that's not what they're measured by, right?"
Wilpon was referring to the bottom line, winning games, and the Mets' problems doing that in the first half of the season. He said he appreciates the fans' expectations -- and shares them.
"This franchise is a very big part of our family," Wilpon said. "We are as passionate as any fan out there to want to do well. We can't always pick the players, obviously. Sometimes we've done very well, people who have represented us have done very well. Sometimes they haven't.
"I've been around a very long time. I do get it. I try these days to have two faces of the organization and they're not mine or [son] Jeff's. They're really good representatives -- Sandy and Terry [Collins] are really good people."