Since their inception in 1962, the New York Mets have been mostly laughable. They stunned baseball by winning the 1969 World Series and won another in 1986, but most years, the Mets have finished out of the running and have been consigned to being the "other team" in New York.
In 2007 and 2008, they lost out on a playoff berth in the final weekend of the regular season and have not finished over .500 since. They have gone through three managers in the last four seasons.
Yet, in this, their 49th year of existence, the Mets have reached new lows. Where once they were a bad joke on the field - manager Casey Stengel once asked in exasperation: "Can't anyone here play this game?" - the jokes are now about off-field matters.
Fred Wilpon, the team's majority owner, lost hundreds of millions of dollars as part of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme and stands to lose that much or more in a suit filed against him by a trustee for some of Madoff's bilked victims.
Wilpon has denied accusations of fraud, maintaining he was unaware Madoff was doing anything illegal. That leaves those to wonder whether Wilpon was naive or ignorant.
Last week, Wilpon found a partner to buy a share of the Mets and infuse the club with operating capital. But first, Wilpon publicly criticised his three best players: Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Wilpon said Beltran was only 65-70 per cent of the player he once was; said the oft-injured Reyes has had "everything wrong with him," and is sure to get less on the free agent market this winter than he anticipates; and labeled Wright as a good player but not a superstar.
Wilpon may have only been venting his frustration, but his comments hurt his franchise further.
"What did hope to accomplish with that stuff?" asked a baseball executive. "All he did was de-value players [general manager Sandy] Alderson may be looking to deal later this year. He made a bad situation worse."
The Mets had been playing better than expected. But after Wilpon's comments were made public, the Mets skidded to three losses in their next four games.
Wilpon apologized to the players he maligned, but the damage, it seems, has been done.
Players of the week
• Carl Crawford, Boston. For the first six weeks of the season, Crawford was a massive disappointment and was dropped as far as eighth in the batting order. Not any more. Crawford has come alive. For the week, he was 12 for 28 with two doubles, two triples and two home runs.
• Jason Giambi, Colorado. The 40 year old belted five home runs in eight games, including a three-homer game. He is the second-oldest player ever to enjoy such a feat.
Teams of the week
• Baltimore. The Orioles went 5-1 to reach the .500 level. That was only good enough for fourth place in the AL East, but the O’s are showing they can hang in with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
• Milwaukee. The Brewers ripped off six victories in a row. Naturally, they all came at home, where the Brewers have been superb. On the road it is another story – Milwaukee is 9-17 in away games.
Dud of the week
• Jo-Jo Reyes, Toronto. The Blue Jays pitcher has gone 28 straight appearances without a victory, tying a major league record. He has not won a game since June 13, 2008.
Games to watch this week
• Texas at Tampa Bay, Monday-Wednesday. A rematch of last fall’s AL Championship Series, won by the Rangers. This will represent a good test as the schedule hits the one-third mark of the season.
• Florida at Arizona, Monday-Wednesday. The Diamondbacks are one of the game’s biggest surprises, sitting second in the NL West and showing lots of improvement under manager Kirk Gibson.