If the New York Mets did not fire Willie Randolph all over again late Tuesday night, they did remind everyone why Randolph's executioner, Omar Minaya, ultimately met the same fate.
The moment Minaya agreed to pay Francisco Rodriguez $17.5 million for 2012 on the condition that Rodriguez finish at least 55 games in 2011 was the moment K-Rod was assured of finishing his contract and career on someone else's dime.
So Sandy Alderson did the right thing, the only sensible thing, when he traded Rodriguez and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players to be named later. The Mets need to slash tens of millions in payroll and find a way to offer Jose Reyes a nine-figure deal, a proposition that appears doable only when applying Bernie Madoff's math.
As a luxury Madoff's old friend, Fred Wilpon, could no longer afford, Rodriguez had to go. The news arrived after the All-Star Game in Arizona, and no, the Mets aren't the most fundamentally sound franchise in the dead of night.
But compared to Minaya's ill-timed takeout of Randolph out West, announced in a 3:15 a.m. New York time email, the K-Rod deal was confirmed during normal business hours (and yeah, they had to wait for Brian Wilson to get that final out, too).
Rodriguez, the $17.5 million vesting option, and the closer's new agent, Scott Boras -- they're all Milwaukee's problems now. The Brewers' John Axford has 23 saves, the same number K-Rod has posted for the Mets, and Boras should be a joy to deal with when he's officially told his client has been traded from the ninth inning to the eighth.
"Francisco has been one of the best relievers in the game for many years," Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said in a statement. "He is a high-quality arm who will be a tremendous asset to our bullpen as we prepare for the final months of the regular season and playoffs."
Melvin said a few kind things about K-Rod, but never called the closer, you know, a closer.
This time last year, when informed he was country miles ahead of the long-term paces set by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera, Rodriguez spoke hopefully of someday having 700 or more saves to his name. He had already publicly declared that his goal was to finish his career "as either better than [Rivera] or equal to him."
The Mets no longer care about those dreamy goals, or about Milwaukee's likely plan to temper them. Alderson now moves to the second step in his plan to slash between $30 million to $40 million in payroll, while still making a credible $100 million-plus offer to the franchise-maker, Reyes.
In other words, Carlos Beltran's on deck.
The Mets will have to pick up some of what remains of Beltran's $18.5 million tab, but perhaps they can land a useful prospect for Boras' free agent-to-be, a kid who can help the likes of Reyes and Ike Davis in the near future.
Alderson knows the Mets can't make it to the postseason. As much as Terry Collins has distinguished himself in fielding a professional and accountable team, the Mets are 11 games behind the Phillies and 7½ games behind the Braves for the wild card, with four teams to hurdle from here to Atlanta.
The Mets can miss the playoffs without K-Rod and Beltran just as easily as they can miss the playoffs with them. Wilson is already campaigning for Beltran to join him in San Francisco, and if the Giants offer something that might expedite Alderson's timetable for building a real contender to replace the counterfeit one in place, the GM should close the deal and find himself a new right fielder.
Of course, the mere subtractions of K-Rod and Beltran won't be enough to secure Reyes, not with the Madoff mess forcing the Mets GM to play Moneyball like never before. If David Wright proves he's healthy by season's end, Alderson should try to trade the third baseman and the $31 million coming his way over the next two seasons, and then apply the savings to the staggering Reyes investment.
But that's a migraine for another day. Tuesday night was a good night for the Mets, who won a game without taking the field. They had to get rid of Rodriguez, who punched his ticket out of town long before he punched the father of his girlfriend at Citi Field last August, temporarily earning himself a spot in a different kind of pen.
As it turned out, K-Rod guaranteed he'd become an ex-Met in the summer of 2011 when he signed his contract in December of 2008. Today it doesn't matter if Bobby Parnell, Jason Isringhausen, and Pedro Beato aren't good enough to fill the void over the rest of the season.
The Mets are a leaner and better franchise with K-Rod helping Milwaukee reach the very postseason his former team won't reach.