MIAMI — Alex Rodriguez took his trip to Fantasyland during Sunday night’s ESPN broadcast, but reality called a day later.
Rodriguez said he wished he had followed his heart before the 2001 season and signed with the Mets, instead of accepting a historic $252 million deal with the Rangers. The All-Star shortstop and third baseman cited his love of the Mets and Keith Hernandez as a baseball fan growing up. On Monday, Jim Duquette — the Mets’ assistant general manager at the time — called it “revisionist history” on Rodriguez’s part to believe the Mets were in the realm of possibility for his services.
“[Rodriguez] indicated he was going to accept somewhere over $100 million less to play for the Mets,” Duquette told The Post. “No chance. I don’t believe that for one second.”
The Mets never extended an offer to Rodriguez, according to Duquette. The chatter at the time in the front office was maybe the Mets would go as high as $120 million for Rodriguez. But discussions never really got started after a brief first meeting between then-GM Steve Phillips and Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras.
Afterward, Phillips made his infamous “24-plus-1” comment, referring to any team that signed Rodriguez. Among Rodriguez’s requests, were office space at Shea Stadium and a tent in which the player’s merchandise could be sold.
Ex-Mets GM Steve PhillipsCharles Wenzelberg
“Are you kidding me?” Duquette said, recollecting Rodriguez’s requests. “Can you imagine that then or now? It just wouldn’t happen. We barely had enough office space for the people who worked there. We are going to try to carve another office out for Alex Rodriguez or any player? We all know how big the clubhouse was there at Shea, it was pretty tiny.”
Phillips told The Michael Kay Show on ESPN-98.7 that the extra perks Rodriguez sought were a non-starter in negotiations.
“I had Mike Piazza, who was our biggest star, the most low-maintenance star ever,” Phillips said. “There was no entourage, no strength coach, no hitting coach. There was just Mike Piazza, baseball player. I was like, ‘How am I going to manage this, with Alex and all this other stuff, and Mike being a baseball player?’”
Bobby Valentine, the Mets manager at the time, tweeted: “I always wanted A-Rod to be a Met. Wow. What a difference.”
Reached by The Post on Monday, the former manager said he wants to remain removed from the fray. Valentine was asked if he could have coexisted with Rodriguez.
“I really have since, so I would think I could,” Valentine said. “It would have been spectacular, but it wasn’t my money.”
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The Mets had reached the World Series the previous season, losing to the Yankees in five games, and were lukewarm on the idea of adding Rodriguez from the start. Rey Ordonez and Mike Bordick had seen most of the action at shortstop the previous year.
“Our feeling was we didn’t need to get a whole lot better, we just needed to keep signing our pitchers and we made that run at [Mike] Hampton because he became a free agent,” Duquette said. “Then we lost out to him because of the better school system in Colorado. We signed Kevin Appier, who was the next best guy that year among the starting pitchers, and it precipitated our declining years. The next year we traded Appier for Mo Vaughn.”
Duquette pointed out the Mets had dual ownership at the time and Rodriguez would have had to convince both owners, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, to spend a record sum.
“There was slim and no chance we were going to go anywhere near what he signed for,” Duquette said. “Boras signed an unbelievable deal for him. He was going to sign for $130 million less to play for the team that was his childhood dream because he loved Keith Hernandez? Listen we all love Keith Hernandez, but you are going to give up $130 million? Come on.”