The Story of O (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday June 12, 2007 2:13PM; Updated: Tuesday June 12, 2007 2:13PM
But it wasn't just O's trading trigger finger that was itchy. He was a reflexive redeemer, his mother's son. The leftfielder who'd pleaded guilty to assaulting his first wife, Wil Cordero? The cancer survivor, Andres Galarraga? The over-the-hill, self-absorbed rightfielder, Jose Canseco? The surly switch-hitter who didn't believe in dinosaurs or the moon landing, Carl Everett? Sign 'em up! cried O, and he did, convinced that the good in any man would emerge once O bathed him in benessere.
Any man? Even the pitcher who slandered the train that clacked straight through O's heart, the one suspended for saying, "Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing"? Yes, O had room even for John Rocker, the anti-O.
He called Rocker's agent to see if he could sign him. He wrote Rocker's parents. "I felt for them," he said. "I felt that my son could make that mistake someday."
"But he's a notorious bigot!" howled Siegle. "You want to get us fired?" O wavered, then finally caved when his own wife called him crazy.
Maybe it was safe, at last -- after those two surprising seasons in Canada -- to make him a real G.M., a true member of the club. The Cincinnati Reds interviewed him, then the Mariners for a second time. O for 9. The Mets, weary of eating their guy's dust, had an idea. Make O a half member, a 50-50 split of their G.M. job with Jim Duquette -- you know, Jim being more an administrator and all.
O agonized. Big salary jump. No more long separations from his wife, two sons and Jersey home, which they hadn't sold because of the Expos' any-day-now demise. But what message would it send about dark-skinned men from other lands? "You're better than half a G.M.," his wife told him.
O twitched and turned down the job. It took one more year of misery for Mets owner Fred Wilpon -- his team's clubhouse divided, its credibility with fans and free agents shredded -- to call back. "We've become irrelevant in New York City," Wilpon told O in September 2004. "You've got to come home."
"What's the job?" asked O, wary.
"Everything," said Wilpon. "I just want Omar to be Omar."
O's heart raced. "Let's talk as soon as the season's over," he said.
"No," said Wilpon, "let's talk now."
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