Playing Ball with Chris Christie

Although he continues to garner positive national publicity that fuels speculation about his future, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie already has squelched rumors that he may run for president in 2012.

“I was elected to be Governor of New Jersey for the next four years,” he told reporters on April 28. “I will be Governor of New Jersey for the next four years. And I have absolutely no interest in running for president of the United States. None. Zero interest. Zero. None. Close the door. No chance. No way. Under no circumstances.”

With just four months of experience running a state, it clearly is too early to be making plans to move on to the next level. Even Sarah Palin put in more time than that before she left the Alaska State House to focus on 2012.

But there is one job opportunity that New Jersey’s new Governor might not be able to pass up should it come his way.

We all know that Chris Christie is a big fan of the New York Mets. In fact, one of the highlights of his remarks at this year’s New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club Dinner was when he told the crowd, “When I say I’m big Mets fan, what I really mean is: the Yankees suck.” And for his political nemesis and South Jersey lawmaker Steve Sweeney, he added “The Phillies suck too.”

It is exactly this type of no-nonsense, in-your-face attitude that has helped Christie build a loyal following in New Jersey, as well as earn praise from well-known national figures. But he may not be realizing his full potential here.

With the Governor’s favorite baseball team floundering amid rumors that the ax is about to fall on Mets skipper Jerry Manuel, Christie clearly would be the ideal candidate to take over the job.

Before this season goes down the drain, someone needs to shake up the Mets – and who better to do it than the man who has shaken up New Jersey. He won’t even have to rewrite his inauguration speech. “Today, change has arrived” will work just as well in the club house as the State House.

Given the salaries today’s players command, Christie will have even more reasons to oppose the millionaire’s tax. And for those who liked the way he took on the NJEA, just wait and see what he tries to do to those under-performing players with lucrative contracts. Oliver Perez better start throwing strikes or he’ll be staring at a wage freeze and angry demands that he reopen the three-year, $36 million he signed last year.

On the other hand, it might not be all smooth sailing for the Governor in his new surroundings.

If Keith Hernandez suggests that Christie’s confrontational style could hinder the team’s chances for success on ball field, will the Governor accuse the former Mets first baseman of being thin-skinned? Or will he simply move to eliminate funding for SNY?

Will there be objections if he establishes one set of rules for his players and one set for himself?

If fans object to his managerial strategy, will he have his spokesperson dismiss their protests as the product of youthful rebellion and spring fever?

If he declines to renew Mr. Met’s contract in order to set a new direction for the team’s promotional activities, will he face outrage from the mascot community for breaking years of precedent?

We all know none of this is likely to happen. Instead, the Governor and the Legislature are preparing to do battle over the state’s fiscal 2011 budget. Even if Christie were offered his dream job with the New York Mets, he would have to turn it down — and perhaps that would be the best possible example of the type of “shared sacrifice” he is advocating.

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