Mets: The Public Be Damned?
One of the earliest mass media PR gaffes was made in 1883 by railroad baron William Henry Vanderbilt when he supposedly uttered “the public be damned” to a Chicago reporter who questioned him about his passenger trains.
The first mass media PR slip also spawned the first mass media PR spin. After those remarks appeared in black and white, Vanderbilt back tracked somewhat, claiming first that he was taken out of context and then further stated that “”Railroads are not run for the public benefit, but to pay. Incidentally, we may benefit humanity, but the aim is to earn a dividend.”
Take that last paragraph and substitute “Wilpon” for “Vanderbilt” and “The Mets” for “Railroads” and I believe you have an accurate assessment of how this modern-day Vanderbilt family views the Mets. As a firm believer in free markets and private property, I grudgingly support their right to do whatever they want with their property. The problem for me and I suppose for all Mets fans, is that this in direct conflict with what we want: a pennant-winning baseball team again.
The fact of the matter is that the Mets generate cash for the Wilpons via TV and MLB licensing deals, which are in sufficient force to overcome depressed gate receipts. This cash allows them to develop other money-making schemes (also their right). They are rich enough to shut out the howling of their fans and are laughing their way to the proverbial bank. They don’t care what we think. And they are under zero pressure from anyone who can force them to do anything to change the way the team is operated.
I believe that they shrewdly picked the right front man in Sandy Alderson. He certainly has the street cred: a commendable military service record, past GM experience that includes a championship and a stint in the Commissioner’s office. Like a good soldier, he has followed orders: cutting operational costs, while maintaining at least a veneer of respectability (read: hope via hyping prospects) around those operations.
This is probably the year that the pressure begins to mount on Alderson, as it has become apparent that he just isn’t that good, but the Wilpons don’t really care for after all, Alderson has done his job. Their major liability, payroll costs, are under control and they can safely project them for the next 4-5 years as being among the lowest in baseball; merely a fraction of what other major market teams pony up each year. In fairness to Alderson, his team currently has a better record than other franchises with much higher payrolls, but at the same time, he is approaching a five-year losing streak, whereas other GMs with similar payroll constraints have assembled winning teams during Alderson’s time here.
The Mets of past years reacted against losing, firing GMs and managers, making splashy trades and signing Free Agents. It didn’t always work, but at least they tried. These post-Madoff Mets merely shrug their shoulders and count their money.
What can any of us do about this? Not too much unfortunately. There is just too much other money coming to counter the blow of a stadium being 75% empty. They can merely ignore the empty seats and the barbs from blow-hards like me and others in the media and the blogosphere, while most likely using the perks that are associated with owning a major league team to keep a few key media figures quiet.
I believe that deep down they would love to be a playoff team, but this would have to be more of a happy accident than a result of a concentrated effort to get there. And for all of their PR mis-steps, no one in the inner circle is clumsy enough to let slip that profits trump pennants.
And here’s the thing: that equation isn’t anything new to baseball either. For every Murder’s Row, every Big Red Machine, every Yankees Dynasty, every Bleeding Dodger Blue, every The Giants Win The Pennant, every We Are Family, in other words every big or consistent winner, there needs to be big or consistent losers. Space constraints prohibit the listing of teams that went decades (centuries?) as losing franchises, but they are out there.
For example, I grew up under the shadow of the Philadelphia media and was well-acquainted with that city’s then-dreadful baseball history. It certainly influenced my choice of the Mets as my favorite team in 1971. There is much to suggest that the Mets are heading in that same direction. We’re lamenting a potential seventh-straight losing season, but recent events may be a foreshadowing of a far longer stretch ahead.
Not much to do but settle in and accept it. This is hard for someone like me, as Mets fandom has spanned parts of three family generations. I have been able to let go of other bad habits over my life, but I admit that this one is hard to break. I believe in miracles and think we certainly need one here; but I wonder if The Almighty doesn’t have other ideas.
Oh well–we’ll always have April of 2015.
In the end, I think we care too much about baseball and it’s probably pretty stupid.
So to characterize all of the Mets prospects as overly hyped by the Metsblogsphere and thereby imply that the prospects are nothing more than an exaggeration of Mets fans, Mets beat writers, etc. isn’t accurate.
Also, who builds a team on pitching and bad defense? I remember 1969 — does Sandy & The Wilpons? That ain’t Bud & The Glider on the left side.
As for the fundies, I know players aren’t as savvy as they were 30 or 40 years ago. But guys like Murph and Tejada would have been sent down or worse for their basic lack of understanding of how to run the bases, which base to throw to etc. etc.
Abandon hope . . . .
Good points. While it has been brutal to watch this lineup, I do believe that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, but that light likely won’t shine until 2016. 2015 is more or less shot. A week from now the Mets will likely be 6-7 games behind in both the division and the WC. I would much prefer them to be sellers with an eye to next season. While we have waited 5 years for a contender, 2016-2018 looks to be the window. Of course, they do need to assemble a major league offense and defense,but this winter will provide the best opportunity to do so.
By the way, Alderson road a multi-year losing streak as a Padres exec into his stint with the Mets, so he is pushing a decade more or less of fielding losers. Marine or not, Ivy leaguer or not, that is not a streak to be proud of.
I read the Mets werent impressed with Amaris Ramirez during recent Brewers series…haha, but Eric Campbell or MIchael Cuddyer does impress. of course not, but this is getting ridiculous. Something has to happen, trade or just sit Cuddyer and Duda and play some other kids. This team cant even lay down a bunt.
Trade Harvey and Syndergaard for Trout. I know it wont happen but its nice to dream. how ’bout syndergaard for hanley ramirez???
I believe in the free market as much as anyone and eventually I do believe the free market will save the Mets. Eventually the networks will resent paying billions for a league that rewards mediocrity and punishes great teams. Also, someone will want to realize the passed over profits and offer the Wilpons a number they can not turn down.
The city’s rationale for rejection was reported as “this land was only purposed for a stadium” which seems arbitrary to me. Perhaps the Wilpons have made enemies in the wrong places.
Never mind, you don’t care about the big-market Mets being #21 in payroll…..
THAT threat would give Manfred some incentive to pressure the Wilpons.
I would comment on the likelihood of Congress siding with regular citizens over billionaire patriarchs, but this ain’t a political blog, so fill in the blanks with whatever you believe.
I suppose it’s possible that a boring Mets franchise could negatively impact the sport’s visibility and cachet, which IS bad for all 30 owners, but I suspect that’s hard to prove, and I’m sure the other 29 owners would favor one lead weight for their industry over a precedent of commissioner interference.
I’m not sure what they can do about it, though… maybe harp on it leading up to the next CBA talks in hopes that Manfred applies a little pressure to the Wilpons in the name of labor peace?
In fact, baseball franchise owners are NOT just like any other business owners. They get special privileges (lack of competition for one), and the intent of their charter is that they PAY for these privileges by being responsible purveyors of good ol’ American entertainment to their cities.
It is quite fair to accuse the Wilpons of simply cheating the system and soaking up government perks without delivering on the promise those perks are based on.
I do believe the Wilpons are in a recoup some money mode, but I don’t think the Wilpons will pass on an opportunity to field a potential championship team. The simple fact is that a winning team brings in more money or increases the value of the team so they can make more by selling pieces of it off as they’ve done during the aftermath of the Madoff scandal. Winning brings in the dough and that’s what will make the Wilpons spend. There are various ways to get to the “winning” state and I do believe the Mets are taking the conservative route. But who says the conservative route isn’t the best route in the case of this Mets team.
If they could buy a 95% chance of winning, I bet they would, but faced with buying only a 65% chance or so, they seem content to settle for a 15% chance. Or maybe Alderson has them suckered into believing that what looks like a 15% chance to Vegas actually IS a 65% chance… I dunno.
I think they are at this salary point because they are conservative. The less cynical view point, or naive view point (i’m sure many are thinking this), is that they hired Alderson to start from scratch kind of, or at least as close to it as possible for a NYC team. This means developing from the inside and trying to sign the right players focusing on value. It didn’t work out with Granderson nor Cuddyer, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t try or are on this path. Once again, it’s only been a few years since the Mets were one of the top spending teams. It’s still the same owners.
The Mets were one of the top spenders because Omar Minaya’s teams were breaking attendance records and they had the Madoff money tree. Citi Field may never reach the volume of revenue generated by the cheap seats of Shea, and the Madoff tree will never again grow back. Further, it could be argued (and was, many times on this blog during 2006-2009) that the Wilpons stopped just short of spending “enough” even when they were “top spenders.” Despite all the hype about the Mets’ “high payroll” during the “good old days” of 2006-2008, they still didn’t come close to matching the high-water marks of the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Giants, Tigers, Angels, and other truly big spenders. (Yes, there were years that the Mets had one of the top 5 payrolls, but that’s not the point — even with that kind of spending, they still should have had more to spend beyond, considering their success in ticket sales and other revenue streams.)
BTW, funny post from a long time ago, about “rebuilding from within:”
At the same time, that look back is a reminder of why any Mets owner might disdain spending to win — it didn’t work in 1992, it didn’t work in 2002, it didn’t work in 2009-2010…
You can Google MLB team payrolls from 2006-2009. The Mets came in less only to the Yankees in 2008-2009, Yankees and Red Sox in 2007, and in 2006, they were 5th but barely behind the LA Angels and the White Sox. I’m not sure where the other teams you listed came in, but I don’t see them above the Mets in those years.
You know why they were filling the stadium and breaking attendance records in those Minaya years? Um… Winning?
So the Wilpons say they were going to rebuild, but didn’t and through free agency and trades, built a championship caliber team in 2006. Then in 2009, they hired Alderson and are actually building from within and what? Now you guys want him to go back to his older Wilpon ways and spend through free agency and deal prospects away again?
The Mets’ attempt to spend to win in 2002 contributed exactly nothing to their success in 2006. Any Met fan knows that the 2006 success wasn’t about Mo Vaugh and Jeromy Burnitz, so that’s why I’m assuming you just didn’t read me right.
However, the late 90s teams and 2006 weren’t exactly build with lots of home grown talent. So for your examples of spending failures, these teams counter that argument.
To follow up on Dan’s point, the Mets currently are 21st in payroll, tied for 15th overall record-wise, and 17th in run differential. They are clearly mediocre by virtually every measurement. But, to Dan’s point, it is not so much whether they wind up 10th or 15th or 20th, but how deep into the season they can remain within striking distance of 10th (really 5th in the NL). At a $100 mil payroll, is they play “meaningful games” deep into Sept, the owners turn a profit. Spending their way into the top 5 “elite” teams is a much riskier venture, and one the ownership has shunned since the Madoff debacle.
We will see what their commitment to winning is within the next several weeks. My persona feeling to to try to upgrade without dealing the big 4 pitchers or overpaying with prospects. That essentially means taking on money to retain their top prospects.
I’ve already acknowledged that the Wilpons are probably in save mode or conservative mode. It could be they are looking at it as killing two birds with one stone, make some money as well as running a smarter and more efficient team. They look around at the success of mid market teams like the cardinals and the giants and think to duplicate it and make a profit as well. Like I said, I’m not sure that’s not exactly bad for this team.
Apparently people were or are making fun of the Wilpons for the often repeated mantra throughout their ownership of “We’re going to get younger and more athletic.” Now that he’s actually doing it, you guys are unhappy right?
See, the key part is NOT “younger” — it’s “more athletic”.
Juan Lagares is the only Met who qualifies, and that’s when he’s healthy, which he currently isn’t.
Personally, I’m not sold that athleticism is THE way to go — I think it’s one of many options, and the best solution depends on what else you have and what’s out there and what’s undervalued, etc. But let’s not pretend that fielding AAA players like Tejada because we don’t have anyone better constitutes some kind of “young & athletic” movement.
The $100 million number is a neighborhood, not a hard number. It is based on TV money and needing to be seen as being on the verge of the playoffs.
When the Mets spent money under Omar, it was to generate preseason revenue which they invested in Madolf. It was not about spending to win nor to make money from baseball. The Wilpon history of deposits and withdrawals support this idea as did the Mets unwillingness to add payroll in season.
If I thought the plan was to build through the farm, I wouldn’t mind a lower payroll. But where is the money being spent in the farm? They have fired coaches and not signed draft picks. They won’t call up players who can help to save on arbitration yet they bring up Eric Cambells to prevent signing veteran backups. They don’t sign international free agents. They like cheap young talent but not expensive young talent.
Did you read the trade the Braves made for Arroyo? They gave up an utility infielder for a prospect and Arroyo ( who is on the DL). Basically they agreed to pay Arroyo’s salary in exchange for another prospect. Where are the Met trades that add prospects for money? When the Mets invest serious money into their farm system, I will believe this a baseball plan and not a financial plan.
I think adding payroll mid season has to do with thinking you have a contending team. Frankly I don’t think the teams in recent years merited that type of transaction. Perhaps the teams that collapsed in 2007 and 2008 you can argue for a mid season move, but the collapse happened late and yah, in hindsight they may have needed moves to make the post season.
Mets have taken payroll in the less recent past. Kenny Rogers in the late 90s for Terrance Long, just in time for ball 4 in the post season against the Braves. 🙂 Kris Benson for Wigginton (ugh) and Zambrano for Kazmire (double ugh).
14 million for a prospect essentially on that deal. Good for them and I hope it works out for them. I can’t say more than that cuz there’s not much more to say. If they think he’s worth it, go for it. I guess the Mets recent move of acquiring that international bonus pool slot is not good enough for you. The farm before all these call ups were rated pretty high across all the organizations that rate farm systems. It was mostly from Alderson trading veterans with value and yes the continued development of already non-Alderson drafted players. Sure, we can always criticize on the negatives. I think we went over this in another thread so I won’t go on.
I think the more reasonable cutoff is relative: any team that’s in their ideal window to contend ought to become one of the bigger payroll spenders in the sport for the duration of that window, to maximize their odds of capitalizing on it. Whether the Mets hit that window in 2013 or will in 2016 or 2018 is a matter of some debate. If you took Alderson at his word, though, the window began in either 2014 or 2015, so seeing a bottom-third payroll in those years is disappointing.
As for winning without spending, that only happens occasionally when some team is ahead of the curve. Five years of Alderson is enough to clearly demonstrate that he’s not. Maybe he’s good, maybe he’s bad, but he’s certainly no miracle-worker like Rays-era Friedman. The Giants may have a middle-sized market, but they have frequently had among the highest payrolls in the game. Not going insane like the Yanks and recent Dodgers doesn’t put every other team in the same vicinity as the Mets.
As for the 1990-2005 Braves and the 2004-2014 Cardinals, it seems to me that they led MLB in developing players — turning top prospects into stars, fringe prospects into solid players, mediocre relievers into brief dominators, etc. Maybe it’s Cox and LaRussa, maybe it’s the confidence born of winning, or maybe it’s all about evaluating which guys are actually keepers and selling high on the rest. Whatever it is, it’s another ace the Mets don’t appear to have up their sleeve.
With no industry-leading revolutions, the Mets are in the same position as most teams — hope your farm churns out a few difference-makers at the same time and then use that cheap productivity as an opportunity to buy the rest of the roster without totally breaking the bank. Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz and d’Arnaud look ready to do their part. Familia and deGrom are MORE than doing their part. Wright’s giant contract is irrelevant — it was purchased as a P.R./branding move, and is looking less and less giant by the day as salaries around the game rise. So, really, these Mets are in the position where it makes sense to bring in some pricey top talent, regardless of which general philosophy one subscribes to.
I mean, unless that philosophy involves never making the playoffs.
Praise Friedman all you want, but I’m not going to give him that much credit. Tampa had years and years of really awful bad teams to get them the draft picks needed to build the recent contending teams. I’m sure they had top picks that didn’t go well. I know of Hamilton as being one of them. Delmon Young is another that comes to mind.
I’m all for pricey top talents. Who are we talking about here? I’m looking at the potential 2016 free agent list and I’m not sure I see anyone I’d go after. There are some on the restricted free agent list that I may go after. I know you think Ramirez is worth going after, and he seems to be heating up. But at this point he’s more of a side piece than a top talent.
Alderson is conservative when it comes to trades. I agree with his stance. I’m apparently in the minority.
By the way, one name that I was surprised you didn’t add to your Alderson rant was Jose Abreu. I wanted the Mets to take a chance on him and was pretty upset they didn’t and more so after learning it was only a 10 million a year contract on average he signed for. This is also when the Mets were still doing a coin flip on Davis or Duda. Duda ended up with a good year last year so that appeased it somewhat. However, Abreu is still the better player and at only 10 million per for 6 years would have fit in nicely and not bankrupted a team even if he didn’t work out.
I have no reason to believe that any specific one of these players is actually available; however, at least one of them probably will turn out to be. The deciding factor will likely be money; if the Mets are willing to pay enough of it, they’ll get their man.
– Prince Fielder
– J.D. Martinez
– Nelson Cruz
– Joey Votto
– Troy Tulowitzki
– Carlos Gomez
– Gerardo Parra
– Ryan Braun
Down the road:
– 2016 FA Justin Upton
– Giancarlo Stanton if the Fish keep losing
I am not saying that I even want every single one of these guys; I think I’d rather lose than win with a malicious cheater like Braun. Just brainstorming options. Obviously if we’re willing to part with a pitcher, the options dramatically increase to include guys like Frazier, Arenado, Donaldson, etc.
Braun really didn’t cheat any more maliciously than any of the others, but his beating on the everyman tester guy was nauseating.
I am in for A Ramirez as bench depth, so long as this is simply money eating and not costing any decent prospect.
I would not give Niese away for nothing.
Carlos Gomez would work but not sure what I would give up for him – certainly not one of the big 4, maybe a Michael Fulmer + another okay prospect.
Personally, I would save the “big” position acquisition until the offseason, but that must be this offseason as everyone points out the window is now.
DW is a complicatig factor but I agree his expense was brand-building and should be treated as such.
TDA is another complication as it is clear he may need to be moved from behind the plate if they really think his bat is legit.
everyone seems so desperate to make a trade right now, while seemingly acknowledging that the offense stinks—do you think making one trade right now will matter? what of david wright? the smart, although boring thing to do is wait this one out until the offseason.
Any midseason deal cannot involve our top 4 starting pitchers, we should be moving colon/niese/parnell/murphy anyone else who won’t be around next year.
People love ripping alderson but I like how the team has been slowly built up around pitching. Its so easy to be an armchair GM. As others have said, we’ll see going into this offseason and next if their really is a commitment to winning to increase the payroll some. But it still has to be for the right guy. Its amazing how you can get ripped for overspending, and then ripped for underspending. It seems to me that things have gone according to plan for the most part.
However, I wouldn’t say it has gone according to plan for the most part. Maybe the starting pitching, besides the injury to Wheeler and Harvey’s command issues. Also the closer spot probably has gone according to plan as I’m sure the Mets expected Familia to take over that role this year. The rest of the bullpen hasn’t imploded, and has been pretty decent. Alex Torres is heading for that 1 walk an inning rate.
I’m sure the Mets penciled in for Legares to improve, Duda to improve, Flores to improve, d’Arnaud to improve, and Wright to get back to +800 OPS. Outside of Duda’s fast start, none of that has happened. So no, this isn’t according to plan.
Starting pitching is where it’s at for the Mets and it’s keeping the Mets above water. Hopefully they can get some bats to help without giving up too much.
Fulmer or Gnoa are legit options, and it would not shock me to see Mejia dealt either although I still like him a lot and think he has a good career ahead of him. Sell Parnell high, dumor Carlos Torres ASAP, and if we need to thrown in one of our young starters then I have no issue trading Syndergaard bc I think Matz is better and we have other guys coming up or coming back, ie. Wheeler. Thor’s stock is high, but Sandy has been very weak when it comes to trading talent so I am not optimistic.
Even if Sandy does plan a push, Upton has no incentive to sign an extension when he’s 2 months from free agency.
One final thought: as much as his production by the end of the year will definitely add to the win total, I really cringe at the thought of planting a streaky whiff machine at the center of our lineup. Maybe there isn’t someone better than Upton out there, but man, I sure wish there were. Each time I look around MLB for the guy the Mets really need to change their lineup, I keep coming up with Miguel Cabrera and not much else. I have a feeling the next batch of elite hitters are currently unproven — that’s why I was throwing around Astros prospects as trade options.
I would listen on dealing anyone, but no way am I giving up Conforto and/or Fulmer for a guy that is controllable for only 2 months. I know, I know, these guys may never pan out to anything, but right now, they are projectable major leaguers, many think Conforto is a middle of the lineup bat, and they are each controllable for 6 years. I will part with them for an above average controllable MLB bat, but not 2 months of Upton or anyone else for that matter. Ynoa for A Ramirez, fine. Fulmer, Ynoa, and someone for Carlos Gomez, ok.
In my mind, someone like McGwire offering a quick brush-off denial back in the days when that sufficed, then later dodging the issue, then finally admitting his steroid use to get it over with when he wanted a job in baseball, but refusing to admit how much the juice might have helped him hit HRs… well, that’s just a cheater in denial. Not great, but in the grand scheme of things, not a huge deal to me.
Braun, on the other hand, cheated, got caught, slipped by on a really stupid technicality, then launched an angry rant about how he’s a great guy who was victimized by a broken system. That’s… that’s disgusting. No one can do that unless they’re an utter piece of $#!* with no scruples. When he followed up by responding to questions about the positive test by bashing the test-collector, I WAS NOT SURPRISED. Scumbag status doesn’t just go away.
Since he hasn’t been banned from baseball, I’m currently rooting for a career-ending injury. If it’s from an angry HBP, all the better. (Not in the head, though — I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!)
So, yeah, I felt obliged to mention Braun as an option, but if I were into winning at all costs no matter what, I would have left the Mets to become a Yankees fan years ago. I’m still a Mets fan, which means I’d rather lose without Braun than win with him. (Same deal for A-Rod, though with less ire.)