When Will We Ever Learn? Wishful Thinking and Wilpon Finances Lead to Mets Stall

Well it had to happen sometime. Those blue and orange shades I’ve had on since August of 2015 have come off. Unless you’ve been totally immersed in the Rangers-Habs series or trying to figure out if the Jets will use or trade the number six pick, you’ve probably taken yours off as well; especially after the massive train wreck that occurred this past weekend at Citi Field. The Mets have stalled and no one it seems, knows how to re-start their motor.

Call it panic, but you’ve heard it here first: The Mets will miss the playoffs. I don’t believe them to be anything better than a third place team this year. Based on what I’ve seen so far, both Washington and Miami have better teams than the Mets. And as far as the Mets surpassing the Yankees in popularity in New York City? Bawhahahahahahahahaha.

When the season started, many people, including myself, figured the Mets to be a playoff team, and gave them a better than even chance to win the division. The Mets themselves believed it. Check out the comments coming from both the front office and the clubhouse before and during spring training. Less than 20 games into the season, a new reality has dawned.

When will we ever learn?

The Mets have two very good players: Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard. It speaks volumes about the Mets player development system that both guys came from outside the organization. Syndergaard is the undisputable ace of the Mets pitching staff. More on that in a moment. Cespedes is the Mets best hitter. Now, name the second-best hitter on the team. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

That title goes to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s not Jay Bruce. Don’t let two stellar games from Bruce fool you. Career-wise, Cabrera is the better hitter. I’d actually put Curtis Granderson ahead of Bruce. We can argue this point all day, the issue is that after Cespedes, the Mets offensive prowess falls off a cliff. Cabrera is good, but c’mon, I highly doubt he strikes much fear in the hearts of the opposition when he strides to the plate. They had the perfect compliment to Cespedes in their lineup, you just saw him this weekend. They knew how good he was becoming and they let him walk away anyway , all but telling us they had his successor in the system. Instead they traded this heir apparent to Cincinnati to get Bruce. The second action is unrelated to the first action, but letting Daniel Murphy walk away cost the Mets the NL East crown last year and is one of the biggest reasons they will miss the playoffs this year. And why? Because they thought they could get the same type of production for less money. They didn’t. Wishful thinking seems to have replaced solid planning.

They wished that David Wright would somehow heal and become a reasonable facsimile of his former self. Wrong. They wished that Jose Reyes at 33 still has something left and that his dismal stops in Toronto and Colorado were mirages. Wrong. They wished that Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, and Wilmer Flores would all somehow avoid the injury jinxes that have sidetracked their careers. Wrong. They wished Juan Lagares would finally learn to hit right handed pitching. Wrong (and he can’t hit lefties much either). About the only thing that has gone right, outside of Bruce’s hot start, is Michael Conforto. But in true Met fashion, they have been shoe-horning Conforto in the wrong spot in the lineup, both the batting order and on the field. A few oh-fers and watch what happens to the kid’s confidence. In fairness, almost everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. But, you can’t tell me that any of this is totally unexpected, and should agree that to basically ignore the facts exposed by sabermetrics and medical reports is a very risky proposition. But don’t worry, they all said, even if all that falls apart, the Mets still have that great starting pitching.

When will we ever learn?

No doubt that Syndergaard is the larger-than-life, as-good-as-advertised ace of the rotation. Jacob deGrom is well-suited as the understudy. I like Jake, but I think his ceiling is #2 starter, the modern day comparison to the Miracle Mets Jerry Koosman or Jon Matlack (yes I know both were lefties) behind Tom Seaver; or if you prefer the late 80’s, he’s this era’s Ron Darling to Doc Gooden. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many, many, many outings by Koos, Matlack and Darling where they pitched just well enough, as the saying goes, to lose. That description fits deGrom’s last two outings pretty well, don’t you think? But what about the other three or four “aces” they were supposed to have?

A pair of major surgeries have all but extinguished Matt Harvey’s brilliance. He seems quiet and humbled, both on the mound and in front of cameras. Not saying all of this is a bad thing, but right now Matt is the #3 pitcher on just about any good staff, including this one. The wish (there’s that word again) is just that he stays healthy. So far, so good; but it is a long season. Steven Matz hasn’t stayed healthy, and reading between the lines of the comments made by the GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, I think the organization is entirely disillusioned with Matz, just as they were with erstwhile ace and first major Alderson acquisition Zack Wheeler. The later is still on the comeback trail and the jury is most definitely out on him. He had a golden opportunity last night to re-establish his star and one swing from Murphy ended that. The starting pitching isn’t that all that deep and the bullpen is in disarray, partially due to Jeurys Familia’s suspension, partly due to Collins’ poor handling of the others, and partly due to the wishful thought that they might not be relied upon so much. They should have held on to Bartolo Colon.

That last thought brings us to the real problem: ownership. Yes the Mets payroll has risen, most of it organically via annual pay raises, but they did shell out big bucks for Cespedes, Bruce and Neil Walker. But to paraphrase and old saying: you can lift a person out of the poorhouse, but you can’t lift the poorhouse out of the person. While the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s giving out big contracts to veterans or overpaying in prospects for needed pieces, the Mets still look for the way to save a buck. Re-think the roster with both Colon and Murphy still on it. How about the batting order with Adam Eaton at the top? It’s a compelling argument to hold on to young players. It looked great for example, when the Mets five starters combined were making less money than Mike Pelfrey. It looks far less smart when the team still lacks a true leadoff hitter (and any speed at all) lacks a true #3 hitter, lacks a true #5 hitter, and has no one reliable coming off the bench. The problem comes back the credibility issue–both with the front office and with ownership.

It now begins to clearly appear that the real reason for this youth movement is to depress payroll. The Mets have been lucky that Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, et. al, have some star power. Up to now, this brilliance has eclipsed the flaws in the team’s makeup. Baseball has a very cruel way of exposing every hidden weakness. This April has been all about the Mets getting exposed. There is a definite spending threshold for these guys and by all indications, it  falls below what it’s going to take to bring home the championship. All of this winter’s moves where made with an eye on future payrolls. That might be great from an accounting standpoint, but from a winning while the window is open standpoint, it really stinks.

Fortunately it is still April. There is plenty of baseball left. Cespedes is capable of putting the offense on his back. Conforto could settle into a niche. The walking wounded can heal. Maybe the Mets decide that the time is right for uber-prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to be promoted (both have played more minor league games and have had more at-bats than Conforto did at the time of his promotion). Maybe GMs of other teams decide to run up the white flag and Alderson is able to import some help. Maybe…

When will we ever learn?








A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. DaveSchneck April 24, 2017 at 9:36 pm
    Dan C.,
    That was some manifesto for the 19 game milepost. I can’t say that it was off the mark, as the season clearly looks like a movie we’ve all seen before – injuries, poor defense, and all-or-mostly-nothing offense. So, I will add my 2 cents (or less) worth of observation/opining.

    I would be very happy with new ownership, but at this stage I cannot pin the root cause for this poor start on ownership or payroll. The Met payroll is somewhere in the neighborhood of $155 million, at the bottom end of top 12, which should be sufficient to compete for the divisional title.

    Secondly, I don’t think anyone in the brass counted on anything from David Wright. Frankly, it is better that he is not in uniform than if he is getting time and underperforming.

    With the benefit of hindsight, not offering Murph a multi-year as their 1B was a mistake. No one, not even Murph himself, could have predicted an MVP caliber season, getting him off 2B and investing in him over Duda would have been the play. Remember, they did offer him a pricey QO, so this as not a Justin Turner move.

    The biggest mistake offensively was not securing a legit leadoff hitter, and counting (hoping) on Reyes to handle the role. Jose as a spark off the bench fill in, ok, but leading off 600 AB given his age and declining numbers, not good.

    Another problem, that has improved a little, is the heralded starters’ inability to pitch deep into games. A top 5 staff needs to go 7 innings most nights, and chip in some 8 and 9 inning performances to keep the pen properly rested.

    So, what to do? The biggest need is more OBP at the top of the order. A little speed wouldn’t hurt. I’d hit Conforto leadoff and strongly consider bringing Rosario up, moving Cabrera to 3rd, and demoting or releasing Jose Reyes. Rosario can bat 8th, but his glove alone would tighten the D and let Cabrera ply a less demanding position. Not sure what to do about the #2 hitter, but I would consider TDA IF he continues to hit; he at least can run a little. The lack of scoring by means other than the home run is just scary, and the Mets will be watching the playoffs this fall if that riddle is not solved, and solved soon.

    • Dan Capwell April 25, 2017 at 8:49 am
      I would trade for Lorenzo Cain. He’s an FA at the end of the year and likely to move on from KC. Without the draft pick attachment anymore, they stand to lose him for nothing.

      Obviously, the Royals aren’t getting any of the young pitchers or Conforto, Smith or Rosario for him, but there has to be enough in the Mets farm to pry him away. Consider it an extended audition ahead of a potential long-term deal.

      Cain’s arrival means the end of the Jose Reyes nostalgia tour. I would move Cabrera over to third and bring up Rosario.

      All of this is probably a pipe dream and instead we’re going to see Matt Reynolds doing his version of the Eric Campbell Las Vegas shuffle.

      • david April 27, 2017 at 12:55 am
        Roasrio means the end of the Reyes nostalgia tour, not Cain, and Rosario’s a young gold glove caliber infielder. We have enough old outfielders and Cain’s legs will go as he gets older, it happens.

        Walker is getting a big pass in these posts. He stinks, but so would I post back surgery. Could say the same about Duda and Wright I suppose.

        Sandy does not seem like a nostalgic GM but viewing his adherence to an IF where everyone came off an injury or surgery last year one has to wonder what the hell he was thinking.

        Best move this team can make is to trade for Trout and give them anyone they want – period, full stop, do what it takes. Yes, that means dealing fan favorite and best regular starter Hubie Brooks. Or Conforto. Or Thor.

  2. argonbunnies April 25, 2017 at 9:53 am
    I agree with a lot of this article, but there a few parts I really strongly disagree with. Syndergaard’s success has happened entirely in the Mets’ organization. Yeah, the Jays drafted him, but he wasn’t considered an A+ prospect before being swapped for Dickey. The Mets’ system also developed Harvey, deGrom, and Familia. They may not do a good job churning out healthy pitchers, but they can churn out guys who get MLB hitters out.

    And as for deGrom’s “#2 starter ceiling” — what?! Durability is his big issue. If that alone earns him this distinction, then I guess maybe I could follow that logic, but I dunno who in MLB I do trust to throw 200 every year. On a per-inning basis, though, by virtually any measure you choose, deGrom is one of the top 10 starters in the game.

  3. Iz April 25, 2017 at 4:57 pm
    In addition to the unfair knock on the pitchers how can anyone who follows the game, not the one team, say the Nationals do anything to win. The Nationals that let Ian Desmond walk because he wouldn’t take a low ball offer in the Spring of his walk year, or the Jordan Zimmermann they let walk for the same exact reason, or the Nats that wouldn’t give Melancon a competitive bid so they are without a solid back end to their pen. You congratulate them for selling their farm for Eaton. If the Mets gave away three top pitchers for Eaton you would say they only made the move because Eaton has a very owner friendly contract. Bu when the Nats make this cheapskate move you say they do anything to win. And by the way Murphy doesn’t make close to what the cheapskate Mets pay Walker, And how about that youth movement. This team is like an old timers club. Around the old, all are old worn out and overpaid. Granderson is the same and Bruce right on the heels. And how young are some of those young pitchers. Harvey and deGrom are in the prime of their careers and Wheeler has been around long enough to spend 2 years on the dL. The article is flawed from beginning to end. If the play remains the same for 90 games then you will be reminded of a real youth movement as old Sandy tries to sell off every part he can to start his next rebuild.
    • Dan Capwell April 26, 2017 at 7:33 am
      Don’t assume you know what I’d say. I have been touting for a leadoff hitter for years. Eaton was one of the guys I was eyeing. A deal of either Matz or Wheeler for him would have been smart, IMO. They dumped Desmond because they had the guts to part with Stephen Souza Jr. to get Trey Turner. I’ll give you Melanon, but they did go out and sign Blanton and Shawn Kelly, where the Mets stood pat with Montero.
      • Iz April 27, 2017 at 9:25 am
        You assume the Mets are cheap. You don’t know that. Wow!! they signed Blanton and Kelly. Big time bucs almost equal to Salas and Blevins. Your point is so weak. And sure the White Sox or any team for that matter would just die to get a guy who missed two years and another who gets hurt every year. You are silly if you really think Easton would go for Matz or Wheeler. And you are so un knowledgeable about Desmond. Theyh low ball offered him a year before FA and then wouldn’t talk when he said no. Get your facts right. So far you accuracy record is about zero. And if you are giving the Natas credit for Turner you damned well better give the Mets credit for Noah and call it what it was, the worst trade in Blue Jay history. And hey, of the Nats are so perfect they could have been smart enough to know that their guy Desmond could have played other positions. You fail and don’t a reader what to say or not say because you left yourself open with your crappy cheapskate story which is on;y maybe a decade old and several years out of datwe.
        • Dan Capwell April 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm
          Then you try explaining this season so far
  4. argonbunnies April 25, 2017 at 5:35 pm
    So, here’s the stuff I DO agree with:

    Harvey’s no longer an ace.
    At least one of the top 5 starters was bound to get hurt — honestly, I can’t imagine Matz will be the last.
    Some of the older players in decline were bound to not be very good; I was expecting Bruce and Cabrera, but Reyes and Grandy shouldn’t be a shock — maybe they’ll swap roles as the season continues.
    Conforto should be playing every day, although letting him face lefties is less a win-now move IMO.
    D’Arnaud is still fragile and possibly not that good.
    The bullpen has question marks.

    For all these reasons, I predicted an 84-win season. This means wild card contention and probably an entertaining stretch run. But no, it’s not a great plan for a World Series shot. For that, you really have to enter the season as a division favorite, and the Mets certainly didn’t do that.

    Spending more money could have solved some of these issues, but not others. Losing Murphy wasn’t about money, it was about not having the crystal ball to predict that he’d suddenly become an MVP candidate at age 31. However, opening up the checkbook could have replaced Rafael Montero with Joaquin Benoit or Greg Holland, which could have made a huge difference in the Mets’ April record.

    As awful as the Mets have looked over the last 9 games, they’ve been in every one of them, and it really comes down to one bad day by Salas, one by Reed, one by Familia, and too many key innings by their worst guy, Montero. Flip those around and the Mets are 6-3 instead of 1-8.

    The offense isn’t great, but it wasn’t great last year either. The starters aren’t miracle-workers, but they are a team strength. To get back to looking like a good team, the Mets really just need to draw a few more walks, hit a few more homers, and get better relief pitching in tight games. I expect some combo of Granderson, Cespedes and Duda can help with the offense, and hopefully Familia’s return can help with the bullpen.

    The biggest negatives I see so far are that those 11 losses are already in the books, and that April was projected to be the Mets’ easiest month (scroll down to #9). I do think they’ll play better, but the uphill battle they face is significant.

    • DaveSchneck April 25, 2017 at 9:34 pm
      Even with this bad start and brutal week and a half, I still see the Mets as a 90 win team. Of course, there is a limit to how many more injuries they can withstand, especially to Cespedes or the big 3 starters. I agree that deGrom is still damn good, and I think it is just too early to come to any conclusions on Harvey. From my unprofessional eye, he has looked better than I expected.

      Money-wise, the only place where the gripe is legit is in the pen. Holland was a very intriguing guy, and would have been a perfect fit (with hindsight), but I do think he was looking for a spot where he could be a full season closer. I still see this as a quality pen, so long as the don’t need to throw 4 innings every night.

      They can definitely right the ship, but as you say, given the 8-11 record, they can’t afford another terrible stretch.

      • argonbunnies April 26, 2017 at 4:44 pm
        Harvey has looked better than I expected too! I honestly thought he might be done. But, competent as he’s been, I don’t see any signs at all of the guy who took the league by storm in early 2013. It’s really hard for me to imagine ace-like pitching from him in 2017.

        I think the winning move would have been to sign Holland for the cushy one-inning closer gig, let Familia and Reed maximize their high-leverage innings while pointing at Andrew Miller’s salary, and bring in a few more high-ceiling guys and a few more high-floor guys to round things out.

        He can look dominant on any given night, but Hansel Robles is completely unreliable. A ‘pen where he might be our fourth best guy is not a ‘pen I feel great about.

        Salas should be a middle-innings guy, not the 7th inning guy.

        We need a better long option than a failed prospect (Montero) or a should-be LOOGY (Gilmartin). I hope Lugo comes back soon.

        I don’t think the Mets bullpen is terrible, but it strikes me as right in that range where guys’ performances fluctuate year to year and with average luck it’ll be average. Which means there’s a significant chance it’ll be worse than average. Fingers crossed…

    • Dan Capwell April 26, 2017 at 7:37 am
      So, after 7 years of Sandy, the best we can hope for is 84 wins? Maybe the team’s slogan coming into this year should have been “We’ve lowered our expectations, time for you to lower yours.”

      They need a major in-season shakeup, the way they did in 1998 for Piazza and 2015 for Cespedes. I will be on the “Cain Train” for a while and continue to hope they promote Rosario.

      Not sure where the team goes from here. I get it that it’s April, but the Nats look like a juggernaut and Miami’s offense is better than the Mets. If pitchers like Conley can stymie our offense the way we saw in the past two series, I don’t see the Mets getting past the Fish either.

      • argonbunnies April 26, 2017 at 4:55 pm
        I don’t think 84 wins is the best-case scenario, I think it’s the middle-case scenario. If the starters all become more durable and Cespedes lays off high fastballs and Familia limits the walks and d’Arnaud puts it all together and Duda comes back strong and we trade Bruce for an excellent reliever and Conforto excels in a full-time role, that’s a team poised for 90 wins and ready to take advantage of any bad luck that befalls the Nats.

        On the other hand, if too many of our old guys and max-effort pitchers break down, the Mets could be under .500.

        I agree that it’s not an impressive place to be after 7 years of Sandy. I blame his half-rebuilding instead of trading assets at their peak in 2012. Niese, Ike, Hairston and Parnell could have brought back some serious young talent, and maybe one of those guys would pan out better than Nimmo has. Or maybe the Mets still haven’t figured out how to develop position players.

        I have no interest in giving up value for Cain. He’s a better runner and defender than Granderson, but has virtually the same OBP and OPS+ over the lat 3+ years, and another OF would make things even more complicated. Trade an OF for an IF and then I’d listen harder…

      • Iz April 27, 2017 at 9:26 am
        The Rosario chain. Wasn’t it your article blasting the Mets for a youth movement. Some just want it every single way.
  5. argonbunnies April 27, 2017 at 10:38 pm
    On a particularly harsh “When will we ever learn?” note, I was telling myself that this pulled hamstring would be different than all other pulled hamstrings, and that surely, after making this exact mistake with David Wright at the end of 2013, the Mets wouldn’t possibly take any risks with Cespedes.

    Nope. The Mets were unwilling to suck it up and DL a player who needed it, as always. The player himself was too eager to get back to his teammates, help the team, and show his toughness and determination, as always. No one made an adult decision and the obvious happened and now the Mets will miss Cespedes for two months instead of two weeks.

    If there were one player the Mets couldn’t afford to lose for two months, Yo would be it. I no longer feel like a pessimist saying the Mets’ 2017 playoff odds don’t look good.


    • Dan42 April 28, 2017 at 8:04 pm
      Syndergaard’s mystery ailment may be the next stop for the Mets’ tough it out Wheel of Predictable Misfortune.
  6. Dan Capwell May 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm
    I was at Saturday’s game in DC. With the 7-line Army in attendance it felt like a home game. Coupled with Edgin’s Houdini act the night before, I felt like a rebound was coming. I guess I hadn’t learned.

    Then came yesterday. This team is toast. It is time to re-tool. Keep Conforto (duh) and Cespedes. Keep Thor and Jake at the top of the rotation. Bring Rosario and Smith up at some time this year. Give Reed a contract and pick up Blevins’ option.

    The rest of the team can be either traded or released. I don’t thnk they have to trade all four of the other starters, but I could live with two of ’em departing. Wilmer, Familia, TdA, Nimmo, Smoker, Edgin, Robles, and Lagares can all be had for major league (or major league ready) talent. Please get some speed and OBP guys. A good glove wouldn’t hurt. Get some rubber-armed #4 type starters to fill in the empty slots. Other than Reed, all of my pending FAs can walk.

    Let Collins ride off into the sunset. Kick Sandy upstairs and away from day-to-day control. And for G-d’s sake, fire the training staff!

    • argonbunnies May 4, 2017 at 1:18 pm
      I can’t confidently call the 2017 team toast, but unfortunately these ideas don’t sound crazy to me at all. 🙁