The Lesson of Generation K
This question was emailed to me by “Dan B”:
Hey Joe, I keep hearing that we are basing this whole rebuilding phase around 2014 and our pitching prospects. Well, I lived through 1969 and our pitching prospects won us a World Series. I also lived through Generation K. I look at our current prospects and I see our top minor league pitcher is a guy the Giants gave away for two months of Beltran and another guy coming off of Tommy John surgery. Are these prospects really worth completely tearing down our team and rebuilding around or is this just an excuse not to spend money on the team now?
Dan, based on what we know about the Wilpons’ increasing mountain of debt combined with the actions we’ve seen over the last few months — rather than the doublespeak we’ve been fed — it appears that the “rebuilding phase” is likely an excuse not to spend money on the team now.
Personally, I’m not sold on Zack Wheeler just yet. But let’s pretend that I was sold on the idea that Wheeler is all that he’s cracked up to be: that means — as you suggest — the Mets are basing much of their hope on an extremely volatile, highly projectable, and tiny group of young men. All franchises that found success by building from within did so via strength in pitching, so we won’t even go into the dearth of quality position prospects in the Mets organization. Focusing on their pitching prospects, the cream of the crop is headlined by Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jeurys Familia, with subtext provided by Bradley Holt, Michael Fulmer, Robert Carson, and Jenrry Mejia. That’s not enough to bank on when you look back to the “top pitching prospects” of years past — such as the “Generation K” example you allude to.
As we learned from “Generation K”, many things can happen on a young pitcher’s road to the big leagues — most significantly the injury risk, but also other factors such as rate of maturity, psyche, making adjustments, etc. And as long as you bring up Gen K, we should consider this: at the time Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher appeared on that SI cover in 1996, all three were much, much further along in their development than Wheeler, Harvey, et al. Pulsipher and Isringhausen, in fact, had already experienced half a season in MLB, and Wilson reached — and pitched effectively through 10 games — AAA.
Point being: Gen K, at the time, had comparable if not a higher collective ceiling than Wheeler / Harvey / Familia, AND, had already established themselves at a higher level than the Mets’ current triumvirate of young arms — yet, they still did not come close to reaching their potential in Flushing. In other words, counting on a few impressive AA arms is akin to rolling a pair of dice — there are too many variables to consider right now to build plans around them.
If the Mets had, say, 5 or 6 guys at or near the Wheeler / Harvey / Familia talent level, I might be more optimistic; there would be more room for error. Additionally, I’d want to see more prospects like Holt sprinkled at all levels — big arms with potentially high ceilings but who showed flashes but perhaps needed more seasoning, a new pitch, the right coach, etc. To build a team through the farm system, an organization needs both quality and quantity; sheer volume of arms is necessary to begin a successful, long-term run at providing legit MLB pitching to the big club. The Mets aren’t there yet — not even close. If one of Wheeler, Harvey, or Familia goes down with injury this season, it would have a devastating impact on the future outlook. Consider this: any of those three would have been comparable to Andrew Brackman at the same age, and the Yankees just this winter let go the once highly touted, big righthander — and no one even blinked, because the Bronx Bombers had a dozen “Brackmans” in their system at any one time over the past few years; they could absorb the loss.
So, again, I feel strongly that any story spun around the idea that the Mets will be contenders once Wheeler, Harvey, and Familia are “ready” is flawed. I’ll conclude with this: as recently as 2006 / 2007, many, many people believed that when Citi Field opened, the Mets starting outfield would consist of Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Carlos Gomez. And those were outfielders, who are less susceptible to having their futures curtailed by arm injuries. I rest my case.
(Note: BloggingMets addressed this subject in a similar fashion a few days ago.)
a while now and when we read the mets are interested in
Oaklands pitcher Gonzalez we were very excited! Its
not everyday you can get a 26 yr old left handed
starter who is affordable and under control for the next
four years who has won over 30 games the last two years
with an era under 4.00! But the mets would have to give up a couple of our great unproven pitching prospects
to get a pitcher coming into his prime so I guess Sandy doesn’t remember generation K or the nationals Stephen
Strasburg for that matter? The Nationals seem willing
to part with some of their great pitching prospects but not
the Mets! I wouldn’t trade our prospects for a so-so pitcher
but Gonzalez is not far from being a number one starter if
he isn’t already and the mets prospects are one, two,
or maybe more years away so not making this move
makes no sense unless they want empty seats at
Citi Field this year? I’m not impressed with Torres as
our starting center fielder and lead off hitter and for the
money you spent on Francisco and Rauch you could have signed K- Rod and used Ramerez, Acosta, Beato, and
Parnell for the 7th and 8th innings and had a real closer
who has proven he can do it in
I don’t know what is going to happen three years from now. I didn’t know what was going to happen after 2006, including that after twice failing on the final day, the team would have years of ineptitude mixed in with a few months of enjoyable ball playing. But, we shall see.
To balance this article, remember that pleasant surprises also come out of the farm system – Joe’s analysis assumes that practically everybody disappoints. Murphy can hit better than people thought he would, Ike Davis is all around better than he was projected to be, etc. I expect that a lot of MLB pitchers are outperforming their minor league expectations right now. Remember where Greg Maddux was drafted…
It’s like a team that’s trailing by 2 pts late in the fourth quarter looking at a 55 yd FG. It doesn’t matter that the odds are against them. They have only two choices, kick the FG or lose. That’s it. Alderson is not stupid. He knows that prospects often wash out. But for a franchise that has limited funds, which is EVERY franchise save the Yankees, the Mets must develop and develop and develop. Think of the great teams the past 25 yrs. the Braves, the Sox, the Rays, the Phillies. All of them developed great players and ONLY when they were close did they make smart trades and then go out and sign that final FA. I’m not saying that Wheeler et al will definitely be great. Who knows? but there is no alternative given the Mets payroll constraints. None. You want to call the Wilpon bad owners. Fine, but they aren’t cheap. They had one of the highest payrolls in baseball and it didn’t work. Stupid is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. the Mets cannot buy a championship, they must build it. It will take time and there will be disappointment. The Rays sucked for a decade before getting it right. the Philles sucked forever before getting it right. the Mets will be medicore before getting there. Many players must be drafted, many prospects will fail, many non prospects will surprise us.
At some point some of you need to grow up. What’s done is done. The Mets have bad contracts and not enough talents. they need to purge the former and acquire the latter and only time will accomplish both. I’m a true fan so I will wait. Braves fans have been where we are, Phillies fans have too and back then both their owners were seen as clowns and jerks until the winning started happening. Even Steinbrenner was regarded as a fool in the 80’s and early 90’s when the Mets owned the city (under the Wilpons I might add).
I just read an article about irate Giant fans. One yr removed from a WS and those fans are pissed off. Yankee fans are angry because Cashman didn’t buy up Wilson or trade for King Felix. 27 WSC and they’re angry. People need to relax a little.It’s gotten out of hand when we have legions of arm chair GM who couldn’t win at baseball mogul screaming like idiots because their teams wasn’t dumb enough to spend 250mil on Pujols. A little patience is require here. The Mets are rebuilding. Live with it or leave because there is no alternative
I also think that the Mets have a little more depth with pitching prospects than you give them credit for…don’t forget, the team thought this year’s draft was particularly deep with pitchers and the team took 5 in the first 5 rounds, 4 of them college pitchers that could be MLB ready to contribute in some way in 2014.
Yes building a team entirely on FA is as silly like some of you say, but its just as silly to build around prospects that are 3 years away. I am sick of hearing about the Rays, The Rays cant get anyone to go to thier ballpark so they have their own problems.
You want me to wait 3 years while you play AAAA talent? Why dont you get rid of the 25 $ parking and 8 dollar hot dogs. You wouldnt go see a movie that ran out of money and didnt shoot the end would you well maybe I am a fair weather fan but I am not paying to see a incomplete team.
Gosh I hope the Wilpons sell this team soon and move on. Otherwise, it’s going to be a desert in NY.