Fourth Place Again, So Why Bother?
Some offseason, eh? So far, the Mets have overpaid (David Wright) and overplayed (R.A. Dickey). What happened to that roster overhaul that GM Sandy Alderson promised us at the end of last season? I’ll tell you what.
The Mets front office has given up. It would take a blizzard, not just a flurry, of moves for the Mets to get closer to the Nationals, Braves or Phillies in 2013 and the front office simply isn’t up to the task. Rather than infuriate ownership, this suits them just fine, as the Wilpons would rather not spend the money on mid-tier free agents just to add a few more meaningless wins to the season total. Both parties figure they can approximate the same results with Jamie Hoffman and Anthony Recker (he’s from Allentown!) that they could with say, Cody Ross or A.J. Pierzynski. Instead, they’ll deploy a marketing strategy that positions the team as a bunch of likeable, scrappy guys, coupled with a few bona fide stars like Wright and Dickey and try to foist this off on you as a team on the rise. Plus, you really need to be at that All-Star Game don’t you? And next year, when they don’t make any moves, they’ll blame it on the lack of fan support.
You could argue that it is still early. You’d be wrong. There is a time for everything in baseball and this is the time to be making moves. Waiting until February or Spring Training means that all that is left are the Hoffmans and the Reckers. Anyway, this front office has a track record of untimely hibernations and except for one glorious day in 2011, has been unable to make a single move that has benefited the team. Since the new regime took over after the 2009 season, they have made four trades with other teams that involved players on both squads’ 25-man rosters. All of them failed. They have made two multi-year signings of free agents. They’ve failed as well. There have been roster dumps and contract extensions, but these have mainly been sideways moves, with the former not really removing much money and the latter only serving to preserve the status quo. The Wilpons get their rightful share of the blame for this mess, but now is the time to look at what the overrated brain trust has accomplished as well.
They say they have a plan, but the team is worse off now than it was at the end of the 2009 season. The Mets lack a single proven major league outfielder. None of their current catchers could start for another team, let alone make most rosters. Their bullpen, which killed them last year, remains vulnerable at its most crucial spot and is otherwise populated with unproven (there is that term again) arms. Their lineup lacks speed and aside from Wright, there is no power from the right side. Their left-handed power hitters are inconsistent. They are weak defensively, especially up the middle. The farm system, while stronger than it has been in a decade, is still at least half a season from sending any real help, and is years away from producing any of the positional players they need. Yes, the rotation is the Mets’ strongest point, but the team’s other weaknesses will likely waste many of the quality starts that this group is capable of making. This is not a team on the rise; it is one sinking further and further into irrelevancy.
Unless something radical happens, the Mets are well on their way to becoming the next Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals: a perennial loser and some rich guy’s tax write off, but hey, they’ve got a nice ballpark. Too bad it’s mostly empty on game days, except for those few cranky old time fans who ramble on and on about a supposed golden age that happened a long time ago.
I miss Steve Phillips.