Mr. Alderson, Your Baby Is Ugly

I spent nearly a quarter century in the Directory Publishing business. Along the way, I worked for several interesting people. Among my favorites was a woman named Brenda. She headed up our New Products Division during one of those rare times when any idea could at least make it to the table for consideration. She was savvy enough to realize that her tastes may not reflect those of the general marketplace. “I need you to tell me if you think my baby is ugly,” she would state during intra-department meetings when she championed a concept or product that she liked. In a corporation where butt-kissing was considered a vital career preservation tactic, her approach was like a breath of fresh air. My association with her helped me to extend my career there for another decade, much to my personal, professional and financial benefit.

More recently, one of my left-leaning friends told me that the Mets’ biggest problem is a lack of diversity. Coming from him and coming near the end of the Omar Minaya era, I mentally rolled my eyes. I see now that he was correct in that there were (and still are) no non-Wilpon yes-men voices in the Mets upper management. Much like the chatter from MSNBC or Fox, all of the discussion inside Citi Field is taking place in an echo chamber of like-minded idiots. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Mets think they have a beautiful baby and by all indications, have doubled down on their flawed (to put it mildly) approach.

I used to give Sandy Alderson a pass over the financial constraints placed on him by the Wilpons. But with each passing move, it is becoming more and more obvious that the game has passed him by. His 90-win pronouncement at the beginning of the season was a clear warning of how out of touch he really is. There was a brief glimmer of hope for this team after the Philadelphia series. Since then, they have gone 1-6 with a host of other “ugly baby” developments tossed in.

With the #10 pick in this year’s draft, they essentially drafted another Lucas Duda, passing on much better multi-dimensional players who could help the team shortly. Then, we all got reacquainted with Angel Pagan, whom Alderson’s lieutenants talked him into trading for trash after the 2011 season. How good would Pagan’s 323/373/433 slash line look in the Met lineup right about now? I hope Angel flashed his World Series ring at Terry Collins a few times while rounding the bases. Finally Travis d’Araund, the supposed key piece in the R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto two years ago, was shipped to Los Vegas after a 63-game stretch where he hit twenty points below the Mendoza line. Perhaps more disturbingly, Travis looked and played poorly defensively. According to published reports, both he and some members of the pitching staff expressed dismay over his demotion. Apparently this echo chamber extends into the Met clubhouse.

Speaking of the infamous Mr. Mendoza, Alderson has become his GM equivalent when it comes to personnel decisions. For every Scott Hairston, LaTroy Hawkins or Marlon Byrd that he grabbed off the scrap heap , there is a Brad Emaus, a DJ Carrasco, a Danny Herrera, an Omar Quintanilla, a Jon Rauch, an Andres Torres, a Frank Francisco, a Collin Cowgill, a Shaun Marcum, a Chris Young (or two), a Scott Atchison, an Anthony Recker or a John Lannan on the other side of the ledger. That’s a sub-.200 average. Yes, I know that all teams try on different players throughout the season. The Mets are unique in that not only do they rely on these players to fill key roles, they insist on shoving them down our throats game after game, long after even a casual observer notices their ineptitude . Whatever eye for talent Alderson used to have is gone and much like Joe McIlvaine, a failed Mets GM from an earlier era, he seems unprepared with any backup plans in case Plan A goes bust. Notice that d’Araund’s replacement is Taylor (206/366/390) Teagarden? Sure, he hit a hanger over the fence for a Grand Salami on Tuesday, but it will probably take him another two weeks to drive in his next four runs. At least this time Alderson replaced a poor-performing player with one only slightly less bad. His two big attempts to improve one of the league’s lowest-ranking offenses this past winter were Young and Curtis Granderson, both of whom actually underperformed the average Mets 2013 hitter the year prior. Talk about an ugly baby.

And while we are on the topic, anyone here still think that Zach Wheeler is a future ace? I’ll bet you can’t wait to see what “prospect” we get from Pittsburgh as the PTBNL in the Ike Davis deal. Meanwhile the Miami Marlins, Jose Reyes’ other former team, also operating on a shoestring with an owner everyone despises and a sidelined ace, appear to be light years ahead of the Mets both in the standings and in player development.

I am not really a fan of his, but I agreed with Paul LoDuca’s comments from last week. The team needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt. This isn’t about fringy moves with players not under contract past 2014. Other than David Wright and Granderson (immovable contracts) and Matt Harvey (injury) everyone should be on the block. Everyone. This includes serviceable vets like Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese, along with promising youngsters like Jennry Mejia and Juan Lagares. The Mets need at least 20 new players and will need to make deals that bring back multiple players back that fit into a well-thought-out rebuilding plan. But who will drive? Would you trust it to Alderson? I wouldn’t. Neither would I want Paul DePodesta nor JP Riccardi, Sandy’s failed Moneyball henchmen, to try their hands at it. Besides, do you think any of these guys would have the guts to admit to making such a huge blunder and tear it all down?

Maybe Jeff Wilpon decides to run the team himself, through a patsy like John Ricco. That might not be a bad thing if Jeffy is willing to channel George Steinbrenner and spend fistfuls of money, attempting to put an All-Star at every position. This is Jeff we are talking about however, so while a puppet GM is a good possibility, any smart baseball moves or big cash outlays are unlikely. Ideally he could pull a Leon Hess circa 1997 and put a Bill Parcells-type strongman at the top of the organization, while taking a step back.

That move made a new fortune for the already wealthy Mr. Hess. In the end, that might be the only face-saving “out” available to Jeff (and Fred). They might only need to look as far as the WOR radio booth where a certain former Mets architect is slowly rebuilding his image…

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 Communications Coordinator. He is married, lives in Bethlehem PA and has a 10-year-old son who unfortunately roots for the Phillies.
  1. Bat June 11, 2014 at 10:28 pm
    Very harsh criticism Dan but I agree with much of what you’ve said.

    I agree with your assessment of Conforto, their choice in the draft: he strikes me as a Wilmer Flores / Billy Butler-type player who will struggle defensively and in other facets and the hit tool will be enough to outweigh these deficiencies. Duda is a similar example of this.

    The Pagan trade was indeed unfortunate – a major misfire by Alderson and Co.

    Also agree that TDA was not been impressive but this is the first I’ve heard that he or others were grumbling about his demotion – do you have a source for this? Even if TDA busts we need to see Synderbloock busts before we label that trade a dud.

    Metsblog is reporting Neil Kozikowski is the PTBNL in the Ike Davis trade; he isn’t what I was hoping for, either.

    But is the organization really as far away as you seem to indicate?

    If the bullpen is Mejia, Parnell, Black, Edgin, and Germen (and we have some other potential pieces if one or more of these don’t work out) and the rotation is some combination of Niese, Harvey, Wheeler, Synderbloock, Montero, Gee, and Colon, that strikes me as pretty good. Too early to say how Wheeler will turn out, I think.

    But again we come back to the lineup…Wright, Murphy, and Lagares look like good fits at 3B, 2B, and CF but everywhere else around the diamond looks questionable. Certainly Duda does not look like a first division 1B and the other pieces also have major flaws (Grandy looks pretty well past his prime; EY is a fourth OF at best; Brown and MDD do not look like regulars; Flores / Tejada is interesting and I am holding my breath that one or the combination of both is the answer to what has been a long-term problem).

    You seem to think an entire rebuild is necessary Dan; might be true but I certainly hope that is not the case.

  2. dave June 11, 2014 at 11:22 pm
    I completely disagree that Murphy should be on any trade block…..he has been one of the few bright spots on this pathetic excuse for a team, and therefore MUST be RE-SIGNED, PERIOD!!!!!
  3. Seymour June 12, 2014 at 4:15 am
    Colin Cowgill has been amazing for the Angels
  4. argonbunnies June 12, 2014 at 4:47 am
    Disagree on Conforto — yes, he may be the next Lucas Duda, but he also has the chance to be the player Duda had a chance to be (but didn’t become). Namely, an elite slugger. There were very few such guys in the draft, and I’m happy to get one. It’s way better than drafting toolsy athletes who can’t hit. I also wouldn’t pan the d’Arnaud acquisition just because it didn’t work out — it looked like a good get at the time. Also, Angel Pagan isn’t going to hit .320 all year.

    That said, I agree with everything else in this article. The narrow-minded echo chamber is not working. The budget may not be Sandy’s fault, but he’s certainly been outperformed by even cheaper teams, such as the Marlins. Trading Niese while he’s healthy and Murphy while he’s hot may well be the best ways to fortify the Mets with talent for when Harvey is in his prime and Wright isn’t yet too diminished by age.

    At the same time, our international scouts have to start pulling some Marcell Ozunas out of their hats. Remember when getting Pedro was supposed to open up this great Dominican talent pipeline? The Mets had an academy there before most teams. Yet they’ve mostly been signing low-upside Dominican guys for years — the last one to garner any outside excitement was Fernando Martinez. Other teams also beat the Mets to new talent sources like Cuba (Cespedes) and Korea (Ryu). To win on a shoestring budget, you’ve got to be ahead of the curve somewhere. Maybe the Mets need to invest in some giant “Tony Bernazard doesn’t work here any more” posters.

    • Jack Strawb June 20, 2014 at 3:04 am
      If the team trades Murphy and Niese it might as well announce it’s entering a permanent rebuilding cycle. Every team needs average players, and if we’re going to trade all of ours every time they become expensive, then the team’s fate is to win 70-79 games a year.
  5. argonbunnies June 12, 2014 at 4:48 am
    I have no idea why my comment is awaiting moderation.
    • Dan Capwell June 12, 2014 at 7:58 am
      Somehow the system wants me to approve it. I looked at it and I approve! Coming up shortly!
  6. DanB June 12, 2014 at 7:20 am
    Steinbrenner not only had the willingness to spend money, but he also could not tolerate anything short of a championship. The fans could relate to his desire to win and forgive him for his faults because of it. In addition, he had Gene Michaels who had no fear of telling him that his baby was ugly (great story!). He also had an educated, intelligent son who had little interest in taking over for his father but did so, relying on the advice of smarter business and baseball men. I was not a Steinbrenner fan, but could you have a situation more opposite then the Wilpons and the Mets?
    If the Mets rebuild their rebuilding efforts (try asking your sales departmrnt to sell tickets for that!), would it be any worse then what we will watch for the next four years?
  7. Bat June 12, 2014 at 9:25 am
    Argon, on many occasions I have thought about that Minaya comment that signing Pedro would cause other Dominicans to sign with the Mets – that was and always will be nonsense.

    International free agents will almost always sign with whoever pays them the most money. Which leads me to my next point of your post, where you say the Mets scouts got “beat” on guys like Cespedes: I don’t think that’s true. I think the Mets scouts saw them just like other teams’ scouts, but the Mets offer – to the extent they bothered to extend one because often they may have just realized an offer would futile because it was so much lower than the market was likely to bear- was lower than the team’s offer that signed him (Cespedes – A’s; Puig – Dodgers; Abreu – White Sox; etc.).

    Another thing worth mentioning that Dan mentioned in his post is something I’ve always given Alderson and Co. a pass about – the lack of a reasonable budget. But he raises a good point in why are teams like the Rays, A’s, and even the Marlins seemingly able to get much more out of their payroll? Alderson was touted as a genius- / savior-type when he arrived; while I think he has been “good” (maybe a grade of “B”), I don’t think he’s “great” and in that connection I think there are a number of GMs who seem to do more (i.e., stockpile talent) with less (money).

  8. DaveSchneck June 12, 2014 at 10:05 am
    Dan,
    Good story. The baby is surely ugly right now, and the record reflects it as the Mets are mere percentage points out of the NL East cellar with a AAA lineup and inexperienced bullpen. I agree with Argon on the draft pick – actually, from what has been written, the last two drafts the Mets took the best bat, and hopefully that will pay dividends down the road. I also agree that the Marlins are more advanced on a lower budget, and the Astros seem to be on the move. But, those teams were willing to essentially write off entire seasons, something that is virtually impossible in NYC as the operating costs are much higher and the financial losses would be monumental. I have been hard on Alderson, and there is clear evidence that the MLB moves he has made have been mostly bad, but the Wilpon-budget/control factor cannot be underestimated. The lack of funds forced Alderson to spend $7 million on C Young, as he needed an insurance policy OF since he knew he would not be able to bid on the better players (see Choo, Elisbury). This also forced him to offer Granderson and Colon the additional year, which he could have avoided had he had other options. The Wilpon factor likely was involved on choosing Colon over Kazmir. Oakland preferred Kazmir over Colon, and given that the money was very close, combined with the Met’s need for a second lefty in the rotation, it made no sense at all going with Bartolo (although I find him very entertaining myself). This pea brain ownership, with their “we don’t have a budget” posture, mitigates most of the capability of a guy like Alderson. I will not shed any tears for him, as he will earn more this season than I will in my life, but I would love to read his memoirs after he moves on. Anyhow, despite the new lows this team seems to hit each month, there are pieces to work with and moves to be made, if the ownership was truly interested in building a 90 win team. They are very close to writing off 2014, as most of us predicted, but hopefully failure in 2014 will increase the pressure/need to truly invest in the MLB product. Not with a repeat of panic signings or trades, but with a move or two that returns some legitimacy to the team. Go sign a real closer, even with Parnell returning and Familia-Mejia-Black with another year’s seasoning. That would cost nothing but a few bucks. Find a legit SS with plus D and one that can contribute offensively. Sign a vet backup catcher even when you given TDA another chance and with Plawicki at AAA. And, while I sused to think the biggest need was for a cleanup hitter, I really think DW needs to move out of the 3 hole. He is the single biggest cause for the poor offense, but no one wants to talk about it. Anyhow, build a 1-8 lineup that doesn’t necessarily have top level power, but that can be a tough out in each position AND in any game situation. Those guys can be found. Put $110 mil into the payroll, and integrate the prospects into spots that don’t carry as much responsibility. That is what winners and those with pretty babies do.
  9. DanB June 12, 2014 at 10:29 am
    Dave, how would you like an average leadoff hitter, Wright in the two hole and a legit #3? Your clean up hitter could have 15 homeruns and still have 95 RBI as long as he makes contact. You don’t need homeruns in CitiField to win. Get good baserunners on and have contact hitters putting balls in play. Walk first/homerun second hitters are not designed well for CitiField. Why do they keep looking for them? You need guys who can go first to third on a single.
  10. DanB June 12, 2014 at 11:54 am
    Actually, thinking about it, could there be a worse player for Citi Field then Lucas Duda? He has power but power hitters are handicapped here. He does get on a lot but largely because he walks a lot. The baserunner in front of him only advances one base. The baserunner behind him are blocked because he can’t run. Yeah, Mets get on but it takes at least two and three more batters to drive them (walk them?) in. No wonder their RISP record is terrible. Citi Field needs plus defnders, doubles hitters, and good baserunners. With the right players in front and behind him, I have confidence that a hitter like Wright could hit 300 with 15 homeruns and still drive in 100 RBIs and maybe score 90 runs. But not with Duda behind him!
    • DaveSchneck June 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm
      Dan,
      Agreed. Give me a lineup of tough outs with doubles power, with speed that leads to good baserunning and plus D, match it to a pitching staff of 12 guys that could pitch in the bigs if there were only 15 teams, and Citifield could sport a winner.
  11. Bat June 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm
    Seymour, I am glad you wrote this about Cowgill – I went and reviewed his stats on Fangraphs and see that he has accumulated 1.7 fWAR with only 165 plate appearances this year (not sure how much of that is attributable to defensive substitutions, meaning that he might be playing a bit more as a late inning defensive replacement and even more defensive WAR generally fluctuates considerably and cannot be looked at in a SSS as representative of actual, long-term value).

    But wow!

    I had no idea he was having such a good year. The .388 BABIP looks unsustainable though. Still, I’d rather have him at 1 year / $500k than Grandy at 4 years / $60 million.

    Granderson currently at 1.7 WAR with 265 plate appearances.

  12. BklynCowpoke June 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm
    I think much of the failure of the recent Met prospects is due to two things…. The first is that they are bringing up prospects before they are ready, especially the pitchers. Starters need to be pitching at least 6 innings per outing on a regular basis in AAA before being promoted to the big club. Wheeler and Montero especially do not have adequate command of the strike zone to be effective in the majors. The second problem is the manager, who plays fringe veterans on a regular basis rather than give the younger players on the club a chance to play and develop.
  13. John June 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm
    Overall a good article; minus two glaring points.

    Jon Niese is far better than “serviceable.”

    In criticizing Travis d ‘Arnaud, you didn’t mention Noah Syndergaard, who may very well turn out to make that a good trade — even if it was straight up just for him.

    I think that probably you would have received similar criticism if you posted that article on Amazin Avenue.

    Overall very good though.

    • Jack Strawb June 20, 2014 at 3:32 am
      Interesting post.

      “They are very close to writing off 2014, as most of us predicted, but hopefully failure in 2014 will increase the pressure/need to truly invest in the MLB product.”

      It won’t. Why would it? There’s been failure going back years, and agitation among fans, and I suppose you could say that keeping the illusion of contending alive caused the signing of Granderson, Colon, and Young, but fans don’t move as one and the Wilpons need the Mets as a cash cow to prop up their other businesses. It appears that winning 75 games is their best business plan, so that’s what they’ll keep aiming at.

      “Not with a repeat of panic signings or trades, but with a move or two that returns some legitimacy to the team.
      Go sign a real closer,…”

      Real closers run 10m+ a year, and are worth a couple of wins. The best closer in baseball won’t ‘return legitimacy’ to this team. Legitimacy comes from having a *real* shot at winning 90 games, several seasons in a row.

      “Find a legit SS with plus D and one that can contribute offensively.”

      If that’s all in the same body, guys like that go for 5/60. The Mets can’t even afford Drew.

      “Sign a vet backup catcher even when you given TDA another chance and with Plawicki at AAA. And, while I sused to think the biggest need was for a cleanup hitter, I really think DW needs to move out of the 3 hole.”

      It scarcely matters. Every lineup study you’ll find testifies to its making no real difference where Wright hits in the lineup. He’s a two win player this year. You might pick up all of a run over the course of the season by moving him.

      “He is the single biggest cause for the poor offense, but no one wants to talk about it.”

      He’s an ML average hitter this season. If he plays like an All Star from here on out he’ll add a win and a half. If Wright is ‘the single biggest’ problem, it’s on a team with 20 other significant problems. Given Wright’s contract, you can’t do anything about him except hope he hits better.

      “Anyhow, build a 1-8 lineup that doesn’t necessarily have top level power, but that can be a tough out in each position AND in any game situation. Those guys can be found.”

      Not short of a $150m payroll.

      ” Put $110 mil into the payroll,…”

      Won’t come close. With the current payroll, going to 110m means you can add only a closer and a solid position player, such as the SS you mentioned. That puts the team in a position to win 75 games this season as 80 in 2015, but the club is much, much further away than the difference adding 20m-25m in payroll will make.