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.
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The 2018 Mets: What Would Steve Phillips Do?

And for the record, it’s “what” and not “who.”

Well, so much for sustainable success. The Mets followed up their one-game wildcard appearance season that followed up their pennant-winning season with a 90+ loss season. What exactly went wrong has been well-documented elsewhere.  You can read any number of poorly-written posts on some other insipid website for that. What we’re interested in here at Mets Today is just how the team plans to return to contention. (It’s amazing how a single 90-game losing season can make “meaningful games in September” attractive again).

Based on his lackluster returns from the Great Trade Off of 2017, current Mets GM Sandy Alderson probably isn’t the man to steer the Mets back into contention. Sandy is old and sick, and the organization has grown soft.  They’re still blinking from their exposure to the bright lights of the 2015 World Series, and are imagining that they can see a fully-healed pitching staff, and a sudden quantum leap from a passel of mediocre Mets farm hands drafted and developed during the Alderson era.

Instead the Mets need an unsentimental, not worried about your opinion, pushy, get-er-done GM type. Since Donald Trump already has a job, instead the Mets should look under enough rocks until they find and convince Steve Phillips to return, letting  him apply his turn of the millennia philosophy to building the 2018 Mets. For all this talk about back-to-back playoff appearances, Phillips’ teams actually won playoff games in their return engagement, something this current era’s Mets squad couldn’t.

Imagine a tanned, rested and ready Steve Phillips back in the GM saddle in Queens. So, WWSPD–What Would Steve Phillips Do?

  1. He would say the following: “prospects will get you fired.” Before Phillips assumed the GM mantle in 1997, former 1986 Mets co-architect Joe McIlvaine held that post. Joe inherited a real mess–the team had lost over 100 games just the season before he took over. Slowly and methodically, Joe Mac re-stocked the Mets farm system with some intriguing prospects via the draft and the superstar-for-top-prospects trades that were the de rigueur front office moves for baseball back in the 1990’s. His efforts where given about a New York Minute to bear fruit, and when this didn’t happen, McIlvaine was shown the door. Enter Phillips, who traded/released nearly everyone of them, the main exception being future all-star Edgardo Alfonzo and the oft-injured Jay Payton. The rehabilitated 2018 Steve Phillips will make everyone of the Alderson-era Met farm system grads available, with the exception being future all-star Amed Rosario and currently-injured Michael Conforto. This means Dom Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Tomas Nido, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero, Chasen Bradford, Gavin Ceechini  and a host of others that grew up in the Mets system could find themselves unceremoniously traded away.  Considering that the Mets played around .400 ball during the quarter of the season that these guys got a lot of playing time, this isn’t exactly shocking. Apparently unimpressed by the hype, Phillips also jettisoned all of the disappointing Generation K starters at rock-bottom discounts. This time around, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler shouldn’t signing any long-time leases on Manhattan studio apartments.
  2. He would diss an injured loyalist. Todd Hundley was just about the only bright spot for the Mets in the mid 90’s, belting 71 homers in 1996-97 and earning a pair of All-Star nods. Then he hurt his elbow and was himself elbowed aside for the big Phillips acquisition (more on that later). He was also the previous regime’s guy. Phillips let Hundley embarrass himself in left field for a while and then sent him off to LA as part of a another big trade. This time around, his target is clearly David Wright. Phillips is going to want DW off the team for good, as injuries and age have caught up to David. But to successfully do this, he has to lay the groundwork…
  3. He would make a blockbuster deal for a big bat with an expiring contract. Phillips made five great trades as Mets GM, three of them with Florida. The last one landed future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. That trade did a lot of things, including making Hundley expendable. This time around, Phillips is going to trade Wilmer Flores, Matz, Rob Gsellman and Drew Smith to Toronto for Josh Donaldson and T.J. House. Donaldson is the big “get” here. He’s a third baseman, which makes Wright expendable. In what was a down year for him, he still slugged 30-plus homers. Also, if he bombs, he can walk after the ’18 season. Piazza could have walked as well, but Phillips got him signed to a big extension. With Donaldson on board, Phillips will convince the Wilpons to buy out David Wright’s remaining years,  relieving David of the agony of yet another failed comeback. Thanks for everything David, now hit the road.
  4. He would bring back a former Met.  Phillips brought back Bobby Bonilla and Jeromy Burnitz. He undid his trades for Greg McMichael and Bill Pulsipher.  Now he’s bringing Lucas Duda back into the fold. Despite a low batting average, Lucas bashed a respectable 750 OPS with Tampa, slugging 13 homers. His lower batting average will scare off potential suitors, making Lucas a relatively cheap acquisition. This isn’t 1999 after all.
  5. He would trade for a starting pitcher.  Phillips acquired Al Leiter, Mike Hampton and Hideo Nomo. He signed a past his prime but still effective Orel Hershisher. He made a very canny trade for Glendon Rusch. This time, dangling Dom Smith and Wheeler as the main bait, he’s going to deal with a division rival and land Julio Teheran. He will probably need to substitute or include other pieces such as TJ Rivera or Nimmo and perhaps one of the few remaining top farm pieces like Corey Oswalt. Teheran would fit nicely in the Met rotation as the #3 starter. For good measure, Phillips will also pluck John Lackey off the free agent pile, giving the 39-year old (on Opening Day) starter a chance to hold down one of the back spots in the rotation.
  6. He would promote an obscure minor leaguer. Until he stopped to admire Todd Ziele’s non-home run in Game One of the Subway Series. Timo Perez was a nice catalyst for the 2000 Mets down the stretch and into the playoffs. The year before, he was a Hiroshima Carp, and not a very impressive one at that. The 2018 Steve Phillips will only need to reach as far as Binghamton, where he is going to pluck Luis Guillorme out of obscurity and into the starting second base job. To paraphrase Mike Francessa: “who is Luis Guillorme?” Well, MLB Prospect Watch  claims Guillmorme has the fastest hands of anybody in the Mets system. The site gushes about him and about the prospect of Guillorme and Rosario forming a spectacular up-the-middle infield combo. His bat is barely serviceable right now, but he his glove can carry him until the hitting catches up.

 

So when the smoke clears, Super Steve will have added Donaldson and Duda to the Cespedes-Conforto tandem, giving the Mets a pair of lefties and a pair of righties in the middle of the lineup. He has strengthened the up the middle defense, as the Guillorme-Rosario keystone, backed by Juan Lagares in center gives the Mets a nearly airtight defense. Terhan  and Lackey  join Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the Met rotation. By getting Wright on the Bobby Bonilla installment plan and non-tendering Matt Harvey and Asdrubal Cabrera, he can keep the Met payroll under $150 million, while fielding a winning team that will get the turnstiles (and the advertising dollars) clicking again. Just like the good old days.

Author’s Note: Being a Mets fan requires a sense of humor. If you’ve made it this far into this post, then you probably have one. I don’t expect the Mets to add Donaldson, Teheran or Lackey, or promote a Double-A infielder. At least not in 2018. I think I share the common concern that a few cosmetic changes are coming for ’18, which will result in another lost season. THEN, the drastic changes will occur. Thanks for reading, keep the faith and have a great winter. See you next season, Let’s Go Mets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Game 125 Recap: A Glimmer of Hope?

Last night, the Mets showed signs that maybe, just maybe, the road back to contention isn’t going to be that long. Big hits by prized youngsters Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario and Dom Smith, a great defensive play by Juan Lagares, four grind-’em-out  ABs by Brandon Nimmo and pair of Mets rookies actually y’know pitching–as opposed to just throwing hard.  Their surprise bullpen acquisition notched another save . Meanwhile in Brooklyn, their erstwhile closer gave another indication that he is all healed up. All in all, a nice tidy 4-2 over the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team desperately in need of wins. More on them shortly.

Yes, I know what the team’s collective record and individual WARs are. But let’s dream for a moment: this new shortstop is pretty good. He took a couple of hard shots off his glove but stayed focused and made the easy plays. He also brings an energy to the team. It’s a lot to put on such a young man, I know, but he can be a real difference-maker. I was wrong about Conforto. He is making adjustments and has settled in. If nothing else, he will be Sandy Alderson’s lasting legacy to this team. With Yoenis Cespedes in left and Conforto in right, the Mets have a 60-70 homerun threat in their outfield. This, in my opinion, should allow them to carry Lagares in center. A team built around pitching needs a strong up-the-middle defense. Lagares and Rosario supply 1/2 of that need. Two things about Lagares: they will need to compensate for his bat elsewhere and he should be fined and benched the next time he dives for a ball. With Nimmo around, the Mets have their 4th outfielder. Nimmo is a real throwback type of player, he reminds me (in a good way) of Hunter Pence.

I hate to root against the guy, but I kinda hope David Wright’s latest comeback convinces him that it is time to hang ’em up. The Mets will not be able to carry a David Wright at 75% capacity. There is a perfect addition available this winter that currently toils in Kansas City. He’s under 30, has plenty of postseason experience and is definitely going to test the market. Some of the teams that may be normally eyeing him might be keeping their powder dry (and their wallets full) to take a run at Manny Machado the winter after next. The Mets may have an opportunity to add the perfect compliment to the Conforto-Cespedes tandem.   It also allows them to pick the best glove from their glut of middle infielders for second base.

Wow, a solid up the middle defense and power at the corners, are these the Mets we’d be talking about?

As far as the rotation and the bullpen go, by his absence alone Bartolo Colon has proven his value. The Mets need to get an innings-eating veteran to slide into the third slot of the rotation. They should have enough pieces to acquire one. How about a trade for Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmerman? I’d hold my breath and pencil in Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation, and put this new pitcher in the three-spot. I believe that injuries and inconsistent play have damaged the trade value of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo, so while one or more may go elsewhere for this older pitcher, the rest, along with Flexen, get to complete for the final two spots in Spring Training. It would be messy, but very entertaining. A few of these guys could end up in the bullpen.

It was a long climb back from the collapses of 2007 and 2008.  Most of us waited, somewhat impatiently for the resurgence, which came suddenly and just as suddenly has seemed to disappear. There should be no more waiting, no more talk of rebuilding. Look at the Diamondbacks, who in one year have risen from a disarrayed, dysfunctional organization into a team that if the season ended today, would be in the postseason tournament. Last night showed that the Mets do have some pieces in place to make a similar move. While 45+ years of living and (mostly) dying with this team have made me cynical, I still have moments like last night, where the past may not be prolog and the Mets can be winners again. Here’s to hope.

 

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Addison Reed and the Mets’ Bumgarner Trade

You’ll see what I did there in a minute.

So, another trade deadline has come and gone, leaving most Mets fans very disappointed again. The mantra this year was sell, sell, sell and fleece, fleece, fleece desperate would-be contenders of the cream of their farm system. Kinda like what happened to Jim Duquette and the Mets back in 2004.

Instead, and for the first time ever in Met history, the team both bought and sold at the deadline. In chronological order, they traded Lucas Duda to Tampa, acquired A.J. Ramos from Miami and shipped Addison Reed to Boston. Unfortunately for GM Sandy Alderson, no one wanted Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera or Neil Walker, so they remain Mets. This is a big part of the angst around here these days. The “haul” from this trio of deals, especially when compared to what happened cross-town, is the other contributing factor.

Of all the Mets on the block, I was least confident that Alderson could move Duda. Instead, he went first, for a now twice-traded Double-A relief prospect. The Ramos acquisition came totally out of the blue. I was actually impressed, as Sandy has been caricatured (and not unfairly) as a somewhat somnolent plodder, unable to multi-task. Instead, he proved his mettle to be able to both buy and sell, although Ramos is certainly a mixed bag. Ramos is also signed for next year, so there is that.

But his acquisition paved the way for the departure of Reed. Reed to Boston for three relief prospects was touted as a restock of the Mets depleted farm system, the addition of three “intriguing arms” that “could help soon” for what is essentially an expiring asset. Where oh where, I wondered, have I heard this one before? Then it hit me:

December 7, 1988: Mets trade INF Wally Backman to the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitchers Jeff Bumgarner , Steve Gasser and Toby Nivens. And that’s how the Mets got Bumgarner.

 

Backman’s time with the Mets had clearly come to an end, as the team was planning on inserting Gregg Jefferies into his spot at second base. This was the next in an ongoing series of missteps by Met management, dismantling the World Championship team without any significant return. One of the three (and I think it was Bumgarner, but my memory has faded) did actually show some promise for a while, but in typical Met fashion, he hurt his arm and his career stalled.  Gasser never made it, depriving early 1990’s Met fans of seeing a Gasser-Sasser battery.

 

Look, none of us have any way of knowing if Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan or Stephen Nogosek are the next Nasty Boys or the next Bumgarner, Gasser and Nivens. With Callahan likely to be called up in September, the Mets will at the very least reap something more for Reed than their previous generation counterparts got for Wally Backman.

 

Gotta start somewhere.

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Michael Conforto’s Next All Star Game Or Part Two Of The Case For Keeping Jay Bruce

Michael Conforto’s next All Star Game appearance will be for the Frontier League. There, I’ve said it. The crown jewel of the Alderson regime’s drafting history, the hitter of a pair of World Series homers, a part of the Legend of 2015, is looking more and more like a bust, the next John Milner, or if you prefer a somewhat more contemporary reference, the pre-steroid version of Jeromy Burnitz.

Hopefully the Mets understand this as well, because if they don’t, they are probably just days away from giving away the player they could only hope Conforto might someday become: one Jay Allen Bruce. In case you’ve forgotten I made a similar argument here.

Bruce is having a tremendous year with a slash line of 267|335|541 to go along with his 24 home runs. All this after a disastrous start to his Met career after last year’s trade deadline, a start that brought comparisons to he and the infamous Jason Bay. Bruce has proven his resilience, enduring a long winter of trade rumors, that fortunately for the Mets, bore no acceptable offers. To his credit he kept his mouth shut for the entire ordeal and has let his bat do the talking since Spring Training. He did speak up recently, countering Met manager Terry Collins’s somewhat incendiary remarks about the Mets not showing any fight, by making a somewhat understated, yet clearly understood rebuttal.

Like the rest of the Mets faithful, I held my breath last Saturday night when Yoenis Cespedes right knee created a tsunami like divot in the Citi Field outfield. The Mets’ claim that the injury is minor, and that Cespedes is due to return to the lineup tonight has about as much credibility as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf’s press conferences back in the day. With Cespedes looking at yet another injury-riddled season, Bruce is the only reliable source of power left in the lineup. The key word here being reliable.

Which brings us to Conforto. Once again, he has failed to adjust and after a hot start to his season, he has slashed 206|383|317 since June 1. He took the Golden Sombero on Saturday against some decent left handed Colorado relief pitching and then took another collar in Sunday’s debacle. Just a reminder, he hit 220|310|414 for all of 2016. This is the guy the Mets should build their offense around?

No sir. The Mets need to extend Bruce,and get Cespedes to find another personal trainer in the hopes that he can stay on the field more often. Together, Cespedes and Bruce can form a dangerous right-left middle of the order for the Mets, who need to go with faster players who can pick the ball elsewhere. This will equate to a power outage of sorts, making the home run threat  from the outfield corners an even more needed resource.

And for Conforto? He needs to be packaged with one of the Mets disappointing “young guns” this winter (that’s you Steven Matz) for a fast centerfielder and/or a defensive-minded second baseman.

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Trade Target: Derek Fisher

No one inside the Mets organization will publically admit, but they have to sense what many of us have already concluded: 2017 just isn’t the Mets year. At this point, they need a GPS to find .500, let alone any of the five National League playoff spots. Readers of this blog fully understand the woes of this current team, but essentially the older Met players haven’t aged well and the injured Met players haven’t fully recovered. If they pitch well, their bats go silent, and if they score runs, their pitching staff can’t hold the lead. This is more than a 10-game cold streak, they have played nearly one-third of the season. Yes, they put together some great runs the last two seasons to make the playoffs; but in both years they started off well, tailed off in the middle and then heated up down the stretch. Now, they will have to make a concerted run at winning baseball for over 100 games. Do you see them going 65-35 or so the rest of the way? Me neither, and it’s very disappointing.

The good news is that this probably isn’t 1978, nor 1993, nor 2003 nor 2011 again. Those rock-bottom seasons (notice how they get progressively closer together) featured a roster devoid of talent, some onerous contracts and a feeble farm system. Outside architects had to be brought in to tear the entire structure down and rebuild at a very basic level, a tortuous process that took years—and didn’t always bear fruit.

Maybe wishful thinking here, but I don’t see this as the case with this current incarnation. Other than David Wright’s insurance-covered deal, they are fine in the contract department.  In Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and probably Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, they have a decent cadre of core players. If the scouting reports are indeed true, they will be adding another solid piece whenever Amed Rosario is finally summoned from Vegas. Looking ahead to 2018, they should have two outfield and two infield spots covered, as well as a pair of top-of-the-rotation arms. The task between now and next year’s Spring Training is to supplement that core with some better players than the ones they have now. Which brings us to Mr. Fisher.

Unlike the Mets, the Houston Astros are having a phenomenal year. As of today’s writing (June 7) they are an incredible 42-16. Even if they “slow down” to a .600 pace they are on track for a triple-win digit year. Yet, they have weaknesses. Their bullpen needs another arm. Nori Aoki is slashing 258/307/315 for them in left and their DH is a 40 year-old Carlos Beltran. But if ever a team looked poised to win it all, this is it. Pardon the expression but they should be “all in.” The Mets have players to deal and would match up well with the Astros. They could offer Houston either Lucas Duda or Addison Reed for Fisher.  I wouldn’t be averse to packaging both of them together to get Fisher in return. Since Houston is looking for more production in their outfield, perhaps they would consider taking Jay Bruce in place of one or either piece. Maybe even Jerry Blevins, although that’s cutting a bit into next year’s team for the Mets, and I am not ready to punt 2018 just yet.

Currently Fisher is slashing 338/403/604 in the PCL. Yes, it’s the Pacific Coast League, but consider the fact that the highly-regarded Rosario is slashing 340/383/494 in the same league. Both players currently have 11 stolen bases. Imagine those two dynamos at the top of the Mets order.

Fisher has power from the left side, and has and has the ability to steal bases. There are concerns about his defense, which may relegate him to a corner outfield position (making Conforto a full time CF). But IMO this type of trade is a perfectly acceptable risk to take. Fisher probably isn’t ready to contribute to the Astros this year. Duda, Bruce, Reed, etc. could.  None of the Mets expiring contracts are likely to return next year. This type of return beats a draft pick or whatever the going rate is these days for losing a player to Free Agency.

They’ll still need plenty of shoring up elsewhere, especially the bullpen, but Fisher could be a useful piece to what is hopefully a quick turnaround from mediocrity.

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our “Streaky” GM

Enjoying this hot streak? Living so close the Philadelphia, I sure am. Some silver-haired manager, I think it was either Tommy Lasorda or Whitey Herzog, once made a remark to the effect that you are never as good as you look when you are winning; nor are you as bad as you look when you are losing. The Met lineup, from top to bottom (and on the bench), is full of streaky hitters. After what seems like an interminable period of waving at outside breaking balls or popping weakly to corner infielders in foul ground, they will get white-hot, not only hitting homers in bunches, but also grounders that squirt through shifts or bloopers that fall in front of outfielders playing deep.

The most famous of these hot streaks was by one Daniel Thomas Murphy in the 2015 NLDS and NLCS. Unfortunately, he cooled off in the World Series (thanks Sports Illustrated), but all of his former teammates/current Mets are also guilty as charged. These up and down streaks have served the Mets well, at the end of the season many of the players end up with better than respectable power numbers and as the team’s PR shrills remind us on a daily basis, this Mets squad has made the postseason for consecutive years for only the second time in team history.

But, wanna know what Met has been on the biggest hot streak lately? Try GM Sandy Alderson. For years it seemed, he whiffed on his acquisitions, as you can read about that here. Then something happened. He made a few minor deals with Atlanta and Oakland in July of 2015. Those trades may have been the equivalent of taking extra BP. It was as if he flipped the switch and became the hottest GM on the planet. He had the incredible good luck of the Carlos Gomez deal falling through, which paved the way for his signature (to date) trade for Yoenis Cespedes. Yes was a costly trade, but Cespedes has emerged as this era’s Keith Hernandez or Mike Piazza. Like those two icons, the day Cespedes stepped onto the field wearing a Mets uniform, the team was elevated to true contender status.

Since then? Well, Alderson stole Addison Reed from the Diamondbacks (anybody remember that he claimed Mark Rzepczynski from the Padres a few hours before the Reed trade, only to have the Friars pull him back?) He let Murphy walk, which in retrospect was a bad move, but few of us minded at the time. He lost out on Ben Zobrist, but made a pair of good moves, getting Neil Walker for Jon Niese and signing Asdrubal Cabrerra to a very-team friendly deal. He correctly gauged the market for Cespedes not once, but twice. Antonio Bastardo was a mistake, but he was able to cut bait on him rather quickly. Nobody, including me, liked the Jay Bruce deal, but give Alderson credit: he stuck to his guns all winter in trade discussions. I’ll bet either Baltimore or the Giants would be very glad to re-open negotiations on that deal now. He has also been patient with Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas and as a result, along with Reed, the Mets have a solid late inning bullpen that is costing them less per year than what the Yankees are paying Aroldis Chapman.

Alderson hasn’t been perfect (see Murphy), but he has been right and probably more than a bit lucky a lot more in the past 18 months than he was in the previous 55 months as Mets GM. Not only that, but he stuck to his principles, not trading then under-the-radar prospects like Jacob deGrom or Robert Gsellman for veteran filler when the team was really tanking.

He’s hot right now. But even the great Frank Cashen, the architect of the last Mets World Championship went cold again. Cashen’s hot streak went from June of 1983 when he traded for Hernandez until December of 1986 when he traded Kevin Mitchell away. That marked the beginning of an ill-fated dismantling of a potential dynasty. For the record, Cashen’s hot streak lasted just about 40 months.

Here’s to another twenty-two good months from the current Mets GM.

 

 

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