Archive: January 14th, 2013

The Mets: How Bad Will 2013 Be?

So the R.A. Dickey trade not only removed a 20-game winner from the rotation, it failed to address a single immediate pressing need for the 2013 season. Remember GM Sandy Alderson’s quip about “What Outfield?” Maybe he should skip the jokes and go back to –err what is his job again?

Sarcasm aside, I will give credit where it is due: the trade Alderson made with Toronto for Dickey, Josh Thole and my 2012 “favorite” Mike Nickeas, was much better than the one I proposed and proved that the front office can make trades. Getting two of the Blue Jays’ top prospects could eventually prove to be a great return. Still, my deal (Gose and Arencibia for Dickey) would have patched three and maybe four holes in the 2013 lineup: center field, catcher, leadoff hitter and another right handed power hitter.

Instead, I do anticipate that the Colin Cowgill trade and the Andrew Brown signings will represent all the team’s offseason attempts to address the right handed situation. No re-signing of Scott Hairston, which makes their unwillingness to move him last July even more maddening. For at least the beginning of the season, John Buck, with his 2012 slash line of 192/297/347 and his .991 fielding average are the answer behind the plate. Those numbers are better than what his projected backup Anthony Recker, did last year, but Recker is from my native hometown of Catasauqua, PA so he gets a pass.

All of this makes you look forward to 2013, no?

Speaking of which, just how bad will the Mets be in 2013? A recent ESPN piece projected the Mets to win 66 games in 2013. I wonder if even that is a stretch. This projection doesn’t take in account the paper-thin depth the club has against the inevitable injuries and the inability of many players to adjust to the pressures of playing in New York. The club (mainly thru its online mouthpiece MetsBlog) has done a good job of looking busy this offseason, but the facts are that with less than a month before Spring Training begins, the 2013 Mets will not doubt be bad, probably really bad and perhaps even historically bad, as in this being one of the worst seasons in the past 40 years of the franchise.

Two things stand in the way of an historical season. The first is the presence of the probably even more pitiful Miami Marlins in the same division, who after their massive fire sale this offseason, could actually approach the 1962 Mets (or at least the 2003 Tigers) in terms of awfulness. It is conceivable that the Mets could take 12 of 19 games against the Minnows. So, if the Mets play at a .400 clip against the rest of the competition, that equals 70 wins, still bad, but somewhat north of epic. The other “mitigating” factor could be better than expected contributions from Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Araund and some of the other young players. That would be outstanding, but could it lift them past the level of say, the 1968 team, which also had a collection of young and/or developing talent? That team won 74 games, or the same as last year’s total. The worst part of that type of outcome would be the noise coming from the tools about this being progress. There is also the chance that Alderson could engineer a trade for Justin Up…nah, let’s just stick to only those remotely possible outcomes!

So, when all is said and done, where will this team rank on the all-time roll call of bad Mets teams? Before we go further, two caveats: the first is that I will disqualify the Stengel-Westrum era from this post as I was too young to be following them then and the team was essentially starting from scratch. Also, “bad “is defined mainly by wins and losses and not disappointments like 2007 or 1988. That attended to, here are my choices for the all-time worst seasons in Met history:

1974: This season was both bad AND disappointing. The Mets had a season for the ages the year before, coming from last place in July to force a Game 7 of the World Series. Like many fans, I expected the now-fully healthy team to romp past the National League again and beat Oakland in a rematch. I was wrong. Instead of the clutch hitting they exhibited down the stretch in ’73, the club hit a collective 235 with an anemic 95 homers. Surprise 1973 twelve game winner George Stone suffered a career ending injury, while ace Tom Seaver battled nagging hurts all season en route to a tough 11-11 campaign. The front office traded Tug McGraw, the team’s soul, after the season, the first major step in the dismantling of the 1969 and 1973 miracle teams. No one knew it at the time, but it would be another 12 seasons until the Mets would again reach the post-season. Final record: 71-91

1982: This was the year it was finally supposed to get better. The Mets had assembled a three-headed offensive troika of Dave Kingman, Ellis Valentine (who cost them Jeff Reardon in a trade) and George Foster. There was talk of changing the air traffic patterns from LaGuardia due to the homers. Instead the trio managed 58 round trippers, disappointing enough, but then consider that Kingman hit 37 of them. The rotation boasted two Cy Young Award winners past and future, however neither of them (Randy Jones or Mike Scott) pitched anywhere near that form in ’82. Some seeds were sown: Doc Gooden was drafted in the first round and GM Frank Cashen had dealt fan favorite Lee Mazzilli to Texas right before the season for a pair of rookie pitchers the press dubbed “The Texas Strangers,” one of whom was right handed stud and future broadcaster Ron Darling, while the other (Walt Terrell) was dealt for Howard Johnson. Future 86ers Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman, Jessie Orosco and Doug Sisk all saw action this year. Final record: 65-97.

2003: From a 15-2 Opening Day thumping at the hands of the Cubs, to Steve Phillips being fired , to Art Howe’s “we battled” statements, to Mo Vaughn’s expanding waistline, to Tom Glavine’s reluctant presence as a Met, to the dramatic selling off of veterans in July, this season was a total disaster. Rumor has the Mets passing on getting either Robinson Cano or Adrian Gonzalez in return for failed closer Armando Benitez because they wouldn’t pick up any of Benitez’ salary. Fred Wilpon had hired Art Howe to manage the Mets the year before because Art “lit up the room.” The only thing lit up this season would be the Mets pitching staff, which gave up a hit and a half per inning and allowed over 750 runs. 40-year old David Cone started four games for them before retiring. The sole bright spot was the debut of Jose Reyes. Final record: 66-95.

1979: You could lump all of the seasons between 1977 and 1983 on this list, but 1979 stands out as a particularly horrible year. Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, McGraw, Staub, Kingman and Ryan are long gone. All of them had big years elsewhere. About all the Mets have left is the late Joan Payson’s daughter, Lorinda DeRoulet, who is now calling the shots. She thought that club could save money by washing dirty balls. (She meant baseballs, keeping them at game quality—jeez). Average game attendance was just over 9,500, so they would have needed to wash plenty of balls to cover the shortfall. The curtain came down on the DeRoulet/Grant regime after this season, a development which we can only hope is mirrored after 2013 (if not, maybe Jeff can start washing some balls). Final record: 63-99.

1993: The sequel to 1992 and The Worst Team Money Could Buy. With the highest payroll in the National League the Mets went 59-103, almost an exact reversal of 1986’s regular season record. There were plenty of embarrassing incidents along the way: Vince Coleman’s firecracker toss at young fans, Bret Saberhagen’s super soaker full of bleach, Eddie Murray’s sullenness, Anthony Young setting the all-time consecutive losses record and what seemed like half the roster’s on-going feud with the press, lead by chief thug Bobby Bonilla. Manager Jeff Torborg, and GM Al Harazin were both fired, Harazin never to work in major league baseball again. New Manager Dallas Green was a total disaster and not just on the field. Remember his comment about beating his wife after loses? The team’s slogan was “Hard Ball is Back.” Hardly. Unlike 1982, where at least some good was started, the Mets would go through yet another GM and another manager and nearly a complete roster overhaul before they would even begin to recover from this disaster. Final record: you read that already.

While I think Alderson’s veneer of respectability and the actual gravitas of David Wright and Terry Collins will keep things from sinking to 1979 or 1993 levels, 2003 and 1982 might be hearing footsteps by the end of this August for their spot on the list. What do you think? Sound off below.