Alderson, DePodesta, and Ricciardi will try to match this triumverate's success.
Today is the 25th anniversary of Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. It was a game the Mets would win to cement their second (and last) World Series title.
The roster of the 1986 team was the result of shrewd draft choices, key trades, and a top minor league system that helped the Mets rebuild from the abysmal 70s teams, to a perennial contender from 1984-1990.
There are some similarities between the organization in the early 80s and today’s Mets franchise. A new General Manager has taken over a mediocre club, with a thin farm system and sparse financial breathing room. Sandy Alderson may not have inherited a team as awful as the one Frank Cashen took over, but it always feels like the 21st-Century Mets are teetering on the edge of a 100-loss season. Alderson will have to build his Mets similar to how Cashen built the eventual ’86 champions.
Cashen and the Mets made little use of major league free agency. George Foster was a notable exception, and was largely a disappoinment. (Correction – Foster was also acquired via trade – PJF) The 1986 team was made up mostly of draft choices and trades:
Key Draft Choices:
- RHP Rick Aguilera
- 2B Wally Backman
- OF Lenny Dykstra
- RHP Dwight Gooden
- RHP Roger McDowell
- OF-IF Kevin Mitchell
- OF Darryl Strawberry
- OF Mookie Wilson
- C Gary Carter
- 1B Keith Hernandez
- RHP Ron Darling
- LHP Sid Fernandez
- 3B Ray Knight
- 3B Howard Johnson
- LHP Bob Ojeda
- LHP Jesse Orosco
The Mets of the 80s used their draft picks and other minor league prospects as both key members of the big league club, and as chips for trades. They built their farm system to the point where they could part ways with some prospects (i.e. Hubie Brooks, Calvin Schiraldi, Rick Ownbey) to fill voids on the major league team, because they knew they still had depth in the organization.
That’s the approach Alderson and the 2011-2012 Mets have to emulate. The farm system is thin on prospects beyond AA (where Harvey, Familia, Wheeler, Mejia, et al, provide hope). They must develop enough depth to build a solid major league club, while still having the ability to trade prospects for needs that the farm system can’t fill.
Granted, there are young players ready to contribute now. Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and others. That’s why, in some ways, this team is reminiscent of an early-80s Mets team. Let’s say 1982. Future members of the ’86 Mets were already on their way up through the minors: Gooden, Strawberry, Dykstra. Some were already beginning to make major league contributions: Wilson, Backman, Orosco. Two years later, the Mets finished second to the Cubs in the East.
It’s conceivable the Mets could start making noise two years from now, when some of their existing prospects reach the majors, and youngsters on the current major league roster gain experience. But they have to build the team the right way, like Cashen did in the 80s. Don’t look for the quick fix – build the organization from the bottom up. This is the best way to sustain a contending ballclub for many years.