Hot Stove

The Mets-Madoff mess continues with no end in sight.

As the muck is sifted through, the stories go on and on as to the future of the club under the Wilpons. Will they find a buyer for the limited percentage and “cash infusion”? Will they have to sell a portion of the television network? Who and why would anyone be willing to pay a load of money to have no say in what’s going on? What affect will all of this have in actual player operations?

Analysis is rampant, the majority of it coming from “sources” and “experts” who don’t—nor could they—know what’s really going on with the loans the Wilpons have against the club; the circumstances surrounding SNY; how the government’s lawsuit seeking repayment for the Madoff gains is going to work out and whether a settlement is possible without the need to sell the Mets.

Educated guesswork is still guesswork.

We don’t know, we won’t know until the smoke from the announcement on Friday is completely clear. It’s going to linger for a good long while.

The on-field product has been a hot topic of discussion lately as Sandy Alderson was asked if he would’ve taken the job as GM had he known this would happen. Alderson spoke on the subject yesterday—NY Times Story.

Alderson claims that he didn’t know about this when he took the job, but was aware of the chance that there could be some upheaval regarding Madoff and the Wilpons. A smart man, he had to have accounted for this happening at some point.

Some of the speculation has centered around the Mets lack of spending this winter. Did the looming threat of legal action prevent the Mets from buying players? The conspiratorial answer would be yes; but the realistic and logical answer would be no.

The Mets would have had no interest nor capability in acquiring any of the big names that changed teams this winter via trade or free agency and it had nothing to do with money. Taking a look at the bigger players who were out on the market and you see that none had much attraction to the Mets and vice versa.

Cliff Lee? If he was coming to New York, it would’ve been to join the Yankees; at his age, the last thing he needed was to enter a team straddling the line between clearing dead salaries and moving forward with younger players.

Carl Crawford? Where where the Mets putting him?

Zack Greinke? He would have cost Ike Davis and Jonathon Niese to start with and there are the lingering questions about Greinke’s ability to handle New York.

Adrian Gonzalez? Again, a package of prospects then the long-term contract to keep him. And the Mets have a first baseman.

Jayson Werth? Even if they had the money, the Mets weren’t going to match the Nationals contract. Nobody was.

There were no “name” players to avidly pursue who were going to make an impact this season for the Mets. This is more of a market force than lack of cash.

It would’ve been overtly stupid for the Mets to again go with the quick fix scheme of throwing money at any and all holes since they have so many holes to fill. With Alderson’s hiring, that’s exactly what they’re trying to get away from.

It was known that this was going to be a so-called “bridge” year for the Mets. Any good executive or organizational boss is willing to take the hits—if he has support of ownership—for the greater good. If the Mets want to build a sustained pipeline of talent; if they want to invest in players who have winning qualities on and off the field, they’re required to sit through this season, likely struggle, wait for the end of the financial commitment to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo; hope they have a way to get rid of Francisco Rodriguez; bring in pieces that contribute to the future at reasonable prices; and see what comes available with the extra money they’ll supposedly have to spend.

The comparisons of the prior Alderson stops—the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics—and their ownership issues with those of the Mets are simplistic and wrong.

Alderson gained the reputation for frugality during his years with the Athletics and Padres, but it was somewhat misplaced. His championship contending Athletics teams were always among the highest paid in baseball and he had a star manager in Tony La Russa. When the team was sold, the money was no longer available and the Athletics sunk to the bottom of the division. Years of bad drafts and a dearth of money to buy players relegated them to living on their wits; then the wits—La Russa and Dave Duncan—left and things got worse.

I find laughable the suggestion that Alderson was the “father” of the stat-based “revolution” because he had the foresight to hire Billy Beane; that the injecting of objective analysis was a byproduct of his legal training and time in the Marine Corps. When the A’s spent money under Alderson, they won; the Beane Athletics didn’t take flight until Alderson had left and his contribution to those teams was minimal.

Left to their own devices with little money and prospects, in the final days of his tenure as GM, Alderson was reduced to gimmickry and desperation like bringing Jose Canseco back in 1997 to reunite The Bash Brothers with Mark McGwire. The team lost 97 games.

This is the type of maneuver that would’ve taken place had the Mets followed through on the “do something even if it doesn’t make sense” edict.

With the Padres, the divorce of John Moores had a limited influence on what Alderson was doing. Those Padres were a case study in the logical conclusion of Moneyball with Alderson at the top of the pyramid and tacitly encouraging factional wars between numbers crunchers and scouts. It also has to be remembered that Alderson was not the GM of the Padres; he was the team president which is an entirely different job than executing the player decisions on a day-to-day basis.

So what was he supposed to do this winter?

With money available or unavailable and examining what was feasible, he did the right thing. Building a bullpen through cheap pitchers off the scrapheap is the only efficient way to build a good bullpen—the “cheap” nature of said bullpen is a natural result of that strategy. It’s not due to being cheap specifically; it’s due to being smart.

As for the other options, what were they to do?

Jose Reyes has been under the microscope as a “will they or won’t they” be able to sign him? Will they trade him? What happens with Reyes?

Obviously, Reyes is a player—if healthy—you want to have as a centerpiece; but realistically, they have to examine the reality as the summer rolls around.

If the Mets are hovering around .500 or under, you can bet that Carlos Beltran will have his bags packed and ready to go. Reyes will be up for bid as well. The Mets will have to weigh the offers they receive vs the draft class from 2011. If Beltran and Reyes are playing well, would they be better served to let both leave as free agents and take the four compensatory draft picks they’d get? Or would they prefer to get packages with players who are closer to big league ready?

It’s not as simple as “trade ‘im” as you’ll hear repeatedly on the call-in radio shows.

The thought that the Mets can’t let Reyes leave is ludicrous.

Teams have moved on from their signature stars and been better in the long run because of that cold, rational decision that they could sign three pieces for the huge contract the one player is demanding.

The turmoil in the front office with the Dodgers and the McCourts’ divorce hasn’t stopped them from buying players when they need them; it’s unlikely to interfere with the Mets either as they slash through the jungle of lies and another casualty in the Madoff scam—the reputation of Fred Wilpon and, maybe, his beloved baseball team—faces the fallout. Maybe permanently.

2 thoughts on “Stories

  1. I think you’re right and the lack of spending probably was unrelated to the Madoff thing. I sure hope the Wilpons didn’t encourage their good friend Koufax to invest with Bernie.

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