- The Mets know where they’re at:
More importantly, so do the fans.
I also think the media and the critics who take cheap shots at the Mets as a matter of course to compensate for a lack of ingenuity and wit are aware of it as well.
As new GM Sandy Alderson and his staff sift through the dysfunctional mess that was left behind after years of disorganization and infighting, they’re making maneuvers designed to limit expenses, maximize reward (as much as it can be maximized) and bide their time until their hands are free to be aggressive and drastically improve the club.
For some impatient fans and the media who make a living on attacking the Mets, this acceptance appears to have hit home. Because Alderson is so respected, he’s getting the benefit of the doubt on his lack of movement. At the very least there’s a plan. Whether it’s going to work or not is a different matter, but there’s a plan.
Right now, the plan is to wait out the expiring contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo (who are unlikely to be on the roster for opening day); see what happens with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes; and sign players who elicit yawns and eye rolls to inexpensive, incentive-laden deals.
No one who’s looked at Chris Young over the past few years can reasonably think the Mets are going to get anything of substance from him. So hungry for something to attach themselves to, fans were repeatedly mentioning Chris Young‘s name as if he was a consolation prize for the club not jumping in on Cliff Lee.
He’s a fine pitcher if he’s healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy for 2 1/2 years and when he was, he had a tendency to tire out at the end of the season after quick starts.
That’s not to say he can’t have value if that’s what they’re getting. A key to building a successful franchise isn’t collecting stars, but maximizing the abilities of what you have. Earl Weaver was a master at that. John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke were two players who—examined alone—were mediocre and not suited to playing every day; combined, they were a match for the best left fielders in baseball. Pat Kelly used to hit well in April and May, so Weaver would play him a lot in the early part of the season, then reduce his playing time as the season wore on.
It was cold-blooded and rational and it worked because Weaver had a plan and didn’t let sentiment or outside influences affect his decisions.
And the players? Weaver couldn’t care less what the players thought.
The Mets signings of Young, Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, Taylor Buchholz, Taylor Tankersley; Ronny Paulino; Willie Harris—all might seem negligible in the now-now-now sense that permeates today’s culture; but they’re a means to an end in eliminating the instability that played a large part in the team failures between 2007-2010.
I truly believe that Alderson has learned his lesson from his decried tenure as president of the Padres in which he cultivated an atmosphere of mistrust among the different factions and their beliefs. It’s a dictatorial strategy to have everyone looking behind them and wondering who’s holding the knife; it keeps all power in the hands of the person in charge and it’s not a viable way to win over the long term; nor is it a positive reputation to have as one who encourages such behaviors.
Everyone with the Mets—including the fans—are on the same page now. You rarely see people screaming about the club refusing to indulge in an overpriced free agent crop that would do little to help the Mets now as they’re finding their way; they certainly wouldn’t help in the years ahead when the team is ready to make a move into contention.
Apart from generating headlines, Lee, Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano—none of these players would do much to alter the Mets fortunes for 2012; in fact, pursuing and spending the money to get one of these players would’ve done more harm than good.
The Mets are building their bullpen the right way with available names on the cheap. That’s the way you build a competent bullpen—having a good closer and pitchers who will accept their roles looking for the big payday, and that payday will undoubtedly have to be achieved elsewhere.
Will the fans be silent as the Phillies are running off with the division and the Braves are right behind them? As the Marlins are ahead of the Mets in the standings? As the Nationals have made flashy (and stupid) acquisitions to garner attention while simultaneously doing little to improve their fortunes for 2012?
Some won’t. But most have accepted the need to do what Alderson is doing. 2011 will be dedicated to weeding out the players who aren’t going to be part of the solution. One will definitely be Beltran who—if he’s at all competent at playing the position—will win the center field job based on nothing other than the fact that it increases his trade value at mid-season. If Beltran’s hitting, they’ll be able to extract valuable pieces for him.
Reyes is a different matter. While hoping he is reasonable with a contract extension, the Mets are going to keep and open mind in dealing him. And if he loves the Mets so much, perhaps he’d be willing to accept a second half trade to another club and the Mets could pursue him as a free agent.
I’d let it be known—as I’m sure Alderson has—that the club will be open to anything and everything as the season moves along.
The Mets are being smart rather than desperate to placate critics. This is the first step in turning things around in the short and long term. The short term may not be clearly indicated in the standings, but the Rays began turning around the organization when they stopped tolerating bad behavior from the likes of Elijah Dukes, Josh Hamilton and Delmon Young. Many people didn’t notice, but it was the first step in getting them to where they are now.
The Mets can and are doing the same thing.
There are no contractually mandated scholarships for playing time anymore.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman and Carl Pavano:
I agree that it would have been lunacy to bring Pavano back. Cashman really revealed his desperation on that one.
I’d be frightened that it wasn’t desperation; I’d be concerned that he genuinely thought it was a good idea. Desperation would be a more acceptable reason.
Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Cashman:
Forget the idiocy of Pavano talks, how ’bout Cashman’s candid “this isn’t my decision” speech during the Soriano press conference. Um… can you say… awkward? I imagine if Mozeliak did that to DeWitt, Mozeliak’s ass would be gone. Why does Cashman get a pass?
Gabriel also writes RE Cashman:
What Jeff mentions is what shocked me the most. As an employee, how do you react to your boss saying that he didn’t want to hire you? Terrible PR.
I don’t get it either. Is Cashman so concerned about his image that he doesn’t want to be seen as having “lied” or misled the media when he stated he was not going to give up the draft pick for Rafael Soriano?
He’s a baseball GM—it’s his job to mislead; given Cashman’s known skills at speaking for an extended period while saying nothing at all, where was the nuance?
I’m not a fan of this, “don’t blame me” stuff as if it’s a protective cloak if something doesn’t work. He’s the Yankees GM—an underling—and it’s part of his job to take the bullets if something fails.
I’m not going to go so far to suggest that Cashman is exhibiting an “I don’t care anymore” pretense, but these outward showings of inner-organizational debates are in the same ballpark.
The smart thing to say would’ve been, “After discussing it as an organization, we felt that since all other avenues of improving the club have been exhausted, Soriano was the correct decision for us at this time. I didn’t want to lose that draft pick because of the value I place on them, but this improves the team’s chance to win now.” Then when asked if he would’ve done the deal, he could’ve parsed as he usually does without confirming or denying.
I’m wondering if Cashman’s gotten too immersed in his numbers and “plan” to realize he might be willingly placing his head in the hangman’s noose. Honesty is one thing. Flinging the bosses under the bus is another, but they must’ve been okay with him doing it.
Whether they were or not, I don’t think it’s good.