Now that the Mets regular season is over, the real fun begins!
While we don’t have any more live games to watch, we are entering the “Hot Stove” season. This offseason will prove to be a pivotal one, more so then past years. The Mets appear to be at a crossroads of sorts, trying to pick the appropriate path. The pursuit of a championship is always the end game. But, how you get there can take on many forms and try the patience of even the most die hard fan.
You can go “all in” to coin a poker term and try to “purchase” a contender, similar to the way the Yankees of recent vintage operate. Or, you can tear down the walls and build your roster from the ground up with young players. The dilemma is that one method takes a lot of time and patience, while the other method offers the potential of a quick fix. Adding to the problem is that there is no guarantee that either method will work 100% of the time.
Under Omar Minaya, the Mets tried the “buy a contender” plan, only to end up with a flawed, underperforming and overpaid roster. The “stars” we obtained didn’t play the way we thought they would. The roster was also ravaged by injuries, which left little in the way of talent to take their place when called upon. Worst still, we neglected our farm system both financially and by sacrificing draft picks in the pursuit of the aforementioned free agent “stars”. Not too surprising when we look at the wreckage now, in hindsight.
Despite being a “big market team” and having more resources then most ball clubs, this method is not the way to go. Further emphasized by the recent failures of the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. If you want sustained success, the “Yankee plan” is not the answer.
With that being said, do I think Sandy and Co. can pull a rabbit out of the hat this winter and make the Mets instant contenders next year? Probably not, and that provides an emphatic answer the previous question with regards to what path to take.
As a lifelong Mets fan, I have seen the team ride a “roller coaster” between contending and being pretty bad. There haven’t been any sustained periods of success, like other organizations have had. I think the culprit has been a lack of continuity and the lack of an overall plan from year to year. Thankfully, it seems that Sandy and Co are trying to change that, as evidenced by an organization philosophy of emphasizing “on base percentage” for our hitters and realizing the importance of pitching depth.
Some may refer to this as an offshoot of the “Moneyball” philosophy, and maybe it is. I would prefer to call it the “Rays plan”, as opposed to the previously listed “Yankee plan”.
The Rays have a team payroll in the 45,000,000 range, which was a reduction from a payroll closer to 60,000,000 in 2010. The key for the Rays wasn’t a salary reduction for the sake of saving money. Rather, they had cheaper, undervalued assets ready to contribute from a loaded farm system and “smart” free agent moves. The overall talent level of the team didn’t change much. The fact that it was cheaper was a side benefit.
Players like Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano were allowed to leave, and they were replaced adequately by cheaper free agents like Johnny Damon and Kyle Farnsworth, and by prospects like Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore.
Do I think we need to become the Rays north? No, but we can follow the loosely philosophy and have similar success. Remember, after a decade of poor baseball, the Rays instituted a plan, stuck with it and invested in the farm system. Their patience was rewarded and they have had three playoff appearances in the past four years, in the AL East no less. Plus, a farm system that is poised to continue that run for the foreseeable future.
So, that is the key for the Mets moving forward, in my opinion. They need to continue to fortify the farm system with smart player moves and shrewd drafts. They also need to know when to cut bait with veterans as they get too expensive. That means letting Jose Reyes walk this offseason, allocating his salary to other needs and collecting two draft picks in 2012 since he is a Type A free agent. Ruben Tejada, or maybe Jordany Valdespin will take over and be just fine when we are ready to compete in 2013 or so.
You continue to follow that blue print in the next few years, saying goodbye to the Jason Bays, Johan Santanas and perhaps even David Wright, if he can’t be extended reasonably. But, the difference will be our farm system will have replacements, ready to go, unlike the past decade.
Once the young talent matures and begins to make an impact, then you SUPPLEMENT the roster with free agency and/or trades for the final few pieces. You don’t BUILD your roster via free agency.
I know that it is hard to be patient. Trust me, my Starbucks addled brain wants to win a title in the worst way. But, if Sandy and Co stay the course, we will be rewarded with sustained success in just a few short seasons, or round about the time the Phillies come crashing back down to earth.
Texas has a gritty ballclub! The Rays were on a high, playing really well, to include beating the Rangers in Game One, in Arlington and against CJ Wilson. The Rangers simply shrugged off the bad start and blasted their way to the ALCS. Then, they outlasted the weather, Detroit and Justin Verlander to take an early lead in the race to the World Series. I think they have to be the favorite from this point, forward. Maybe a Milwaukee/Texas World Series?
A week or so ago, my wife was listening to me rant about being tired of not seeing the Mets in the playoffs. During my rant, I was being especially harsh towards the Yankees and Phillies, since they are always looming over our collective shoulders. She said, “well maybe both of them will lose in the first round of the playoffs”. Maybe I need to let her pick some lottery numbers?
As much as I LOVED watching the Phillies and their classless fans lose to the Cardinals the other night, it was pretty sad seeing Ryan Howard laid out on the first base line. That sort of injury is serious and it may impact his career, not just his 2012 season. On a side note, go to any Phillies message board right now and see how badly they are handling the first round loss and Howard’s injury. You would think Howard was the second coming of Billy Buckner.
Oh, and Ryan Braun now seems to be Jose Reyes’ biggest supporter. Good article today about how Braun wants Reyes to come to Milwaukee next year. I can’t imagine that will go over too well with Yuniesky Betancourt, especially at the start of the NLCS.
I hope the NLCS and ALCS are as exciting as the last month of baseball has been.
Enjoy the playoffs!