This sounds like a joke. Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner walk onto a car lot and immediately head over to the brand new 2009 Lexus. One hour later, Omar and Jeff Wilpon walk onto a car lot. They walk right by the newer models and instead choose to look at a used 72 Pinto.
I’m not going to write about the Wilpon’s being cheap. We have the 3rd highest payroll in baseball and that argument is silly. We are not cheap. Overly cautious? Yes. Frugal to a fault? Absolutely. But not cheap.
I am getting frustrated with our off-season thus far. We have a new stadium. We play in the largest media market in America. We have to compete with the Phillies on the field and the Yankees in the sports pages. We have a loyal, dedicated fan base. But yet, instead of looking at the good merchandise, we are shopping around in the bargain basement.
Throwing money at players and increasing salary does not guarantee a post-season. But it sure does increase that likelihood. All winter, we Mets fans, myself included, debated if Sabathia was worth Johan-like money. We discussed A J Burnett’s history of injuries. We argued back and forth about the best way to low-ball Derek Lowe and still sign him. Is Raul Ibanez too old? Should we gamble on Pat Burrell out-hitting his defensive blunders? But while we talked, other teams pulled the trigger. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than one month, suddenly we are left standing at the discount rack.
Just a few short years ago, it seemed like we were on the brink of something great. The words “Mets” and “Dynasty” were being used in the same sentence. Things have changed. Three months ago we considered Oliver Perez expendable. Now we are foaming at the mouth, hoping and praying we get him back.
I give praise to Omar. Without a doubt it was our bullpen, or lack thereof, that cost us the division. And he reacted by signing the best closer on the market. I was sure that was the start of a great off-season. Months have passed and nothing else has been done.
2008 saw the Yankees post-season run come to an end after 13 consecutive years. And they reacted by spending close to half a billion (billion with a “b”) by signing Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira. On the flip side, we just failed to make the post-season 2 straight seasons and after signing K-Rod, have done little else. It’s been close to a quarter of a century since we won a championship. But yet, the team in The Bronx seems more determined to get back there again. Why?
What happened? What went wrong? Just once can we pursue a guy who is a clear cut unanimous choice? Can we please acquire someone who is not coming off an injury, at the end of a career or hoping to have ‘one good season’ left? We are actually considering Freddy Garcia. Freddy Garcia??? This is the same Freddy Garcia who has battled serious shoulder problems and has pitched a total of 73 innings in 2 years. We also are discussing Ben Sheets who is prone to injuries and has averaged just 150 IP over the last 4 years. Just to show how far our expectations have fallen, we actually praised the signing of Tim Redding. Tim Redding??? Yes, I know he’s not bad and yes, I know he can help. But is a guy with a career ERA of 4.92, a 279 Opponents BA and someone who averages 1.36 HR/9 really going to get us to the Promised Land?
I am starting to ask myself, “Do we want to win? Or do we just want to compete?” This makes me think of Connie Mack. Mack was manager and part-owner of the Philadelphia A’s for an unprecedented 50 years. Being part owner of the club insured the fact he would not be fired. He was not overly successful, however. In 5 decades, he achieved a .486 winning percentage. Mack realized that baseball ultimately was a business and nothing more. He stated that, “The best thing for a team financially is to be in the running and finish second. If you win, the players all expect raises. And finishing second keeps attendance high.” I’m not implying that the Wilpon’s are taking this same approach. But it’s interesting how they tease us. They keep us just good enough to compete, but not good enough to win. The fans will continue to support the team, buy the hats and the David Wright jerseys. But still, we are just shy of winning. The carrot is dangling in front of us but just out of reach.
I will support my Mets this season as I have for my entire life and I will until I take my last breath. I will wear my hats, my t-shirts, my jerseys and my jackets with pride. All we can do is hope for the best. After all there are ‘Lemon Laws.’ Lets just try to keep the faith that Omar does see something in that 72 Pinto.