When Joan Payson, the much loved and well respected original owner of the Mets passed away shortly after the 75 season, control of the team fell into the hands of her daughter, Lorinda De Roulet, and General Manager M. Donald Grant. This was a deadly combination. DeRoulet knew nothing about Baseball and Grant was more concerned about his stock portfolio than winning. Over the second half of the decade our most beloved players were sent away. The foundation of the Mets, guys like Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Harrelson and even Ed Kranepool, were all sent packing. The Mets staked claim to last place year in and year out. From 77-79, our team averaged 98 losses.
Prior to the 1980 season, the Payson family sold the Mets to Nelson Doubleday for $21.1 million. Shortly thereafter, J. Frank Cashen was brought in as GM. Short with thinning gray hair, Cashen was best known for wearing a bow tie. The new management realized they had an uphill battle. From the crumbling stadium to the decimated farm system, the entire organization was in shambles. Cashen did not play to the NY media. He promised no overnight success. Instead, he predicted it would take 5 years to rebuild the team. In his estimation, the Mets would not be competitive until the mid 80’s. Later that year, it was Cashen who selected a young kid named Strawberry as the #1 overall pick in the amateur draft. It was also Cashen who 2 years later signed another kid named Gooden. His approach to rebuilding the Mets was not to simply sign the best players but to put the pieces together to create a powerhouse. He would sign winners like Hernandez and veterans like Carter and Knight to tutor the less experienced players and Bobby Ojeda to mentor young pitchers Gooden and Darling.
But Cashen was a big believer in what he called ‘New Math’ or more simply put, Addition by Subtraction. His belief was that sometimes you can improve a team not by ADDING players but by REMOVING players.
In Feb 82, Cashen shocked the baseball world and acquired George Foster from Cincinnati. Foster was the power of The Big Red Machine. He was a former MVP and 5 time All-Star. For the 5 years prior to donning the blue & orange, Foster averaged 33 HR’s, 112 RBI’s and an impressive 296 BA. Management handed over the unheard sum of $10 million over 5 years. Mets fans were immediately licking their chops (as we always do) at dreams of October baseball. Foster even did commercials for WOR and the Mets, jokingly suggesting that pilots landing at La Guardia may want to fly a bit higher now that he had arrived.
Although he struggled miserably in his first year (247-13-70), he did go on to put up pretty good numbers for a flailing franchise. He averaged 24 HR’s and 84 RBI’s from 83-85 and led the 83 club in many categories. However, Foster never fit in–not with the fans, his teammates or the media. He quietly caused dissension in the clubhouse and seemed like the only thing he liked about New York was getting a hefty paycheck. In 1986, as the Mets cruised to a NLE crown, Cashen made one more gutsy move. He released Foster outright. It was obvious that the Mets were destined to play late into October and he did not want to risk anyone or anything interfering with that. When asked why he would let go of a veteran presence with World Series experience, he explained ‘Addition by Subtraction.’
So, where does that leave us with Oliver Perez? None of us really know what it’s like to be a major leaguer. We can only guess what the atmosphere is like in a clubhouse. Facts are facts and since Oliver Perez has been removed from the starting staff, the Mets seem like a new club, a different club. One with confidence and one that plays with some swagger. To use a phrase we trademarked years ago, it seems like the team now ‘Believes.’ We can only imagine the burden for Wright and Beltran and Delgado to know ahead of time than when Perez takes the mound, they better be prepared to bring the big bats. It’s as if whenever its Perez’ turn to pitch, the Mets hitters don’t have to out hit the opposing team but rather outscore how many runs Perez gives up.
We did sign Ollie to a huge contract and we all hope he returns to form. Although Jon Niese pitched superbly, that was only one game–and it was against the Pirates. On the other hand, what do we do if when Perez returns to the rotation, he is still ineffective? Do we leave him in anyway just cause of his huge contract and risk destroying our new attitude? Or should we bite the bullet, consider it lost money and move on? I would hope the Mets choose the latter. The point is to win with the best players and not necessarily the guys making the most money. I am curious to see if Omar and the Wilpon’s have the courage to reach back to Cashen’s old theory of ‘Addition by Subtraction’ and bid Perez farewell if it comes to that.