I was contemplating whether or not to write this and perhaps allow our collective wounds time to heal regarding Cliff Lee’s decision to rejoin the Phillies. First off I’ll be up front and tell you that at many points this past season, I was clamoring for the Mets to land Lee.
I knew it would be all but impossible but call me crazy; I wanted to test my own ability to believe. I didn’t favor signing him to a six or seven year deal. Even the five year deal with a vested sixth year he signed with Philadelphia is a bit much but in the end, New York wanted Cliff Lee more than Cliff Lee ever really wanted New York, period.
Like Ole’ Blue Eyes used to say, “That’s life…that’s what people say…you’re riding high in April…shot down in May…”
It seems as Mets fans we’re always trying to chase our own tails and keep up with the Joneses or rather the Yankees and as of the past few years, the Phillies. I like to think I’ve passed that stage by now. It’s not easy to keep in mind that this is all cyclical. That at some point, and probably fairly soon, teams like the Yankees will be facing their greatest opponent, time. Both the Yankees and Phillies are the two oldest teams on average in Major League Baseball.
That may be of little solace to the casual Met fan who’s each and every breath seems to hinge on whether or not Sandy Alderson is going to soak up the next potential multi-millionaire on the free agent market, regardless the player’s history. Reality tends to bite and for many of us Mets fans, it’s needed. As much as I wanted Lee this past season, I wasn’t willing to sell the farm for him or pay him into his late 30’s or early 40’s.
For the first time I can remember, at least since the days of Frank Cashen, the Mets have a front office with an overall plan for this team that has the foresight and hopefully the constraint to see the forest through the trees. While it may test our very patience as fans, as the demands for any action grow, the goals set out are time tested and universal. Build from within. Develop talent. I want the next Cliff Lee. The next Albert Pujols. Will all of this happen in a year, or two, or three? No.
Where were the Yankees prior to Jeter et al? Where were the Phillies prior to Utley and Howard? It takes time but when the plan finally comes to fruition, the payoff is incalculable. How hard is that for some of us to understand? I can relate with those who have little to no faith in the Wilpons, however bringing in Sandy Alderson was a step in the right direction.
This is a man who is universally respected by his peers in MLB. In fact there was a time where Alderson’s name was bantered around as the heir to Bud Selig. And as an MMO commenter pointed out, Alderson’s record as an executive/GM in his 22 years includes 6 Division Titles, one more than the entire 48 year history of the New York Mets.
If payroll is the keystone to success, then logically the Yankees have no excuse not to win everything every year since they spend the most. Money can’t buy love or perpetual World Championships. But money does give the Yankees and all other well off teams, the ability to build an organization from the ground up. The Wilpons have spent unreal amounts of money to field a championship team. Unfortunately that investment has yielded one World Championship and one losing trip to the Fall Classic in 2000. Not exactly a rate of return worth bragging about.
If the payroll is $140 million, some might say why not $150 or $165? My question is, what has $140 million bought us? It’s not the amount of money spent, it’s on who it’s spent that matters most. Sure any fool can pay an Oliver Perez $36 million in a panic but at the same time that very same fool can find an R.A. Dickey and sign him to a league minimum deal.
It’s all about making good, aggressive decisions based on as many facts you have about that particular player and not panicking because of the market or your rabid fan base. Good intentions don’t win championships. This isn’t a reinvention of the wheel. But as a Met fan, even the most pedestrian of ideas can have the effect of a holy epiphany.