The past few days have given me time to think, and, or course, attention drifts to the upcoming baseball season. Usually, this time of year has the optimism of spring training. With the Yankees making moves to improve their pitching, the Mets have done little.
The Mets’ projected payroll for 2012 is $90 million, which is a long separation to that of the Yankees, Phillies and most any other team expected to contend for the playoffs.
There have been examples of teams with small payrolls contending and even reaching the playoffs as Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Minnesota proved over the years.
Winning can be done with limited financial resources, but a common denominator has been building with homegrown talent, having it develop and locking in the key pieces. Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer are prime examples. At one time, that’s what I thought the Mets were doing with David Wright and Jose Reyes.
Wright is entering the prime years of his career, but he is doing so with a string of nagging injuries the past few seasons and a lack of complementary support. The Mets aren’t in a hurry to trade him, but the fact they are contemplating it is all the proof you need to know where this franchise is headed.
Teams can compete – to a point – with a $90 million payroll, but doing so requires a strong foundation, and that’s also lacking. Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy are young pieces, but I would be hesitant to label them a core for the future. We’ve only seen a smattering of promise from them, but also flaws and in some cases an injury history.
None possess the potential Wright and Reyes had when the Mets signed them to long-term contracts early in their career when the winning window was wide open.
Yes, 2006 seems like a long time ago.
If Niese and Davis, Duda and Tejada can play well, others stay healthy, and veterans such as Wright, Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey play to their potential, the Mets could make some noise.
But, that’s a lot of things that have to break right for a franchise that’s been on a negative slide, and not going away is the potential $400 million hit from the Ponzi scandal.
I can’t say things won’t break for the Mets, but it is January, time for positive hoping if you’re a baseball fan.