The GM Meetings in Orlando, home of Disneyworld, came and went and while none of us honestly expected the Mets to make a lot of noise, let’s take a trip to FantasyLand for a moment. Imagine if the Mets DID grab headlines. Visualize Sandy wheeling and dealing and returning to New York with Jose Reyes. And Carlos Beltran. Let’s say Alderson outwitted Brian Sabean (go with me on this) and convinced the Giants GM to give us back Angel Pagan. And just for the hell of it, Alderson also reacquired R A Dickey as well. We’d sure be feeling confident about 2014. Yet, all of these players were already on the Mets roster when Alderson took over as GM.
When he filled the shoes once worn by good ol’ M. Donald Grant, Alderson told us he needed to rebuild the team. He advised us it would take several years. Personally, if you’re going to rebuild something, Beltran, Reyes, Pagan and Dickey would be a pretty decent foundation to build upon, definitely better than what we have now—basically David Wright, plus a 24-year old ace who will miss a year with elbow surgery, and unproven rookies who are always a crapshoot. Especially with the Mets.
Since Sandman entered, our fanbase has been divided into warring factions. Some urge patience, though those numbers are dwindling after suffering many casualties. Others, like myself, want to win quickly. (Granted, I’ve never had patience.) My question is this: Alderson has asked us to wait several years for his magical mystery plan to take hold. My question is WHY?
Baseball is a different game now than it was in 1962. When the Mets came into existence along with the Houston Colt 45’s, expansion teams were filled with the worst of the worst. Has-been’s and never will-be’s. When Jerry Koosman induced Davey Johnson to fly out to Cleon Jones in LF on October 16, 1969, that sealed what has become known as a ‘Miracle.’ The Mets had been a laughing stock for seven seasons. Now in their eighth year, they shocked the baseball establishment. It was partially considered a miracle due to the fact that an expansion team had risen from the depths of futility to the summit of the mountaintop in just 8 years. No team had ever accomplished so much in so little time.
Those were the days, my friends…
Baseball was also different in 1980. Frank Cashen took the GM reins and promised within five seasons the Mets would be winners. It took seven, but by that fifth year, the Mets were in a pennant race for the first time in a decade. And although there was no immediate improvement in our won-loss record, one could sense the darkness lifting. The optimism in 1982 was far greater than it was in 1978, though our win total was similar. Free Agency was in its infancy when Cashen took over. Yet, in his third season, he signed one of the premier hitters in the league, George Foster, and teamed him with the return of Dave Kingman. Suddenly, two of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball were in Flushing. In Cashen’s fourth year, 1983, he brought back Tom Seaver, mostly for publicity and to boost attendance every fifth day. He acquired a proven winner in Keith Hernandez. And Darryl Strawberry, Cashen’s first pick in the 1980 draft, made his debut.
Can you picture Alderson acquiring an impact player like Keith in 2014, his fourth year? Do we have someone equal to Darryl coming up next year, followed by another Dwight Gooden the year after?
In 1962, it took a while because the nature of the game dictated that. Same goes for 1980. In today’s environment it does NOT take several years to win. If a team wants to win—and win quickly—it is attainable. Yet, Sandman is applying 1980 rules to the 21st century.
In 2012, Boston won 69 games and finished 26 GB. The following year their win total increased by 40% and they became World Champions.
Cleveland won only 68 times in 2012. In 2013, they were victorious 92 times and found themselves in the post-season.
2010 saw the Dodgers, whose front office was a dysfunctional mess, finish below 500, 12 games back. In just three years, the Dodgers had the defending World Champion Giants buried by the All-Star Break on their way to the post-season.
The 2010 Pirates lost over 100 games. In three years, after hiring a new manager with a proven track record of success, the Pirates increased their win total–57 to 72 to 79 to then 94, good enough to play in October. In three short seasons, the Pirates have transformed their team from a joke to where they are now poised to challenge STL for many years to come.
These teams can turn things around quickly. But the Mets cant?
The Marlins, in just their fifth season, became Champions. They’ve won the same number of championships in 21 years as we’ve won in 52 years.
Tampa Bay made their debut in 1998 and floundered for their first decade. Yet, in Baseball’s toughest division—with no fan support and playing in a small market–they’ve made it to the post-season four times in the last six years. The Rays have appeared in as many post-seasons in six years as the Mets have appeared in the last 28.
The Diamondbacks came into existence in 1998. The very next year they were division champions. And two years after that, in just their fourth season, they captured the World Series. The D-backs have won five division titles in 16 years while the Mets have won the same amount of division titles in 52 years. The D-backs started with NOTHING and won it all in four years. Alderson started with Reyes, Beltran, Dickey, K-Rod and Pagan. Yet, three years later, we are worse off.
“Don’t worry, son. Sandy has a plan that will ensure you’ll keep the Mets.”
Enter Sandman in 2011. The Mets needed to only fill a two maybe three holes. Three years into the Alderson regime, we don’t have a closer, are still trying to find a shortstop, still searching for two starters (they have no plans to replace Harvey, any two rags will do), have an unsettled situation at first base, and our outfield is a bigger mess than my bedroom when I was seven years old.
Could any of you have imagined that after three years, that Chris Young, Ruben Tejada and Eric Young will all be everyday players?
So again I ask, “Why? Why do we need to wait for ‘the plan’ whereas fans in Boston, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Phoenix do not?
Unlike Pittsburgh, where things improved dramatically in three seasons, in Flushing things have gotten worse over that same time. In 2010, the Mets won 79 games. Since Alderson’s arrival, our wins have dropped to 77, 74 and 74. And lets face facts. If it wasn’t for Matt Harvey in 2013, we would have lost close to 100 games. With three seasons in the books, Alderson’s Mets have averaged 75 wins, 24 games out of first, and own the longest string of consecutive losing seasons in baseball.
For five straight seasons, of which the three most recent Sandy (AKA The Fixer) has been at the helm, the Mets have finished under 500. The last time the Mets have had such a dubious stretch was 1962-1968. We did post six consecutive sub-500 seasons from ’91 to ’96 and seven from ’77 to ’83. However, those stretches included strike-shortened seasons and no one can guarantee the Mets would have finished below 500 in 1981 and 1994 for a full 162 games. (The Mets concluded the abbreviated 94 campaign just 3 games under.)
And honestly, does anyone think 2014 will end our streak of irrelevancy?
Where did all the Mets fans go? Where’s Mets Twitter?
Another telling sign of the Alderson regime is not only the decreased TV ratings but also the declining attendance. In five seasons, Mets attendance has shrunk by 33%, dropping from nearly 3.2 million in 2009 to just over 2.1 million this past season. This is the first time in team history attendance has decreased five straight seasons. But that’s what happens when you get rid of ‘The most exciting player in baseball’, Jose Reyes, and expect to pack in the fans with the human windmill, Ike Davis and the King of Grittiness, Justin Turner.
If Alderson wants to save money AND get fans back to Flushing, why not bring Ron and Keith down from the booth? Sure, Ron may be 53 but since only Dillon Gee won more than 9 games, I’m sure Darling would be a good #3 at least. Ronnie—put down the microphone and start loosening up! And after you walk through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to your seat, who would you be more excited to see playing 1B: A 60 year old Keith or a 27 year old Ike Davis? 60 or not, I guarantee Mex would strike out less than Ike Davis. (Just joking…kinda.)
Frank Cashen had a “plan” also. And when his plan was put in place, he was the architect behind the most successful decade in team history. Sandy Alderson has a plan…though I’m not sure what it is. He wants to rebuild the team. I guess the way things are looking we should be ecstatic if the Mets finish 500. That may very well end up being Alderson’s claim to fame. If the Mets are lucky, Alderson’s legacy will be getting the Mets back to complete mediocrity. Even as of now, that seems like a major accomplishment.