It may be time to revise Mr. Wilpon’s famously coined phrase from “meaningful games in September” to “meaningful games in June”.
At this rate, even that seems like a long shot, especially with the team’s annual freefall now beginning before Memorial Day.
After a promising 15-11 start that had the marketing department proclaiming that the Mets were back in business, the team has gone 6-15 to put them at 21-26 for the season. The team has lost seven of their last nine games and appear headed for another very long and disappointing season.
Who is most at fault? Let’s take a look at the prime suspects.
Fred Wilpon, Owner
Heading into the season, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his minions have frequently declared that the team’s financial woes were in the rear view mirror, under the guise of allowing GM Sandy Alderson to spend significant money on free agents Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. However, the team slashed payroll for the fourth consecutive season, shaving another $10+ million from 2013 levels. The Mets now rank among the bottom five among all teams in payroll and continue to look more and more like a small market team. The Mets didn’t even pretend to go after Jose Abreu, who got $68 million and leads the league in home runs, or Masahiro Tanaka, who got $155 million and looks like a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Wilpon wasn’t even willing to shell out $14 million for shortstop Stephen Drew to fill the Mets’ weakest position and one that was tabbed a top priority last October. None of those players were cheap by any means, but the fact that a team in America’s biggest market wasn’t ever in serious play for them spoke volumes about Wilpon’s true financial state.
Sandy Alderson, General Manager
On one hand, Alderson has pulled off two potentially great trades to net top prospects Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, though the first two have yet to distinguish themselves and the latter has yet to throw a pitch in the majors. On the other hand, even if all three eventually turn into stars, the rest of Alderson’s work in New York has been downright uninspiring. For the fourth year in a row he has failed to construct even an average bullpen. This past offseason he was finally allowed to go shopping, but the toys he picked out – Granderson, Colon and Young – have been largely inconsistent and hardly worth the big-bucks so far. To make matters worse, Alderson’s moneyball approach which previously brought in cheap, productive players like Marlon Byrd and Scott Hairston, seems to have disappeared this year. He still hasn’t been able to upgrade first base or shortstop despite stating both as an offseason priority. He also gets some blame for putting together yet another sub-500 team in his fourth year at the helm, and what could be six consecutive losing seasons for the franchise.
Terry Collins, Manager
Collins was not given a very good roster, and his players do usually play with heart, but it’s hard to say the Mets skipper has done the best possible job with what he has. First off, Collins refuses to allow for any sense of continuity in the lineup. His benching a week ago of Juan Lagares, a great defensive center fielder and one of the team’s only productive hitters, was mind boggling, especially since every other outfielder is hitting under or barely above .200. His reluctance to start the unproven Wilmer Flores at shortstop every day, if for nothing else than to gauge his ability for the future, would make more sense if it wasn’t to give more time to Ruben Tejada, perhaps the most unproductive hitter in the league. Collins’ bullpen management has also been suspect. He is on his way towards repeating last year’s burnout of Scott Rice with Carlos Torres, and his “closer by committee” strategy has largely failed, with more than a half dozen relievers already getting save opportunities two months in, some of whom have since been demoted to the minors or released. There’s also the frequent in-game blunders which have become even more magnified this season. It’s hard to quantify exactly what makes a good baseball manager, but Collins hasn’t been one.
They have often been mis-managed, mis-used and even mis-paid, but that doesn’t change the fact that just about every Mets player has under performed so far this season. Of the hitters, only Lagares and Daniel Murphy have really met or exceeded expectations. David Wright has been coming on strong lately, but has shown no power. Granderson has hit for some power and not much else, but has also been heating up this past week. Lucas Duda has been the definition of mediocre, Chris Young the definition of bad, and Eric Young the definition of one-dimensional (speed). And yet all of them have looked good to great in comparison to Tejada and d’Arnaud, who have been two of the worst offensive “everyday” players in baseball. On the mound, while Dillon Gee and Jon Niese have been good, Wheeler has struggled and Bartolo Colon, who used to be the model of consistency, gets blown out every other start. Almost every reliever in the ever-changing bullpen has gone through long stretches of uselessness. They are not alone by any means.
So who deserves the most blame for the Mets latest round of ineptitude? You be the judge.