A recent MMO post by Mike Simon got me to thinking. It was an excellent piece from Sunday that broke down the failures of the organization on the big league level this season. It detailed the contributions by Mets front office personnel to the Mets becoming what I feel is one of the worst-run organizations in baseball. Combine that with a big league roster fraught with underperforming and wildly inconsistent players and field managment, and you have a wonderful recipe for a habitually losing franchise.
Mike points out in his piece that the owners are very much to blame for the state of the team, as well as of course, the GM, the manager, and the players. And he’s right they all do share some of the blame. I’m sure even they might agree with that, except perhaps Collins of course, as he’s in his own world. But who out of this ample collection of suspects is the primary one? The biggest offender? Public Enemy #1? The one factor crippling the NY Mets organization?
Unquestionably, the blame starts at the top. I know it’s a radical concept, but in this case it holds water. Let me put it like this: Who is responsible for acquiring the players and manager who are failing on the field? And who is responsible for the player acquisitions that are never made? You guessed it, the General Manager! Good job. Now who is responsible for acquiring the GM? Are you thinking? Got something yet? That’s right, the owners! Way to go!
To my way of thinking if the owners had hired a better GM, we wouldn’t be in such a mess right now. I’m not saying that they couldn’t have hired a worse GM, they certainly could have. I mean that’s the beauty of it! When it comes to the type of mismanagement employed by the Wilpons they can always do worse, and Sandy is by no means the worst, he’s just not real good. Which is what the Mets need in a GM right now, real good. Really, really good.
But I’m going to go one step further and say that history tells us that not only was Sandy Alderson the wrong guy to rebuild the Mets, but the Wilpons have never made a good decision when hiring their GM. That would be why they have had three main General Managers over the last 14 years while only making it to the playoffs once, and only contending in two of those seasons.
When the Wilpons and Nelson Doubleday bought the Mets in 1980, their first hire as GM was a front office guy out of the Baltimore organization who came highly recommended by several prominent baseball minds at the time. It was a great hire. In 1983 Frank Cashen gave the Mets fans Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. By 1984 he had brought along Dwight Gooden, Rafael Santana and Ray Knight. In 1985 he presented to all of us Mets fans: Sid Fernandez, Roger McDowell, Lenny Dykstra, Howard Johnson, Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers and of course the late, great Gary Carter.
Then there was the year 1986. Cashen knew by the end of ’85 that the team was close, but not quite there yet. So for the ’86 season he added what he hoped would be the finishing touches to his masterpiece. Tim Teufel, Kevin Mitchell, Bob Ojeda, and always with a flair for the dramatic, he brought Lee Mazzilli home to finish his career where he had started it all, as a Met.
These guys along with some key players who were in the system when Cashen took over, guys like Mookie, Wally and Jesse, brought us to the pinnacle of the baseball world with one of the most breathtaking World Series victories in history. And that was nearly 30 years ago.
After Cashen, the Wilpons best hire of a GM could arguably have been Steve Phillips but that was three years before Doubleday sold his interests in the team making Fred and Saul principal owners. Phillips was okay but greatly flawed in his decision making and he could not maintain the brief success of two straight playoff appearances in 1999 and 2000, culminating in their World Series defeat to the hated Yankees.
Phillips spent the next three years making mostly bad baseball decisions and lying about the owners culpability in the downfall of the club. He did bring Jose Reyes and David Wright into the fold during those three years but that was it, and the team finished in last place in 2002 and 2003 leading up to his dismissal.
The Wilpons put Jim Duquette in charge of the club after dumping Phillips in June of 2003. That was probably one of the worst GM hires in baseball history. Duquette had never been a GM before, was only one for the Mets in 2003-4, and never was hired as a GM after leaving the Mets. But in the brief time the Mets had him running things he did manage to make one of the worst trades in team history. On July 30, 2004 Duquette inexplicably gave away the Mets top pitching prospect. One of the most coveted young left-handers in all of baseball, the fire-balling Scott Kazmir, was shipped to Tampa Bay for the scintillating talent of Victor Zambrano and the illustrious Bartolome Fortunato.
To stave off a riot by the fanbase, the Wilpons replaced the incompetent Duquette with a local favorite Omar Minaya. In hindsight, this was a poor signing too. He put a team together around Reyes and Wright as the core, but in six years he only managed to reach the playoffs once, and the team nose-dived after that. Now some four years after his departure, he is well represented by big league players he contributed to the present team. Omar’s guys that remain on the current roster are: Murphy, Gee, Niese, Duda, Tejada, Lagares, Flores, Campbell, Centeno, Montero, Familia, deGrom, and Parnell.
There are certainly a number of serviceable major leaguers there and a few good prospects, but this is still half of a last place team. As comprised these and the rest of the 2014 Mets are not going to compete this year. The only player who is presently worthy of any all-star consideration is Daniel Murphy.
And then after pulling Minaya’s plug following his sixth season at the helm, the Wilpons brought in our savior Richard Lynn Alderson, affectionately referred to by the fans as Sandy. After four years on the job Sandy has improved the farm system quite a bit. But Mets fans don’t want to go out to Brooklyn to see the Cyclones, they don’t want to travel to Binghamton to see the B-Mets play. They want to stay home in the greatest city in the world and go to Citi Field to see their Metsies play.
Now after four years lets take a closer look at what Sandy has contributed to getting the 2014 Mets to the next level. There are the three expensive free agents he brought in this year who have yet to distinguish themselves, Granderson, Colon, and Chris Young. And of course the complimentary pieces he brought in like Eric Young, Anthony Recker, Bobby Abreu, Vic Black, Scott Rice, Carlos Torres, Jose Valverde, and Dice K. Now he did bring in three terrific prospects in Wheeler, Syndergaard and d’Arnaud, but none of them have really contributed to the big league team in any significant way as of yet.
The fans have suffered for a long time but the front office gives no indication that there is any urgency to get better at all. Urgency is not in the Mets vocabulary. They feel they can string the fans along indefinitely. That the fans are gullible and not too bright. That they’ll throw their money away on bad baseball and overpriced concessions. Sure they might complain but as far as ownership is concerned, the fans will keep coming, and they will pay virtually any price for a ticket or a hot dog, they cannot help themselves.
But back to our savior. Sandy may not be terrible, but he’s certainly no Frank Cashen, and unfortunately that’s what it is going to take. A modern GM with the vision, aggressiveness and mentality of a Frank Cashen. I am not saying it will be easy to find someone like that, it won’t, it will be hard. But there are those kinds of individuals out there, some already serving as GM’s and others awaiting their chance.
We should be seeking the type of executives that understand the modern game, as well as the needs of the fans. The type that will act, and act decisively. A GM that wants to do the job the right way and build a perennial winner, not just one who talks about it. The kind not afraid to get his hands dirty. And most importantly, someone that speaks to the fans through their actions as opposed to their press conferences. That way there’s no lying, misinformation and deception.
But as long as the Wilpons are doing the firing, the searching, and the hiring, do you really believe they will get lucky all of a sudden and hire the right one for the job? Do you think that despite their terrible track record in hiring individuals to put together a winning franchise, that like a blind squirrel they can find a nut? Don’t bank on it. Remember these are the same one’s who decided to invest all their money with Bernie Madoff. How did that work out?