On Wednesday I had a good discussion with a few of our readers and there seems to be a lot of resentment and disappointment about the revelation that the Mets intend to reduce payroll after a 92 loss season that was derailed by injuries and under-performance.
I can’t blame them, after all it was only 10 months ago that Sandy Alderson and then manager Terry Collins were in Port St. Lucie fresh off consecutive postseason appearances and touting a new era of Mets baseball featuring one of the best rotations in baseball. Their words, not mine.
How could it all go so wrong, so fast? And with the affirmation by Sandy Alderson that there would be no big dollar acquisition to replace Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson or Addison Reed, can the team find its way back onto the road to redemption?
I guess the better question is, can the Mets cut payroll by roughly $20 million dollars and improve a team that now has a somewhat barren minor league system to deal from in their upper levels? How can you improve a team when you don’t have the player assets or the prerequisite dollars to acquire the pieces the team needs to improve on their many known deficiencies?
When recently asked what my thoughts were about the 2018 season, I responded that it would be a transitional season for the Mets and that I had no expectations of contending for a wild card spot let alone a division title.
When the front office made the decision to replace Terry Collins and nearly the entire coaching staff, it signaled to me yet another watershed moment, the Mets were hitting the reset button. It’s as if we were going to take two steps backwards before taking one step forward.
This was no longer that team that was built on the hype of a cadre of young power arms, that would usher in a long era of championship caliber baseball. That dream is gone and came to an end before it even got started. Instead I see this current Mets team as one in search of an identity.
These days the front office is examining their own previous tightly-held tenets, asking themselves if defense is more important than they presumed, and if speed was not the afterthought they thought it was. Those all or nothing sluggers are mostly gone now and the concept of manufacturing runs is clearly a new focus. It was Collins himself who scolded beat writers during an early season slump saying. “We are a home run hitting team. That’s who we are. And when we don’t hit home runs it’s tough to win.”
And as for that fire-throwing rotation that was going to conquer the world? Well, even that philosophy has quietly lost its luster as their top two pitchers – Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard – now talk of scaling back on the velocity and relying mostly on their breaking pitches, and the front office is looking for a middle of the road innings eater to anchor the rotation.
There’s even some rumblings that the two hitting prospects they had been lauding and hyping for years, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario, the two kids that would carry the offense for years, left everyone in the front office somewhat defeated and underwhelmed when neither of them hit the ground running in what’s been tabbed by MLB as the “year of the rookies.” Perhaps for some, but not for the Mets.
So where does a team like this go from here? Therein lies the conundrum for this front office. Do they start again from scratch and use a Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs type approach, building on a collection of elite hitting prospects and then adding the pitching later through trade or free agency? Or do they go all-in and try to piece meal together a team with whatever scraps they can get for their reported $30 million spending budget?
Perhaps too little of the blame for this debacle is laid at the feet of an inept and dysfunctional ownership that has always been too content with only doing what is barely enough to field a competitive team and fill the seats at Citi Field. It’s actually the perfect business model for a team whose main objective was profit-driven and not founded in a championship vision.
When you consider that just in the last three months alone, the Wilpons had amassed record earnings from their cash cow SNY, recouped $63 million dollars from the trade deadline purge, netted a $65 million windfall from the Disney deal, cashed in on their $15 million insurance claim from Wright’s contract, and just collected millions more from the Madoff victim reimbursement fund (announced just this week), can you really blame the fans for being angry that none of that will be reinvested in the team this offseason? And astonishingly so, we’re told to brace ourselves for a massive cut to payroll instead? The Wilpons will always have their staunch defenders, but don’t count me among them.
So considering all these things and then some, yes, I see 2018 as nothing more than a transitional year for the Mets. The hope is that they will find an identity and that it will lead to a winning philosophy when all is said and done. My guess is that 2019 is the year we get back on track and eventually return to the postseason. In the meantime I’ll continue to watch and wait and root for my team. What else can we do?