We tend to see the world and everything that encompasses it through our own shaded lenses. Our biases and preconceptions while defining us can often prevent us from understanding the whole truth. If the truth you’re seeking is to know if a candidate for President is a serial sexual harasser or whether perhaps a venerable college football coach for years turned a blind eye to his assistant’s deviant behavior or even if a certain baseball executive is merely a cost cutting puppet, hired at the behest of the league Commissioner, our instincts, often our greatest asset, can at times make decisions for us based on emotion alone – neglecting facts.
Some Met fans are beginning to foreshadow that we’re headed into “dark times” as a franchise. Now far be it from me to state without a shadow of a doubt what constitutes “dark times”. I’m all of 37 years old and never lived through the early days of the New York Mets, especially the inaugural record setting 120-loss season of 1962. Imagine an expansion team today, with all the costs incurred with attending a game, losing 75% of them. Imagine the outcry from the fanbase.
Never mind the fact that in their 50 years of existence, the Mets have won just two World Championships, the most recent 25 years ago. It’s been over a decade since this team even participated in the World Series. We were teased in 2006 but had our hopes dashed by the young Yadier Molina. Yet there’s this lingering notion that the “stuff” is about to hit the fan now. What I’d really like to know is when in its 50 years of existence, has this team really had all its “stuff” together?
Some of us feel like there’s no tangible plan coming from Sandy Alderson as to this team’s future. Again it’s what we want to see, or hear versus the facts. He’s said on many occasions that this team needs to develop from within and use free agency to enhance itself where need be. Not the other way around. The situation regarding Jose Reyes has many wondering what Alderson’s game plan is. Does the team pay an exorbidant amount of money over many years to a player who’s played in only 60% of his team’s games the past three seasons – regardless how talented he is? Now I’m a Met fan and I love Jose Reyes. Then again I loved Mackey Sasser so I’m not sure what that tells you. I hope Reyes does return to the Mets but think of it this way, you own a business and one of your best employees for the last three years, worked only 6 out of every ten days for you, and earned one of the highest salaries. Ouch.
Unfortunately there’s no simple answer to signing Reyes and either choice comes with it’s own set of risks. All the advanced statistics in the world can’t predict a person’s health. With that said – to assume that anyone outside of the organization is entitled to have detailed knowledge of what is going on is both presumptuous and arrogant. I don’t know what Apple’s detailed plans are going forward now that Steve Jobs has passed. Do you? And that’s a publicly held company.
All we can do is take what Alderson has said often and publicly and go from there, and hold him to account. Assuming that Alderson would like to one day leave a legacy of success in New York, destroying the Mets incrementally during his watch most likely isn’t his goal. Also, assuming he has nefarious motives instructed to him by the hive mind of the Selig – to slash and burn payroll at all costs just to save the Wilpons money – is also stretch. The Wilpons aren’t going belly up because of the Mets. If anything the Wilpons, through Sterling Enterprises, is a real estate company. And we all know what’s happened to real estate and the housing market the past few years and it has nothing to do with how much money Johan Santana makes.
Putting the Mets on the road towards a firm cohesive business plan, modeled after most successful teams today, is what it is – an attempt to right the many years of neglect and wrongs which has resulted in just two World Championships. That’s the Alderson plan. Keep that in mind when we argue ad nauseum back and forth about what an acceptable payroll is for a team in this market. From 2004 to 2011 the Mets under the Wilpon ownership have averaged a $119.7 million dollar annual payroll which ranks third in MLB during that time. I wonder how many of us knew that while decriding Alderson for predicting a payroll next year between $100 to $120 million?
As bad as things have been for this team the last few years, from the consecutive end of the season collapses to numerous player injuries to the financial tumult of ownership, I could remember – albeit with some help from the family – how tough it was to be a Met fan in the 1970’s. One of our claims to fame, our “superstar”, was a young handsome Italian boy named Lee Mazzilli. Mazzilli’s “superstar” credentials were bolstered by a few fellow “superstars” such as John Milner who led the Mets in the decade of the 70’s with 94 homers and 338 RBI. No that’s not a typo those were actual team leading, decade leading statistics. Think of that next time we wish to parse whether David Wright is “un-clutch” or not.
Then you had the raw talent of Felix Millan, who if he choked up any further on the bat, would have looked like the baton twirler in a marching band. Third base was a revolving door of talent manned by Joe Foy, Bob Aspromonte, Jim Fregosi and Ed Charles. Finallly in 1973 the Mets solidfied the position naming the lengendary talent of Wayne Garrett the starting third baseman. Of course that only lasted until 1976 when Garrett lost the third base job to another legend, Roy Staiger.
Look don’t get me wrong the Mets weren’t devoid of talent. The team had a genuine Hall of Fame superstar in Tom Seaver. They also had Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, Tug McGraw, a young and raw-talented Nolan Ryan – do we see a pattern? To say the Mets are known as a pitching heavy franchise is pretty obvious. Where the team lacked woefully in offense they were teeming with good and sometimes great pitching. But even with great pitching the team only won 763 games in the 1970’s. The point being – we weren’t exactly the big blue and orange machine – and we weren’t far removed from our World Championship year of 1969.
With the prospects of losing Jose Reyes to free agency, the decline of David Wright, the injury history of Johan Santana to the various uncertainties engulfing this team it’s understandable for fans to feel as if a black cloud is meandering its way over Flushing. If you study this team’s history you’ll see that although we love to wax poetic about our history and celebrate our small pockets of success, overall this team has been pretty rudderless since day one. Just existing in this market isn’t enough to be considered relevant. Sorry to all of the “we’re a New York team and should have unlimited resources” types. Pretending that the answer to absorbing inflated player contracts is to simply increase the team credit limit is as silly as it is dangerous. In the real, non-baseball world, that lesson is being learned the hard way globally.
Would the success the team had in the mid to late 80’s have been sustained if Strawberry and Gooden didn’t spiral into self-destruction? Possibly. Would we be having this discussion if Yadier Molina didn’t decide to channel his inner Carlton Fisk in 2006? Perhaps. If Carlos Beltran didn’t succumb to the jelly-leg syndrome and take Adam Wainwright’s third strike would we feel this disillusioned? Maybe not. But to say that we’re headed for “dark times” now, I ask you, did we ever truely get out from under that cloud in the first place? Don’t you think fans finally deserve to have a team with a long term formula for success, not just in small 3 to 5 year intervals? Time for us to stop being so petulant. This ain’t gonna be easy for any of us.