Following the Mets’ embarrassing 11-6 loss to the Marlins on Sunday to cap a sweep at the hands of the team widely branded the worst in the league, reporter Adam Rubin tweeted a sage assessment, to wit:
“Mets brass should spend off-day contemplating whether they want to be a 100-loss team with prospects gaining experience or vets annoying fans.”
For a team that is clearly not built to contend this season, it makes absolutely no sense to waste the opportunity to develop players from their system and instead apportion playing time to aging role players who, at best, may provide bench strength in the future but provide little value to the franchise as regulars. As exhilarating as the sweep of the “pseudo” Yankees may have been, it should be regarded merely as a high point in what is almost assuredly a “developmental” season, to be kind, and a “lost” season to be less so. As much of the expanded roster of the Mets has been apportioned to players at the transition point between “prospect” and “suspect,” it would certainly seem to make more sense to play them at the major league level and at least get a better sense of whether or not they have anything to offer for the long run than to leave them at AAA while a group of, well, re-treads are trotted out to do their best.
The most obvious example of this is the present Met outfield. I do not question the hustle or professionalism of players like Marlon Byrd or Rick Ankiel, but it is abundantly clear that by giving the majority of starts to them in an effort to remain competitive, Terry Collins and the rest of the Met organization are retarding the progress of the younger outfielders on the roster.
The rationale behind bringing Juan Lagares up to spend the vast majority of his time on the bench is apparently linked to his vaunted defensive ability. Yet, if there is no greater design on this season (like, let’s say, winning a playoff spot), what value is there to letting his skills stagnate by not playing regularly? Surely the team would do better to provide major league exposure and experience to its younger players like Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lagares than to its veteran fill-ins. Even running erratic but somewhat unknown quantities like Collin Cowgill and Andrew Brown out to see what they-can do with a few hundred at-bats would probably be worth more from an organizational perspective than letting them put up inflated numbers in the PCL. Clearly the team as presently comprised is not delivering offensively at anything close to a truly competitive level, so what is there to lose by letting the younger guys have a shot at it? I for one would gladly put up with a load of strikeouts, missed cutoff men, and other developmental flaws in team play if I thought there was something to be gained for the longer-term good of the franchise.
If the Mets as an organization can have the courage to accept that the “placeholder” strategy currently in place is not worth continuing, they can re-tool with pieces already in the organization and likely lose little in the way of on-field success but gain significantly in terms of developmental progress. This could have a beneficial effect on the overall system as well, opening slots for up and coming players and possibly accelerating their timeline to the majors. The strategy that was implemented for the 2013 season is understandable, based on what we all know and suspect about the team’s budget, but adopting one that more fully embraces “the future now, “ rather than a makeshift construct designed to buy time until more prospects are deemed ready makes far more sense at this point. I say enough of the pretense of respectability. Let’s let it all hang out and see what the younger guys can do.