Featured Post: Does A “Mets Way” Exist?

wright wilpon aldersonWednesday night marked the beginning of the World Series and the two teams which have been praised all postseason long for having outstanding systems and team building began to battle one another for the championship. While the manner in which these League Champs were built is certainly much more complicated than the way the mass media is letting on, here are the basic structures of Boston and St. Louis in a nutshell. Boston added multiple mid-tier yet talented free agents who were “hungry for the challenge of winning” to fill the holes left by last year’s roster purge which also supplements their homegrown and retained talent. St. Louis built their lineup from within supplementing their previous free agent acquisitions with an emphasis on superior player development in their farm system and winning with a young big league roster.

These two teams have been praised by the media as well as many who follow and report on the Mets. And rightly so. Playing in the World Series obviously means whatever you are doing to build a championship caliber team is working very well. Many have even said the Mets need to follow the lead of either or both of these teams and model their off-season plans off of Boston and St. Louis’ 2013 success. I don’t dispute any of that. But don’t the Mets already have a system of their own in place? Under our current front office, isn’t there a “Mets Way?”

Presumably, yes. Fans have been force fed over the last few years that the Mets have a system as well and that in 2014 we would begin to see the fruits of said system’s labor. What are the cornerstones of the Mets Way? Based on what we’ve seen over the last few years I’d say the Mets Way consists of the following:

  1. Stockpile young power pitching prospects
  2. Hold OBP in high esteem and teach pitch recognition and the importance of getting on base throughout your player development system.
  3. In the off season when filling holes, shop for bargain bin players with high upside that can possibly be traded for more farm depth if your season is tanking.
  4. Do not overpay or offer too many contract years for a free agent. (ex. Michael Bourn vs. Marlon Byrd)
  5. Do not give up your 1st round draft pick in order to sign a “Type-A” free agent.

This is all well and good. The basic idea is to build from within with an emphasis on young power pitching. No sane baseball minded person would argue that that is the wrong way to do things under the current CBA. In taking cursory glances at both teams in this World Series, you will see young homegrown pitchers as well as young homegrown bats. These types of players are cheap and under team control for many years. The idea is to surround them (and fill your holes) with talent from outside the organization with the money you are saving by developing guys in your farm. Add a statistical analytic edge which is taught and hammered down across the various levels of your organization and you have the basics of what we are being sold on as The Mets Way.

terry collins sandy aldersonMany doubt that anything of value will be done this off season based on what we have seen the last few years. I don’t blame them. The Wilpons have not exactly opened their wallets to Sandy Alderson since he and his team have been here. Part of the blame also lies with Sandy seemingly being slow to act. He has been notorious for adding the final pieces just as Spring Training is rolling around, sometimes missing out on some potentially good fits. Whether this is a result of broke owners and negotiating his budget or if Sandy truly is too slow to act and too slow to shell out cash, what’s done is done.

But this year is different. In addition to being the year the front office promised would be the year of making a run at it, money seems to not be of a concern to ownership now. How coincidental! Sterling Equities and Mike “Luxury Condo” Bloomberg have even joined forces to approve plans for construction of a shopping mall and luxury apartment complex right next to Citi Field. To really top it all off Bloomberg Inc valued all the Major League Baseball clubs this week and the New York Mets clocked in at $2 billion.

Is this all for real? The Mets are still visibly losing money at the gate every year. Revenue has dipped to horrible levels, SNY viewership has tanked, and their own flagship radio station just kicked them off the air in favor of the Yankees. How can there suddenly be money to spend? The only thing that truly solves the financial issues The Mets have been facing is winning, and there hasn’t been much of that going on at all either. But if the Wilpons are building shopping mall/condo complexes and Mayor Bloomberg’s company is valuing this franchise as high as they are… could the most dire of money concerns truly be in the past? Was the exchange between Fred and Sandy similar to that of Lieutenant Dan and Forrest Gump?

Forrest Gump: So then I got a call from him saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said, “That’s good! One less thing.”

I will believe in The Mets Way when I see it in action this winter and going forward. Put up or shut up. Ownership knows this to be true. Our GM knows this to be true. Because of that self awareness alone, I believe this team will spend money this winter. Not gobs and gobs of cash like those teams in LA or The Bronx, but money will be spent.

If we sit through another winter of nothing much happening and yet another Opening Day roster of AAA and AAAA players is shuffled out for our viewing displeasure, then mark my words there will be a true fan revolt and a baseball apathy unlike any this city has ever seen will fill the New York City air. Yankees fans are already extremely apathetic about their team and they haven’t even grazed the surface of what Mets fans have suffered through since 2009. The Mets have a serious chance to steal the heart and soul of this town again in the coming years.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Mets fans are among the most passionate in baseball. When this team wins, this city absolutely rocks. If 2014 is another wasted year with no progress, then I’m afraid that passion may finally be extinguished. Here’s hoping I’m right, we are gifted with a real live major league roster, and Sandy finally gives us something to really cheer for.