In Theater Of Absurd, There’s No End To The Madness

garateAccording to Venezuelan journalist Rafael Tejera, the Mets have expressed interest in journeyman relief pitchers Víctor Garate and Armando Galarraga. To fully appreciate how earth-shattering this news is, you must first know that Garate last pitched in the major leagues in 2009, and had a 22.50 ERA. Galarraga last pitched in the majors in 2012, and posted a 6.25 ERA.

Fellow Mets fans, the apocalypse is officially upon us.

I wish the adjective bold or a close comparable – say, courageous, fearless, forceful, even the profane, ballsy, or the colloquial, out of the box — could be used to describe the organizational steward of the Mets as he tries to navigate the franchise through these very troubling waters, a whirling turbulence (see: a drain and water flushing down it) he has been in large part responsible for making.

But Sandy Alderson is the antecedent to bold, the polar opposite. Bland, stoic, methodical, taciturn, dispassionate – these words are more apt to describe him. Yet this is also a man who will clownishly crack obtuse inside jokes often at inappropriate times for his own cackling bemusement and often at the expense of Mets fans, has seemingly resorted to passive aggressive tactics as a defense mechanism to criticism, and who is a grand master at double talk, denial, and deflection. Oh, the enigma that is Sandy Alderson.

This off-season has been famously proffered as the winter of reclamation for the Mets franchise, when everything changes, when three large contracts come off the books and the stars finally align – and we, the loyal and beleaguered Mets fans who have been heroically patient, finally see the end of the penny pinching and the bottom feeding. But this off season, if reports such as the one above is any indication, like the off season before it, and the one before that, is beginning to shape up like yet another exercise in numbing futility, if not unadulterated madness.

In baseball’s version of theater of the absurd, its ‘Groundhog Day’ again, with one cruel exception – rather than correcting the sins of the past, Alderson and his fawning triumvirate just keep repeating them, ad nauseam, again and again and again. Sign chair-throwing Francisco to a $12 million contract, repeat with the signing of Chris Young, who wouldn’t start for another team in baseball, for $7.25 million. Any rebuilding plan that includes these two players is in truth a misnomer, a big ugly lie foisted upon the fan base for 3 seasons now – an abject betrayal of our trust and faith we collectively put in Alderson. The soul sucking reality is, given Alderson’s track record over that time, what should we have expected? The jokes on us, right Sandy? Ha, ha, ha. Stop. I get it now.

So on this day after Thanksgiving (I’ll let the bitter irony fester without comment) lets try and get to the bottom of all of this, shall we? This past Tuesday, Alderson held a press conference to ostensibly welcome Chris Young and his dreadful .235 lifetime BA and, it should be noted to all the sabermetric fanatics reading this, a miserable .315 lifetime OBP. Mind you, these are not one season aberrations but his lifetime averages. Young also doesn’t walk much, strikes out too much, but did have five relatively productive seasons for Arizona from ’07 to ’11. Still, no matter how much lipstick Alderson puts on this signing, its still a reclamation project, albeit with a very large price tag.

Of more concern to Mets fans, the signing has absorbed almost 25% of the meager $30 million budget the team has to spend. Alderson not only can’t keep promises but what’s just as maddening is he’s unfaithful to the core principles of sabermetrics and his creation, Moneyball, when circumstantially required, because Young is anything else but that type of player, and $7.05 million is hardly a bargain basement price tag.

Chris YoungEven more exasperating than all of that, Young’s signed for one year. Alderson must be the brightest man on the planet because that makes absolutely no sense at all to the rest of us mere mortals – if Chris Young does well, if he does reclaim his career, he goes elsewhere next year for a multi-year deal. Not even a second year option, just in case? In others words, even if Alderson is right about Young, he’s still wrong. Trade bait in June? If the Mets pick up most of his salary, which they won’t do, or salary dump him for no one in return, which is more likely (don’t let the exquisite paradox go unappreciated – dumping the salary of a player in less than a full season, who the Mets signed to the bloated contract that needed to be dumped in the first place). Young playing well enough to the point another team would even want him as a piece for a playoff run still strains percentages. For every Byrd, there are ten of these types of signings that fail. If he does poorly, which odds are he will, another $7.05 million outright wasted. Chris Young, your guardian angel is named Sandy Alderson.

But I digress for the comic relief of it all. During the press conference Alderson announced to the world that, surprise of all surprises, free agent shortstops – free agents in general — want too much money this off season. Bla, bla, bla, bla, he droned on about the state of free agency, in full and pedantic lecturing mode, and my mind began to blank out from the boredom of it all (after all, he’s sung some version of this tired song for three years now, and keeps hauling it out as if the heavens had just suddenly opened up and revealed only to him this epiphany). Then he said something quite peculiar – breathtaking in its fantastic disconnect to what had transpired last season, really. Ruben Tejada – yes, the same Ruben Tejada he toyed with like a yo-yo and banished to the minors seemingly at whim, which might as well have been Siberia, and defamed and ridiculed him for good, sadistic measure on his way out – has a real chance to be the starting shortstop for the Mets in 2014. Though my heart clutched a beat and the hair on the back of my neck stiffened at the sheer raving audacity of this man, is anybody really surprised that the slick, double talking Sandy Alderson is in full swing obfuscation mode again?

Face it. Unless Alderson drastically changes his thinking, Drew isn’t coming, Cruz isn’t coming, Cano’s coming when the Mets play the Yankees next year at Citi Field. Chris Young quickly said yes to signing with the Mets – after starting to breath again — because Alderson bribed him with $7.05 million that no one else in baseball would have paid, if half that. Hell, I think Andrew Brown could have a better year, if given the chance. One of the true bitter ironies about the absurdity of Alderson is that he has been responsible for some of the most market inflating free agent contracts in baseball over the past three seasons. Its altogether perverse to use a dime of revenue derived from the hard work of Mets fans to overpay the likes of Chris Young, Frank Francisco, Sean Marcum, and DJ Carrasco, but that’s precisely what he did. Yes, its theater of the absurd, baseball’s version — the dogmatic Alderson, on his bully pulpit, howling into the void about the insanity of free agent contracts.

That sound you hear is 29 other GM’s snickering. I’d laugh, too, but the searing bile is rising up in my throat.

Now its back to rearranging the deck chairs for the genius of Moneyball. The Cardinals had enough in the bank, and thick enough skin, to sign Perralta to a contract that apparently shocked Alderson. What was missing from the press conference was Anderson fainting from the horror of it all. The Cardinals win World Series at a pace second only to the Yankees, and get to the playoffs just about every season … so what exactly shocks Alderson about how the Cardinals conduct business? That they are successful? That they act with boldness, not whining, wimpy excuses and boldface lies?

After promising a $100 million payroll, then changing that, without a scintilla of explanation, to the rather vague $90 ish million, Alderson now is promising – promising, I say! — that the budget will go no lower than $87 million. Whatever his faults, there’s no question Alderson leads the majors in broken promises to his fan base.

I have arrived at the conclusion that the ever shifting payroll budget of the Mets is essentially Alderson’s doing. Alternately, with assets and property worth probably in excess of $3 billion, I have to believe that the Wilpons have the resources to cobble together the money they need to run this franchise like a large market team but that Alderson and his Moneyball constructs and conscripts have become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Do you really think that Alderson, with money to spend burning a hole in his pocket, would say anything else other than how shocked he is at the steep prices of free agents?

Somebody needs to wake Alderson up and tell him its not the 1970’s anymore, and free agent prices are, well, very steep. Guess what else is very steep: ticket prices, hot dogs at the stadium, beers, sodas, parking. Its $13 to get over the George Washington Bridge, for crying out loud. So if Mets fans are expected to pay steep prices to watch this team play lousy baseball, why is he so shocked that he might have to pay steep prices to get better players to help the team win more games? You know, do his job.

His latest parlor tricks twist credibility into a pretzel. No other large or mid market team, for that matter, appears to be wringing their hands with the shamelessness of poor, poor pitiful Sandy – all alone in this madhouse world, save his three devoted followers. Does anybody else wonder what these four men do on a daily basis? Again, if you want to talk about out of control spending – do the Mets really have to pay what amounts to 4 GM’s to not spend money wisely in free agency, not draft very well, and besides a couple of layups still to be determined, not trade very well? Its like Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp.

The Tigers, in a downtrodden city mired in bankruptcy and hopelessness and hardly with the resources of the NYC market, trade Fielder, relieving themselves of his massive contract, gets Kinsler and his large contract in return, talk of moving Cabrera to first, and Kinsler to third, and then immediately contemplates bringing the $300 million man Cano out for a visit. All bold, daring, dynamic moves. I thought I’d never write these words in my lifetime, but I am envious of Detroit Tigers fans. Texas gets gargantuan Fielder, and his gargantuan contract too, and now is deciding on also pursuing Cano. Yes, bold and daring.

The Mets grossly overpay Chris Young, when nobody else wanted him, and bask in the glory of their work as if they invented baseball. Throw them a bone, any bone, and get them to stop all the damn barking! I suppose its okay to sign Young, Francisco, Carrasco, Rauch, and Marcum for $25 million dollars a year, but spending $15 million on a power hitting, slick fielding shortstop who just won the World Series isn’t smart baseball? Really?

In Alderson’s upside down world, this stands as organizational strategy. Sign this truly reprehensible group, a stain on baseball and frankly on Alderson’s reputation, who suffers no tangible consequences for squandering every red cent for less than zero production, and then pass on a slick fielding, power hitting shortstop. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Honore-Daumier-Don-QuixoteIn some delusion of grandeur, Alderson must see himself as the Quixote of baseball, on a crusade with his three Sanchos to save a fiscally challenged game from its own worst `instincts – namely, greed (which is, really, one of the engines of free enterprise, whether we want to admit it or not, or call it something else).

Moneyball might have worked in Oakland – did it? — but its incorporation into a large market team is an insult to every Mets fan who buys tickets to a game, pays $20 to park at Citi Field or forks over $10 on a coke and hotdog, pays a monthly fee for cable to watch the games on SNY, or buys expensive team gear. They’re either playing us for suckers or they are simply self absorbed idiots if they truly feel Mets fans will idly sit by this time.

Here’s the moral to this nightmare: You don’t hire an atheist to teach catechism, and you don’t hire a Moneyball acolyte to run a large market baseball team.

Do you know what Alderson should do this off season to rouse the fan base and make his mark as something more than a small market cult master? He should give Cano $30 million this year, and for 6 more seasons, and make do internally filling in the holes, and with trades in 2014. Move Murphy to first, trade Davis and Duda for prospects. Let Black close if Parnell can’t; bring up Leathersich, Walters and Familia for pen. Let Puello (16 HR, 73 RBI, .326. BA, .403 OPB, .547 SLG, 24 stolen bases & 8 outfield assists in ban-related abbreviated season) play right field. Maybe he’s our Puig.

Pitching-wise, start with Mejia in the 5th slot in rotation until he hits his inning limits, then use Montero until he reaches his limit; build up Wheeler’s innings before shutting him down again, and use Torres as your 4th starter or use one of the trade pieces for a stop gap starter in a trade. Then see where that gets you while you wait on positional player development – Puello, d’Arnaud, even Tejada — and Harvey to get well again in 2015.

I wouldn’t trade any of the Mets young, top tiered pitchers this off-season. Second tier – Mazzoni, deGrom, Matz – different story, and perhaps there is a noteworthy trade to be made from this group to help the cause.

Signing Cano would be a ballsy, out of the box, creatively bold move that would set the Mets up with two superstars hitting in their primes at Citi for the next 7 years, when, as we all know, a flood of great young pitching will be in Queens led by Matt Harvey (all under inexpensive team control for most of those years). Sounds a lot like the way the SF Giants have built two championship teams, and it would position the Mets for 7-8 year run for glory beginning in 2015 and a payroll that will remain relatively stable, probably never passing $100-$110 million.

Starting Line-up: E. Young, Murphy, Wright, Cano, Puello, C. Young, d’Arnaud, Tejada.

Starters: Wheeler, Neise, Gee, Torres, Mejia.

Bullpen: Parnell, Black, Edgin, Familia, Rice, Leathersich, Walters.

Bench: Turner, Brown, Recker, Lagares, Flores.

The 2014 payroll would break down like this: $30 million Cano, $25 million Wright, $5 million Niese, $7.05 million C. Young, $16.1 million arbitration settled contracts Gee, Tejada, Turner, Young, Jr, Murphy, Parnell, $7.5 million for base contracts on Harvey, Flores, Black, d’Arnaud, Edgin, Familia, Mejia, Recker, Rice, Tejada, Wheeler, Leathersich, Torres, Lagares, Puello, Walters.

That’s $90.65 million for 25 players or just $3.65 million more than the absolute low side of the budget according to Alderson’s latest pledge, or the equivalent to what Alderson paid Frank Francisco for each game he actually pitched in. Or a bit less than Alderson paid for the one game Shaun Marcum won.

Ha, ha, ha. Just kidding, Sandy.