Uncomfortably Numb: Met Fans Deserve Better

“When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse… Out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone.”

It was great while it lasted… An exciting World Series run in 2015, followed by one good month in 2016…

That was the extent of the “long run of sustainable success” that was promised to us in 2010, when Sandy Alderson gave his first press conference as general manager of the New York Mets.

Here we are seven years later, and can anyone honestly look at this team and say that we’re in better shape now than we were when that long painful rebuild started? I guess you can make an argument either way, but the fact that it’s even debatable falls far short of the expectations we all had.

Who are today’s New York Mets?

The short answer is I don’t know. Until last season, I thought they were a team going in the right direction, at last things were looking brighter. But despite all the injuries this past season, a lot of other bigger issues and concerns were exposed and now that has left me wondering about our long and short term future. I don’t recognize this team anymore, a team I’ve loved since 1969.

No discernible vision, identity or strategy…

This team is in a shocking state of disarray when you put it under the microscope. I say shocking because after seven years you would think a basic and consistent philosophy by this front office would be prevalent by now and clearly it’s not.

There was a major shakeup at the upper levels of the minor leagues both in staffing as well as changes in the organization’s offensive and pitching approaches. This after a poor showing by many of the team’s top and mid level prospects, most of whom failed to impress the front office and most lacked the readiness to compete at the big league level.

As the regular season drew to an end, Sandy Alderson admitted that the team needed a seismic shift in their long held philosophy that downplayed the value of speed and defense.

“When your pitchers aren’t striking everybody out, as we’ve had in the past, the defense becomes a little more important,’’ Alderson admitted when asked about what he learned from the team’s disappointing season.

“If we’re going to have pitching that puts the ball in play a little more, then the defense is going to be more of a priority.”

However, after organizational leaks that the Mets were targeting the defensively adept Todd Frazier (5 DRS, 4.7 UZR) for third base, that idea was scrapped and assistant GM John Ricco told reporters that Asdrubal Cabrera would be the third baseman next season. Cabrera had -14 DRS while playing short, second and third last season, and at third base he posted a -14.5 150/UZR and -2.7 UZR.

To address their lack of speed and to further enhance their defense, the Mets were quickly out of the gate to say they were eyeing Lorenzo Cain. But that idea too was quickly scuttled and the new buzz was that a platoon of Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo had its merits.

And now with the Winter Meetings having come and gone, they’re thinking of bringing back Jay Bruce, and relegating Michael Conforto to center field where he had -4 DRS in just 39 starts there last season. So much for prioritizing defense… That idea lasted for all of two weeks.

It doesn’t stop there, the goal posts are constantly moving, so much so it’s tough for anyone to keep up. One moment we’re prioritizing a a quality innings-eater for the rotation, and the next moment we’re not. One moment Alderson delivers a scathing rebuke of Dominic Smith and begins targeting Carlos Santana for first base, and the next moment Smith is the best thing ever to happen since sliced bread. Adding two arms to the bullpen was the initial plan this offseason, but that was scrapped a day after giving a back-loaded deal to 32-year old Anthony Swarzak, coming off a career year.

This Mets front office is entering its eighth year and we still have no clarity as to this team’s identity and overall philosophy. One thing it’s not – another broken promise – moneyball with money. Remember that?

The team still appears to have no real direction or vision. Their priorities keep shifting from one day to the next, perhaps because they are still forced into doing whatever is financially expedient rather than what is actually best for the team.

Anyway you slice it, the current situation is maddening as hell, and as long as this team is encumbered by these financial restrictions we will never have a true and lasting vision for the future.

Instead we will always be trapped in a vicious cycle comprised of small doses of moderate success and vast amounts of abject failure, as each move to improve the team is viewed through the lens of never-ending budgetary constraints.

It’s this rampant unpredictability and lack of organizational stability that will keep us from ever achieving that long run of sustainable success that was promised to us all those years ago by this front office, and has culminated in just two winning seasons before hitting the skids again with a 92 loss debacle.

Met fans deserve better.

A farm system that may in fact be worse than what Sandy Alderson inherited all those years ago.

You remember when all the experts called Omar Minaya’s farm system a “barren wasteland,” and yet it produced Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Daniel Murphy, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Wilmer Flores and most important of all, a National League Championship.

After seven years of drafts, the only player we can reasonably expect to be an All-Star caliber talent who the team can build around is Michael Conforto. So if you’re keeping score out there that’s one player out of over 200 players drafted since the Mets selected Brandon Nimmo with the 13th overall pick in 2011.

Whether you love Sandy Alderson or not, you have to admit that the Mets’ draft record is pretty damn appalling under his watch. Of course the general manager is hardly responsible for most of the players the team scouts and selects. But he’s the one who puts together the personnel that is responsible for our drafts, and ultimately it all falls on the general manager.

And it doesn’t just stop with the First Year Player Draft. While Amed Rosario certainly looks promising on the international front (fingers crossed), where is everyone else?

Additionally, why are the Mets virtually invisible when it comes to the Pacific Rim or even in Cuba for that matter? By ignoring such large talent pools it puts the Mets at a clear disadvantage compared to other teams that compete very strongly in these emerging markets.

I also have problems with how we are scouting and evaluating draft prospects and minor league talent in general.

One example I can give you is comparing what we got for Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce, Addison Reed, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson in trade deadline deals to what the Yankees got for Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran a year earlier when they were sellers at the trade deadline.

The Yankees got back a haul of top minor league prospects including their numbers one and two prospects outfielder Clint Frazier (No.1) and shortstop Gleyber Torres (No. 2), as well as left-hander Justus Sheffield (No. 5) and right-hander Dillon Tate (No. 6).

The Mets? They got back a barrel full of middle relief arms, none of whom crack their Top 20. That right there told us all we needed to know about what was in store this offseason.

Despite selecting ahead of the Yankees in five of the last seven drafts, Baseball America’s most recent farm system rankings has the Mets coming in at No. 17 and the Yankees at No. 7.

Met fans deserve better.

Mets owners are unwilling to invest what it takes to build and maintain a championship caliber roster.

And now lets get to the real crux of the matter.

After six years of being a steadfast supporter of Sandy Alderson, my confidence in him has slowly waned. When he made the deal for Yoenis Cespedes and rode him to the World Series he reached his peak as GM of the Mets. Since then, there’s been plenty of questionable moves especially after limping to the wild card in 2016 and then doing nothing to improve the team last winter.

That said, you have to believe that some of Alderson’s moves have been negatively impacted by the organization’s men in the high tower – ownership.

Many will tell you that the worst moment in franchise history came on June 15, 1977 when then GM M. Donald Grant traded the iconic Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds. I still remember the pain of that day.

However, one could also argue that the worst moment came on August 14, 2002 when co-owner Nelson Doubleday was maliciously schemed into selling his stake in the team to Fred and Jeff Wilpon. In what would be a recurring theme, then commissioner Bud Selig played a significant role in wrestling the team away from Doubleday and into the hands of his close friend and confidant Fred Wilpon.

Seven years later, the world would learn about the largest Ponzi scheme in American history and how intertwined and complicit the Wilpons were with the devious and despicable mastermind behind it all, Bernie Madoff.

For six years, the New York Mets had to bear the full brunt of the financial upheaval that would follow despite the constant lies from ownership that all the legal calamity that followed would not have any adverse effect on the team. It wasn’t the first lie they’d feed us… or the last.

These days, the Wilpons spend most of their time cloaked in invisibility, often hiding in the shadows of Citi Field, and avoiding the media at all costs for fear of having to answer some tough questions from the most loyal fan base in baseball. A fan base that has endured far too many gut punches and kicks to the teeth. A fan base they are unworthy of profiting off.

At a time that has seen Major League Baseball swimming in oceans of cash with revenues, net profits, and team values at record highs, the Mets continue to operate like the small market team they instantly became after Fred and Uncle Bernie stopped printing money in the back room. It was easy for the Wilpons to spend big when they were earning annual yields of 15-17 percent while the rest of the country was stuck at 3-4 percent. But lets move onto the here and now.

Year Mets Payroll Avg Payroll
2014 $84,951,365 $115,428,670
2015 $101,344,283 $125,458,486
2016 $135,188,085 $130,290,910
2017 $154,437,460 $136,669,730

The Mets’ opening day payroll was a reported $154 million dollars in 2017. The highest it has been in nearly a decade, but still only in the middle of the pack among all 30 MLB teams. Even still, I thought for sure that the team’s financial woes were finally behind them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Like a ship that passes in the night, this year’s payroll was but a brief moment brimming with hope, never knowing if we’ll ever see it again. Apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

What really makes the current payroll situation look so bad is that unlike the height of the Madoff years when the Wilpons were indeed broke and couldn’t spend, this time nobody is crying poverty. The Wilpons have the money to spend and are simply choosing not to.

Let’s examine the evidence.

SNY is a cash cow for ownership and continues to have record earnings. The front office put $50 million dollars in the owners’ coffers after all those salary dumps at the trade deadline. They got back $15 million dollars from the insurance payout on David Wright‘s contract. They also just received a huge $64 million dollar windfall from the Disney purchase of BAMTech earlier this year.

Last month, the team announced that they purchased the Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse and that 2018 will be their final season in Las Vegas. This will give Mets owners a new revenue stream which should be at least as profitable as the Brooklyn Cyclones.

It’s both sad and pathetic that the owners would choose this time to reduce payroll and limit Sandy Alderson to just a $30 million dollar or less budget. Just the other day it was reported that the team had to back load the contract of the recently signed Anthony Swarzak just to save a million dollars, and today we’re told the team will attempt to deal AJ Ramos so they could take on the salary of a second baseman which they desperately need.

Nobody is expecting the Mets to splurge on payroll like the crosstown New York Yankees are doing, they are in a league of their own. But the way the Mets are conducting themselves now is an absolute joke and a complete embarrassment. It’s no wonder why so many players are refusing to sign with the Mets or invoking their no-trade clause. Why would anyone want to play in such a dysfunctional environment unless they were getting overpaid?

Meanwhile, MLB commissioner Robert Manfred turns a blind eye to the fact that a team in the largest market in the country operates like they’re located in Bismarck, North Dakota.

With just two winning seasons in seven years and a farm system so weak they have no assets that they can deal or even help the current team, there’s plenty of blame to go around for Sandy Alderson.

But make no mistake that the lion’s share of the organizational ineptitude and the shabby shape of the roster lies at the feet of Fred and Jeff Wilpon. They are the architect of this shit show. They are hardly worthy of an incredibly loyal fan base that has so much love for the team. We invest our hearts and souls and money into this team and all we ask in return is for some transparency and a true commitment to winning – not just in words but in actions.

Instead we’re stuck with owners who have no empathy for our plight… Owners that are deceptive, feckless and incompetent. Owners who are tone deaf and out of touch with the fan base. Owners who like to turn everything into a giant money grab. Clearly, winning a championship is not a top priority for the Wilpons, they are content to just trudge along under the guise that we are competitive and remain profitable. That’s simply not good enough…

Met fans deserve better.

About Joe D 8019 Articles
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73, '00 and '15, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.