Where did it all go wrong for the New York Mets and the 2018 season?
It may sound too simplistic after all these years, but it still remains true enough…
Most of the adversity, malaise, and ill fortune that continuously afflicts the New York Mets begins and ends with the inept and dysfunctional ownership of Fred and Jeff Wilpon.
The Wilpons are the harbinger of all that haunts this team both at an operational and functional level.
Even today, their utter incompetence and debilitating hubris are always lurking behind every bad decision that holds this team back from achieving any modicum of success.
This was recently on full display when it was learned that the only reason the team continues to retain Jose Reyes is because ownership is waiting for the perfect timing to give the longtime Met a proper sendoff. Reyes, as most of you know, is currently the worst performing player on an active MLB roster, wielding a team-killing OPS+ of 27.
I challenge anyone to find a more caustic example of team meddling than the Wilpons. While it is not at all uncommon for team owners to meddle in their own team’s operational and even day-to-day personnel decisions, for the most part they are only looking to help the team.
But in this particular case, the Wilpons are only motivated in packaging and marketing a potential Jose Reyes Day – even though the veteran shortstop has no intentions of retiring. So the windup is that a non-producing player is forced upon a manager who is desperately looking for solutions to help stop an epic and historic meltdown.
How can the Mets ever find the sustained success that was promised eight years ago, as long as the Wilpons own the team?
Sandy Alderson virtually assured us when he took over, that a new era of “sustained championship caliber baseball” was on the way and that the old way of doing business was being replaced with an “advanced and nuanced approach” to scouting and player development.
We’re still waiting Mr. Alderson, it’s been eight years and counting.
Unfortunately, there’s not much anyone can do about the Wilpons as owners – they are as dug in and as entrenched as owners can get.
However, there’s still an expectation that a GM can overcome the stumbling blocks they represent and still produce a team worth watching and rooting for.
But sadly, Sandy Alderson has failed to meet that expectation at a pretty massive level.
Charged with turning around an injury-riddled and aging roster that lost 92 games in 2017, Alderson was granted the biggest payroll in franchise history – a $155 million dollar budget that still falls short of market expectation, but far exceeded any annual budget his predecessor Omar Minaya ever received.
However, more spending has not resulted in more wins or better performance, and that failure is not on the owners, but lies squarely on the shoulders of Sandy Alderson.
The offseason plan for Alderson included multi-year deals for Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas and Anthony Swarzak, plus re-signing the aforementioned Reyes, and picking up Adrian Gonzalez who has since been released.
The resulting splurge in payroll has resulted in the oldest active roster in the majors, the most populated disabled list in the league, and to put it more succinctly – a poorly constructed roster that was destined to fail – and fail they did.
To helm this calamity, which Sandy himself called a playoff caliber team (and gulp, I believed him), he opted for an inexperienced manager in Mickey Callaway who despite being a charismatic and likable guy, appears to be in way over his head.
We knew there would be a learning curve, but Callaway’s constant flops, egregious missteps, and many head-scratching decisions, have now reached a critical mass.
However, make no mistake that Mickey is a victim here… a victim of a chain-reaction of bad decisions that set up the new Mets skipper for failure instead of success.
A franchise can sometimes overcome the unfortunate predicament of incompetent and dysfunctional ownership, it happens all the time. Teams with bad owners have won championships.
But there’s no chance that any team can survive the terrifying trifecta of bad ownership, a bad front office, and a bad manager. That’s a lethal combination. And that’s the precarious paradox that the Mets must grapple with before things can ever get better.