Back in the heady days of mid-May, when the first place Mets were six games over .500 and held a 1.5 game lead over Philadelphia and before the Mets clubhouse started to resemble a triage ward, I was worried the Mets might actually make the playoffs. As the season wore on and the Mets lineup wore out then usurped by refugees from Buffalo, Binghamton and the waiver wire, I became relieved.
This being my first appearance on these virtual Dirty pages, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not happy about how this season has gone. I’m not pleased the Mets resemble a AAA team. I’m not glad the atmosphere at CitiField is less joyful than a Mahler recital.
You see, I’ve been a Mets season ticket holder for 25 years (I even bought my Loge seats from Shea â€“ see photo â€“ which I just realized I got on a rent-to-own deal). Considering the cost of my current tickets (nearly $25k for two seats in the Excelsior Gold section, right in front of the SNY booth), I now consider myself an investor. But with the recession, I faced the prospect of raising enough to pay for both playoff tickets and next year’s ticketsâ€¦well, I simply couldn’t afford both.
Hence the nature of my relief about how this season has gone. And considering finances (mine and the Mets), I would not mind if the Mets lost all its remaining games this year and practice penury in the off-season â€“ as long as I felt confident about success in subsequent seasons.
I think it’s time we (as an investor, I consider myself a “we” with the Mets) built a winner the old-fashioned way: from within. That means letting the young players develop (which means fail first), then determine what holes (if any) need to be filled by high-priced talent later.
In other words, stop spending my money unnecessarily.
Here’s how I’d like things to proceed.
First, I don’t want Fernando Tatis, Brian Schneider or Omir Santos to get another start. We know what we have in these players. Their additional playing time doesn’t help determine what the Mets need for next year. I want to see Pagan, Murphy and especially Thole full-time.
For example, last week in Atlanta, Jerry Manuel pinch-hit Santos for Thole after Bobby Cox brought in lefty Mike Gonzalez. I screamed at the TV. I wanted to see how Thole, who hit .328 against both lefties and righties at Binghamton, would handle Gonzalez. I don’t care that Santos then cracked a go-ahead home run. Even if the Mets had won the game, I would have considered it a loss because we’d have learned nothing about whether Thole could hit left-handed pitchers at the major league level.
Keep starting Bobby Parnell. These are the perfect circumstances for him to figure out how to start. I don’t need to see how Tim Redding pitches. Let Parnell spend the rest of the year getting pounded so he can figure out how not to get pounded. If he doesn’t or can’t, then at least we know where we stand with him.
For next season, do not re-sign Carlos Delgado, no matter how cheap he is. I love Carlos Delgado. But there’s no reason on earth for the Mets to spend money on another first baseman. I want to see what Daniel Murphy can do in a full season without the distraction of platooning and positional competition or shifts. (And if it’s legal, drag Keith Hernandez out of the booth and have him fine-tune Murphy’s work around first base during spring training.) Delgado would be nothing more than a place-holder until we can determine if Ike Davis is the second coming of Keith Hernandez, Rico Brogna or Mike Jacobs. Start Davis at AAA in 2010 and see how he does. We can decide to trade Murphy or find Davis another position â€“ like the outfield, where’s been playing for Team USA in the IBAF World Cup â€“ based on how each looks between now and then. In either event, Delgado is an unnecessary gamble.
Get whatever you can for Luis Castillo. Everyone who believes Castillo will duplicate his success this year in 2010 and 2011 and is therefore worth another $12.5 million raise your hands. With his 2009 season, Castillo now has peak value and, if we offer to pay some or most of Castillo’s salary, we might be able to get back some young players and start re-stocking our depleted system. At least we can save a few more dollars.
I don’t want to sound cheap. But as an investor, I feel cheated and I want a make good for 2010. If the Mets’ front office practices post-season penury, maybe they’ll drop ticket prices 20 percent. And if they drop ticket prices, they’ll likely not only get me back, but a whole lot of other disgruntled fence-sitters. And if we field a young, hungry team in 2010, we might embrace them and root for them with lower expectations and less disappointment.