As the remaining free agents continue to be snapped up by teams not our own, a realization did hit Kingmanâ€™s Korner: Perhaps the front office actually believes in this group of players.
While drowning in the unbelievable negativity seeming to infect a large percentage of the already anxious fan base, more optimistic folks might consider that what the team is doing is in fact shining every last spotlight on this group, and fortifying it for one last chance to succeed as currently structured.
Omar, Jerry, the big three of Pelfrey, Maine, and Ollie, Murph at first and Slappy at second are somewhat surprisingly all apparently returning for another go round in Queens. The other moves made seem to very much be an overall attempt to fill in this groupâ€™s holes, rather than to change the core.
Is this wise? Could a more potentially inflammatory question be asked of Met fans?
Regardless of what the currently high-flying Nattering Nabobs of Negativity would have us believe, this is not a team in disarray. It is not an organization without a plan, it is not led by a clueless GM, and it is not hamstrung by cheap ownership.
Omar Minaya took over a team in true disarray after the 2004 season, and instantly returned it to contention and relevance with the Beltran and Pedro signings. In 2006, one pitch each from Heilman and Wainwright may very well have been all that prevented the franchiseâ€™s third championship. 2007 and 2008 were largely enjoyable seasons with horrifying endings. But the endings had us miss the postseason by one game and one day each year. The second half of 2009 was a historic anomaly unlikely to be experienced again by any team anytime soon.
So, the five years of Omar have seen just one postseason appearance, but the team was in the race until the end in 2005, and in or close to first place almost every day from opening day 2006-July 2009. This is far from what Met fans want, and is not the record of the Yankees or Red Sox, but calling it the record of a team in disarray is simply not a serious comment.
Perhaps there is a chance that ownership and management actually believe in this group.
No matter how vehement the opposition is to Pelf, Ollie, and Maine returning, all three have serious stuff, and have had success at the major league level. Pelf took a major step back last year, Maineâ€™s injury concerns increased, and Ollie was a disaster. The front office has invested years of development time and tens of millions of dollars in these three pitchers who they obviously want to be the backbone of the Met rotation for years to come.
Kingmanâ€™s Korner was at the forefront of the calls for Halladay when that fantasy was being indulged, and even a back of the rotation guy like Garland would have been welcomed. Sheetsâ€™ health makes avoiding him reasonable, but he would have been warmly greeted by this and many other fans. Still, as every day passes, it appears that those of us who thought that Pelf/Ollie/Maine as 2-3-4 was a thing of the past may indeed have been wrong. If Pelf reprises 2008 and Ollie and Maine put up numbers like 2007, and if Johan is healthy, this team will again be in or near first place the entire year.
Is this likely? Maybe not. Impossible? Definitely not.
Signing Jason Bay was a wise move and a necessary one, if only to calm some of the fan base and to try to keep season ticket buyers happy. Left field was a giant black hole, and adding one of MLBâ€™s most productive outfielders in his prime was also possibly done to help offset the power which will not be supplied by Murph at first. Still, the team obviously believes Murph can develop into a 40-45 2B, 15-20 HR player with a .300+ BA and a hopefully increased OBP.
There were three major free agents this year, and the Mets signed one of them. The reasonable fan has to be satisfied with that. And even the one free agent signing seems largely geared towards helping to fill out the overall capabilities of the existing group of players. Who have been very competitive for the last half decade, with the exception of the second half of 2009.
Omar brought in a promising Japanese setup man, whose velocity and movement may prove vexing to MLB hitters, especially during his first year, and also signed the intriguing Kelvim Escobar. If Escobar can recover maybe 70-80% of his past form, he might be a very valuable setup man.
So yes, Omar has achieved more than one thing, and has seemingly worked hard to bolster the offense, the teamâ€™s power, and the bullpen behind KRod and Feliciano.
The Mets do have a plan. The plan is to give one more year to this group and to see if they have the ability to succeed, having improved the offense, and maybe the bullpen as well, hence hopefully giving the rotation more runs to work with and more reliable help from the 7th inning on. Management believes in this group, and instead of using all of its resources on a very weak free agent class, the team has apparently decided to expect another competitive first half from this group, and then be ready to outspend the rest of the division mid-season to make improvements, when far better options may be available.
Not signing the Garlands, Marquises, Wolfs, etc. seems to very clearly show that the team will not overpay for mediocrity, which should be applauded. It also seems to demonstrate that management likes the starters they have. They have gone after a power-hitting LF, a veteran catcher in Molina, and bullpen help. They did not feel that any of the available starters (with the possible exception of Lackey) would significantly improve a healthy version of what they already possess. Even the recent talk of bringing in Smoltz as a tutor to the staff seems to fit this scenario.
Time will tell if this was wise, but the bottom line is, the Mets appear ready to go to war one last time with Pelf, Maine, and Ollie. Omar added power, and fortified the pen. He did not sign mediocre starters or overpay for lower-tier, aging free agents. He now has lots of money and all of the teamâ€™s prospects for possible mid-season moves. Should the team be in serious contention, we will be thrilled we are not saddled with the likes of Pineiro or Marquis, and the team will have the money they did not spend on them to go after good players, for the rotation or whatever area(s) of the team need(s) help.
It seems very likely that missing the postseason again will mean the end of Jerry and Omar, and should they have disappointing years, very possibly the end of Maine and/or Ollie and maybe even Pelf as Mets.
If we miss the playoffs, dramatic changes will be at hand, and the only players we will be sure to see in a Met uniform in 2011 would be Wright, Reyes, and Santana. KRod might go, and as Bay is in his prime and does not have an outrageous deal like, say, Vernon Wells, he could go too.
Is all of this a sunshiner copout? Not in the slightest. In 2007 it looked as though Ollie and Maine were set as at least 3-4 for a long time. In 2008 Pelf appeared to be settling firmly into at least a serious number 3. Reports say that Ollie is healthy and spent the winter working on various aspects of his life in order to grow up and regain his ability to succeed, and if Verducci was right, we may see a serious comeback from Big Pelf. Stranger things have happened.
Letâ€™s see how the spring begins developing in a month. Letâ€™s see how things look well into March, which was the time each of the last two years when we saw myriad players out with injuries before the season even started. Letâ€™s remember that a good chunk of this group (Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Maine, Ollie, Pelfrey, Feliciano) has been together almost five years now, and that everyone in the organization may indeed realize that 2010 is now or never time for the current makeup of the club.
The feeling here is that while the offseason has been less than ideal, Omar has once again brought in valuable new parts to add to an already solid core. The difference in 2010 is that another disappointing finish will surely result in massive change. The Met fan will finally see what this group is made of, for better or worse. With Delgado, Wagner, and Sheffield gone, this team now is clearly led by Santana and Wright.
At this juncture, 2010â€™s hopes largely reside on the arms and psyches of Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez. Can two of them develop into a poor manâ€™s Koosman/Matlack or Darling/El Sid duo to follow Johan? That may indeed be the single most relevant question for the 2010 New York Mets.
All of this may not add up to the average fanâ€™s optimum solution to the problems of the last few years, but it most definitely does constitute a plan.
Time will tell if it is a wise one.