The Wilpons did not waste any time in taking action following a season that was, in a word, mediocre.
It is time to realize that despite the hope of 2006, that was another team and another time. 2011 might as well be 1982 or 1983; we will be years removed from being competitive and it might be a couple of years before we are again.
It is also time for a new philosophy, similar to the one Frank Cashen pursued when he took over the team decades ago. We now have a crop of young kids who show a lot of promise to varying degrees. They simply must be given at least another year to show what they can do, just as Mookie, Wally, Hubie, Darryl, Doc, Ron, and the rest were all those years ago.
Will Thole, Ike, Niese, Mejia, and the rest lead us to the promised land as the aforementioned group did? Will they become most of the needed fixtures for the next wave of Met success and also provide parts for great trades like those for Keith and Gary prior to the glory years of 1985-1988?
No way to tell now, but one thing we can tell is that Omar’s manner of top-heavy, big-game hunting simply did not work. One postseason appearance and one playoff series win in the last decade is what the braintrust is looking back at right now. That’s not good for any team, short of the Pirates or Royals really. For one of the game’s highest spenders it is quite bad.
This is largely a mediocre team, a soft team, and an apathetic team. This is not a .500+ team just a player or two away from contention. Other than a 23-9 run in May and June this team was 56-74. Yes, 56-74. Last year they were 70-92. They had a winning record against precisely one winning team in 2010–they were 2-1 against the Twins, with the series coming at home at the end of this year’s one good month. Throw in a 12-1 record against the Pirates, Orioles, and Indians, and the true nature of this team’s overall record becomes more clear.
Inconsistency, inability to beat good teams, aging injury-prone stars, zero depth, and a hugely top-heavy salary structure are the hallmarks of this team right now. Considering where their payroll has put them in that particular ranking the last two seasons, their failures are even more glaring. The Mets started the season slowly and finished in their customary fashion.
The uproar made about Utley’s slide and its aftermath could not be more representative of the entire attitude of this team. The Phils largely shrugged it off; some Mets acted as though the world was coming to an end. Tejada didn’t think it was dirty. Met announcers thought it was borderline. NOW the Mets are going to wake up? As Darling said during last Sunday’s pregame intro, one would hope that in 2011 the team might show this sort of initiative before the end of September when they have long since ceased to be relevant.
24 hours after The Slide, Jose was on first and grinned and joked with Howard before getting picked off. This is focus? Intensity? On Saturday Beltran slid hard; on Sunday he jogged out of the way avoiding contact as Ron and Keith loudly observed. These actions precisely illustrated the nature of much of the veteran leadership of this team in 2010.
Which young player recently joined championship team members Cora, Sheffield, Strawberry, HoJo, Ojeda, Hernandez, and Darling, and countless other rational observers, in lamenting this group’s leadership, toughness and desire? Thole? Ike? Regardless, it is a great omen for next year, when the kids will rightfully begin to remake this team.
The feeling here is that as many of the current overpaid veterans as possible need to go. Beltran should be traded if at all possible, although this seems unlikely after yet another injury setback. Castillo and Perez simply must be gone. As fans we must be willing to wait out a year while these three albatross contracts disappear from the balance sheet.
Trade Reyes if a reasonable return can be found; this is simply not a player to invest a lengthy, massive contract in; if he gets $11 million in 2011, what will he demand? 5/65 seems to be the least that he might require; it very possibly might be more. That’s too much for a player with his mentality and injury history. A huge long-term deal for a leadoff hitter with a .321 OBP with clearly diminished speed, fielding ability, intensity, and focus? The Mets won crowns with Bud Harrelson and Rafael Santana at SS. The team can win without Jose Reyes.
We will basically be left with Pelfrey, Dickey, Pagan, Wright, Reyes (probably), Bay, Johan at some point, and the entire kiddie corps. Niese, Mejia, Gee, Parnell, Thole, Ike, Murphy, Tejada, FMart, Duda, Evans, Nieuwenhuis, and any surprises from camp in 2011. One or two rotation spots are very open, as is almost the entire pen, as Feliciano and Takahashi might very possibly sign elsewhere and KRod has very possibly thrown his last pitch as a Met.
We have definitely seen some very encouraging signs. Niese and Ike’s flashes of serious potential. Mejia’s arm and youth. Gee’s surprising run. Thole and Tejada’s poise and walk-off hits. Duda’s impressive power. Murphy already working on 2B. Parnell hitting triple digits on the gun and seeming to be one pitch away from dominating. Pagan talking excitedly about next year. Dickey finishing the year strong, volunteering to give a relief inning on Saturday, and showing every sign of developing into a reliable number 3 starter and a leader. Pelf’s resurgence, and, other than a serious one-month disaster, having a fine season overall. Wright recovering to have, despite the Ks and reduced BA/OBP, a very productive year. And much of the pitching overall; 19 shutouts is excellent. And Citi Field, despite the bleating of the shortsighted who complain about its dimensions, is developing into a serious home-field advantage. 47-34 at home and 32-49 on the road? Win a couple more at home and play .500 on the road and we’re in the 90+ win area.
Is this enough to expect contention in 2011? Probably not. Is it enough to believe we have the groundwork in place for a young, largely homegrown team which needs a couple of years to grow? Which needs a season to see who we can count on to be at the very least dependable everyday players? To wait until the contracts of Beltran/Ollie/Slappy expire, giving the team tens of millions to invest in the areas we find to be lacking? The feeling here is one of optimism for the long-term.
It is time for patience for the serious fan. For recognition that it does not diminish us or our fandom one iota to admit that the team we love and invest so much in has devolved into a passive, weak, contented, lazy group in too many respects.
Mr. Wilpon, you are off to a jackrabbit offseason start which almost every fan thanks you for; indeed, you already had our rapt attention less than 24 hours after Ollie ended 2010 in the most fitting fashion possible.
Mr. Wilpon, don’t stop now–shed every overpaid veteran you can other than David Wright. Sell us on youth and vitality and players who are not past their prime, both mentally and physically; players on their way up, not players reluctantly coming here simply for their last huge payday. Pedro came largely because no one else offered four years. Delgado did not want to be here initially. Beltran reportedly offered himself to the Yankees for less money. Johan used the opportunity to hold up the Mets for every last dollar. Bay waited until it was quite apparent that there were no other major offers. Players drafted and nurtured by the Mets will clearly have a far different attitude.
Mr. Wilpon, give us a new manager and some new coaches with zeal who will not allow the inmates to run the asylum and allow the card-playing to continue when work should be getting done. Build around players, as Judge Smails would have said, with “a certain zest for living!” Let us watch young pitchers throw to Thole, let us watch an infield with Ike and maybe Murph and/or Tejada, and an outfield with FMart or Duda or Captain Kirk.
We have seen enough the last two years. Enough contentedness. Enough cliché-driven babble. Enough softness and enough embarrassment to division foes. Enough refusal to work on improving. Enough endless stretches on the DL. Enough of it all.
Youth, vitality, and a plan for the future are what are needed. “One more bat” or “one more starter” is not going to get it done. This is not 2005 any more than it is 1985. This team is a mess which one player will not fix, even if that player was Halladay or Pujols.
Mr. Wilpon, we need a whole new outlook, which will only come with a very different manager and a serious infusion of youth; which will only come from dismantling the lax, satisfied mediocrity which has ossified in the core of this team. A brick wall of inflexible contentedness separates this group from chances for improvement.
If Ronald Reagan was a Met fan, surely he would be shouting: “Mr. Wilpon, tear down this wall!” Yes, tear down this wall of contented mediocrity which stands between this team and winning.
The era of soft complacency must end now. Tear down this wall and start rebuilding.