Our friends over at Metsblog have a report on long-time non-Met Orlando Hudson today. In it, they mention how the gritty Mr. H apparently told WFAN this morning that he does not want to be a platoon player; he wants to start, and might be willing to split time when he is 40.
Well, this may not be serious news, but let’s hope he does not gain the ear of the new Met GM.
Hudson is about to turn just 33, but his stats show clear signs of decline, and let us hope that we do not finally see him in a Met uniform as 2011 approaches.
During the year, Hudson and others like him (Adam Dunn? Victor Martinez? David Eckstein?) may have seemed appealing–the thought process being that a couple of pretty productive veterans signed to short-term deals might help the Mets contend in 2011 while lessening pressure on the kids, and hopefully providing the production needed to be a winning team.
The feeling here now is that the combination of injuries to older players and promise showed by youth suggest that it is time for some patience.
As many commercials for some of our nation’s finest law firms often state in small print, past results do not guarantee similar future outcomes. While this indeed may often be true, the Met record at free agent signings has been pretty awful over the last half-decade.
Yes, the Omar era is now receding into history, but when one looks back at Pedro, Beltran, Alou, El Duque, Wagner, KRod, Bay–what does one see? A hell of a lot of hope and even more time on the DL.
It’s time for youth, for better or worse. The approach we have seen year after year of bringing in that one big name and hoping he will lead us to the promised land just has failed dramatically. Fans as old as this writer do remember that while it took a while, there was a lot to root for in the early 1980s, as each year saw more and more interesting young players. Not all of them became Darryl, Doc, Mookie, and Wally–some became Bruce Bochy and Ron Gardenhire. Good managers yes, but pretty bad players.
Still, the youth movement ultimately paid off.
The group of youngsters we have now is not exactly filled with blue-chip, can’t-miss types, but there is a lot of talent there and a lot of hope. In addition, should Johan, Bay, and Reyes recover most of their past all-star form, if David Wright continues to be himself, if Pagan continues to produce, and if Dickey and Pelf have a few more years in them like 2009, the team will not need Thole, Ike, Tejada, Mejia, Niese, and Gee to be all-stars–should they all simply become competent everyday players, this team can be formidable in 2012 and beyond.
These kids will not develop by sitting behind more aging free agent imports, and we must hope that our new GM does not delude himself into going for the quick fix and thinking that, as many fans believe, the team is “one player away.” It isn’t. it is almost certainly 1-2 years away.
The new GM must accept a program akin to an accelerated version of what Frank Cashen began in 1980. Let Jose take the time needed to become the old Jose. Let Johan rehab at his own pace. Let Jason Bay regain health and confidence. Let KRod ease back into becoming dominant.
This is not to say that 2011 should be written off; no year should be. But if the team is going to contend in 2011, it should be because Thole hits .300 with 40 2B, Ike hits 30+ HR, Niese wins 16, Gee wins 12, Takahashi becomes one of the game’s best setup men, Tejada hits .250 while playing Gold Glove defense (or Murph hits .280/20/80 while playing plausible defense), and Evans and Duda become excellent bench players. Is this likely? Perhaps not.
But the point is, these players must be allowed playing time without looking over their shoulders. Sure, there is something to be said for having gritty, experienced, successful veterans around to teach the youngsters how to play the game. But this group may have enough of those types in Johan, Dickey, KRod, Bay, and Wright.
The feeling here is that the 2011 Mets, while perhaps headed for another roughly .500, non-playoff finish, are going to potentially lay the groundwork for the next era of serious success for the franchise. Some players take a year or two at the highest level to develop; Thole, Ike, Tejada/Murphy, Niese, and Gee, and possibly Mejia, FMart and/or Duda need to be given free reign to sink or swim in 2011.
It’s time for a patient approach that stresses homegrown talent. The team has a large, varied group of players with potential. 2011 is the year to see how they can fare as everyday players. In a year’s time, we will have infinitely more information on which to base the longer-term plans for the team. We also will have seen the expiration of the contracts known as the Three Stooges of the Albatross which go by the names of Slappy, Ollie, and Beltran. Depending on the success of the young players individually and of the team as a whole in 2011, next fall may be the time to look for another big name and/or a veteran or two to fill a hole or two.
The time is not now to shop for this era’s version of Keith or The Kid, or to bring in older short-term veterans. Next fall may be that time. Let’s hope the new front office denizens show the patience and foresight often lacking in their more recent predecessors.