This writer has definitely, over the course of his online Met-commening career, often been cast as a “sunshiner optimist.” Over the last year, beginning with a 3rd place prediction last spring, epithets like “nabob” and “flip-flopper” have been thrown this way.
However, at this point in time, the orange and blue faith which has been a strong part of the lifeblood of this writer’s existence is being severely tested.
As posited previously, Emerson’s comment in his famous essay “Self-Reliance” that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” is indeed a wise one. Where’s the fun in predicting playoff contention every year regardless of how unlikely this may be? What’s wrong with looking at the horrid results of 2009 and 2010 and changing one’s outlook based on clear real-world events? What’s the point in viewing the team the same way every year despite the obvious difference in player attitude, hustle, and sacrifice which occurs from season to season and team to team?
After 2005 and 2006 it appeared that Omar Minaya could indeed work wonders—in addition to spending big, he also filled the team with fine complementary players. After 2007 and 2008 this evaluation came into question. After 2009 and 2010, anyone who still believed Omar was anything other than a mediocre GM was simply wrong. Sure, he has some good qualities—people like him, he is a good evaluator of young amateur talent, and he can bag the big name when he is armed with one of the game’s biggest payrolls. But overall, he left the team in a terrible state.
As we now see the small-market Brewers improve themselves by acquiring Zack Greinke, on the heels of the Phils’ coup of re-acquiring Lee, the Mets’ insistence on standing pat becomes more glaring and more disappointing. At this point, Alderson and the Wilpons have done everything but rent billboards to advertise their staunch refusal to add payroll.
This space has—and still continues to—largely support this as a relative necessity, as we await the ends of the contracts of Beltran/Ollie/Castillo and possibly KRod as well.
But it is hard to watch and listen to what we are continuing to see and hear.
Omar did leave the team in really poor shape—with a stable of injury-prone, overrated, massively overpaid players, little financial flexibility, and a minor league system that seems to be producing plenty of second- and third-tier players, but certainly nobody of the level of a Wright or a Cano or a Lincecum.
Have we failed to trade for players such as Oswalt or Greinke simply for financial reasons or because no one wants the prospects that we as fans seem to universally overrate? Did we have a shot at Greinke? Was the cost in prospects too high or one we could not meet? Was it the remaining $27 million he is owed over the next two years? Was it the speculation about his potential to succeed in NY? This is not to advocate sacrificing the long-term future for a few more wins in 2010 or 2011, but if a serious starter like Oswalt or Greinke was available, we have to hope that there is a legitimate reason that the Mets did not seem to aggressively pursue them.
In any event, spring training will be here before we know it, and we can hopefully count on a very different spring than what we have seen the last two years. Players nearly universally sloppy and out of shape, and the season beginning for us long after it began for many other more focused teams.
The Mets had five players top 100 games played last year. After the injury disaster of 2009 we might have expected something different; after visiting Baseball Reference and clicking on teams across the league for a while, it became clear very quickly that only five players topping 100 games played is pretty unusual.
Here’s to hoping that Collins runs a true boot camp; it is high time for the Met players to either get into shape and stay there and be ready to play a full season, or to show who simply does not have the fortitude for the taskmaster-type manager which this group so very clearly needs.
Run them to death, find exercises and drills they hate and repeat them endlessly, give every young player the chance to win a roster spot, and make clear at every chance that this is a new era. It has to be. There are certainly a handful of people on here who would have predicted 95 wins for the Mets in 1964 or 1980 or 1994, but this handful surely is continuing to shrink.
Regardless of how few wins the team manages to chalk up in 2011, the casual fan simply must see more hustle and sacrifice—both on the field and off as well as in their words to the press. No more pregame card-playing in lieu of work; sure every team plays cards, but the guess here is that many teams also manage to fit their necessary work in around the card-playing as well. People like to cite Rickey Henderson in this arena of debate—he won two rings, saw the playoffs with five different teams, and was a clear HOF performer—at the plate and in the field as well as on the bases. Rickey also got his work done.
No matter how one looks at it—on-field team results, individual stats, attitude, conditioning, value received from money spent—the Mets have become one of the least productive teams in the game.
Much of the blame surely belongs to Omar Minaya, and to the Wilpons for allowing what happened in 2009 to clearly seep right into 2010 without taking any serious corrective action.
To their credit, they did remove Omar and spent what was required to lure Alderson, DePodesta, and Ricciardi, which, on paper, is a seemingly excellent new braintrust.
The feeling here is that while many casual fans have already tuned out, and that many more emotional fans are rightfully angry, that those of us who remain diehards are seriously having our Met faith tested right now.
The feeling here is that we simply must see a dramatic change in attitude from day one in Florida.
We can give Bay a pass for not wanting to fly from WA to FL for minicamp as the Ledger and ESPN have reported, and we can give the apparently large number of players reportedly not returning Collins’ introductory calls a pass too—after all, how many of us, were we on the 2010 Mets, would not want to be as far away from it as possible in December?
But a pass cannot be given for players to come into camp out of shape and remain that way, and a pass cannot be given for the slightest lack of effort or hustle once spring training starts.
The Mets face a key year in re-energizing and even retaining much of their fan base. With the shape the team is in, the likelihood of missing the postseason again will be tolerated and accepted much easier in 2011 if the fans see the renewal of the kind of effort that has clearly been lacking the last two years.
Here’s hoping that this effort begins on the very first day that pitchers and catchers report in just over eight weeks.