Author: Will Hernandez
If you haven’t had the chance to check out The 7 Line and its witty collection of Mets-themed t-shirts, you’re missing out on a good chuckle. There’s one shirt in particular that resonates with me. It reads: I was born into this Mess. I can’t think of a more appropriate t-shirt to wear at the moment.
The current climate in Flushing is the biggest and worse mess this franchise has ever found itself enduring. And the situation is magnified in the super information age. There’s not a day that goes in which my Twitter feed lacks a negative comment about the Mets. Even with the news about the pending infusion of cash from newly minted minority owner David Einhorn, negativity has engulfed this franchise like never before. The question is, can the Mets recover from this dark time quickly and effectively?
When I watched the Mets play the San Francisco Giants last month, the games made me recall a brief, but what I thought at the time to be an insightful observation about New York’s future.
I was in a bar with a friend and the Giants were playing in the World Series clincher. In my former life as a sportswriter, I covered minor league baseball for three years. It just so happened the team I wrote about was San Francisco’s Double A affiliate. A few guys that I covered were on that World Series team, including Matt Cain and Brian Wilson. I saw first-hand how the Giants were able to remold the franchise in the post-Barry Bonds era. As I took glances at the TV in between sips of beer and mindless chatter, I told my friend that the Mets will win the World Series within the next five years.
I made that prediction just after the Mets signed Sandy Alderson as their GM and before we learned the true nature of Bernie Madoff mess. I’m not sure if it’s time to redact that statement.
If any front office can overcome the Mets current situation, it’s this trio. Alderson, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi are an incredibly formidable bunch. They pioneered the “Moneyball” approach, though all three have downplayed certain aspects of their philosophy outlined in Michael Lewis’ book. Nonetheless, many major league teams incorporate their own version of Moneyball. Teams such as the Rays, Red Sox and Twins have used similar approaches to pump life into what were once dormant franchises.
Whether that happens with the Mets remains to be seen. But the franchise has tried other approaches which have resulted in consistent failure. The Mets throughout their history have been good in four-to-five year spurts. That’s not good enough. Former GMs signed mediocre players to bad contracts and didn’t properly develop the farm system. That is supposed to change with this trio. While there have been some questionable signings in Willie Harris and Scott Hairston, the front office made some shrewd signings in Jason Isringhausen, selecting Pedro Beato in the Rule V draft and realizing their mistake with Brad Emaus and recalling Justin Turner. And let's not forget Luis Castilo and Oliver Perez are no longer with this organization. Small steps, but steps nonetheless.
I liken this front office’s task to when a new corporate executive is brought in to clean up the old guy’s mess. Alderson & Co. are rebuilding the franchise from the ground up while also trying to compete in the biggest media market with an uncertain budget. That is certainly no easy task. But there are some potentially good pieces left over from the previous regime. Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia joined the Mets organization under Omar Minaya’s watch. Mejia is out for the year due to Tommy John surgery but he’s still only 21 years old and under the team’s control for a long time. Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese, who are making contributions now, also were Minaya draft picks as was Ike Davis. It’s up to this front office to fill in the blanks, similar to a giant Cloze test.
As we look ahead to the future, I still believe the 2011 Mets are capable of competing now. Injuries once again are a problem but at least they are of the freak accident variety. David Wright suffered a stress fracture in his lower back making a heads up play. Davis hurt is ankle because Wright couldn’t get out of the way on a infield pop out. R.A. Dickey hurt his foot on the slippery grass at Wrigley Field.
Here’s at least one encouraging stat that might lead you to believe the Mets could still compete this year. The Mets entered Saturday’s game with the Phillies fourth in the National League with a .326 on-base percentage. The Mets are getting on base. But here’s the problem: the Mets are 11th in the league in runs scored. If you dig a little deeper, the situation is a little more troubling.
The Mets started the day 6 1/2 games out of the wild card spot. New York is -25 when it comes to run differential. The seven teams in front of them in those standings are a combined +73. All but two have a winning record. That might be putting the situation in very elementary terms, but the story of a team’s struggles is always in the numbers.
Wright and Davis are expected back in the next 10 days. Whether that happens is anyone’s guess. The Mets are in the midst of an incredibly brutal schedule. If the Mets are more than 5 games out of the wild card spot come July 1, the fire sale might be on. The drawing board is beginning to look more like a mural.