By Mike Steffanos
I'm going to start this off with a brief confession, so please indulge me.
When I started this blog in 2005, I was just starting to deal with a serious bout of Lyme disease. Although I was in pretty bad shape for a year or so, I also had a lot more time to put into this thing -- mostly because I wasn't able to do much else.
I got used to doing things in a certain way, including the time to write some really in-depth and longer stuff. I no longer have near that amount of time as I work my way back into making a living, but at times I stubbornly try to do this anyway.
I tried to get a long piece written this weekend on the subject the title indicates. I think it finally got through to me that I don't have the time to write these types of pieces anymore, so rather than continue to knock my head against the wall I'm going to try to cover this in a series of more manageable ones. So here goes.
If there is one recurring theme through many of the contacts I have with readers of this blog, it is criticism of the Wilpons for not being willing to spend on the following groups of players: Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe, C.C. Sabathia, Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn, and/or [insert your favorite here].
While I'm not the biggest fan of everything the Wilpons do in running this team -- which I'll get to in a future installment of this series -- I find it almost unconscionable that they are being accused of being cheap on so many fronts this winter.
By all accounts, the Mets are looking to spend around the same amount of money on payroll as last season, when they were second behind the Yankees in spending. The Tigers and Red Sox spent about the same as the Mets, with only the Red Sox making the playoffs out of this group. The Tigers actually managed a below .500 finish, which proves I guess that you can actually do worse than missing out on the playoffs at that spending level.
I'm going to assume, given the fact that the Tigers and Red Sox haven't been doing high-profile spending, that the Mets will be right about the same place in the list for 2009 -- second in payroll, despite the lousy economic picture and all the Bernie Madoff talk. It seems to me that the problem isn't how much money is being spent -- since all of the playoff teams spent less than the Mets, some considerably less -- it's what the money is being spent on.
We can argue the plusses and minuses of signing Manny Ramirez until the cows come home, but signing the slugging outfielder would certainly be a possibility at the current payroll limits if the Mets weren't paying top dollar to an injured closer and a limping, past-his-prime second baseman (Luis Castillo will actually make about $250 K more than Jose Reyes next season). Brian Schneider is being paid almost $5 million next season for below-average offense and declining defensive skills. Is Alex Cora's below-average offense and solid defense worth $2 million?
Like them or not, the Red Sox have set the standard for a large-market club that spends money wisely. Under Omar Minaya, the Mets have been a team that will often throw money at problems rather than operating intelligently. We used to criticize the Yankees for thinking everything can be solved by writing a check, now it seems like we are angry with the Mets for not operating more like our crosstown neighbors. Check back with us tomorrow as we continue this discussion.