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Failure to Spend Is Not the Problem

Mike SteffanosMonday, January 26, 2009
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.

Part 1 - Current Article
Part 2 of this Series
Part 3
Part 4

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

I think it is more about the "sexy" names each year and that if you don't sign those marquee players, the perception is your not putting your club in a position to win. I don't recall any World Series Champs fielding a complete 25 man roster of Super Stars. There are role players up and down the line-up to go along with the "high profile" players. I look back at teams that have won and many times they had either platoons, role players, or lesser known guys that came up big. The Bernie Carbo's, John Lowenstiens, Gary Roenicke's, Buckey (freakin) Dent's, Lee Lacey's, Aaron (bleepin) Boone's, so forth and so on's. It is a testament to having a good ball club 1 thru 25. The Mets have enough "super stars", they don't need a future HOFer for every spot. Yes, we all would like to have that Murderer's Row or potential 4 twenty game winners, so we fantasize and insert names to complete the roster. Reality states that there are budgets, and you can't pay everyone 20mil + per. I would like the Mets to get both Sheets and Perez to add more depth to the rotation, but it's about money and performance for one, and health and contract length for the other. So someone has to make a sound business decision here and hopefully it benefits the club. Maybe some of these minor deals (Garcia, etc) will yeild that diamond in the ruff, or that guy ready for his breakout season. I agree with spending wisely, not just in dollars and cents, but in the quality of product they spend it on. As much as I want to will the Mets to a championship, I would first like to see a good consistent product, and then worry about the trophies afterward.

I think it is more about the big names each year and that if you don't sign those marquee players, the perception is your not putting your club in a position to win. I don't recall any World Series Champs fielding a complete 25 man roster of Super Stars. There are role players up and down the line-up to go along with the "high profile" players. I look back at teams that have won and many times they had either platoons, role players, or lesser known guys that came up big. The Bernie Carbo's, John Lowenstiens, Gary Roenicke's, Buckey (freakin) Dent's, Lee Lacey's, Aaron (bleepin) Boone's, so forth and so on's. It is a testament to having a good ball club 1 thru 25. The Mets have enough "super stars", they don't need a future HOFer for every spot. Yes, we all would like to have that Murderer's Row or potential 4 twenty game winners, so we fantasize and insert names to complete the roster. Reality states that there are budgets, and you can't pay everyone 20mil + per. I would like the Mets to get both Sheets and Perez to add more depth to the rotation, but it's about money and performance for one, and health and contract length for the other. So someone has to make a sound business decision here and hopefully it benefits the club. Maybe some of these minor deals (Garcia, etc) will yeild that diamond in the ruff, or that guy ready for his breakout season. I agree with spending wisely, not just in dollars and cents, but in the quality of product they spend it on. As much as I want to will the Mets to a championship, I would first like to see a good consistent product, and then worry about the trophies afterward.

Mike just came across the site and think its great. Just wanted to give some feedback on your "Failure to Spend". I agree that the current problem really isn't about how much is spent as how it is spent. However I do believe the Wilpon's are not committed to winning. This coupled with very flawed planning/decisions by both the GM and ownership leave the Mets where they are at today. A team with a $145 million payroll and too many question marks.

Let me begin with ownership. Yes the Mets payroll is among the league leaders in recent years but it should be. This is New York City, the biggest market in the country (revenue streams!). The Mets should be second to only the Yankees in spending. Right now the Mets brand is at its premium. 4 million tickets sold last year, a beautiful new park that will be sold out, etc, etc. Ka-ching! This even coming off the worst regular season collapse in baseball history in 2007 and another September disaster in 2008. Based on this current off season as well as a large majority of their ownership, the Wilpon's are just content to compete but not committed to winning. If ever a fan based deserved a bone to be thrown their way it would be now, 2009! Would it kill them to go over the salary cap for once. Again this is New York and not Kansas City. I'm not saying to sign Manny but how about re-doing the Castillo deal over time like Andruw Jones and signing Orlando Hudson who wants to play for the Mets. Castillo is due 18 million over the next 3 years. Grant him free agency and pay him that money over 6 years. Hudson is a gold glove, switch hitting second baseman who would fit perfect in the "2 hole" behind Reyes. But since we are not committed to winning, we sign Alex Cora for 2 million and sell our fan base a bogus bill of goods on the new and improved in-shape Castillo. Take this to the bank, Cora will have more AB's than the often injured Castillo!

Let's move to Omar. In my opinion Omar's tenure with the Mets has been very poor. Yes he convinced the Wilpon's to sign Pedro and Beltan which put us back on the map but he is enamoured with stars. He fails to understand the need for role players and grinders. He also seems to be able to only do one thing at a time. He has been concetrating on starting pitching since November. So far he has only produced Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding. His trade history has been more miss than hit (Santana fell into his lap!) and his trade and waiver dealine record is very poor never delivering the missing piece of puzzle. One could make a very compelling argument that at last year's deadline, the addition of a relief pitcher, could have won the series. The Castillo contract is arguably one of the worst in baseball. I'm surprised he didn't try to bring back Moises Alou again! His decision to bring Randolph back in 2008 was a disaster. His handling of the firing of Randolph was a disaster. And what is this fascination with Ollie Perez???? He has more resources ($$$$$) than every other GM except Brian Cashamn yet he has failed miserably the last two seasons. His biggest contribution has been the farm system where I must give him credit for rebuilding. But overall he did not deserve the 3 year extension.

In the past 3 seasons, the Wilpon/Minaya team have produced an NLCS loss to an inferior team and two September collapses. So far based on this off season, it looks like another movie with a bad ending.

Isn't there a disconnect between keeping payroll the same as last year and doubling/tripling ticket prices?

I think that has more to do with the mistake -- and I truly believe it was a mistake -- to build a stadium with barely over 40,000 seats to replace a 55,000 seat facility.

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