By Dave Mills
A well-penned article by Ken Belson, with assists from Ben Shpigel and Tyler Kepner, in today's NY Times is must reading for all Mets fans. It is aptly entitled: "A Disquieting Silence Envelops the Floundering Mets."
Things are not going well for the Mets and especially for the Wilpons.
Lets try to elaborate on the NY Times article and add some further doses of reality to the proceedings.
By some reports, the Wilpons, Saul Katz and the various Sterling enterprises may have lost as much as $700 million dollars to Bernie Madoff. This is not chump change. The significance of such a losses, especially when combined with various other losses most individuals and businesses have sustained during the past 10 months, is profound indeed. Remember, Sterling Mets, and other entities, have taken on enormous debt during the past three years, mostly associated with building Citi Field and payroll issues that go far beyond the third highest payroll in MLB.
The Mets are in no position to take on huge contracts. They are also not in much of a position to make deals, since they are fully exposed and not sure of whether they are buyers or sellers.
Even more on-point, the Mets are not in a position that allows them to be honest with their fan base, who will likely go running from Citi Field in droves upon the towel being thrown in. This affects Mets sponsors for radio and television broadcasts, as well as those who pay to advertise in the confines of Citi Field.
Omar Minaya has a very tough situation on his hands. He cannot be honest about much of anything and the scrutiny in NY is relentless.
No general manger could have planned for the disabling injuries that have plagued the Mets this season. And there appears to be no letup in sight as Alex Cora and Gary Sheffield could easily be added to the DL this week. He did a terrific job in ferreting out and acquiring inexpensive complimentary pieces like Sheffield, Cora, Fernando Nieve, Pat Misch and others. He stockpiled arms (Hernandez, Redding, Nieve, Misch, Figueroa, Dessens) and outfielders (Pagan, Reed, Tatis, Sullivan, Kielty and others). The key word here is "complimentary." None of these role players were supposed to be anything other than once or twice a week fill-ins and limited time players. In fact, going into spring training, there was no reason to believe that Hernandez, Redding and Figueroa were contending for anything other than to be the 5th starter or long man in the pen.
The minor league system does have some quality talent, very few of whom are ready for The Show right now. However, much of the talent may well be worth holding on to. In addition to Bobby Parnell, Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans (all of whom need some more seasoning), there is Fernando Martinez (now injured), Jon Niese (best pitcher in the minors since early June), Josh Thole, Wilmer Flores, Jenrry Mejia, Brad Holt, Edgar Ramirez, Alonzo Harris, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Dillon Gee, Lucas Duda and Reese Havens, among others. Virtually every one of these young players are coveted by other organizations. To say the Mets farm system is depleted is absolutely incorrect. There is a huge difference between depleted and not yet ready for prime time.
While Roy Halladay may well be the best right-hander in the game and the perfect compliment to Johan Santana, no GM could give away too much talent for a pitcher who will command a Santana-like contract at the conclusion of 2010, or be on his way to another employer.
Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that a few of the Met injured will return to action for the final 50 games or so. We will likely see Maine, Putz, Wagner, Reyes and Delgado back in the fold. Beltran and Nieve are looking like long-shots at this point.
Ed Ryan at Mets Fever astutely points out that Ryan Garko could be available from the Tribe. Interesting grab if it could be made and right up the Mets' alley in terms of pieces and price. Ryan also correctly points out that Garko could platoon with Delgado through the balance of the season. A Garko platoon with Murphy or Duda could also prove interesting (and inexpensive) in 2010. Of course that would mean the Mets would need a power lefty bat in LF and Angel Pagan would become a very important 4th outfielder.
To this observer, the roster dilemmas pale in comparison to the staggering Mets financial losses that have already been sustained and are to come. Once the paying fans (those with season's tickets) realize the Mets are truly out of the races, which they are not as of yet, there will be a period of blowing off steam and a more complete understanding of "loss." You see, tens of thousands of season's ticket holders purchased tickets with the intent to sell many off to recoup the investment. Clearly, this is what is going on throughout dozens of ticket-selling websites. I will have more on this in the next installment, which analyzes Citi Field.
Two things would be best for the Mets right now. The first is unlikely to happen -- the Wilpons sell to anyone other than Donald Trump. The second will be the best for the team -- become quasi sellers and rid themselves of veterans like Hernandez, Redding, Sheffield, Tatis, Dessens and perhaps Putz, all of whom can help contenders in various limited roles. A few "B" prospects may come back in return. If they can pick up a Garko or Adam Dunn or a Cliff Lee for some prospects, so be it. Having four lefties (Santana, Lee, Perez, Niese) in the rotation with a Mike Pelfrey or John Maine in the middle may be just what the doctor ordered in a division with the Phillies (Utley, Howard and Ibanez).
Could the Mets acquire Garko, Lee and Dunn with a package of Murphy, Evans, Maine and two or three other prospects? Probably, but can the Mets take on the salaries? With Delgado and a few others coming off the books, these could be the types of deals Minaya will have to make. I would like to see Thole, F-Mart, Flores, Niese, Meija and Ramirez stay in the system.
Omar needs to promptly get rid of distractions like Tony Bernazard and send a message that bad behavior will not be tolerated, but Bernazard is not the real problem.
For real Mets fans, it's time to take a deep breath and show some sensitivity for the unfortunate situation at hand. Booing will not help these guys develop. The injuries were a terrible stroke of bad luck. Lets hope we can witness the blossoming of talent during the last third of the season. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jeff Francouer, Angel Pagan, Daniel Murphy, Omir Santos, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine, Fernando Nieve, Bobby Parnell and Frankie Rodriguez are all 28 years-of-age or less. It is time to suck it up and cheer for some cream to rise to the top when given the opportunity. The Mets will certainly have a different look in 2010, but a dominant team may have to wait until 2011 or beyond. And that's the way it is!