By Mike Steffanos
Just a quick note before I get started here. I want to take a minute to thank those of you who continue to support this blog despite the circumstances in my life that have led to what was essentially a lost summer. I'd also like to thank the contributing bloggers who were kind enough to provide enough content to keep the site going while I was gone.
For those of you that don't know, my mother suffered a stroke this spring that wound up complicating things greatly in both her life and mine. My mom has always been a fairly troubled person, but she was able to keep up a façade for the outside world. Things fell apart for her fairly quickly after the stroke to the point where she was forcibly removed from her house.
Since that happened in May, my life has included removing tons of paper and trash from her house, and endlessly dealing with hospitals and convalescent homes and various government officials.
Despite the fact that my Mom literally never threw anything away, the type of actual records that we needed to apply for care and treatment were nowhere to be found. I still have a lot of work to do in that regard, and it hasn't been much fun.
The whole process has been pretty draining. My mom and I have always had a fairly troubled relationship, but it was still sad to see some of the humiliations she had to endure -- even though they came as a direct result of a lifetime of avoiding facing up to her own problems.
I know there were a lot of people who I was unintentionally rude to during the past few months, and I'm sorry for that. I just got overwhelmed with everything, and there wasn't enough energy to answer all the emails or keep the interviews I had in progress going. Believe me, any slight on my part was not deliberate.
Anyway, as I try to work my way back to regular posting on this blog, here is an item that caught my eye this weekend.
The Sherman Plan
The Post's Joel Sherman, whose blog and articles are generally a few IQ points above most of the local baseball coverage, gave us his take Sunday on what was, in his opinion, a "Realistic way to re-tool [the] Mets".
I would tend to agree with what he described as the Mets organizational "Polyanna (sic) problem" (note to Mr. Sherman, it's actually spelled "Pollyanna"). I think any effective executive, whether in sports or any other business, needs to surround himself with folks who will challenge his ideas. The caveat here, of course, is that he actually needs to listen to them sometimes, which Sherman accuses Minaya of not doing to naysayers in his brain trust.
I find myself somewhat less in agreement with a plan that would bring in some veterans along the lines of Rod Barajas, Nick Johnson and Mark DeRosa in on 1-year contracts with an option.
First of all, I don't think it will work. I don't think any of these players (or the other examples given) would accept such contracts unless it was the end of the winter and they were unsigned. If your plan is to hope for that to happen then you don't really have a plan.
But even if it did happen -- even if the Mets were able to sign these three guys to the contracts Sherman proposes -- would this necessarily be a great thing? Barajas will be 34 and has a lifetime MLB batting line of .239/.284/.409. Do the Mets really need another catcher who doesn't get on base?
Nick Johnson will be 31 next year and has achieved 500 AB once in eight major league seasons. If the Mets do sign him, put my down for June 1 in the pool for when Johnson will go down with a horrific season-ending injury. Do we really need to see more of that after this year?
Moreover, for all of his admitted OB skills, Johnson doesn't hit for a lot of power. After hitting 23 HR in his one 500 AB season with the Nats in 2006, Johnson has hit a total of 13 in 562 combined AB since. If your goal is to upgrade the power from your 1B, he's really not the guy.
Finally, DeRosa is an admirable hard-nose player with solid skills, but he'll be 35 next season. Do we really need to pin our hopes on another left fielder who is at the end of his career?
I guess the biggest positive from this whole group is that they are Type B free agents who will not require the Mets to give up a draft pick if they signed them.
It's not that I can't see that signing these guys would likely make the Mets more competitive next season, but they're all short-term fixes at best, and I still don't see the Mets as real competitors with these additions.
It's tempting to try to patch and spackle your way into being a possible playoff contender, but if the ultimate goal is winning a championship I believe there is no substitute for committing your team to a plan that gives them a multi-year window to try to achieve that goal.
It's precisely because the Mets were built that way in the 80s that they were able to win the championship in 1986 after coming up short in '84 and '85. The Mets were essentially competitors for 7 seasons from 1984-1990. They won 87 games once (1989), 90+ games four times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1990) and 100 or more twice (1986 and 1988).
In comparison, in the nineteen seasons (counting this one) that have followed, the Mets have four seasons with 88 or 89 wins (1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008) and three with 90+ wins (1999, 2000 and 2006). None have won 100 or more, and only two other years (2001 and 2005) have even featured above .500 finishes.
In that 7-year "Golden Age" period from 1984-1990 the Mets won 666 games, an average of 95.1 wins per season. In the 19 years since (with 6 games to go in 2009), they have won 1488, an average of 78.3. They have made the playoffs only 3 times in those 19 seasons.
I think my point would be that there has been too much "patching together" in an attempt to compete and too little following a long-term strategic plan that gives the team more than a crap shoot chance of winning a championship.
I'd rather see the Mets make some tough decisions and try to build something than fall into yet another shortsighted, duct-taped*, jerry-rigged approach that they have chosen so often in the past two decades. It's time for this club to learn from past mistakes rather than just mindlessly repeating them.
(*Corrected thanks to comment below)
I want to see a team that is a legit contender for a few years even if I have to live through a season or two of building towards that goal. I'm exhausted from riding the rollercoaster of the Mets "boom and bust" approach of the 1990s and this decade. While what Sherman has suggested might add up to a few extra wins in 2010, I think tougher decisions are needed if I'm ever too see another Championship flag raised in Queens in my lifetime.