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Please Spare Me Another Quick Fix

Mike SteffanosMonday, September 28, 2009
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 fa├žade 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.

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.

Comments (9)

Joel Sherman says it's duct taped not duck taped!

I think anyone who talks about fixing a team by signing a free agent (let alone multiple free agents) is crazy. The only way to be sure of signing a free agent is to dump more money on him that he's worth. You can't get good free agents cheaply. And even if you go in all the way, there's always the chance that some team will outbid you. Free agency is a crapshoot, not a way to rebuild a team.

Mets must hire a GM who knows how to accumulate talent, through draft picks and free agency. The rest of this is silly conversation. Omar doesn't, and sportwriters, bloggers and the Wilpons aren't going to teach him. Both because it won't work, and they don't really know either. The only thing the Wilpons should do is find GMs with track records of doing this well (there are a few), interview them and hire the best one who will come. And don't make the job sound like crap -- it can be the best in baseball.

Simple. It would save the Wilpons money in the long run to hire a top GM, and would result in a good product. So . . . they won't do it. They'll wait another year so the obvious becomes painfully obvious, and then they'll hire some unqualified (and worse then unproven, but instead proven to be in a bad organization) inner-circle retread like this Ricco laugh, and then here comes another 5 years of stupid.

Hi Mike,

First, so sorry to hear about the trials and tribulations of your mom. It's never easy with a parent, so hang in there. You are a good guy.

Next, this Sherman plan. He was better marching through Atlanta, don't you think? I wish someday we could march through Atlanta, but that hasn't happened in nearly twenty years.

I'm with you. This Sherman Plan sounds like a patch. Another patch. On top of another patch...where there is yet...another patch under that. And, finally under that? Look, I can see Wally Backman!

This team needs a total overhaul. Especially when you factor in that (most likely) the Mets will be cutting payroll in 2010. I just wrote about how the Mets may be hard pressed to maintain payroll at these levels. In fact, the Mets may actually be in a position where they may have to return money to the other Madoff victims. As usual, "amazing."

In this type of circumstances, it may be time for a fresh start.

Tom from Mets on Deck

There's going to have to be more than hiring a GM, they have to make changes from top to bottom. The player development is lacking, the scouting & drafting have to be improved. Choosing players to make a trade for or signing free agents must have a postive, long term impact. This year it seemed the basic fundamentals were lacking. Mets have had to try and get the most out of what talent they have had, and taking into account the injuries that seem to have haunted this team for the past few years, they need to make better alternative plays for when things go south! I believe in having role players on the team, but I don't want too many that are on the tail ends of their careers or over exposed when the need comes to be an everyday player and they flame out. I agree that a real step by step plan needs to be produced and followed. I can wait, heck I have been waiting since 86 for the last championship won't kill me a couple of more years. A bonafide effort has to be made to make this team a contender for more than just the short term. I am hoping that they can begin the effort this off-season. Go Mets 2010!

I can't imagine how hard that must be regarding your Mom. My heart goes out to you, as it cannot be easy. Thanks for you blog and thoughts on the Mets.

"Mets must hire a GM who knows how to accumulate talent, through draft picks and free agency"

One big thing about the draft is that Minaya is handcuffed! Mets ownership does not care to pay above-slot money in the draft! So he must turn to Latin America. Jenrry Mejia was one of the best pitching prospects in the Eastern League at the age of 19. He was signed for $16,500. Ruben Tejada held his own in the same league at 19, and cost $38,000. Jeurys Familia was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year at 19, and cost $100,000. Wilmer Flores was outstanding in the South Atlantic League at 18, and cost $700,000. Martinez's $1.7 million bonus was the highest given out in the Minaya years, and he got to the majors in four years.

A far cry from the bonuses handed out by the Giants, A's and Cardinals for Latin American players.

IMO Minaya is not the problem it's the Wilpons. They are doing to Minaya that same thing they did to Steve Phillips and that's underminding them and handcuffing them.

I will agree that Minaya needs to change his approach and some of his ideas moving forward, but I'm not ready to give up on him just yet.

Mike, I feel for you with your family issues. Take you time and I hope everything works out well for you. We'll all pray for your family.

As for baseball stuff, I agree with Mike that the Mets shouldn't just "patch" things together. I don't want Nick Johnson, Rod Barajas, or Mike DeRosa.

I would, however, want Chone Figgins, Jon Lackey, Roy Halladay, or Eric Byrnes.

BTW, the Mets farm system DOES have Meija, Holt, Stoner, Niesen, Davis, Evans, and the recently elevated (in the past few years) Pelfrey, Parnell, Murphy, and Thole. They'll all have varying degrees of success, but no on can say that Omar hasn't done what he can to build a farm system. Stop asking for a Manny LaPorta or a Stephen STrasbourg; those don't come along often. And anyways, we do have Ike Davis.

WFAN just had an interview session with Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and Omar. They are NOT lowering payroll much. The Mets right now have around $95-$103 Million in contracts, and that's a $44 Million gap between the 2009 and offseason budgets. They'll spend money.

Also, while we're at it: The Maddoff scam did not hit the Mets as hard as people think; the Feds have revealed that Maddoff only took about half the amount that they initially stated, and that alot of those bilked intentionally ran up the #'s to try to get their insurance to cover it. I'm damn sure the Mets did that, and it also explains WHY they've been saying "It's not a problem" over and over again (as per Sterling Enterprises/Mets). Please read the goddamn newspapers for actual REPORTING on Madoff before mouthing off. The Wilpons lost money, just nowhere near the $700 Million.

All of this means that the Mets will be in the free-agent hunt. I'd love for them to get Lackey, but I think he'll resign with the Angels. Jason Marquis is a solid pitcher, and I'd not be against him. Or a Minor League deal for Ben Sheets (HIS upside is insanely good).

The Mets SHOULD shop Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo around; they'll probably get takers on Luis (who btw, proved Omar RIGHT for once), but Ollie will be a "bad contract for bad contract" kinda deal. Or a throw-in to a bigger deal.

I'm hoping that John Maine is over his injuries, and that Pelfrey's problems this year had more to do with the Mets anemic defense than anything else. That'll give the Mets 3 solid pitchers, and a Lackey/Sheets/Marquis would make a 4th pitcher. Between Misch, Figueroa, and Niese (if healthy) they can get a 5th starter.

1st Base is a question mark: Ike Davis is a year away; Murphy may not be what the Mets need; do they trade/get a FA? If they can't get a Derek Lee or Adrian Gonzalez, they should do the unthinkable: sign Delgado to a 1 year incentive heavy deal. I'm serious. A healthy Delgado is better than Murphy (and you can still have Murph back him up), and it would make the Mets lineup potentially more powerful. And it won't cost them much @ 1st if they can't run a trade.

OF is tougher. I love Francouer and Beltran; Pagan's nice, but I don't know if he's a starter. His trade value (like Luis') is high. Jeremaine Dye would be a nice stopgap, but that's all he is. Eric Byrnes would be a salary stopgap (if the Bucks trade him), but he's young enough that the Mets could take a stab at signing him.

If the Mets really really really want to, they can get into the Roy Halladay sweepstakes. The Doc would instantly mean 15+ wins every year. Irrespective of the offense (which will be better, anyways). Between him and Johan, that's 15+ wins each year for BOTH of them. Remember Schilling and Randy Johnson on the D'backs? That's what the Mets would be looking at. Oh, and Halladay will not go to the Yanks or Red Sox. He'll find an NL team.

Mets have options this offseason; I don't think they'll go cheap, but I don't know what their best options are. Some of them require other teams making/not making moves. But they'll improve in areas- and I hope they don't "patch" things together like Joel "Thaa Yankees win!" Sherman wants them to do.

After 3 straight runs at the division...4 if you count Willie's unlikely success (and white flag wave) in his first year this was a year the Mets really needed off.

Beltran, Wright and Reyes had played almost every inning for 3 yrs the breakdown was inevitable. As it is the Mets get a #7 pick. Suffice to say they will lose their 2nd and 3rd round picks.

I REALLY like upstates post. He is right. Pedro Beato would have looked nice in AA/AAA for the Mets. also the Mets have had hardly a mention on Sano or even Aroldis Chapman, IOW international signings with larger upsides and bonuses. Its not Minaya.

Mike: I disagree with the larger majority. I see the holes in the rotation, LF and 2nd base. I would stay out of trades and continue the deals Ricco and Minaya are making. As such O-dog and Bay are my top hitting priorities. Both easily obtainable.

The rotation will be interesting. Santana, Niese, Nieve and who else? Will Redding return? I think Maine could be traded, and I think Pelfrey too. ...Just a hunch. Ollie? A trade of bad contracts; Luis Castillo and Ollie to Detroit for Magglio Ordonez..

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