By Dave Mills
With the torrid pace of signings and offers that send shivers down the spines of real baseball buffs, let the word go forth to all Mets fans and especially to those who toil in the Mets front office--restrain thyself from the excesses of the few.
Eight years and $128 million for Matt Holliday? What? He's a butcher in the OF (exemplified against the Dodgers in the playoffs) and not exactly a speed demon.
Five years and $85 million for John Lackey, who has only once won more than 14 games in a season and whose lifetime ERA is 3.81? Almost makes the Derek Lowe signing for $60 million look like a bargain.
Doc Halladay for $20 million a year at ages 34, 35 and 36 (plus cutting loose Cliff Lee and a prospect or two)?
For the Mets to enter the fray on these overpriced acquisitions and signings will do nothing more than personify desperation.
Restraint is demanded by those of us who know that 2009 was an aberration. The Mets were beset by a string of injuries that no team, no matter how deep their system, could have possibly overcome. The possibility of such roster devastation next season, or during any future campaign, is so improbable even Vegas would be reluctant to make book.
Why can't we all take a deep breath and not exacerbate the situation? Our verbal restraint may actually keep a skittish Omar Minaya from making classic errors of misjudgment in a last-ditch effort to save his job.
This scribe (and a couple of others), has proposed a series of fixes that can yield positive results without sending away our quality prospects and taking on huge salaries.
Why can't we give Chris Carter a chance to platoon with a Jonny Gomes and deliver some offensive firepower in LF, especially with Angel Pagan in reserve and Fernando Martinez and Nick Evans at AAA?
Why can't Daniel Murphy be teamed with Garrett Atkins or Mark DeRosa, either of whom can also spell David Wright from time to time? With talent like Ike Davis on the farm, this strategy would be sensible.
Why can't we let Omir Santos and Henry Blanco (Santana's personal catcher) handle the receiving duties knowing that Josh Thole and Chris Coste are 90 minutes away in Buffalo?
Why can't we sign a Sheets and/or Wang and see if Maine, Pelfrey and Perez can each revisit their best year of the past two? With Niese, Nieve and Misch in the mix of Show-worthy prospects, is it a risk not worth taking? Perhaps spending $16 million to sign Aroldis Chapman would even prove worthwhile in a year or two?
Can a Kelvim Escobar, Matt Capps, Nieve or even Maine be the 8th Inning answer? Why not?
All of these questions can be answered more prudently than just tossing big bucks and too many years at Jason Bay, Joel Pinero and others. Good teams need good role players.
Those of us who observed Gil Hodges' resourceful and contemplative management style understand why he was able to nurture a championship. Gil understood and quietly communicated the role of each player on his roster. In case it has been lost in the 40 intervening years, that 1969 team had excellent starting pitching, a good (but not great bullpen), above average defense and not much else. At four positions (1B/2B/3B/RF), strict righty/lefty platoons were employed, yet Hodges still found playing time for his lefty swinging catcher (JC Martin) and backup switch-hitting outfielder (Rod Gaspar) to stay sharp and contribute both offensively and defensively. No manager ever got more out of a roster.
While the hoard of pundits like to tell us that the Mets oversell and overvalue their prospects, the thought of retaining Davis, Thole, Niese, F-Mart, Mejia, Nieuwenhuis, Holt, Flores, Havens and Tejada warms the cockles of my heart. No less exciting is the opportunity to see Reyes, Wright, Murphy, Pelfrey and Parnell try to climb the organizational ladder to some sort of greatness, or even just consistency.
If these reasonable questions are not answered in the 2010 campaign, the list of free agents that follows will certainly present far more options for 2011. That list includes: Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, AJ Pierzynski, Carl Crawford, Jason Werth, Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Brandon Webb, Javier Vazquez, Jeremy Affeldt and Huston Street. And the Highlanders and Red Sox can only afford about two apiece.