By Mike Steffanos
I have felt for a long time that the Mets needed to place much more of a priority on developing their own young talent. Back in 2005, the first year of this blog's existence, I wrote a long piece about all of the Milledge for Manny Ramirez rumors where I first put forth some of my thoughts that haven't changed much over the last six years.
The column itself wasn't about my belief in Milledge as a prospect, despite the occasional snarky email I still get on this. I had no informed opinion on Lastings beyond what I read on Baseball America and other web sites. I was just sick of a short-sighted philosophy that clearly was not serving the Mets well:
...You can project all you want, but until a player comes up to the bigs and proves it, he is as much suspect as prospect. It's easy to dismiss a prospect in this regard. One thing to remember, though, is that every player was once a prospect. David Wright gave us a great year last year  because Mets management resisted the temptation to trade him for an established player. For a paltry few hundred thou, Wright gave us better production than $17 million got out of Beltran.
And that's the point about prospects -- if you take the risk and hold onto them, and they prove out as good major league ballplayers, you have "bargain" production that allows you to take the money saved and chase after a Billy Wagner. Prospects don't always pan out, but when they do there is substantial reward.
...I do have reservations about the philosophy that makes Manny such an attractive target for this team. We've seen it before; it's the same philosophy that created the 2000 pennant winner that three short years later produced a horrendous 95-loss team. I'm tired of riding the Mets rollercoaster -- aren't you? Wouldn't you rather see the Mets try to build something a little more enduring?
The "golden age" of the Mets lasted for the 7-year period from 1984-1990. It happened because the Mets developed a solid crop of players from their farm system and then carefully supplemented them with key acquisitions over a period of several years. It didn't happen overnight, but the reward was a Mets team that contended regularly for a long time. Their record in those 7 years was 666-466.
Since 1990, the philosophy was always "win now, pay later." In those 15 seasons their cumulative record was 1147-1214. Those 15 years have produced an incredible five 90+ loss seasons and only two 90+ win seasons. They only finished above .500 six times. Is this what you want as a Mets fan for the next 15 seasons? Count me out.
To avoid the pitfalls of the past, the Mets will have to exercise a little more patience with their own talent, and avoid the temptation to chase after expensive superstars on the down side of their careers. It's not as "sexy" in the short run to develop your own talent as it is to acquire a Manny Ramirez, but the long-term rewards will make it more than worthwhile -- at least from my point of view.
While the vast majority of the local media was beating the drum for the Mets to make a Ramirez deal, advocating a more disciplined long-term approach that placed a priority on developing talent was the lonely province of myself, a few other bloggers and some of the longtime fans. We were often ridiculed in the media for our point of view, which wasn't the way a big market team was supposed to operate.
The intervening years has featured success by clubs who smartly leveraged their farm systems. Meanwhile, the Mets spent their way into mediocrity and decline and yet another regime change. By all accounts, the Sandy Alderson led Mets will finally place the type of priority on developing talent we haven't seen here since the 1980s.
The media has done a complete one eighty on this subject now, and in the process have mostly bypassed rational thinking to a simplistic point of view that demands nothing short of a complete fire sale this summer for the Mets. Everything must go as the Mets sell any asset they can in return for prospects. Anyone who doesn't agree with them is just an empty-headed fan boy (or girl) who can't accept reality.
The latest, from the Post's Kevin Kernan, demands that the Mets trade Jose Reyes before inevitable disaster strikes:
Today's catastrophe is tomorrow's warning.
If management is going to trade free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes, then get it done. Start the bidding because if you wait too long, who knows what might happen to Reyes?
That's the cold-hearted reality of the Mets' world. They are sitting on a gold mine of a deal and it could blow up in their face. Put the wheels in motion. This season has disaster written all over it.
To be fair, Kernan actually says he wouldn't trade Reyes, but then he starts talking about silly things like curses and demands that the Mets "get it done", as if the only thing standing between them and a huge prospect haul is their hesitation to make a deal. And that's silly. It takes two to tango, and no team is looking to make a blockbuster move right now.
It must be some sort of rule that there is no place in the New York sports market for nuanced thinking and any approach based on common sense, logic or sound business sense. Six years ago I felt I was knocking my head against the wall hoping that the mainstream sports media might find some value in developing prospects. Now I find myself swimming against the tide of opinion because I feel that the Mets should pursue a course that doesn't include tearing everything down and starting from scratch. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but it sure feels lonely sometimes.
In my next post, I'm going to put forward some ideas on what I believe to be a sensible path forward that doesn't involve two years of Jason Pridie batting cleanup.