Saturday, August 8, 2020

Same Old Mets

I never used to worry. but I
became dependent on Xanax
watching Edwin Diaz.
Thanks, Brodie.
I had a bit of a weird week. I had a lot going on, which left me with far more time to think about the Mets than I had to actually write about them. Now that I finally have a day with as much time as I wish to write, I don't think I want to waste much of that time on last night's game. Pretty much anything I would say about last night I've already written in Wednesday's post. While Wednesday night's game was nice in a number of ways, the failure to bring runners home has been a constant theme in this pandemic-shortened season.

I will give Michael Wacha some props for getting it back together after his dismal second inning performance, but the one disastrous inning is becoming a theme for Wacha, Porcello and Matz this year. I found the fourth run that Wacha allowed in the inning to be particularly annoying. It almost seemed preordained that it would prove to be the decisive run of the game. Wacha doesn't get all of the blame, of course. Once again, the Mets effort felt somewhat lifeless last night. It's one thing when a great starting pitcher shuts you down, it's quite another when a team beats you by running out most of their bullpen.

Maybe tonight will be the night that the Mets begin a streak where they prove to us that they can sustain quality efforts for longer than a game or two. Or, perhaps the season will continue to bleed away with one long, dreary, frustrating performance following on the heels of another, with just an occasional well-played win to tease you what could have been. I have no clear expectation for today's game or tomorrow's game or the one after that. This team hasn't given me any reason to be optimistic about their chances, instead they've been the opposite of what I needed to help a very difficult year be just a bit easier.

If this season continues going down the tubes it won't be the first time they've disappointed me and the rest of their fans. I've been rooting for this team for a long time, and being surprised by a Mets team in a given season almost invariably means that they've performed worse than expected. That's probably because the Mets have failed to build a winning culture in their organization. Since the great Frank Cashen-built teams fizzled out as the 80s turned into the 90s, the Mets cannot sustain success for longer than a brief period.

I think some of the most fun I've had this year was before the season started, when I was writing and thinking a lot about the potential sale of this team. The history of the Wilpon era has essentially already been written, and it ain't pretty. The fun part in thinking about a potential new owner is to understand that this is a real chance for a page to finally be turned on the past. The Mets have a widespread reputation in the game of having a somewhat toxic culture in the organization. Realistically, only a new owner would have an opportunity to implement the changes that would reverse that, since it's no big secret that the Wilpons are a part of the problem.

It won't be easy, however. A new owner could do a lot of things right, but he or she would only need to make one mistake and the cry of "same old Mets" would be sure to arise from both local and national media sources. I look back a week to the Céspedes situation, where Brodie Van Wagenen made a foolish unforced error with some pettiness aimed at Céspedes for neglecting to personally notify team management of his decision to opt out. The way the story was covered, both locally and nationally, just felt way out of proportion to me. Both sides were clearly wrong, but the story was mostly "same old Mets."

The thing that was surprising about that was Van Wagenen letting himself fall into the trap. Other than the atrocious trade for Robbie Cano and Edwin Diaz, I'd been mostly impressed with Van Wagenen in the way the team has been run. Even before the Céspedes debacle, though, I have to admit that I've been scratching my head at the way he's been squandering some decent bullpen prospects through his roster management this season. No one is predicting a future Hall of Fame plaque for Jacob Rhame, Stephen Gonsalves, Jordan Humphreys or Tyler Bashlor, but they were viable arms lost from the organization, bringing only Billy Hamilton and "cash considerations" back in return. It's not as if the Mets have a superabundance of bullpen prospects in their system.

This is proving to be quite a rough year for Van Wagenen. Not only did he take a beating over his Céspedes blunder, but the team is looking pretty awful over their first couple of weeks. I'm not sure what the chances are that a new owner would elect to keep him as GM going forward, but I have to believe that those odds drop precipitously if the team continues to tank in 2020.

I would think that whoever won the bidding would have a number of tasks ahead of them. There will be decisions on the GM and manager, but beyond that they should have a longer term goal of trying to build a more professional organization. A new owner would definitely have a chance to change the perception of the organization, but they'll have to do it quickly. It's just too easy for the media to fall back on "same old Mets" if there isn't a fairly obvious and immediate shift in the way things are run. And that matters, because the perception of the organization on the outside affects whether you can get the best people to work for you. Then maybe, finally, they're not saying "same old Mets" any more.

That's it for me. Please stay safe, be well and take care. I'll be back tomorrow.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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