Tuesday, September 29, 2020

No, We're Not Being Unfair to the Wilpons

A scene from the Wilpon's
Going Away Party
When I wrote my post "Look Back in Anger" a week ago, I knew that someone in the media would be coming out with the take that fans were being unfair to Fred and Jeff Wilpon by heaping the lion's share of the blame on them for the poor results of the franchise under their watch. I thought it might take a few months or at least a few weeks for this to appear, but I seriously underestimated it. The rotted corpse of the 2020 season wasn't even cold yet when it happened.

Congratulations to those of you out there who had David Waldstein of the New York Times in the pool for who would be the first in print to scold Mets fans for this sin. Waldstein begins his piece with a moving story about how Fred Wilpon and David Sheehan, a lawyer who worked to get Wilpon and the Mets to repay some of the alleged Madoff profits, eventually became friends. It was so lovely, I had to read it through tears. After quoting the Sheehan on how gracious Wilpon was, Waldstein summed up:
Perhaps decades of withering criticism from fans and news media members over how he ran the Mets - some of it fair, some not - had inured Wilpon to public attacks. But no booing could have been worse than that bruising litigation and the staggering financial losses suffered in the Madoff scandal, which almost cost Wilpon and Katz ownership of their beloved team.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Nothing Wrong With Being In the Bushes

If this was a normal year, the Minor League season would be over by now, including postseason playoffs. Some prospects would have had the chance to really elevate their status, as Jacob deGrom and Jeff McNeil were able to do when they were on the Junior Varsity. (Although, in fairness, I think few, if any, foresaw just how good they would be in the majors.) Some formerly highly-regarded prospects would have lost their luster as they struggled against better competition. It's all part of a tradition that stretches back to a time before any of us were born.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Reading the Tea Leaves

There have been a lot of takes the last couple of days on the news that Steve Cohen is planning to make Sandy Alderson the club president if his purchase of the Mets gets approved, and what that might signal. There is plenty of speculation on what this hire might mean for current GM Brodie Van Wagenen, what it signals for what the team is planning to spend and, most importantly, what the operating priorities for the team going forward might be. While it's entertaining to offer my own prognostication and read takes on the subject by others, the truth is that we really can't know how it plays out until the sale is approved and Alderson is in place.

There is certainly hints in the statement Steve Cohen put out yesterday morning:

"If I am fortunate enough to be approved by Major League Baseball as the next owner of this iconic franchise, Sandy Alderson will become president of the New York Mets and will oversee all Mets baseball and business operations. Sandy is an accomplished and respected baseball executive who shares my philosophy of building an organization and a team the right way. I am excited to have Sandy in a key leadership role with the Mets if my purchase of the team is approved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Potential Trade Chips

Joel Sherman had an interesting piece in the New York Post yesterday about Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. Sherman asked eight sources from other NL East teams which one of the two that they would take if given the choice. Smith came out a slight favor in the informal poll.

I've been thinking about this topic myself lately. If Steve Cohen wants his Mets to truly contend next season, they're probably going to need more players than they are going to be able to obtain strictly through free agency. It's likely that whoever is handling the GM duties this winter is going to need to consider trades, too. The Mets aren't all that deep in quality prospects, and it really wouldn't be smart at all for the medium and long term to empty the farm system. Making some trades from the Major League roster would seem a likely option, and there is a bit of a surplus.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Look Back in Anger

I checked the NL wildcard standings this morning, not because I feel the playoffs are more than a slight mathematical possibility for this team, but rather to try to guess what day the Mets will officially miss the playoffs again. It's become somewhat of a familiar late-season routine for me. Since the Mets lost the 2000 World Series to that team that shall not be named, they've missed out on the playoffs 16 out of 19 years. Despite the incredibly low bar for becoming a playoff team this season, at some point this week, it will be 17 out of 20 years. A team playing in the largest market in the country, with a large and loyal fan base, will have missed out on the postseason 85% of the time, going back two decades.

It's a shocking number, but pretty much par for the course if you've been a fan of this club for a while. When the 1986 Mets won that year's World Series, it was only the third time in their 25-year history that the club had made the playoffs. Of course, it was harder back then when only 2 teams from each League made the playoffs. There was a period of a dozen years between the 1973 team and those 1986 Mets without a playoff appearance. The Mets would go back to the playoffs in 1988 with the core of that World Series winner relatively intact, then it would be another 10-year drought before the 1999 team captured the wildcard spot that had been created 5 years earlier.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wilpon Era Going Out With an Appropriate Whimper

"Gee, Dad, those ungrateful fans
don't realize how smart I is"

I apologize for going AWOL for a few days. I wound up getting some sort of infection from my back surgery. I know it wasn't too bad, as my doctor didn't make me stay in the hospital, but the antibiotic I was on kicked my butt for the first few days. I tried to write something a couple of days ago, but it was kind of awful, so I just abandoned the effort.

If I was able to write, my intention was to write after the last 2 games in the Phillies series that I was going to abandon hard logic and just root for the Mets to somehow sneak into the playoffs. As I was watching today's snoozefest in the finale against the Braves, my thought was that it was now time to return to hard logic and thinking about next year. When Rick Porcello gives you 7 innings of 1-run ball and you can't make a game out of it, the fat lady is warming up her pipes just offstage. Even when it was a 1-run game it seemed destined to be a loss, but there was always hopes that one of the Mets hitters would connect with a mistake. Those hopes ended quickly in the last 2 innings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

He's Our Billionaire Now

In yesterday's post I noted that the lack of any real indication of how Steve Cohen might choose to do with the Mets allows all of us to project our own hopes onto the guy. Frankly, I'm just happy to have hopes again when it comes to the Mets. I was really disheartened in February when Cohen's initial attempt to purchase the team fell apart. The fact that 18 years of Wilpon sole ownership has translated into only 3 trips to the playoffs, one of them a wild card game loss, made feeling hope about the future of the Mets seem pretty foolish. Steve Cohen can run this team like an absolute dunce and I'd still be grateful that, after years without it, I enjoyed a few months of hope before that became apparent.

And before we go any further here, let me just say in advance of the pieces that will surely begin to come out in the coming days, I really, truly don't care that Steve Cohen's firm received a huge fine for insider trading a few years ago. I am not employed in law enforcement or in the financial industry in any capacity. Don't ask me how it feels to root for a team owned by a "bad guy" in a city that once celebrated George Steinbrenner. No fan has any say at all in which rich guy buys their team, nor should those fans trouble themselves with the real or alleged actions of those guys. I don't know Steve Cohen, and what he does in his other business ventures beyond running this team don't concern me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

That Feeling When

I was walking my dogs in the woods yesterday evening when a notification popped up on my phone that Steve Cohen had reached an agreement to buy the Mets. Yesterday was a pretty tough day for me. I'm working my way back from back surgery, and have been overdoing things more than a little, in my own stubborn way. I was pretty tired, and still had a couple of miles back to my car when the news came in. I felt a bolt of electricity pass through my body along with an unexpected amount of emotion. This news had been a long time coming.

Fred Wilpon first intruded into my consciousness in January, 1980 when he was a small minority part of the purchase of the club from the heirs of Joan Payson. Doubleday & Co. publishing owned the lion's share of the club. The club slowly improved thanks to the hiring of GM Frank Cashen. Fred only owned five percent of the team, and Jeff wasn't even in the picture yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Baseball is Hard

Amed Rosario is having a tough year, although it might be helpful to remember that this "year" is only a couple of months. Still, it's been quite a struggle for the young shortstop. He was considered part of the Mets core coming into the season after finishing really strong last year, and now he finds himself at the wrong end of a platoon with a younger shortstop who probably would have started the season in Triple-A if not for COVID. He enjoyed a fine offensive game last night, but wound up getting picked off first to end the game. Afterwards he admitted that he wasn't even looking to steal.

Rosario has struggled to match the improved plate discipline that marked his greatly improved second half last season. His On Base Percentage is .267 through 120 PA. His defense has been fine, at least to my eyes, but Giménez is obviously a better, more polished shortstop. And the kid is only 21, and likely to get better. Of course, Rosario is only 24, and maybe that is just too young to give up on a promising player.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Right Approach

I was watching the Mets blow out the Blue Jays in game 1 of their series last night. While I obviously enjoyed watching the  Mets give Jacob deGrom an overabundance of support for the second game in a row, one thing I didn't enjoy was watching Pete Alonso's struggles. One at bat in particular, where he worked himself into a positive count and then basically struck himself out by chasing 3 bad pitches in a row left me shaking my head afterwards.

For what it's worth, I still am bullish on Pete's future in New York. There's a lot of talent there, and players like Pete who embrace playing in New York tend to do well here. And Alonso isn't the first player who took a step backwards in his second season in MLB. The sophomore slump is a well-known baseball occurrence. Pete enjoyed a lot of success last season as a rookie, and his greatest success was in hitting home runs. But the Pete I saw last year, although a bit raw, was just a better hitter than the Pete I've been watching this season. For those of you that have been around long enough to remember, the Pete I'm watching this season seems to me a bad imitation of Dave Kingman, a one-dimensional slugger who made baseballs disappear when he got a hold of one, but also got himself out regularly with his all or nothing approach.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

First Things First

Yesterday I wrote a little about what I thought might be some priorities for the Mets once a new owner is in place. I'm going to be writing a lot about this in the coming months, as it's a topic that interests me greatly. I'm going to avoid writing pieces that boldly proclaim: here's what Steve Cohen is going to do, because that would be sort of silly. I've never met the man, and really have no idea at all what his priorities would be. We'll just have to figure those out as we go along. In the meantime, I can talk about things that I would do and why.

If I was a billionaire about to take over the Mets, I think the first question that I would ask myself would be what I wanted to do with my current GM. The easy move to make would be to blame Brodie Van Wagenen for all of the shortcomings and underperformance of the current club and just fire him. But then the question become who would I want to hire to replace him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Advice From the Not-So-Mighty Samson

There was an interesting reaction to the claim that we noted yesterday from Alex Rodriguez that, if his group somehow managed to pry the Mets away from Steve Cohen, one major goal would be to push the payroll towards $225 million. David Samson, who used to be President of the Miami Marlins, is now apparently a podcaster for CBS Sports. He apparently had some thoughts on A-Rod's payroll promise.

In case you don't remember, Samson was President of the Marlins back when his former stepfather Jeffrey Loria owned the team. I'm not a fan of the guy at all, basically he presided over the team when they were running a huge scam against MLB, pocketing revenue sharing dollars instead of making any real effort to field a competitive team. Then they convinced Miami to build a ballpark for them, signed a few free agents including Jose Reyes to prove that they were "serious" about contending, then held another fire sale the next season.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Saga Continues

There was an interesting Joel Sherman piece in the New York Post  today about A-Rod and Jennifer Lopez still holding onto some hopes that they could get the Mets away from Steve Cohen. This comes a few days after another article in the Post quoted furious accusations from Rodriguez that the bidding had been rigged for Steve Cohen to win. Previous articles over the past month from the Post and other sources indicated that the Wilpons hated Cohen and wanted A-Rod's group to win if they came even close to Cohen's bid. Clearly not all of those things could have been true simultaneously, but yeah sure, whatever.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Turn the Page, Please

I spent an enjoyable afternoon yesterday watching the Mets beat the Phillies. For a few hours I could exist in an alternate universe where the Mets weren't a crushing disappointment, but rather a solid competitor to go deep into the postseason. All of the ingredients were there: great starting pitching, a well-balanced, explosive offense, solid defense and competent relief pitching. Maybe this is just a little taste of what the future might bring.

If, as a Mets fan, you feel as if a weight is being lifted off your shoulders, beyond anything that was happening on the field, it might have a little something to do with this:

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Future Starts Soon

I had my back surgery yesterday and feel surprisingly well today, better than I expected. My back problem caused a lot of symptoms in my legs which were, in a way, worse than the back problem. From the first time they walked me around yesterday after I came out of the anesthesia, the leg spasms and cramps were completely gone. My back is still sore at the spot of the surgery, but I didn't have to take the Oxycodone they prescribed at all. I still have some healing to do, but I couldn't feel happier one day out from surgery. This back problem has completely dominated my life since May 2. and now it feels like a new beginning for me.

With the Wilpon era finally limping down to an end, it feels like a new beginning for the Mets is imminent. Which would be great, because if there ever was a team that needed one, it's the Mets. As Joel Sherman pointed out today in the New York Post, the Mets have only been to the playoffs twice in the last 13 years. And remember, one of those was the one-and-done Wildcard game loss to the Giants. MLB expanded the playoffs this season, which would seem to be a golden opportunity for a team like the Mets to limp back there, except they're currently tied with the Reds for the fourth-worst record in the National League. At this rate I honestly wonder if shouldn't start rooting for then to lose every game, hoping for a higher draft pick next year. I won't do that, but I'm pretty sure that the Mets aren't going to turn this season around.

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Rose Amongst Thorns

I wanted to write something about Tom Seaver today, but I never really had the time to do it any justice. My back surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I spent most of the day scrambling to accomplish some things both at work and in my personal life.

This afternoon when I was finished with everything else, I took my dogs up to Litchfield for our last hike until I heal up some. I had a pretty bad week with the back, and we had only done some relatively short walks as a consequence. Today, however, for the first time in more than a week, I felt halfway decent. We were able to do a relatively long walk, almost 5 miles. I spent a lot of our walk thinking about Seaver.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

I Won't Be Ignored, Dan!

I wrote about this club back in late July when the season wasn't even a week old and forecast that they were just a mediocre team. I knew then that this wouldn't be a great season, but I never thought I was overrating them to such a degree. I didn't know back then that Marcus Stroman was going to opt out, and that Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha were going to be so very bad. I had some hope that Steven Matz would take a little step forward, but instead he took a huge step backwards and then got hurt.

If you were to tell me back when I wrote that late July post that Robinson Cano would have an OPS of 1.088 this far at this point of the season and that Dom Smith would be right up there with him, I would have figured the Mets would at least still be in contention at this point. And that would be even before you told me about Brandon Nimmo having another quintessential Nimmo season and Michael Conforto taking a huge step forward. Eventually, however. you'd have to break the news to me about Pete Alonso, Amed Rosario and Wilson Ramos. At that point I wouldn't be quite so optimistic, but even if you told me about all of it I wouldn't have foreseen this disaster.

Man the Lifeboats

Things aren't going well for the 2023 New York Mets one-quarter of the way through the season. Today we'll look at the starting pitc...