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 toward $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.

But, anyhoo, on his podcast Samson tore into A-Rod for promising aa $225 million payroll. To quote the former Marlins exec:
"A-Rod and J-Lo show that they have zero experience. Don't make promises that you don't know that you can keep. There's a reason that the Mets payroll isn't $225 million: they can't afford it. And if they can't afford it, you think that you can come in and run the team so much better that you'll have a payroll of $225 million... the only teams that ever have payrolls approaching that are the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs."
As previously stated, I think the guy is kind of a d-bag, but he's not wrong here. There is a reason why the four clubs he mentioned can afford to run those kind of payrolls. They are elite teams with huge followings who have also managed to sustain baseball success.

The Red Sox have a unique situation. Boston isn't a hug city like New York, LA and Chicago, but they basically have most of New England to themselves, and also have fans around the country thanks to all of the colleges and universities in town. Many people come to Boston for school and become life-long fans of the Sawks.

New York, Chicago and LA are huge cities. And, while the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs share their cities with other teams, they are all by far the biggest teams in town. The White Sox aren't even close to the Cubs in popularity and don't run big payrolls. The Angels spend some money, but they can't compete with the Dodgers. And, as we sadly know all too well, the Mets are far behind the Yankees in New York. That was the case before Madoff turned the Mets into a bargain basement outfit, thanks to years of Yankees success and repeated faceplants by the Wilpon-led Mets in the 1990s and all of this century.

Don't get me wrong here. The Mets will never be as big of a name as the Yankees, but that doesn't mean they can't compete with them and exist as a true large market team in New York City. It won't happen, however, just by spending up near the top of MLB for a couple of years. It's harder than ever just to "buy" a title these days, and only sustained success will enable the Mets to carve out their own large chunk of the Big Apple. The Mets were the toast of the town for a while in the 80s, but that ended pretty quickly when they were unable to compete for the playoffs every year.

Jacking up the payroll into the MLB top 5 would definitely increase the amount of interest in the team, but that interest would dissipate quickly if the team failed to make the playoffs. The needs of this Mets team goes deeper than a player or two, and impact free agents are expensive. For them to have any sustained success for a period of time that would allow them to join MLB's elite it would take more than just some increased spending. The whole organization needs to be run smarter and just plain better.

If I were Steve Cohen, I would certainly look to show Mets fans that there's a new sheriff in town by increasing payroll as much as practical this winter. Keep in mind, however, that the Mets were losing quite a bit of money while only running a middling payroll. The idea that you could spend your way into contention with this team and remain competitive is pretty far-fetched.

Both Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents after next season. I think the Mets have to try to hold onto both of them, although it's admittedly trickier with Syndergaard coming off the Tommy John surgery. As long as he can prove that he's healthy he's going to command a very large contract, despite the fact that he's never pitched over 200 innings in a season and was pretty disappointing in 2019. Still, if it was my decision I'd do everything I could to hold onto him. It would be quite a blow to the fans to see him walk.

Just keeping those 2 guys would be quite a bump to the payroll, and there would still be quite a few issues to address. The one thing that might help the Mets in this regard is the likelihood that the price of the good but not elite free agents is likely to come down in the short term. The possibility of plugging holes without blowing the whole bankroll might take the Mets closer to being a real contender.

It's going to be an interesting time to be a Mets fan over these next 2 or 3 years, as we watch the moves that the Mets make to try to take their place among the league's elite.

Okay, I'm out for tonight. Please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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