Monday, September 21, 2020

Look Back in Anger

I checked the NL wildcard standings this morning, not so much 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.

Those Bobby Valentine Mets are still the only ones who ever made it back to the playoffs a second straight year, and it did give hope that the Mets might be taking part in the postseason with a bit more regularity, but 2001 was the first year in the soon to be 17 for 20 year stretch above.

I've always tried to maintain a level head about the Wilpons. When I was writing the first generation of this blog from 2005-2009, I tried not to give in to the temptation to just trash them for everything. In the years since the Madoff scandal first broke, and we learned the implications of it on Fred Wilpon and the Mets, I no longer felt the need to check my frustration with ownership. Those frustrations also spread to include MLB, Bud Selig and Rob Manfred, who enabled the Wilpons and kept them in control of the Mets long after their finances should have forced them to sell.

If Steve Cohen does a good job once he takes over, and the playoffs become a little more of a routine occurrence, there's going to be a tendency to want to forgive Fred Wilpon for his part in all of the incompetence and futility that has engulfed this team when he owned it. I won't try to tell you what to do, but I definitely won't waste any forgiveness on him. I hope not to think of him or his son at all, but if I do, it won't be with forgiveness in my heart. I can promise you that.

You know, when Wilpon decided to hold onto this team despite the major crash crunch, there might have been a path forward that, while not ideal, might have been much more productive. Instead of insisting that the Madoff losses and settlement weren't affecting payroll, go all in on being a successful mid-market team. Hire a GM with creative vision, work to enhance the farm system and be as successful as possible given the spending constraints. Instead, the Mets always seemed to be halfway between everything, more interested in projecting some sort of front and selling tickets while mostly going nowhere. Thanks to MLB's enabling, the Wilpons got an extra decade to do more damage to the franchise and then sell it for a record price.

I hope Fred and Jeff Wilpon possess the small modicum of self-awareness to have a sense of how they are reviled by most of the fans, and their part in earning all of that loathing. I doubt it, though. They'll take the large pile of cash and ride off into the sunset, convinced that they did everything right and were just unlucky. Their money will undoubtedly assure they will be surrounded by people willing to tell them what they want to hear. Good riddance.


Now that I have that off my chest, let's move on. There have been reports over the last couple of days indicating that Sandy Alderson would be taking some sort of position with the Mets once Steve Cohen takes over. There's an article by Andy Martino on that seems to be the source of the rumor. Reading the piece, it is quite amusing to note all of the weasel words utilized by the author (emphasis added by me):

Sandy Anderson is likely to return to the Mets in some capacity as part of the ownership change, SNY has learned. It likely will not be as general manager.

Alderson’s new role is unclear and is possibly still being worked out. It is also unclear how it will affect current GM Brodie Van Wagenen.

Andy clearly had terrific sources for this piece, who also clearly knew exactly what Cohen is thinking. I especially liked the part about how Alderson's role was unclear and is possibly still being worked out. I wonder if there is a chance that Alderson is being hired to run the valet parking at Citi Field. He might also be selling hot dogs during the game, but that part is still being worked out.

All kidding aside, one role I can see Alderson actually taking is a position where he's more or less the guy Cohen puts in place to make sure that the owner's priorities are being acted upon. This way Cohen avoids day to day meddling, and Alderson would obviously have credibility with the baseball people. Still, it would represent a demotion for Van Wagenen, if not in job title certainly in authority. This will be an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on, if the man who made fleece vests a trendy look for the workplace gets hired.

Joel Sherman had a column in the Post yesterday, citing one source that Alderson might push to bring Paul DePodesta back into the Mets organization if he comes back. DePodesta oversaw scouting and development in his first go round with the Mets. Under his guidance the Mets had some successes (Nimmo and Dom Smith) and failures (Gavin Cecchini). The Mets weren't as aggressive in the draft then as they've been the last couple of years, but that might be because of the owners' finances as much as anything else.

Still, if Alderson comes back and brings in DePo and maybe some other guys, it's going to get a little crowded in the team offices if they don't cut some guys loose. If Cohen does place Alderson above Van Wagenen and brings in DePo and possibly other guys, at what point does it make sense to keep Van Wagenen on?

Meanwhile, on, Joe Pantorno cites a source saying that Cohen was going to "clean house." Sandy Alderson would come on as an advisor, and an unnamed source speculated on the possibility of Brian Cashman being lured away from the Yankees to be the new GM. Honestly, I don't know who the source is for that one, but I can't come up with one vaguely logical reason for Cashman to ditch the Yankees for the Mets.

As for Alderson returning, I'm honestly not too sure how I feel about that. It's hard to evaluate Alderson's time at the wheel as GM here in New York, given the severe financial constraints he was operating under. Still, it could work out under a less penurious owner. One thing that I worry about is some sort of convoluted power structure being put in place. Any organization is better off with a clear chain of command and empowered leadership. A confusing front office structure is more of a Wilpon thing then what I envision happening under Cohen. We'll see how this all plays out.

Okay, that's it for me today. Please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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