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.

Before I get into today's topic, indulge me while I quickly backtrack to yesterday's win on FOX. Every time I think that FOX can't possibly f*** up their baseball coverage any more than they've already done, they still find a way to sink to a new low. I detest in-game interviews, but they used to at least wait a few innings. The first batter of the game is up and they're trying to interview Adam Duvall. Then, when they had problems with the audio, they're interviewing him in the bottom of the inning while he was playing the field. What happens when the guy that they're interviewing is just distracted enough to let a catchable ball get past him? Interviewing a guy in the dugout while the game is in progress is bad enough, interviewing an active fielder during a game makes it seem like some cheap reality show. FOX sucks.

Anyway, now that I've enjoyed a cranky moment of curmudgeonhood, let's move on. While the Mets could win out and still make the playoffs, I guess, I feel pretty safe at this point to say everything is about next year now.

Ten days ago I started what I hope to be a series of posts on what I might look to change if I had just purchased the Mets. It seems like a more honest way to approach the topic than writing what I think Steve Cohen might do. I can't pretend to have any inside knowledge of that, but I'm reasonably sure that his priorities and mine wouldn't line up exactly. I'm very interested in seeing what he does do when he is in charge of this organization. It will be fascinating to try to discern his priorities from watching what he does, but that will only be revealed over time. He just doesn't seem like the type of guy who is going to give many interviews, if any, about his plans.

One important point here. Even when I'm writing a speculative piece about what I might do if I were the owner, there is certainly one thing I wouldn't do. I wouldn't attempt to insert myself into the day-to-day operations of the club. An involved owner who has certain things that he wants to see in his organization should communicate those ideas to his baseball people and leave the details of how to implement them to the people being paid to run the organization. Micromanagement was a fault of the regime that led this team into futility and frustration for decades. If you really think you have to control everything as an owner, you haven't hired the right people.

Now that doesn't mean you don't talk with your GM from time to time, but he or she needs the freedom to do their job without constantly looking over their shoulder. Not only does micromanagement hurt your club in the short term, but when the word gets around about how you manage, it ensures that the best people who have options where they can work will choose to work elsewhere. As an owner, even a fictional one, I would be looking to impart an overall philosophy of where I want my organization to go and then empower the person I hired to run the club to make the decisions to get there. If I'm not satisfied with what they're doing I'm still not going to meddle in their choices, but they'd likely find themselves unemployed. That's the right way to manage an organization, and I'd be fairly surprised if Cohen didn't manage in that manner.

The first big question, quite obviously, is who runs the organization after this season ends? There isn't a lot of time for a new owner to turn over the whole management team, and I'm not sure there's a slam-dunk choice out there right now. I've seen some speculation that Cohen might retain Brodie Van Wagenen for one year, but might hire someone to fill a team President type of role and position that person over Van Wagenen. That's certainly a possibility, but if I was the one making the decision, and I didn't trust Brodie to run my team, why wouldn't I just replace him rather than demote him? If I have to place someone above him to make decisions for him, why is he still here?

I'm sure Steve Cohen is making plans right now, but I'm not sure how much he can really do until he is officially approved by the owners. I follow this as closely as time allows, but one day I read someone confidently stating that Cohen has the votes and it's a done deal basically, while the next day someone else chimes in that there is still a possibility that he's not approved. I'm sure Cohen has a pretty good idea where he stands, so maybe if he knows he has the votes he can start talking to people that he would hire once it's official. Or maybe he stands pat for a year and watches how it plays out.

A more interesting and more important question for the short term, is what moves can be made to ensure the team competes next year? They need a lot, starting with at least 2 starting pitchers and some other reasonable options to compete and provide some depth. The Mets have been working without a net for years when it comes to starting pitching depth, and this weird season offered up a Masters level class in the consequences of that choice.

That might prove expensive enough, but they need a catcher and a real centerfielder, too. If they're going to pursue Realmuto, and they should, that's going to have a big price tag. If they lose out, there's no strong second option there. Trades are a possibility, ditto when it comes to finding a centerfielder.

Finally, although Betances and Familia are both under contract for next year, it would be hard to see either as a sure thing in the back of the bullpen. I would hesitate to base any evaluation completely on this weird season, but Familia has been a big disappointment two years in a row now. Betances looks like a guy who has to learn how to be effective with a significant drop in velocity. If the Mets want to make a real run next year they'll need at least one new late-inning reliever.

I'm going to say this next thing with some humility because I like the guy personally and have read nothing but rave reviews on his work ethic, but I can't point to one guy as a Jeremy Hefner success story this season. I don't have enough info to evaluate him, but if I was in charge I would be at least questioning whether a new Pitching Coach was in order. The only guy I would call a pleasant surprise on the pitching staff would be David Peterson, while Porcello, Wacha, Matz, and some of the relievers have been really disappointing. It would be very unfair to blame it all on Hefner, but, as Pitching Coach he certainly gets some of the blame.

Anyway, I'll end it here for today. What happens over the next few months will be of crucial importance to this club, and I genuinely look forward to writing about all of it. I have a lot on my plate this week, but I promise to post more often than I did last week. Thanks for stopping by. Please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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