Saturday, October 31, 2020

They're Going to Hate Us

The Mets spent the years from 1977-1983 as one of the worst franchises in all of American sport. Their best record during those seven years wandering in the wastelands was 68-94, and that was 1983 — the last year before they turned the corner. You would have thought that those terrible years preceding the resurgence might have caused folks around baseball to look at those 1984 Mets as plucky overachievers trying to turn around a moribund franchise, but you'd be wrong. I remember being somewhat surprised at the time how quickly in 1984 other fanbases started looking at that team as a bunch of bad guys.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Welcome to the Promised Land

As I sit here writing this, the Wilpon era has just ended. With word that the final hurdle of approval by the mayor has been overcome, this thing is in the books. It's a great moment for Mets fans, but the real work is only beginning. The goal has to be to put a real playoff contender on the field in 2021, and that's going to be no small task.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

I always feel a little melancholy at the end of the World Series. Baseball is the only sport that I still care passionately about, and the beginning of the next baseball season always feels very far away. This feeling has been compounded over the past decade or so by the certain knowledge that the Mets weren't going to do anything particularly interesting over the offseason. As bad as the Wilpons with money were at running the Mets, the Wilpons without money were abysmal. As a Mets fan in recent years, the hot stove months often made me feel like a kid waking up on Christmas morning eager to open his presents, only to find that they were all clothing and school supplies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Modern Baseball Trends and Making Adjustments

I'm a bit late in getting to this, but Eno Sarris had a very interesting piece in The Athletic last week about how the teams in this year's World Series reflect modern baseball strategy, and asking how this strategy might continue to evolve. There are several fascinating observations here concerning ball movement, velocity, pitching up in the zone, and how hitters might adjust to these trends. As I mentioned in Sunday's post, baseball in glacially slow in adapting to new trends, and once they do follow suit, it's hard for a lot of teams to move on - even if things aren't working as well for them quite as well anymore.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Dollars and Sense

There's no doubt that this current pandemic has hit Major League Baseball clubs where it hurts the most, a swift kick directly into their bottom line. Playing the majority of this season without fans has made an impact on the money coming in, while pandemic protocols have increased expenses. Most of the clubs have made huge layoffs which they say were necessary to offset losses, although the opaqueness of their bookkeeping shields their true financial health from the rest of the world.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Evolving Bullpen

One of the huge reasons that the Tampa Bay Rays are in the World Series is their bullpen. Despite a less than impressive cast of starting pitchers, the Rays have ridden a deep, diverse and pretty darned cheap bullpen to October success. Of course, whenever any team pushes deep into the postseason, other teams are going to look at what they do and try to appropriate what works for themselves. The Rays bullpen will definitely be an important topic of conversation this offseason as teams look to build their own bullpens.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Looking for the Roadmap


As I wrote in my previous post, Fred Wilpon's fundamental failure with the Mets was not looking at clubs better run than his own and attempting to learn from their successes. This arguably cost him ownership of the Mets far more than the fallout from the Madoff losses. What's somewhat ironic about this was that the team Wilpon grew up rooting for, the Dodgers, would have been a great model for his own franchise. So, while Citi Field, with its Jackie Robinson Rotunda, paid homage to Fred's first baseball love before it ever got around to honoring some of the heroes of the franchise that played there, Fred basically ignored trying to emulate the Dodgers impressive model of running their franchise.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Failure to Learn

Great news that Steve Cohen has is a huge step closer to final approval of his purchase of the Mets. I've been writing quite a lot lately about how the Mets need to get a lot smarter as an organization under Steve Cohen then they've been under the Wilpons. The most recent pieces can be found hereherehere and here, but you can pretty much scroll down my recent posts since the end of the season and most of them will at least touch on the topic. I suspect that if you are someone who reads me fairly regularly, you care about it, also. You, too, would like to believe in a future where the Mets making the playoffs is not a rare occurrence, but rather something that happens more often than not.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Hero Is Not Required

As we get closer and closer to Steve Cohen taking over the New York Mets, we also get closer to finally getting concrete answers on how the Mets might operate under his stewardship. Those of us who follow the team closely grew to be able to predict quite accurately how things would go when the Wilpons were running things. Hell, I only wish they would have surprised me a little more often. I always expected the worst from them and they almost always delivered. Cohen, on the other hand, is an unknown at this point. There is plenty of speculation on what he might do, based on what is known about how he runs his hedge fund business, but nobody will really know exactly how things will go until we get to see the Cohen owned Mets in action.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Who Needs a Day Off?

I haven't enjoyed all of the changes the 2020 season brought to baseball. I hated the extra inning rule. No matter what the sport, I'm never a fan of deciding a result in any other way than continuing to play the game until a team breaks a tie. Shootouts in hockey and soccer, putting a runner on second in baseball and all other gimmicks of that nature should never be seen at any level above youth sports, at least in my opinion. Seven inning games in double headers seemed like a necessary evil for this season, but I hope not to see this in future "normal" seasons. I'm more agnostic on the DH in the NL. I'll miss some of the strategy involved with pitchers hitting, but I won't miss watching those pathetic at bats that most of them had. I believe the rules needs to be the same in both leagues, and it seems quite unlikely that the AL would ever abandon the DH, so if I had a vote that mattered it would be to keep the DH in the National League, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Free Agent Questions

It's a pretty good bet that catcher J.T. Realmuto is a likely free agent target for the Mets this winter. We don't know exactly what the Mets priorities will be once Steve Cohen is officially approved to be the new owner, but putting a better club on the field next season would almost certainly be a priority. As a catcher and a right-handed bat, Realmuto would be a significant upgrade for this team. He'll be 30 next season, so it's likely he begins his next contract at the tail end of his prime years and he'll be more than a bit past that prime by the end. Of course, that's the reality with most free agents due to the length of time it takes them to achieve free agency. Except for the ones that come up to the majors very young, most players will be somewhere around 30 by the time they get to test the market.

It's been a long time since the Mets were real players for the top free agents, but it's likely that they'll be competing for those that fill specific needs going forward. They will weigh the value of what the free agent is likely to provide against the likelihood that the back end of the contract will provide much less value to the cub. Unless a team lucks into the situation that the Mariners found themselves, where Brodie Van Wagenen bailed them out of the back end of Robinson Cano's contract and included excellent prospects in the deal, you can pretty much count on paying for production that you are no longer receiving from the player during the final years of his contract.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lessons From the Tampa Bay Rays

In The Athletic Monday, Jayson Stark had a piece on the unusual success of the Tampa Bay Rays this season. The Rays manage to field a remarkably competitive team year in and year out, despite having a budget that makes Fred Wilpon look like a profligate spender in comparison. Most people who follow baseball fairly closely are aware of the way Tampa Bay operates. Despite incredible budget constraints they manage to compete most years. Since 2008, they have managed to finish with a winning record 9 times out of 13 seasons. Two of the years they fell short they went 80-82. Their only awful season in the stretch was 2016, when they finished last in the AL East with a 68-94 record.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Keys to the City

After I had written my last post on the type of organizational changes the Mets could make to ensure sustained success, I took a few moments to think about the one time in my life that really happened. My first year as a Mets fan was 1969. I was 10 years old, and it seemed to me quite likely that my team would go back to the World Series every year. After all, we had Seaver and Koosman, and all the other teams didn't. Although the Mets managed to sneak back into the Series four years later, my youthful optimism definitely took a beating in the 1970s. Despite continuing to have Seaver and Koosman and eventually Jon Matlack, the only time the Mets managed to win their division between 1969 and 1986 was the "Ya Gotta Believe" season of 1973, when the futility of the rest of the NL East allowed the Mets to grab that honor despite a quite mediocre 82-79 record. Other than that bit of luck, the Mets wouldn't finish above third place until 1984, and usually brought up the rear.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Here's to a Stronger Infrastructure

Tim Britton had a really interesting piece in The Athletic earlier this week titled, "Why Steve Cohen’s first major investment should be in the Mets' infrastructure." It's a really good take on a topic that we've discussed in this space. So much that has been written about how the effect that Steve Cohen taking over might have on the Mets payroll and which free agents the Mets might sign this winter. The idea that Cohen would make the Mets operate a lot smarter seems to me of much more importance going forward, and Britton's piece is the best one on that subject that I've come across so far.

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm also excited about the prospect of the Mets running larger payrolls, not only because it makes them players for top free agents like J.T. Realmuto, but because it makes them more likely to hold onto young players that come up through their organization. I thought one of the more unforgivable moves of the Wilpon era was letting Zack Wheeler sign with a division rival without even making any reasonable attempt to keep him. With big decisions on Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard coming up after next season, I find it comforting to feel confident that the decision on whether to try to hold on to them will not be based strictly on money.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Since the end of the season, I've spent a lot of time pondering what it would take for the Mets to be a serious contender - not just to possibly squeak into the playoffs but legitimately contend for a title. When the Mets made it all of the way to the World Series in 2015, it was on the back of a terrific starting rotation. Those days are long gone. This year the Mets starters went 13-22 with a 5.37 ERA. Forget about trying to recapture the dominance of 2015, the Mets are going to need to regain competence and adequacy from their starting pitching in order to contend again.

The Mets have a lot of work to do to fix what's wrong with them. It's assumed that they will be very aggressive in the free agent market this offseason, although we don't know that for sure until we see how things play out. Even assuming that they are, I don't think we're going to see a fully-formed championship caliber Mets team take the field in 2021. They can certainly be good enough to make the playoffs, but it's almost undoubtedly a multiyear process to make the Mets a truly legitimate contender. Whoever will be making the decisions regarding personnel will need to demonstrate patience and long-term vision. Any decision regarding a Mets player, whether a current major leaguer or prospect, needs to be made with short- and long-term goals in mind, and with a full and accurate assessment of the value of that player.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Where Did We Go Wrong?

In The Athletic this week, Tim Britton had a very good look into what went wrong with the Mets this season. The obvious starting point was the rotation, which was pretty much a bad bet on the days deGrom wasn't pitching. David Peterson was fairly impressive in a 9-start audition for 2021. Seth Lugo was more miss than hit in 7 starts, winding up with an ERA over 6 as a starter. Everyone else was just plain awful. Neither Rick Porcello or Michael Wacha proved to be any help. Steven Matz has gone from looking like a really solid pitcher just a few years ago to a non-tender candidate this offseason. The promise that Robert Gsellman seemed to offer as a 22-year-old in 2016 has evaporated. As Britton pointed out, the 2020 Mets had the worst starting rotation ERA in the history of the team. That's quite an accomplishment for Brodie Van Wagenen to put on his resume.

Surviving their poor starting pitching might have been possible if the bullpen was great, but that certainly wasn't the case. Edwin Diaz survived some hiccups and really reestablished himself as a late inning reliever. The guys behind him, primarily Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Jared Hughes, Chasen Shreve, Brad Bach and trade pickup Miguel Castro, weren't as bad as the starters, but hardly set the world on fire. Even Lugo had some rough outings when he was still in the bullpen.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Playoff Cash Shouldn't Disincentivize Greatness

I checked out some of the postseason contests this week, but I didn't watch any full games. I'd watch for a couple of innings and then I'll turn on something different. It's hard for me to really get into it, it's just a reminder of how low the bar was set for qualifying this season and how, once again, the Mets failed to clear it. Here's hoping that this almost yearly ritual is coming to an end with the departure of the Wilpons.

I understand how badly MLB coveted postseason dollars this year, but the 16 team playoffs seems pretty silly to me. There was a time when only a single team from each league advanced as the postseason consisted of only the World Series. Then in 1969, just in time for the Miracle Mets, each League split into two divisions, creating 2 extra postseason participants. Baseball split each League into 3 divisions and added a Wildcard team in 1995 after the strike. In 2012 the second Wildcard team was added.

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