2010 Mets: No Matter Who Wins, We Lose

I promise/hope this will be my last serious post on baseball for the season. Because funny ha-ha pieces are much better for this site, I think. And my soul.

santana_st_2010.jpgEarlier today, I saw a fellow Mets fan tweet that the Vegas over/under for Mets wins this year is 89. The only NL team with a higher line is the Phillies, who are set at 89.5, and the next highest is the Diamondbacks, with 85.5.

Upon reading this, my first reaction was excitement. I’d sign up for 89 wins right now (as Mad Dog Russo often said; he may still say it, but nobody listens to him anymore). Of course, when Vegas sets lines, they do so to stir up action. That’s why they release MLB over/under lines the week when spring training begins, hoping to capitalize on fan excitement.

Setting the Mets at 89 means Vegas believes one of two things: (1) they hope the team isn’t that good, but the surprisingly high number of 89 will excite gullible, optimistic fans to bet the over; or (2) they think the team might win even more games, but hope enough people will remember the stumbling, bumbling Mets from last year and bet the under.

My own experience, plus the events of recent seasons, told me that Mets fans are a pessimistic bunch. Ironically, this led me to believe that option (2) was more likely than (1), which in turn got me excited like the dumb, dumb man that I am.

And then I thought to myself, Do I even want the Mets to have a good year? Could that be the worst thing possible for them, in the long term?

Of course, if they somehow won a championship with this team, then I’d say future be damned. But if 89 wins is their ceiling–a good record but not necessarily a playoff-qualifying one–might they be better off woefully underachieving?

Because a good season would validate the way this team is run. And the way this team is run is so awful on so many fronts that I don’t want anyone to convince themselves
everything is hunky dory.

I’m not even talking about what free agent signings the Mets did or didn’t make this winter. I actually think they did a good job of not mortgaging their future or overpaying
for bad product just because it was available. And no, I don’t think they overpaid (much) for Jason Bay, nor do I believe that he’s on death’s door, as Peter Gammons inexplicably seems to.

I don’t know if this was an actual plan, or if they just fucked up–it was rumored that they didn’t get Joel Pineiro because they were too busy pursuing other needs and couldn’t multitask (not that missing out on Pineiro is necessarily a bad thing). Regardless of the design behind it (or lack thereof), I’m okay with the result. Not thrilled, but okay.

Despite these sort-of positive developments this whole organization still needs to be deprogrammed. They are so out of step with the way all other teams are run, it’s ridiculous. And not in the good, Billy-Beane-and-the-A’s-circa-2002 way. I mean in that
weird-uncle-who-refuses-to-get-indoor-plumbing-cuz-an-outhouse-was-good-enough-for-his-grandpappy-dagnabbit way. They cling to ways of doing business and constructing a baseball team that make absolutely no sense in the year 2010, or any other year
that starts with a 2.

The Mets refuse to pay above slot for draft picks in order to be good citizens, even though literally no other team in baseball does this. The slot recommendations set by MLB are like jaywalking laws–nobody obeys them, and no one will ever be punished for breaking them. Imagine if the answers to a test were printed in your blue book, and all you had to do is look at them, though technically you weren’t allowed to, but everyone else in the class did. Not looking would be technically dishonest, but it also would put you at a severe disadvantage against your classmates.

The Red Sox built their empire on draft picks. The Twins show that a shrewd team can take full advantage of them, regardless of budget. But the Mets, who have money to spend, are still totally clueless about the amateur draft. They traded away Billy Wagner before last year’s deadline to save some dough, and got a middling minor leaguer (Chris Carter) in return. Boston got a month or so of Billy Wagner, and two draft picks when he was picked up by the Braves.

Of course, those two draft picks might never be better than Carter (they also might). The point is, Boston made this deal knowing they would net those draft picks as free agent compensation, and turned one prospect they had soured on into two with clean slates. The Mets, on the other hand, seemed to either not care about getting draft picks or (even worse) not know they’d get them, even though Wagner clearly had no interest in being a set-up guy for a full season.

And while the Mets undervalue draft picks, they vastly overvalue almost everything else. Giving a big contract to a slugger like Bay doesn’t bother me. And the enormous deals they gave to Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez–as dumb as they look right now–don’t bug me too much either. At least not as much as giving $2 million to Alex Cora, who is, at best, a replacement-level player. Or giving $5 million to professional out machine Jeff Francoeur, when there was no way in hell he would have made that in either arbitration or the open market.

So that’s $7 million right there tied up in two players, money that easily could have gone toward some viable bench options or relief arms. Money may be no object for a team like the Mets (or it may be, depending on who you ask), but that doesn’t mean you should spend it on a drunken sailor on the first pretty lady you see on the wharf.

Both the general manager and the manager repeatedly make statements indicating they have no interest in new methods of statistical analysis. Jerry Manuel making up his lineup through playing favorites and harboring grudges is one thing, but it’s even worse when Omar Minaya makes baffling acquisitions of on-base-aphobes as Francoeur and Garry Matthews Jr. In this day and age, such attitudes are nothing short of insane. Especially when you consider that nearly every World Series winner of the past decade has come around to sabermetrics in one way or another. (The only exception that pops to mind is, maybe, the 2005 White Sox, another inexplicably stat-phobic team.)

Add in the weird public battles with their own players and complete inability to handle any kind of PR crisis, and it seems obvious this is an organization that needs to clean house. But if the Mets do well this year, why would they?

Considering how much shit has been dumped on the team this offseason (and how much shit they’ve dumped on themselves), the definition of “do well” is extremely wide. The front office will pat themselves on the back if the Mets compete late into the year. That will be enough leave for them to continue on their merry way, whistling past the graveyard.

So a bad season is best for them, isn’t it? Maybe, but the thought of another crappy Mets summer is almost too horrific to contemplate. Because I’ll continue to watch this team. I have to. It’s a sickness. I did last year, and it was sickening. Around 6:30 every night, I’d get psyched and think, “Yeah, there’s a game on tonight!” And around 6:31, I’d realize that game would involve people like Garry Sheffield and Alex Cora and Anderson Hernandez, and then I’d feel like stabbing myself in the eye.

Could I withstand rebuilding? I don’t think so, nor do I think it’s really called for. The local example most often referenced for rebuilding is the quote-unquote NBA team that plays at MSG. The Knicks have been going through a fallow period for the last few seasons, simply so they can afford to sign Someone Big this coming offseason. But there’s a difference (beyond the economics of a sport with a salary cap versus one without). First off, Isiah Thomas fucked up the Knicks so bad, several purposefully bad seasons were needed just to undo the damage.

reyes_st_2010.jpgSecondly, when Isiah was done with them, the Knicks had nothing (unless you count Marbury). There was nothing to tear down because there was no structure at all. The Knicks were the basketball equivalent of a lean-to behind a strip mall.

The Mets have Wright and Reyes and Beltran and Santana and K-Rod. That ain’t everything, but it ain’t nothing, either. Reyes alone makes this team watchable, if nothing else. If Reyes had stayed healthy last year, the Mets would have been a much, much less depressing team to watch last year, even if they didn’t compete.

A bad 2010 from the Mets will make me a
miserable, miserable person to be around from April to October. If they can give me some reason to believe, I’ll latch onto it. False, totally
baseless hope? Fine by me!

And even beyond the fact that I can’t actively wish bad things for my favorite team, let’s say this season goes into the crapper. And let’s say it happens really quickly, like by Memorial Day. Even under these circumstances, do I trust The Wilpons to fire everyone and install competent replacements? No, no I do not.

So my approach will be to put on the blinders, cross my fingers, and hope for the best. If nothing else, the Mets are overdue for some good luck.

Then again, so are the Cubs. And the city of Cleveland. And a depressingly large segment of the world’s population. But as a wise man once said, you can’t lose ’em all.