Have you gotten Mets playoff fever yet Jimmy? All over the country, in Binghamton, Savannah, and even way out yonder in Las Vegas, New York Mets affiliates are participating in minor league playoff series.
The short answer, Mike, is that I don’t give a rat’s ass. And I say that as someone who follows the Mets closely, reads up on the prospects, dreams a little. But, really, I’m not that big of a sucker. On Thursday night, the dumb Las Vegas team got 4 hits, including two from Anthony Seratelli and hits from Taylor Teagarden and, yes, Kevin Plawecki. The hitting star was Mike Jacobs, who clubbed a grand slam. Yes, that Mike Jacobs, the ex-Met. Then he hit a three-run bomb the next night off — wait for it — 28-year-old Miquel Freaking Socolovich, of the career 16 ML innings.
I guess it could be argued that it’s good experience for Noah Syndergaard. Okay, sure, why not? But if we want him to have experiences, maybe he could try wind surfing on the Red Sea or building irrigation ditches in Somalia. Or, wait, how about pitching in the Major Leagues? My bet is that like Harvey and Wheeler before him, Noah is a little bored down on the farm.
When you are a fan of a major league team the combination of baseball’s arcane September 40-man rosters (a topic for another day soon) and your team’s Triple-A affiliate making the playoffs can be a frustrating combination. If your affiliate does make the playoffs, it is hard to justify bringing up prospects from that team. One issue would be alienating the affiliate relationship, as they have tickets to sell to those games. Current Mets history is showing us how damaging that can be for a team. Of course, since the Mets are already stuck in the armpit of all of organized baseball, they are the one team where this is not a factor in any of their decisions.
The other argument is that there is value in playing playoff baseball of any kind, the intensity of a short series with a lot on the line. It’s not a new one either, I remember rooting against the old Tidewater affiliates as far back as the early 70s, knowing that I would have to wait longer to see certain players if Tidewater made the playoffs. Overall, I do grudgingly see the point of keeping guys down if an affiliate has made it to the minor league “dance.”
I graduated high school in 1979. I remember being a fan in the early 80′s, and the only encouraging news was the Mets minor league system. Teams were winning down there, coming through the ranks together, a fact that seemed meaningful. Even better, there were stars on those teams. Lynchburg and Tidewater and so on. A couple of years later, fueled by that young talent — and managed by Davey Johnson, who knew those players first-hand — that same championship attitude came to Flushing.
Our readers don’t need us to go into detail about the value of imported players like Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez, or the importance of a #1 overall draft selection. The situations are as different as night and day. But I’m saying, okay, I’m not completely immune to the value of competing in the minor league playoffs. But you absolutely must look at how these teams are winning, and with whom. When teams win with the Brian Burgamys and T.J. Riveras of the world, my pulse remains steady. I mean, that’s nice for the people of Binghamton. Lord knows they could use the distraction. But hell, ancient Bobby Abreu batted 3rd for Vegas last night, a team that “earned” 9 walks and 3 runs.
This is all fairly straightforward for me. The success or failure of a minor league system is based on producing successful major league players. That is its purpose. Everything else is hot air. When I see a tweet like the following from Paul dePodesta, l just shake my head and laugh.
One thing that you will always notice about a baseball executive that is bragging about teams winning meaningless minor league games. The major league team always sucks.
Yes, the old misdirection ploy; pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. To be honest, this ties into the final 30-35 games of the New York Mets season. They just don’t matter. I mean, sure, it’s good for the players to play. We gain a little more insight into their abilities. I can watch any baseball game and enjoy it. But to me, as a fan, the team has already revealed itself. Let’s look at the team records over the last 4 years at the 125 game mark:
- 2011: 60-65
- 2012: 57-68
- 2013: 58-67
- 2014: 59-66
Rinse, repeat. The same old shit. Yet I saw a fan Tweet on Saturday morning, giddy from the 5-HR display on Friday night: “14-7 gets us to .500!”
Or, we’re only one game back of the Miami Marlins!
Or, even worse, we’re two games up on the red-hot Phillies!
Or, worst of all, a strong finish could save Terry Collins’ job!
It doesn’t matter. I mean to say: Like Pierre from Maurice Sendak’s perfect little book, “I don’t care!”
These 2014 Mets could finish 7-14, 10-11, or 14-7 down the stretch. As someone who picked this team for 79 wins (noting a weak division, with 38 games vs. Philadelphia and Miami), I feel satisfied that I was in the ballpark. Whether they win 72 or 82 games, the essence of the team has not changed. And Terry remains Terry. A guy who should be out of a job. It’s amazing to once again be in the weird place of hoping for another Jeff Wilpon intervention; Jeff, the man who overruled Alderson and forced him to fire his good buddy, Dave Hudgens. Do we really need Jeff Wilpon to step in again? How frightening is that? Jeff Wilpon, the sanest guy in the room!
It would be as dumb as setting up spring training as a battleground to settle a three-year position player battle. I guess no team is that dumb!
One final rant: I hate, Hate, HATE when managers get praised when their team still “plays hard.” As if there’s an alternative. Is Matt den Dekker going to coast through this thing? Imagine if the team didn’t play hard, that would be a travesty. A matter of disgust. Inexcusable. Is the bar set that low? The team still seems to be trying? Trophies for everybody!
These guys get paid to do this for a living, and unlike other true team sports, baseball is really a series of individual activities. The pitcher is on his own, the hitter is on his own and when the ball is hit to you it is yours to catch. There isn’t really much choice but to try, or be exposed and need a new career.
Once a team is playing out the string everything needs to be looked at through a revised lens. September baseball is a different animal as the intensity of each game varies depending on whether or not a team is in the race. Again, though, everyone is playing for a contract, not many batters are going to throw away an at-bat. Individual actions are worth noting, but the value of the overall team performance drops. Even as a fan your perspective changes. It becomes more interesting to watch a Dilson Herrara at-bat because you want to see if there is something there, etc.
In the end you have to take what you are given in life, and the gulf between watching playoff race baseball and under .500 slog ball is wide. As a Mets fan it is extremely frustrating as it has become an annual affair, negating much of the value of season after season. The hope becomes that one day someone associated with the team can take the kind of pride in the major league team that DePodesta is taking in the Mets affiliates. For now, there is nothing else but hoping and wishing.
Once again there will be no playoff games at Citi Field.
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