Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are in the playoffs playing exciting October baseball. Both teams have some real star power and do not have huge payrolls. When we look at this from a Mets perspective it shows that a team can achieve success with a small market payroll. But here is something to remember about both of those teams: They were only able to acquire some of their brightest stars by having miserable baseball seasons. Tampa Bay picked David Price with the number one overall pick in 2007 and Evan Longoria with the 3rd pick of the 2006 draft. Gerrit Cole of the Pirates was the number one pick in the entire draft in 2011. Pedro Alvarez was picked with the number two pick of the 2008 draft. Where would these teams be without these players?
Or look at the Nationals with Strasburg and Harper at #1 overall. Ryan Zimmerman #4. Detweiler and Rendon both at #6. To their credit, the Nationals at a certain point spent money on supporting pieces — the much-maligned Jason Werth contract, 7 years, $126 million, as one example. And of course they spent big money to retain Zimmerman.
If the Mets wanted to follow this path, they had to do a full deconstruction, beginning when Sandy Alderson was named General Manager. That was not done. Management slowly unwound the talent base, making sure to tread water with bad teams, but not bad enough to acquire difference-makers in the draft. It sure appeared to me “the Plan” was to wait out contracts and once payroll was cleared buy new talent. If it was to build through the draft, like a small market operation, shouldn’t we have dismantled more aggressively? It seems a little late in the rebuilding process now to start shooting for top five picks. Unless, of course, this is a 20-year plan.
Not to beat a dead horse, but Alderson sat on his hands with Jose Reyes when clearly he should have traded him immediately. That was criminal neglect. Look at the Marlins, even: they signed him and flipped him, another option that was available to the Mets brain trust. Of course, it would have taken real courage to step in and trade Jose Reyes.
I remember the first time you suggested to me that this could be a lost decade. That was about two-and-a-half years ago, and at the time it struck a discordant note amidst a symphony of optimism, the “sure thing” of 2014. But I soon realized that the unthinkable was possible. Fans are already talking about 2015 with fingers crossed. The date keeps slipping back. Good things come to those who wait — sometimes. Draft and development sounds awesome, but it isn’t much different from what every other team does. The Braves, the Cards, the Twins, the Royals, the Rangers on down the list. That’s not a guarantee of success.
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America recently chatted about Mets prospects Brandon Nimmo, Gabriel Ynoa, and Kevin Plawecki. These are all Sandy’s babies. Anyway, Cooper was skeptical about
Ynoa (lack of “stuff”), saw Nimmo somewhere in the 21st-35th best in the low Class A league, and reported serious concerns about Plawecki’s weak throwing arm. Steven Matz was the one Met who cracked the SAL Top 20 Prospect List. He’s 22. Wanting something does not necessarily make it happen. And at the same time, maybe Nimmo steps up next year; maybe the weak arm doesn’t hamper Plawecki too badly; maybe the scouts were spending too much time with their radar guns when it came to Ynoa. We don’t know yet. When it comes to the Mets minor league players, it’s a good thing Omar left Sandy with a few guys to trade because Syndergaard, Wheeler, and d’Arnaud were not drafted by the Mets.
I assume that the ultimate plan comes from the owners, and that all Sandy is in charge of is implementation. The team spent the last three years passively rebuilding, while also sitting out much of the international market. We kept our first round picks but used them on very young players who need a tremendous amount of seasoning before they will be able to assist at the major league level. All of this was done while waiting out contracts to expire and commenting on how important that would be by the year 2014. I did not read any of those actions as a plan to become relevant any time soon through drafting and development. I read that as becoming relevant again by reinvesting when contracts expired, and staying competitive with a new focus on producing a slow steady stream of talent down the road.
If we don’t start seriously spending now you have to question the entire process. I’m not against drafting raw high school players or developing them slowly, as long as there is a reasonable plan in place to also stock the big league roster with major league caliber players while you wait.
Otherwise you get the lost decade, and I am not interested in that.
Sandy has become the new Terry: you can’t blame anything directly on him, while still having the uncomfortable sense that we have not witnessed a particularly strong performance from the GM. The blame keeps shifting around, like those “Whack-a-Gopher” games at the amusement park. The organization did go young in the first round of the last three drafts. The kid in Oakland, Sonny Gray, who just shutout the Tigers, came out of Vanderbilt in the 2012 Draft, 18th overall. That’s the point I keep coming back to, the lack of urgency. We keep looking at fastballs down the plate, thinking we’ll win the race by walking there.