2 GUYS TALKING: The New York Mets, Their Fans, and the “Crisis of Confidence”

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Jimmy:

It’s difficult to reconcile the demands of blogging with the wisdom of holding one’s tongue. Fundamentally, I feel like we are in a “Show me” period with management. It’s early November, the Hot Stove season hasn’t really begun in earnest. There’s almost nothing to say at this point. I wholeheartedly agree with Matt Cerrone at Metsblog: I’m sick of words.

Matt wrote:

If you happen to work for or own the Mets, and you’re reading this, know that most fans are waiting for action, not words. We’ve been hearing about 2014 since the day Sandy Alderson was hired. The World Series — or even a postseason appearance — was not promised, but it has been signaled time and again that this winter — when significant money comes off the books — is when meaningful improvements will be made… and we’re waiting.

And at the same time, we have this blog. A furnace to feed, and it’s fueled by blather. This is why, btw, there are so many blowhards on sports talk radio. Four hours to fill, and there’s rarely that much to talk about. But talk they must.

Mike:

Free agency begins soon and some real news will begin to shake out. Things are so cloudy right now with the Mets that it is hard to assume anything until we see some activity around baseball.

Jimmy:

During other seasons, maybe I could have banged out my take on the six different directions the Mets could go at shortstop, but who the hell really cares anymore? Not our friend at the Eddie Kranepool Society, that’s for sure. I mean, we care, but the endless chatter just doesn’t seem as much fun these past few years. There’s a futility to it.

Mike:

Ruben Tejada?

Jimmy:

solved-smiley-face1Well, since we’re on that, I would not be surprised by Jhonny Peralta (PEDs players are the new market inefficiency!), but we’ll save that for another day. Like I’ve said before, it’s all like a sliding puzzle. Each move effects every other move. And at this point, we’re not at all clear on what these guys want to achieve.

 

 

This may be a leap, but do you remember Jimmy Carter’s famous “malaise” speech?

Mike:

Yes, but I was working two jobs and going to college at night so I didn’t know who he was talking about. I knew a hell of a lot of people who were working harder than ever to stand still. I lived in New York City and the President before Carter had already told me to drop dead, so I had already given up on the government ever being of any use to me. Looking back now, I should thank Ford for making that clear to me at any early age — it served me well.

Jimmy:

9781596915213I was 18 at the time, so I have a personal memory of that speech. I remember the gas lines, the hostage crisis, the energy crisis, the distrust of government, inflation, that whole difficult, rudderless period in American life. There was something rotten in Denmark, something that felt deeply wrong with the country in general. The New York Mets of that period — the de Roulet years of Mettle the Mule — seemed like a microcosm of the nation itself.

I read a book about the circumstances of that speech a few years ago, titled What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President? by Kevin Mattson. Pretty thoughtful look at that time. So, anyway, Carter went into semi-seclusion for a week and wrote the famous speech that was later labeled his “great malaise” speech. A speech in which he had the courage (and the political naivete) to speak directly to the problems facing the country, placing American values under question, addressing consumerism and empty materialism. It was the first time since Sputnick that the country’s sense of itself, and its future, was shaken to the core. It really is an amazing speech, almost unprecedented in American history (the closest I can think of is Eisenhower’s warnings about the “military industrial complex).

President Carter said, in part:

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The interesting thing is that the initial reception to the speech was overwhelmingly positive. Yet at the same time, it can be seen as the death knell of the Carter Administration. It was not a message anybody could “sell” to the voters. He was physician enough to diagnose what ailed the country, but not surgeon enough to lead us out of it. Carter identified the problem, but offered no vision for fixing it. The door opened to Ronald Reagan and an entirely new message, and a new vision for America.
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As a lifelong lefty from Long Island, it pains me to type this: I feel like the New York Mets may need their Ronald Reagan moment. Or better yet, Nelson Doubleday. I’m tired of hearing how hard it is, how expensive it is, how the fans aren’t patient enough.
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Mike:
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Without getting too political myself as it’s not my thing, I agree that Carter always seemed like a smart guy who could identify problems. He didn’t seem as interested in solutions. We’ve seen that same thing for years now with the Mets.
Jimmy:
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Well, political analysts are talking about that speech again, as relevant to American life today.  I must admit, that was my early concern about President Obama, that his leadership could devolve into a Carteresque inefficiency (full disclosure: I voted for Obama, twice). And oddly enough, the New York Mets franchise once again mirrors the nation as a whole.
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As fans, we are facing a “crisis of confidence,” to borrow Carter’s term. Our faith needs to be restored. You should check out this excerpt of the speech. It’s truly an extraordinary moment in the annals of American politics.
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I’m not sure that Sandy Alderson has the vision to jolt this once great, now lifeless, New York Mets franchise out of this organizational malaise.
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We are in a deep funk.
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Full circle up to the top paragraph: It’s early November. He has money, new flexibility, and a (shrinking, endangered. aging) fanbase that will eagerly embrace change. This is his golden opportunity to make a difference. He has a chance to be a savior.
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Mike:
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One can only succeed by trying. I’m looking for moves that indicate the goal is winning. By the end of the calendar year we should know if that is the goal for 2014.
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Jimmy:
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And it might be that it will require a new voice, with a new vision, to lead this team from the wasteland. We shall see. Until then: Show me.
But I can’t stress this enough: His hands are not tied. He’s the GM of a New York franchise valued at $2 billion, and this is his moment to shine. It may be, in fact, the defining moment of his time here in New York.
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Step up to the plate, Sandy. And for God’s sakes, this time you’ve got to swing!
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20 comments

  1. RAFF says:

    Carter’s Malaise Speech was an exceptional piece of editorial journalism and reportage by a truly nice and thoughtful egg-head, and it was also a perfect example of his complete lack of leadership skills. Its only lasting value is to provide background material from which we may draw parallels to current leadership vacuums. And here is where the comparison most aptly fits: Carter was not hired to lead, He was hired to HEAL, America chose him to Cry with, to confess sins, to cleanse ourselves of the repugnancy of Nixon. The Malaise Speech was the denouement of his one act play- and we finished crying and moved on with a more positive leadership force- Reagan. As a parallel- Alderson was not hired to lead or be a general manager, in the typical sense. He was hand-picked to serve as a SCOUT for MLB owners — to figure out what the hell was going on with the junior NY baseball franchise. To put a nice voice and a professional image on a total financial and legal mess which was circling the drain. To “BE THERE” just in case the legal and financial matters further swept the Wilpons into their grasp. And now- if it’s true that they have money to spend and their legal problems are far behind— Alderson has served his purpose- His job>>> The One He Was Hired To Do– Is done.

    • Yeah, I think that’s pretty much it, re: Carter/Reagan. That said, with Alderson, it is a pivotal time. I don’t believe it’s quite yet fair to entirely dismiss his ability to move on to the next stage. I am perfectly ready and willing to sit back and see what kind of team he puts together for 2014.

  2. Patrick Boegel says:

    Sadly, this is the reason I fully expect Sandy Alderson to fail, and I know bringing up the Red Sox is semi blasphemous at the moment, but the Red Sox would have signed Abreu had they needed him, the Mets did.

    My point being, the Sox get the modern economic puzzle that is baseball, Epstien and Cherington underneath him had a minor blip in their plan a couple of years back, but I’d argue that was more of the owners needing a trophy in their ego war with the Yankees.

    The trouble with the Mets, there is not enough there there (how is that for overuse of a word!). They could get extraordinarily lucky and see Davis rebound at an unprecedented level, Murphy lock into a run in his prime years and have gotten it right with d’Arnaud. That would give them three competent players with Wright and if they made some moves…

    But I fear, where we are in the process, there is just a George Foster on the way, not a Keith Hernandez, not a Gary Carter, not yet.

    In short that is my problem with Alderson, Depodesta and Riccardi. They do not in my opinion have a long view. They don’t see things in layers, only in the singular moment of this season. So I think along the way opportunities run amok from them.

    I realize it is Monday Morning Quarterbacking (which I suppose should now be more accurately labeled Friday morning with all the games) but I look at Cespedes and I look at Puig and I think, how in the world could the Mets, a team in need of young every day players have not been in on that action?

    It seems to me, the Mets “brain trust” met in St. Lucie in October and the discussion centered more around wanting to define their limits instead of defining their plan. Maybe Abreu will be the one of three recent Cuban phenoms to blow up and not be a bargain force. But to me, the Mets brass spent time crafting reasons why they should not sign Abreu rather than reasons why they should and that would they would do around that move. Perhaps the genius trio knows something I don’t about Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, but that seems like an awfully strange bet to make.

    The big problem is they have already seemingly defined a box, that box is supposedly $30MM. That is neither a plan nor a solution, it is more like a random goal.

    Lets say for instance the Mets could somehow wrangle away Tulowitzki from the Rockies. It would be sad if at that point the front office then subtracted his 2014 salary from their goal addition budget, vs. saying, “hey what if we now spent $35MM against next years budget, have a payroll of $101MM vs. the projected $89MM?”

    I don’t get the sense that conversation would even be allowed. And sadly I don’t think anyone would dare say, “look this makes sense given the now, and given what the market looks like for next fall going into 2015, not the projected pieces and parts that we would want then. Lets roll now.”

    I get the sense that these guys keep waiting for it to be 2000, 2001, 2002 all over again.

    • In some ways, I think the opposite it also true. To me, they’ve only focused on the long term — there’s never a short term focus. It’s never the “here and now.” Even not signing a guy, any guy, is supported by the concept that it will surely become an albatross in the hazy days of the future. And that could always be correct, so it’s unassailable (to a point).

      FWIW, I don’t see Drew happening. The cost AND the 2nd round pick seems high for a guy of that caliber.

      Lastly, I would have typed it: There is no “there” there . . . hoping that the quotation marks helped readability. But don’t feel bad, there there, there there.

      • Patrick Boegel says:

        I should have clarified one aspect, I see the minor league development process as a separate track in relation to major league roster building. Yes, certainly they intertwine and rely on each other, but they are separate tracks that need separate plans.

        What I mean by lack of a long view is that coming off of 2011, would it have been measurably better to offer Jose Reyes a long term deal and continue to have a major league competent piece, even with the dreaded injury risk (though he has played as much as Wright the last two seasons) retain draft picks and then figure out other bits and processes? It would have alleviated needing to find another part and not hindered their other arena. As it would have been smart risk taking on a guy like Cespedes or Puig, which makes the tone deaf approach to Abreu so alarming.

        Lets look at this way, we all know the payroll was at least imbalanced, that much is true. With or without Madoff, with or without Wilpon, with or without Omar Minaya there was not a balanced approach and as 2009 bore out, no plan B’s in waiting.

        But the need for waiting for Santana’s contract to expire can’t blind if there is a value in taking a short term hit for the long term planning. And that is largely what I see as happening.

        Imagine for example that in 2011, the Mets deal Carlos Beltran and that very off season there was a young star CF at age 26-27 hitting free agency. He would not have likely made the Mets a contender in 2012, but perhaps by 2013 they are significantly better and going into this offseason they are looking for just one right handed bat to compliment their roster.

        They can’t see in layers, just in the notion that Santana and Bay were the heavy contracts and vastly under performing if even on the field.

        The Mets were going to stink in 2013, at least I so no reason they would magically compete despite Terry Collins beer goggles. And yet they back loaded David Wrights contract. They did everything against the grain of intelligence there. Take a short term hit to maintain maximum balance along the way. Nope they played the Omar game.

  3. Last comment before I switch gears today: But I think if Sandy signs Choo and Peralta then the off-season will be a success.

  4. RAFF says:

    Choo and Peralta would be meaningful pieces- and they’re going to cost about $30mm per year (together)…. If I can squeeze out another 15 mil- we can probably find 200 innings (Arroyo, Saunders ??) and another “professional” outfielder.

  5. Eraff says:

    Yes…. SHOW ME!

    So far, I “Know” That…:

    1. Money is not a Problem—they have the ability to spend money to sign THE RIGHT PLAYER
    2. Surrendering a Draft Pick—a 2nd round Pick is NOT an Obstacle. They are willing to Surrender a Draft pick for THE RIGHT PLAYER.

    I know this because THEY SAID SO!

    I am ready to be comforted by the FACT that there is NOTHING that will stand in the way of getting THE RIGHT PLAYER. If it is May and they have not added THE RIGHT PLAYER I will be comforted by their tremendous commitment, as I have over the past two years when NOTHING stood in the way of THE RIGHT PLAYER.

    They are on a RELENTLESS Drive to build a team that will be Consistently Competitive…. They have a Passion to Play MEANINGFUL games in SEPTEMBER!!! Wow!—I’m Tingling!!!!!!!

    • Of course, and to be fair, should the negotiations for Choo go beyond what seems reasonable to Sandy — wherever that line is — 7 years, $125 million, whatever — or if the process just gets ugly — then passing on Choo might be the valid, wise decision. It’s not Choo or Ellsbury at all costs. Right? Or is it? To me, Choo is not Carlos Beltran of 2005. I’m not even convinced he’s a great player. (Though I’d sure like to have him.)

      As fans we can differentiate between a hard run at a guy and a fake, half-hearted show of it. This will be fascinating to watch, and possibly heart-breaking. Where is the line in the Sand/y?

      • RAFF says:

        Neither Choo nor Ellsbury are Beltran of 2005 vintage. If the Mets walk away from bidding that is going North of 6 or 7 years and $150- 160 Mil- or something similarly outrageous, I’m going to be ok with it, as long as they bring in 3 or 4 real major league players and begin to form a respectable team. Ultimately, the young pitching and player Development has to keep kicking in its share of players, too. I want to evidence a plan and a commitment.

        • Patrick Boegel says:

          Ellsbury has all the look and feel of a guy Scott Boras is going to hang on a stupid owner with one of his binders. Very good player but will never last as a $20MM+ 7-8 year guy that he is probably going to net from someone. His performance ceiling is more similar to 2013 than to 2011 when he had a mammoth year.

          Hard to say where the line is with Choo, is he going to get paid in the Pence range or can Boras hoodwink someone else?

          I fear the plan is, never be wrong. Trading Carlos Beltran for a top prospect, bravo, there is no way that trade at the time makes anything but perfect sense. Trading Dickey last year given the return, same.

          But right now, there is nothing evident that says willing to take any meaningful risk. And that calls all the way back to the fall of 2010.

          • John Delcos just wrote a piece that says I’d offer Choo 2 years at $28.2 million and stop there. Kind of bizarre. Says the Mets will not exceed 4 years for the 31-year-old outfielder. Fun fact: Choo has earned a total of $17.5 million over his entire career.

  6. RAFF says:

    Thanks, Eric…- I put a check next to your name in the “ALL-IN” column. Thanks for your words of support. Best Regards- SANDY

  7. Eric says:

    I believe Choo is worth over paying (by definition—all Free Agents are sort of over payed) because he fills so many holes—and we need to wrap our brains around the fact that Salary levels now place All Star level “dabblers” in the 15-20 million dollar bracket…easily!

    Choo is a Hunter Pense, Jason Werth Comp…straight out! He fills a Lefty need. He’s a High obp/ ops gap power guy…decent speed and can spot at CF (a little bit). 100 million over 5 is a pretty good value—110 for 5?….I think the 5 years is more important than the $’s.

    Choo….. Peralta…. David Murphy…Dioner Navaro…. a “lucky” #4/5 pitcher—–

    20…………..10……………8………………….3……………………8….. 49 million

    They get an extra 25 million from MLB…this SHOULD be doable……. and it makes a Pennant Contender….it sacrifices NOTHING of young talent…..

    Trade Murph and a “prospect” for a Joc Peterson Type…… that cuts the David Murphy idea…and eliminates the Dan Murphy 5 Million—– that’s a “sort of” 35 million Net Add to Payroll—– Again—possible pennant contender.

  8. Dave says:

    The Carter speech falls under the political maxim that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. That speech was nothing if not honest, but Americans don’t want their president to depress them.

    I doubt we will get the same level of honesty from the Mets owners and management about their intentions this off season. Beyond that, this is not an exciting free agent class. Cano is the only “special” talent and the Yankees seem determined to make a stupid offer to keep him. Ellsbury is a good and versatile talent, but not a $18-$20 million a year type of guy. Granderson or Peralta will be this year’s George Foster…I’m depressed so I’ll stop typing.

  9. Eric says:

    John Delcos is more out of touch than THE TROIKA!!!! There is NO MARKET at 14.5/2 for Choo—it’s an indefensible position—— If you don’t like the guy’s game, fine…..you just PASS.

  10. RAFF says:

    John Delcos is suggesting that the Mets publicly humiliate themselves by offering $14 mil for 2 years… Is the idea to parody Austin Powers Blackmail Broadcast in which he threatens to destroy the world if he is not paid 1 MILLION DOLLARS? BTW – someone should pass a note over to “The Boss”>>>Seattle is not a “hitter’s park” . All that said, I’m more comfortable with Choo over a longer contract period than Ellsbury. Ellsbury’s exceptional skill is his speed. Choo’s skill is more with the bat- and it’s likely to endure a longer period. It’s going to take 5 or 6 years. That’s the deal- That’s the Market. $18-21 Mil per…

  11. Michael Geus says:

    The 2014 offseason is so daunting because the Mets chose to sit out the 2013 offseason. No matter the player we passed, with the implied logic being given that it didn’t matter as the 2013 team was going to be bad no matter what.

    The problem with this logic is there is never an infinite amount of available major league free agents, etc. to be picked up at your choosing. Not with every other team involved in the process every year.

    If we had signed a solid player or two last offseason the team might have only been marginally better. But we would be much better prepared to turn things around now.

    Not making mistakes by doing nothing is in itself a mistake.

    Now we are where we are. I would say that even if we are aggressive it will take quite a bit of good fortune to be relevant in 2014.

    This is the bed that was made.

  12. RAFF says:

    Michael – I agree with everything you said. Being relevant is about Moving Forward, I think, The Mets enter 2014 with 3 HOLES> Shortstop, LF & RF. They also enter with 3 Question Marks> 1B, CF, and Catcher. I think we need to settle our expectations- The “Question Marks” will be filled with IKE, D’Arnaud, and Lagares. The HOLES need to be filled, immediately, with Proven Major League Talent. If we can get Shoo – GREAT! Perraulta or Drew- Great! But there will be competition, as you point out, for these guys. If we cannot get them, we need to settle on getting some semblance of a major league roster on the field. Guys we can use now and guys who we might be able to trade, later, as our needs and “assets”, in terms of young emerging talent, reveal themselves. We might find an opportunity and a choice to be made in terms of trading established players and prospects. We might find ourselves with opportunities at the trading deadline or after. Relevance will be established when the Mets make MOVES in ALL of these areas, continuously, throughout the coming year- Beginning with the acquisition of 2-3-or 4 proven Major League Players, prior to the opening of Spring Training. We all understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but as far as I am concerned- I want to see some bricks laid, pronto.

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