Grading Sandy: Finding a Balance Between Accountability and Realistic Expectations

2014-WallpaperMike:

We have been doing this blog for over a year now. Up until recently both of us considered 2014 a pivotal year for the team on the field. Lately, you have had a change of heart, and have expressed an opinion that it would be unfair for fans to expect any material change in the team’s won and loss record before 2015. There is nothing wrong with someone changing their mind, and you are not the type of guy to do so on a whim. So what were the factors that led you to this conclusion?

Jimmy:

I don’t think “unfair” ever entered my vocabulary on the subject. I’d substitute the word “unrealistic.” But you are correct, my tune has changed somewhat. From the beginning, 2014 was supposed to be the year. That’s what they told us. Money coming off the books, three years of development, and so on. From that day forward, Sandy would be held accountable. It’s time to win!

Yet here we here, early March of 2014, and I think the team projected for Flushing is only okay. Nothing great. I don’t see 85 wins with this current group.

I guess part of it is simple, I accept reality. There was nothing magical to the year 2014 — it’s just a number — and the truth is that it takes more than three years to turn around a farm system to the point where the talent infuses the major league team. In that sense, 2014 was always a fantasy.

Mike:

Sandy did not inherit an expansion team. Stars such as Beltan, Dickey, and Reyes were around. CarlosBeltranWallpaper-1He inherited these players and three full years with a free pass on winning. To his credit he turned two of them into three major prospects. In my mind all three, including Syndergaard, can be of great help to the 2014 team. Sandy did not just have time, he had real assets.

As for accepting reality, what will happen will happen. Whether or not I think this year’s team, or next year’s team, is going to be any good does not dictate how long I think it should take for this team to improve on the field. Sandy was hired in 2010. I thought it would take until 2014 for this team to succeed. If this team was great last year that would have been the reality. At that point I would have recognized how fantastic it was that success was accomplished faster. If they are bad this year it’s only logical that I use the same standards and consider that a failure. It’s all nothing more than opinion, obviously I have no power over the team, but if I move the goalposts I need a reason. That’s me. And Harvey’s injury isn’t enough for me. I love Harvey, and acknowledge how great he was last year, but if a successful long-term plan revolves around one pitcher it is a very flawed plan. To be clear, Sandy Alderson never uses Harvey’s injury as an excuse. I applaud that and agree with him.

Jimmy:

In terms of payroll, when it became clear that Fred was not going to spend, then it really limited the amount Sandy could upgrade the roster. Its possible that he was operating under a different set of assumptions. Reallocating $30 million isn’t what it used to be, especially when you are trying to fill the shoes of a productive right fielder and Matt Harvey just to break even.

So I’m left with a sense that 2014 is simply not realistic. I could get mad about that. I could demand things, throw chairs, say it’s not acceptable, or whatever.┬áBut I think the reality is this team is set up for 2015. And, in fact, I think they are extremely well positioned to make that run — a year from now.

And I don’t think any of that changes whether the Mets win 85 or 75 games this season. Because what are we talking about? Whether Dice-K bombs out of the box? Whether Farnsworth disappoints? Whether Chris Young has a comeback or not? I don’t give a crap about any of those guys, I don’t think they mean much in terms of the mission, except that maybe we get to trade one of them at the deadline.

I just don’t see the “or else” in this equation about 2014. If they don’t win 85 this year, it won’t change the basic picture in my eyes.

Sandy once compared this process to shopping for a house. I didn’t like that, and never loved his pace. But today I’ll compare it to building a house. Or maybe hiring a contractor to build a big extension. Have you ever experienced that? Three things: 1) It sucks; 2) It often takes longer than they estimated; and 3) The only thing that matters is the finished work.

noah-syndergaard1I feel, today, that the finished work is going to be pretty impressive. I love a core of Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard and a powerful, homegrown bullpen. However, that won’t be in place until next year, realistically.

Now we can complain about the pace — drafting HS guys instead of college guys — bringing prospects along slowly instead of quickly — the Super 2 fixation, the loss of revenue, all sorts of things. It’s been a mixed bag with Sandy. Even the free agents he’s signed have ranged from highly questionable to disastrous.

But some things, such as the foundation work, can’t be rushed. A year from now, for example, I think we’ll be well-positioned to trade for a shortstop. Today, not so much. At best, I believe we’d be selling our stock short; the value of these prospects will generally rise. Not everyone, but overall, yes, that’s my take. I think it’s a mistake to trade too soon.

To use another favorite metaphor, I’ve written that the fruit on the farm hasn’t ripened yet. Now we can point to our calendars and say, “Look! It was supposed to be ready! It’s 2014 and I’m hungry!”

But, what can I say? Taste it. The fruit’s not ready. It just isn’t. But look at this tree, the branches laden with promise. Picking it now would be short-sighted. 2014 was an artificial deadline written in the sand of 2011. I accept that 2015 is the new date.

Mike:

I will have to accept whatever happens. If it is failure I have to accept failure. That wouldn’t change the fact that it is failure to me.

You wrote all the same things about needing another year for the fruit to ripen a year ago. You said it would take a year then. If it’s still not ready it might be bad fruit. Or a farmer who refuses to pick ripe fruit. I look at players like Syndergaard, Montero, and Lagares and do not see players who need more time. I see players who need a forward thinking organization who will utilize them. And if they are held back to the detriment of the major league team I’m going to hold the people making those decisions responsible.

Jimmy:

I am with you on that. With Lagares, I like him better than the organization does, so I want him in CF every day. Let’s find out, you know. Montero should be up. Regarding Syndergaard, I understand the Super 2 aspects here and there is also the innings count limits. I think he’s around 145-150 this year; and he’s yet to throw an inning at Triple-A. I’m curious to see how they manage him. There’s a line of thought that says to keep the work load light in Vegas, so that when the Mets bring him up they don’t have to immediately shut him down. The truth is, I wanted Harvey up, I wanted Wheeler up. Now with Mejia and Montero in line, I can wait on Syndergaard. I think Sandy and the Super Friends have worn me down a little. But mostly, it comes down to this: I don’t think it’s about 2014.

Mike:

No one on the Mets management team works for me. What will happen will happen and I will not fat golfer 2get a vote. I’ve already said that it is my opinion that Sandy Alderson deserves to be GM for the length of his contract no matter what takes place in 2014. I always take my Mulligan, Sandy deserves the same consideration. 2015 would then be that year. I can’t agree that he wouldn’t be using that Mulligan. And I surely would not extend him until and unless the New York Mets are winning on the field.

But I’m not ready to declare this team dead for 2014. I’m not as sure as you that is a fantasy. A topic for another day, perhaps?

Jimmy:

Hey, I didn’t say they are dead. There is always a chance in baseball. Teams and players surprise us — and I’m very willing to be surprised. But the truth is, I’m not seeing an organization that is operating as if 2014 is the key year. I think Sandy is shooting for improvement, regardless of the spin in the papers.

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13 comments

  1. First, I know feel really silly for having thrown that chair.

    2014 is going to be critical on so many levels. The farm system is either going to take a major leap forward or the Wilpons on going to have to get in on all the scary contracts happening in baseball right now.

    The thing is about a good farm system, is it grades out better when you have a strong stockpile you have developed and the truth is, the gems or at least diamonds in the rough appearing through the Mets system, lets call them Harvey, Wheeler, d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, all have something in common. None were drafted by the Mets current band of high paid ties. Often I’ve been told that does not matter, but materially it does because at some point they have no more veterans to turn into ringers. That point arrived in 2013. Sure Vic Black and the kid 2B they got from Pittsburgh might become important pieces, but that remains to be seen, and you don’t find a team that has not made the playoffs in two decades at the alter each July.

    Need to see dividends from Nimmo, Plawecki, Montero, pulses from Cecchini and others.

    It disappoints me the goal posts have moved, and moreover that the Mets payroll with deferments factored in is basically in the bottom five of the entire league. Many teams made huge leaps and when you factor how much the Mets have sat back ideal, their drop from $140MM is astonishing. And the lemmings have bought it hook, line and Sandy.

  2. ERAFF says:

    Sandy’s catchphrase upon entry was “Money ball…with Money!” I don’t buy his “baseball pedigree” or that of his assistants, but the Mets’ Baseball operation has been a One Note Drone—- Purge and Draft. Free Agency and Trades have been almost non-existent.

    Recently, they’ve signed a couple of Free Agents… Echoing the “lower echelon spending” comments—how can a fan be encouraged by the financial capacity/willingness of this operation?

    This is an Ownership Problem. I don’t buy Sandy’s ability to do “more with less”, but I don’t believe anyone can make Chicken Liver from Chicken Shit.

    • Harvey, Syndergaard, Wheeler. That’s no joke. Make the playoffs with that group. Go up against those guys in a short series. Add a hard-throwing, homegrown (cheap) bullpen. Add a bat or two.

      True, there’s an ownership problem. True, there have been mistakes and sources of frustration. True, Sandy has been content to suck, though he could never say it out loud.

      But in 2015, with those guys, the Mets could make a serious charge for the brass ring.

  3. There is so much to be unhappy about, Patrick. The genesis for this post was simple, and is up top, Mike’s wondering why I no longer felt that 2014 was the critical year. The most troubling, tone-deaf aspect right now for this team is: Where’s the Youth Movement? What’s the point of a pipeline if you clog it with worn-out veterans? Here are some guys I’ve personally been most interested in this Spring: Montero, Mejia, Syndergaard, Familia, Lagares, Flores. And today, reading between the lines, every single one of them will be down in AAA or screwed out of a greater opportunity to play and develop. It’s depressing. Or, I don’t know, some opposite of “joy.” When you consider the situation at SS, the fact that the team does not have a SS, and the guy we have as #1 is injury prone, well, that’s the opposite of joy, too. All that said: Harvey comes back next season. Synderdergaard will be in the rotation. And so on. I finally think some pieces will come together, and that they’ll have the assets to trade that have been lacking. BTW, KC has had one of the best farm systems in baseball and they can’t win. Moore says it’s a 10-year job. I should also mention that I’m hopeful about Smith at 1B and Rosario at SS. And Puello, it’s hard to figure why he doesn’t get the love. People talk like the PEDs thing is a negative, but I always say: It “enhances performance.” And that shit lasts. It may have been the edge he needed to get over the hump.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      I guess if i believed that some of the young guys were going to be given a fair shake to take a spot I would be more jazzed, but it feels like the 2014 Mets will not be allowed to begin until roughly June 15th, on or about Super 2 day, plus or minus.

      There is no question Harvey, Syndergaard and Wheeler could be a formidable trio. Though I am and have been far less bullish on Wheeler he strikes me as stuff without the moxy. On the flipside I am intrigued by Montero. In the end hopefully some bare fruit on the Mets and some bare fruit via trades.

      I guess the thing that just makes me nauseous (other than my spelling) is the fact that we had a bird in hand in Lagares, and as you mention another in Puello, no shortstops, but we sign Young. Confusing. I did not like the Colon signing, but at least that made sense in the grand scheme of things.

      It feels like MLB is playing Chess, but the Mets are playing Trouble, on a Chessboard.

      I am painfully aware that the Mets can’t count on prospects to save them either, what I am hoping for is that they can get enough stockpiled that they can flip many of them for established talent.

    • Reese Kaplan says:

      I’m not intentionally trying to make you more depressed, James, but out of morbid curiosity I checked to see which players on today’s opponent, the Atlanta Braves, broke camp with them as rookies. The list includes Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis and Julio Teheran.

      Contrast that with the Mets who allowed 31 year old rookie Scott Rice to come north.

      All of it has to do with the whole Super Two boondoggle and I just penned a column called “A Very Grim Fairy Tale” at Mack’s Mets Report you might enjoy in that regard:

      http://macksmets.blogspot.com/2014/03/reese-kaplan-very-grim-fairy-tale.html

      Keep up the good fight. Maybe someday they’ll realize that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is a one-way ticket to Bellevue (or, if you are the Mets front office, a contract extension for declining results).

  4. Patrick Boegel says:

    One last thing I want to say for today. I turned on the TV yesterday, and from some demented pavlovian like expectation thought I would see a Mets game, perhaps on the Mets Channel. Then flipped to the CW. Then realized the Mets as has been their MO the last couple of years can’t even throw a bone to fans to get them interested in seeing some players compete for spots in the spring.

    Painful.

    • I figured for sure that Syndergaard would be on today. But, oh well.

      Overall, I think we’re in agreement. Lately I’ve been going for the glass half-full thing, an approach I surely can’t sustain.

      • Reese Kaplan says:

        My glass half full (of tequila) is going to get me through a long summer. The only saving grace is that the still-under-construction stadium for the newly minted El Paso Chihuahuas (I kid you not!) is walking distance from my office. The former Tucson Padres will host the Las Vegas 51s twice during the upcoming season, so I will have a connection to Mets baseball for once since moving here in 2006. Of course, it should be a helluva team with Syndergaard, Montero, de Grom, Gorski and others in the rotation, Walters, Kolarek, Church and probably Mejia in the pen, Flores on the infield, Puello, Lawley and others in the OF…too bad there won’t be equivalent talent in Queens.

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