Losing Is One Thing, Not Trying Is Another

Mets NationalsThere were some good things and bad things again during the season’s first homestand. Some positive surprises, so far so good, Jose Valverde. Negative surprises too, goodbye and good luck Bobby Parnell. What was not a surprise, again, was that Citi Field was empty and dreary. For yet another year, people are not buying what the Mets are selling. But not only are fans not buying it, there continues to be an undercurrent of disgust and anger.

The number one reason is obvious enough, the Mets have not been in the playoffs since 2006,

The "crowd" on Saturday, via Mets Police

The “crowd” on Saturday, via Mets Police

at a time in baseball history when making the playoffs has become much easier than in the past. Winning would certainly change this situation. But even though the team has staggered for years now, I do not think the record on the field is the total problem. When it comes to consistent sellouts, and demand for tickets like the Mets had from 2006-2008, yes, you need a very good team to achieve those levels. But the depths we see these days, the ballpark a sea of green empty seats daily, is something I could not have imagined a few years ago. Of all the teams in the major leagues last year, only three were calculated to have lost value in 2013, the Astros, the Marlins and the Mets.

I read a nice article by Ken Davidoff about the problem the other day, and think Ken did a good job of illustrating a point that is not made enough, that there is a severe disconnect between what the Mets charge and what they spend. There has become a perception that Mets fans are a bunch of whiners when they lament the size of the current payroll. Mets fans are mocked for expecting the team to spend. However, as Ken shows, those very same Mets fans are expected to pay, and pay big. That math doesn’t add up and creates ill will with the customers.

However, today I don’t want to only focus on payroll. As long as these owners are in place and revenues do not rise, it probably can’t go up. That is a joke, but not so easy to fix. But payroll is not the only problem right now which is eradicating goodwill with Mets fans. There is a factor that is a lot more controllable than expecting an owner drowning in debt to find money under a pillow. I want to talk about the good old “Year of Control” and “Super 2.”

The Mets GM, Sandy Alderson, has no large-market experience. As a trained lawyer, he knows how to read the CBA, and he has a full grasp on how to save expenses. And as every Mets fan Parlor Trickswatching knows, Sandy has instituted a system-wide process to attempt to hold down potential Mets players’ salaries as long into the future as possible. It’s a nice parlor trick, and it is not against the rules. Years from now, we can look at all the players Sandy is currently holding back and figure out how much money he saved. For now, of course, it is nothing more than an estimate, as without a crystal ball it cannot be calculated, and will be dictated by player performances that have not occurred yet. I do think that Alderson, no dummy, has data, and an estimating model.

It all is logical, and unless our farm system ends up really blowing, there should be some money saved in the future. But this is not San Diego, and as Davidoff mentions, fans here are not being charged like it is. And those fans, who already have no choice but to swallow the fact that the owners cannot properly fund everyday operations, are also being asked to swallow a GM who refuses to put the best 25 men in the organization on the field. This is true even though the men he keeps holding back would make the major league minimum right now.

I don’t know how that plays in the sticks, but fans here get it. The front office is not making It's a wonderful lifeevery attempt to field a winning team. These are the same fans already dealing with the payroll/cost of a game discrepancy. Well, those fans are Omar Quintanillagetting more and more angry, and it’s like the deal in It’s a Wonderful Life. Only, it’s not every time a bell rings an angel gets it wings; It’s every time Omar Quintanilla gets sent up to hack a Mets fan vows to never go back. Losing is one thing, not trying is another.

I think Sandy Alderson does not understand the market this team operates in, and the owners have huge short-term financial problems. It’s a bad combination, and it has combined to create nothing short of a mess. Because when all is said and done we all know baseball is a business. The Forbes results are just another example showing that the Wilpon/Alderson duo does not understand how to run it. A National League baseball team decreasing in value in New York is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Can it all still work out? If the team begins to win consistently, things are going to improve. However, there is a deep mistrust between the Mets and their fans, a mistrust the team has worked hard to earn.

How quickly that can be changed is hard to say and will bear watching.

 

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29 comments

  1. Mets fans, even the brightest among them have been amazingly gullible. Lest anyone think I throw wiffle balls in glass houses, I was amazingly gullible about the Wilpons for YEARS!

    But when the moves went down in the fall of 2010, I had a healthy dose of skepticism regarding Alderson and crew. Lets call it Guarded Optimistic Distrust.

    However, I found many fans since that time pledge their loyalty to the “Adults Are in the Room” mantra, this silly thematic idea that was borrowed for an equally grotesque world, politics.

    Those same folks are only now suddenly getting a touch restless. The writing has been on the wall at least since the winter of 2011-2012 in pretty clear and bold strokes, but it is as if they are just now waking up to the surprise of reality.

  2. I think the Tories will point to 2015, which really should be a turn-around year, and say, “See! Patience!”

    And my reply is that, “Well, there are no guarantees in this life, or this game.”

    But mostly, it didn’t have to be this bad. Sandy’s “Way” was not the only course. In some respects, he got lucky with Wheeler and Syndergaard (but, fair is fair, he pulled those deals off). He inherited Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Dickey, Mejia, Ike, Duda, Murphy, Lagares, etc).

    Once the guys who should already be called up are, in fact, called up, the Mets farm system falls back into the middle of the road in terms of talent. Draft & development under the 3 Amigos not been a stunning success.

    The bullpens have not had to suck for four straight years, etc., and the overall play on the field did not have to be such an afterthought. The failing of the business has been a huge problem, and Sandy Alderson has played a huge part in that loss of revenue.

    But still, 2015, Harvey & Syndergaard, should be better. Yet it won’t be “amazin'” unless he swings a few deals and makes some hard decisions. Seems like 4 of the starting 8 positions will be up for grabs: 1B, 2B, SS, and LF.

    I lack faith that he’s the GM to bring the Mets to the finish line. And I’m sure he’s not the right batting coach.

  3. IB says:

    The Quintanilla reference is beautiful. If I had to guess, I’d say Alderson would rather make every fan puke rather than sign a Boras client that would certainly, at least, seem like an attempt at really trying. (Tish tosh Scott, I’m a Harvard man. Away with you.) To me that could easily infer he doesn’t give 2 sh-ts about the fan base and maybe that even extends to the franchise itself. How ‘bout, baseball while we’re at it. Too harsh?

  4. Wonderful article guys. Not enough is made out of what still goes on behind the curtain in the Mets’ owners box and Mets front office. Talking about what’s on the field is pointless until the cancer in the owner’s box is eradicated.

  5. Reese Kaplan says:

    I’m thinking Sandy is more like the post jump-in-the-river Mr. Gower, drunk, incoherent and being regularly humiliated by people who at one time were his friends. Maybe he’s never recovered from letting Jose Reyes walk away without even making an offer.

    Nah, come to think of it, the incoherent one would be Collins. Alderson is more Clarence, fumbling and bumbling but perhaps despite his efforts, leading the team to the goal of contention in 2015.

  6. wkkortas says:

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep your young players under control as long as possible–it’s better sense, both in terms of economics and baseball results, to have relatively inexpensive players in their prime as opposed to players that you have to cough up huge sums of money for as a result of what they did in their primes. I would agree that there is a signiicant lack of vision in the Mets’ front office right now; they’re not really looking to rebuild, but it’s hard to say that the club is really making a committed effort to being competitive right now. Really, I wouldn’t even say that Sandy is not acting like a small-market GM right now; there’s no obivous attempt to create a club that’s poised toward 2015 or 2016 or whatever, no sense that a rebuild is underway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–what the Mets put me in mind of now is the Pirates circa 2005 under the stewardship of Dave Littlefield, where the goal seemed to be win 75 games in order to keep him employed for another year, and, if you’re a Met fan, that should scare the living hell out of you.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      See but their is a core problem with the assertion of “it’s better sense, both in terms of economics and baseball results, to have relatively inexpensive players in their prime as opposed to players that you have to cough up huge sums of money for…”

      That is this, when waiting for June X 2014, to be better positioned for April 2021 is insane prognostication of future events.

      Look at Travis d’Arnaud last season, he was tabled for super 2, got hurt on a foul ball and missed most of 2013 as it was.

      Look at Matt Harvey, the Mets waited until he was super 2 guy, now he is missing all of 2014 as is.

      So the core problem is that the super 2 dance works under the assumption that all will be well.

      It is a good practice to consider in the event that you already have a strong competitive team with a great minor league development approach, something the Cardinals and Rays, teams with entirely different economic forces on them are able to do nicely currently. But the Ray also play risk reward well and extremely quickly with their talented players, as do the Cardinals. They PAY these guys and assume some risk. It is not really hard right now to see the Mets “use” their youth and then let it go elsewhere vs taking any risk.

      When you are a totally irrelevant team that has LOST a generation of fans you can’t sit back and gaze into the ball of 2019, 2020, 2021.

      If you are not going to bring in players you better damn well use the ones you have.

      • wkkortas says:

        Part of keeping young players under control is doing what the Jays have done, and what the Pirates have done with Andrew McCutchen, and what the Indians have done with Jason Kipnis–I don’t think there’s any question that those actions make more sense than giving Curtis Granderson 60 mil and hoping he’s still THAT Curtis Granderson. If the Mets don’t lock up their young players, that’s afialure of vision, not an invalidation of what other clubs have done.

        • Patrick Boegel says:

          I’m assuming you meant Rays and not Jays.

          That being said for the Indians and Pirates, locking up Kipnis and McCutchen will mean nothing materially if they can’t surround them with good players.

  7. [...] taken in handling the 1st base assignment. Michael Geus of 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball wrote about the disconnect between the fan base and this team and how Alderson needs to step up and make a move and not let this season go down the drain. John [...]

  8. Eraff says:

    I’m still trying to absorb the “Math” of paying a 41 year old pitcher $20 million bucks over the next two years versus a year of “early arbitration” for Montero—What!???

  9. Michael Geus says:

    Baseball is a business, and I believe every owner first and foremost wants to make as much money as possible. The question is, what is the smartest way to do that?

    If you are the Pirates, Rays, or A’s you know no matter what happens you can only generate so much revenue. So, delaying a rebuild “costs” you X in lost revenue every year that goes on. A four year rebuild hurts revenue more than a three year rebuild, and so on. But how much lost revenue depends on what you can achieve in that market. And for these teams it might be worth the lost revenue to go slower on the process if the expense savings from the Super 2 dance are high enough.

    But those potential savings are basically static for every team. New York, L.A., Boston, or Tampa Bay, players are awarded the same contract in arbitration. Not so the revenue. Bigger markets have much larger revenue opportunities.

    Therefore what makes sense in Tampa does not make sense in New York. It is not the same equation. Notice that Boston has Xander Boegerts up and contributing right now. Hell, I have never once in my life even seen the words “Super 2″ associated with a Yankees prospect. They play in the same market as the New York Mets.

    Not spending on free agents because an owner is broke is unavoidable. You can’t spend what you don’t have. But a big market GM not using his best roster, maybe even inflating the current expenses (Bartolo Colon) to save expenses years down the road? I don’t understand that math.

    Forbes listed the following numbers for teams revenue in 2014:

    Tampa Bay – 181 million
    Pittsburgh – 204 million
    Mets – 238 million
    L.A. Dodgers – 293 million
    Boston – 357 million
    Yankees – 461 million

    The revenue Tampa and Pittsburgh can generate is dwarfed by the winning big market teams. Why they do what they do in regards to Super 2 is clear. But the Mets play in the same type of market as the big boys on that list, and the other teams get their young players up and producing as soon as they are ready. Not because they are smarter or dumber than the small market teams. Because they are different.

    Sandy doesn’t understand market economics.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      I think that is where Sandy’s hands are tied. When he came on board he talked of needing to clean some things out but then being eager to be able to spend a reasonable amount on player acquisition. A notion that has all but faded.

      When you compare the revenue model the Rays have and consider their aggressiveness with the likes of Longoria, Moore, Cobb, they get it. They actually gave Longoria a nice guaranteed deal around 16 days after his major league career began. They used the system, but then also took a calculated risk to extend him ridiculously early.

      Couple that with the Mets being completely asleep at the wheel on the international market.

      He expected to have money and with each passing season found out the bank was empty.

      That the organization was caught off guard about how much money was going to start flowing all over the place this winter shows a fundamental disconnect across the board.

      Prices are scary, remember.

    • wkkortas says:

      I think one of the reasons you never see the term “Super 2″ associated with a Yankees prospect is that nobody (save possibly Gary Sanchez) in their system is worth worrying about burning a year of arbitration over, plus the Yankees aren’t interested in anybody under the age of 30 anyhow.

      Look, I would not argue for one minute that it’s not mind-boggling that the New York Mets should have to be counting paper clips and re-using manila folders. Still, that’s the current reality, and this club, dreary and unremarkable as it may be, is what it is. Now ask yourself–is there any realistic chance that this club is going to finish ahead of the Nats and the Braves? Realistically, there ain’t. Now having said that, is there a realistic chance at the Mets winning a wild card slot? If you slot the Mets into 3rd in the East, that assumes that either the Braves or Nats is one of the wild card teams, so now the Mets have to better than some combination of the Cards, Reds, Pirates, Giants or Dodgers and maybe the D-Backs or the Rockies as well. Let’s face it–the chances of the Mets being in the post-season with the current group is pretty much nil, and if you look at the post-season odds projecitons at places like BP or FanGraphs, they mirror that likelihood or lack therof.

      Now , let’s say you start the season with Syndergaard or Montero on the roster as opposed to bringing them up in June; what have you gained–the prospect of winning 78 games instead of 74? If you don’t have a realistic chance of competing, why piss away an arbitration year for some quixotic march to be mediocre? There are times–with good reason–why you don’t start the season with your best possible roster if that best possible roster can’t compete for the postseason.

      • Eraff says:

        All of this “we ain’t winning this season” stuff is enraging….and ILL INFORMED!!!! You BUILD winners. Players need to fail…especially young players. They need to fail when they are ready to fail at the next level. That pretty much covers Montero—and it applied to d’Arnaud last year….and it will apply to a slew of guys.

        Further…you just keep saying that stuff and you just erode yourself. You skip one thing…and another…and another becasue “hey—this shit doesn’t count”… ya know what—It NEEDS TO COUNT!!! ….or you never get their.

        • wkkortas says:

          You build winners by keepign your talent together, not by crapping away a season of cost-control to finish within a couple games of .500.

          • I hear your point, WK, but I believe this mentality is in part what has led to the sad, bleak erosion of the franchise and all the empty seats. It really is painful to see what has happened to the Mets. They keep sacrificing the “Here & Now” in favor of the “Future Maybe.” Again, I don’t think it had to be this bad, and the loser’s mentality — from ownership & the GM — is truly the culture that has to change. Sandy talks 90 wins because, he says, it’s important to change the conversation. It’s a lie, of course. What needs to change is his approach to the here and now, because that’s when all the games are played.

          • Patrick Boegel says:

            You BUILD winners by being multi dimensional. By being able to see in a dimension other than a mythical future that is built purely on maybe and if, that is to say you can’t always wait until 2016 to add the piece you need in 2016.

            Perfect examples:

            When the New York Mets acquired Keith Hernandez in June of 1983 they were not thinking about 1986, they were thinking about getting a real baseball player in immediately.

            When the Yankees dealt for Paul O’Niell and signed Jimmy Key and Wade Boggs they were not thinking about 1996, they were thinking about 1993.

            And part of the process of the thinking about putting the best product on the field means not living in some artificial bubble. If players who are restrained by Super 2 are as good as they are cracked out to be, you are going to try and buyout their free agency anyway.

            In the meantime it takes more than a string of Super 2 deadlines to put together a team, and right now that seems to be the lone Met objective, avoid Super 2 for guys they think are going to be great that we should want to pay anyhow if they pan out.

  10. IB says:

    Eraff – I’m with you on this all the way. The assumption that the Mets stink anyway has no basis in reality and won’t until they actually do stink, Fangraphs be damned (!!!!). It counts. Now.

  11. Raff says:

    I think fielding your best roster is always positive towards building a winning “mentality”, but there’s also the very important issue that many if not most young players don’t immediately just explode on the scene and succeed from the get-go. . It’s important to allow them some real time on the major league roster and some real experience in order to fail, rebound, make adjustments, Maybe EVEN to go down to the minors again, and ultimately become productive. This thought that bringing up the young prospects is just a waste really doesn’t consider this. Mike Trout needed to come up, fail, then go back down before he became Superman. This is more often true than not. The sooner they bring up the prospects who are ready for a “taste”, the sooner an assesmet of further developmental needs can be made. It spees the process toward actually being good

  12. Don P says:

    Part of the reason that the Met fans react differently than, say the Pirates fans, is BECAUSE of the Yankees. The Pirates are a one team town. The Yankees are here and every move they make is trumpeted and praised. Even when they fail they are praised for trying. Although it is wrong to measure the Mets against the Yankees, it is impossible not to look at them and wonder, why can’t we do that?

  13. Raff says:

    Well- the Mets can’t do what the Yankees do, because they don’t have the money. And apparently, they need permissions from their lenders to spend whatever they do have. What has really been revealed is their miscalculation of the degree to which their revenues would be negatively impacted by the product they put on the field. Moreover, the lack of excitement the fan base has expressed toward the free-agents they picked up is palpable. The fans want to move into the future- and Management and their financial over-lords are denying them. Fans resent being held prisoner to empty promises and orchestrated PR Leaks: “We Better win 90″… Specifically- I think that most fans understand that no matter how well CYoung or Colon perform. these acquisitions don’t, by definition, provide any potential long-term solution to making the team better, long-term. The fans understand this. Both are viewed as “one & done” players. If Colon performs well, he’ll probably be gone before taking part in any future success. No matter how CYoung plays- he is gone. Granderson, whether you like him or not, is the only acquisition which provides a potential long-term solution. From that narrow viewpoint, I can get excited about him. The other “long-term-solutions”– the players being held down in abeyance, cynically, to secure their Super-Two’s and in order to secure another year of options are not available to pump up fan interest in the future of the team. The fans have clearly spoken- The Mets are withholding our view of the future. Whether this tone-deaf pack of management and their financial ‘over-lords” can hear them is dubious. But what they are hearing, loud and clear- at the turnstiles, the refreshment stands, the media revenue, and in licensing sales is>>> This Is Not Good Enough.

  14. […] entire system is barren, there are arms in this organization. I wrote a post early in the season, Losing is One Thing, Not Trying is Another. It’s way too early in the season to pack it in. These moves are a breath of fresh air, […]

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