Today is Black Friday, and I am stuck at work with nothing to do.Â That’s right, not a single piece of work has filtered in for me to do, and it’s a pretty nice autumn day out, and I’m stuck at my work computer with no actual work.Â This is putting me in a not-so-great mood to begin with.Â But doing some simple web surfing, sometimes you find some articles written about the Mets so mind-numbingly stupid, you thank the Good Lord you have a Mets blog devoted to ripping apart pieces of literature like this.Â Thanks, Wallace Matthews.Â You just helped me kill part of my day.
On the joyous occasion of Thanksgiving Day, let us take a moment to thank the New York Mets.
That’s a good idea, Wallace.Â I mean, after all, last year they were a hair away from making their first World Series in six years, they had the best record in the National League, and were a genuinely fun team to watch from April to October.Â Not a bad idea at all.
Last week, the club gleefully announced its sweetheart stadium deal that will hand over to them, rent-free, tax-free and finance-charge free, a virtually limitless source of income for the next several generations of Wilpons.
And in return, they give us Moises Alou.
Well, they needed a left fielder.Â They also did not need a long-term solution in left field, because they have a highly-regarded outfield prospect who is on the verge of being a full-time outfielder named Lastings Milledge.Â A lot of people are writing him off after the Mets signed Alou, but if the Mets really lost complete faith in Milledge, wouldn’t they have pursued a longer-term solution in left?Â Anyway, I’m getting off-track; the Alou deal was perfectly reasonable.Â It’s a one year deal for a bargain, considering what lesser-lights like Juan Pierre and Garry Matthews are getting; I’d be willing to bet Alou out-performs both of them, and for less.
And Jose Valentin. And Orlando Hernandez. And let us not forget Damion Easley.
Well, they fill holes, again on the cheap.Â Valentin is hitting eighth and playing second base; even if he doesn’t repeat what he did last year (and percentages say he won’t), he’s still the Mets’ #8 hitter, and won’t require the type of commitment a player no better, a guy like Mark Loretta or Adam Kennedy, would require.Â
Orlando Hernandez is rotation-filler; the Yankees have shown what happens when you overpay for rotation-filler (ask Yankee fans what they thought of the Jaret Wright Era).Â Damion Easley is a utility infielder.Â I mean, who cares one way or the other about the signing of a utility player?Â All in all, these were all fiscally responsible deals that fill holes the Mets needed to fill.Â They didn’t need superstars in left, at second, or in the #3 rotation hole.Â They just needed warm bodies who won’t be completely terrible.Â And oh yeah, free agency has lasted one week so far.
These four gentlemen have one important thing in common. They are all old, verging on ancient. The youngest is Easley; he turned 37 on Nov. 11, a month after Valentin. The oldest, of course, is El Duque, whose official age is also 37, but whose actual age can only be verified through carbon dating. Then there is Julio Franco, the only active Met who can get into Shea on a seniors pass.
Somewhere in the middle sits Alou, 40 years old and more importantly, healthy enough in 2006 to appear in just 98 games. That is one more than the man he is expected to replace, Cliff Floyd, who was let go because, well, he gets hurt too often and misses too many games.
The only one of those players who will be expected to play every day is Alou, and he was signed for a relative bargain compared to what other outfielders on the market were going for.Â You can bring up Cliff Floyd, but Floyd had the worst season of his career last year, and may actually have less in the tank than Alou, despite being younger.
What this means is that the Mets have done the near impossible. They have managed to find themselves an outfielder not only older than Floyd, but equally infirm.
If there is logic in this sort of thinking, it must exist on an intellectual level I am incapable of comprehending.
Have you seen the money teams are shelling out for outfielders this offseason?Â Juan Pierre got five years/$45 million, despite an OBP of .328 the past two seasons and twelve career home runs.Â Gary Matthews just had the first season of his life which could be classified as even “average,” and got 5 years/$50 million.Â Signing Alou is a risk, but it’s only a one year risk that won’t cost the Mets much money, and will give the team flexibility to go after an area they really need to upgrade (pitching).Â They didn’t need to sign offense this off-season.
Clearly, the Mets learned nothing last year about the fragility and unreliability of old bodies on a baseball field. They claim to be “building” off their near-miss/collapse (your choice) of 2006, but the only thing they are building is a nursing home. Right now, it is a toss up which will be retired first, Shea Stadium or half the Mets roster.
To kill the Mets for not being a young team is ridiculous.Â Their three best players (Wright, Reyes, and Beltran) are all under 30 years old; Wright and Reyes are both under 25 years old.Â The key players are under contract through 2009, when the Mets open CitiField; everybody else is really just filler around them.Â That’s what “building” a team means.
And you know what I call 2006?Â A near miss, because the team just missed going to the World Series.Â The Mets were tied at 1 going into the ninth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS.Â They were one or two hits away from going to the World Series.Â If you want to look for a collapse, look at the Yankees, who had the best record in baseball and lost in four games to the Tigers in the ALDS.Â To call 2006 a collapse, especially with all the key players from the offense coming back, is ridiculous.
They passed on Alfonso Soriano, who would have owned leftfield until Jeff Wilpon was old enough to shave, and if they make a big expenditure this winter, it is likely to be on Barry Zito, who at his best will merely be one more slop merchant in a rotation of junkmen.
Wait, you’re going to kill the Mets for not signing Soriano?Â Really?Â Did you look at the contract he signed?Â Â Eight years, $136 million.Â They will be paying Soriano until he’s 38 years old, well past the end of his prime.Â If the Mets had agreed to those terms, or god forbid if they hadÂ surpassed those terms, it would have been financially irresponsible of Omar Minaya.
As for Zito, I think a #1 or #2 starter is a more pressing need at the moment than another bat in the lineup.Â The Mets will score 800-900 runs with or without Soriano.Â The problem is going to be run-prevention, especially if they don’t resign Glavine, and there’s no way the bullpen will be as effective as it was this past season.Â Zito is the best starting pitcher in the market, who despite throwing “slop,” has been very effective the past few seasons, and having Zito in the Mets’ rotation makes it better than not having him.
And that is another lesson seemingly lost on the Mets. You sign a comparatively-young outfielder — Soriano is 30 — for seven years, you can bank on seven years of high-level production.
Soriano signed for eight years, not seven.Â In order to sign Soriano, they would have had to give him at least as many years as the Cubs offered.Â Anyway, let me make sure I’m understanding…it’s a good idea to sign a 30 year old player up until after his prime is over, and when there’s almost no way he’ll be worth $17 million a season at the end of that contract?Â This is a good idea?
There’s no guarantee that the Mets (or, in this case, the Cubs) could count on ONE year of high-level production from Soriano, let alone eight.Â He just had the best year of his career; before that, he put up “good for a second baseman” stats.Â If he declines back to that level, he will be above average, but not great, and certainly not a $17 million player.Â There’s no way the Cubs don’t regret that contract within a few years.
The Mets once did sign a comparatively young outfielder to a seven year contract worth $17 million a season.Â His name?Â Carlos Beltran.Â Only, he was two years younger than Soriano when he signed his deal, and his contract is one year shorter, meaning when Beltran’s contract runs out, he’ll be at the end of his prime.Â
Soriano and Beltran are the same age, but the Mets will only be paying Beltran for five more seasons, whereas the Cubs are on the hook until Soriano is 38.Â Also, both players just had the best seasons of their careers, but Beltran’s was significantly better.Â If you’re going to spend $17 million a season on either Beltran or Soriano, I think most people are taking Beltran.
You sign a pitcher for seven years, you can bank on many trips to Birmingham, Alabama and the office of Frank Andrews, orthopedic surgeon. Take your pick from the laundry list of potential disasters: rotator-cuff blowout, Tommy John surgery, torn elbow tendons, dead arm syndrome, etc.
The Mets haven’t signed any pitchers for seven years.Â The longest contract the Mets currently have committed to a pitcher is Pedro Martinez, who is signed for two more seasons.Â What are you talking about?Â Unless this somehow relates to Zito, but as far as I know, the Mets haven’t even exchanged figures with Scott Boras yet.
So far, they have spent like the Florida Marlins and signed like the Kansas City Royals. They take and take and take from the good people and bad politicians of this city, and they give you back Moises Alou.
Free agency has lasted a week.Â So they didn’t commit themselves for eight years of Alfonso Soriano, a contract that would have cost them Beltran money for a player who isn’t as good as Beltran.Â Sometimes the best deal is the deal you don’t make.Â The focus this off-season will be starting pitching, which is what it should be, and they will likely sign a starting pitcher.
This isn’t the Yankees we’re talking about.Â The Yankees wind up losing money between their $200 million payroll and the luxury tax.Â Are we to kill the Mets for building a better team for less money that is much more financially responsible?
And comparing the Mets to the Marlins and the Royals after a WEEK of free agency is utterly ridiculous.Â Coming into free agency, before signing a single player, the Mets had $84 million committed in contracts to Mets players in 2007.Â The Marlins and Royals paid out $73 million in contracts in 2006 COMBINED.Â
The Mets will add payroll in 2007.Â They will likely wind up paying out close to what they paid in 2007, if not more, and will once again field a competitive team that should contend for a World Series spot.Â To smash the Mets for not spending dollars recklessly as they did during the Steve Phillips era is dumb.
Even on Thanksgiving Day, being a Mets fan remains a thankless task.
Maybe if you’re an utterly ingracious dummy.Â Personally, I’m thankful that the Mets aren’t signing players to white elephant contracts that they won’t regret in four years, and are looking to spend the big money where they need it.Â But that’s just me.