After the Kansas City Royals traded for Yuniesky Betancourt (a trade more baffling than the Mets’ trade for Gary Matthews Jr, because the Royals actually gave up something of value for Betancourt), Royals’ GM Dayton Moore implored his fans to “trust the process.” The folks over at the Royals Review blog gave that a sound thrashing at the time, and it has since become something of a meme to laugh at the Royals and their “process,” which has since produced signings like Jason Kendall for two years. I’m not exactly sure what their process is, but needless to say, Royals fans do not seem to trust it very much.
If you look at the Mets, though, I’d struggle to find out what kind of process they seem to be following this year. If you look at the moves they have made, it appears they saw their needs for 2010 as follows:
- Backup catcher
- Left field
- The bullpen
While there have been rumors connecting them to every free agent starter that has been on the market this year, so far they have yet to seal the deal with even one of them. Every day, another decent starter comes off the market. Given the tenuous nature of the Mets’ starting staff, which currently features four starters who failed to pitch a complete 2009 season and Fernando Nieve slotted into the #5 slot, this has fans understandably wondering what the hell is going on. In the cases of John Lackey, Joel Piniero, Ben Sheets, Jason Marquis, Jon Garland, and Doug Davis, where there has been smoke, there has been no fire. It’s not that the Mets didn’t need Jason Bay, or couldn’t use a restructured bullpen, or even a better backup catcher, these were all good moves in a vacuum. The problem is that these moves have come off somewhat uninspired after how bad the 2009 season ended.
Thus, the recent reports that have surfaced regarding the Mets’ front office philosophy this offseason really shouldn’t be that surprising to anybody who has been following the team. Really, this goes back even to last season, when the team was unable to concentrate on fixing more than one thing at a time, first adding Frankie Rodriguez and JJ Putz, before turning to re-signing Oliver Perez for the rotation, which ended their offseason before finding a way to dump Luis Castillo or improve their corner outfielders. This is a front office that seemingly does not know how to multi-task, which is especially worrisome considering that this team has had many, many problems since Carlos Beltran struck out to end the 2006 NLCS.
I’m not going to pretend to be an insider who knows what’s going on in the Mets’ front office. Truthfully, I have no idea. But as an outsider, as a fan following the team on a day to day basis, I can tell something is wrong. Last year, they were at least 1-2 moves short of a complete offseason. This season, they look to be in even worse shape, with subpar players slotted in at catcher, first base and second base, and a starting rotation that looks paper-thin without a minimum of two decent signings, in a market where there simply aren’t two decent starting pitchers available. Even if they sign John Smoltz (and the Cardinals are currently the favorite), are we certain that a rotation of Santana/Smoltz/Pelfrey/Perez/Maine will stay healthy enough to keep Fernando Nieve or Nelson Figueroa from having to make too many starts?
There needs to be some sort of deep organizational change in philosophy. When the geniuses in talent evaluation identify Jeff Francoeur and Gary Matthews Jr, two outfielders who had combined for -2.0 WAR in 2008 and -0.8 WAR in 2009, as two players this team needs to acquire, we can safely assume that advanced statistical metrics are not used by this front office. They should be. Advanced metrics shouldn’t replace scouting, but they can surely supplement scouting and make it better. Their talent evaluation could definitely use some improvement, if their record of player acquisitions is any indication. Signing Jason Bay for his defense, when his defense has ranked among the worst defensive players in baseball over the past three years is a sign that the team needs to look more closely at how they are evaluating talent and where they might be falling short.
They need to know when to make one big move, and when to make a bunch of smaller moves. They need to know when to cut ties with a sunk cost if it means improving the team. They need to know that when a player is injured, it does not benefit the team for that player to continue to play through that injury. They need to know that what some people consider good pitching is actually good defense, and how to properly evaluate the difference between the two. They need to know that the amateur draft is an opportunity to replenish their farm system and improve the team’s future, not an opportunity to kiss Bud Selig’s ass. While this isn’t completely necessary, it would also be nice to have press conferences that don’t degenerate into he said/she said arguments that only make the team’s front office executives look worse, which considering the results this team has produced, is saying something.
Basically, they need to have a better process. I’m not saying anything I haven’t said a million times before. Whether it’s Omar Minaya, John Ricco, Jeff Wilpon, or somebody else running baseball operations, they need to have a better plan. Whatever they’re doing now isn’t working and hasn’t worked, and the sooner they realize it, the sooner they can actually benefit from their resources advantage in the National League, rather than having 2-3 contending years sandwiched around some miserable ones. It’s not an impossible goal, but until those in charge realize they’re operating within a broken system, Mets fans will continue to be frustrated at the team’s results, and the primes of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Santana will continue to be wasted.