Friday, December 16, 2011

Dark Clouds Shroud the Mets

Have you seen that drug commercial for those who suffer from depression? You know the one with the animated woman who has this little dark cloud that follows her everywhere? The Mets are that lady these days and there isn't a prescription big enough to handle the cloud the Mets are dealing with. Ever since the Wilpons became entangled in the fallout from Bernie Madoff, things have changed in New York and judging from this eye-opening article from Fangraphs', Alex Remington, their financial woes appear to be deepening. It's pretty sad stuff.

This Fan's history is wrapped up a bit in the Mets. The Fan's father was a Mets fan. So was his father's father. Their descendant did not follow in those footsteps and instead fell in love with that other New York team. But even so,  the very first ballgame this Fan ever watched on television was a Mets game and the first ever foray to a major league ballpark was Shea Stadium with Dad. While the Mets have never been a top five favorite in this observer's echelon of teams, there is a heft of fifty years of interest in what goes on with the Mets.

And that history has had some fine moments. The Miracle Mets of the late 1960s, the 1986 team, the Bobby Valentine Mets at the end of the millennium and the mid-2000s team that with a different bounce or two could have been great. To see the Mets now reduced to doom and gloom is not a happy circumstance. It's not a good thing that a fan base had to lose their favorite player because there was no money to pay him. At least not through these eyes.

What's painful is that you cannot talk about the Mets for their team on the field. There is always the financial mess that makes the news. Bud Selig has not tried to "fix" the Mets like he did with the Rangers and now with the Dodgers. Whether that is because of his close ties with the Wilpons or because the Wilpons were heretofore good baseball owners is not for this writer to sort out. For a fan, you want to talk about what's on the field and not other stuff that takes away from pure baseball entertainment.

It's also sad that there are positive things to talk about. Sandy Alderson and his team are very bright leaders with proven track records. They take over from a regime that like it or not, ran the Mets into the ground. That Alderson plugs away with the fiscal restraints without quitting is admirable in and of itself. Players like Jason Bay and David Wright should benefit from the reduced dimensions of Citi Field that Alderson has instigated. Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole are all promising young players. If Ike Davis can come back, that would be another. Andres Torres is an upgrade in center field.

The Mets likely have little shot at winning this coming season despite some good young talent just mentioned. Their rotation is weak and there is little talent in the upper levels of their minor league system. Alderson was left with dry bones there. Johan Santana may or may not come back and even if he does, there is no way they will ever recoup the value of his contract. Improvements to the bullpen are somewhat looked at with skepticism. Jon Rauch did not have a good year in Toronto. Can he and other acquisitions shore up a bullpen that was third from last in the majors last year? Not completely.

There is also the problem of the Mets' defense. They were fifth from the bottom in defensive efficiency last season and also made the fifth most errors in baseball. A healthy Ike Davis would help as a good fielding first baseman is worth far more than given credit. But you still have Jason Bay in left, David Wright at third and a second base situation that will not prove defensively capable no matter who wins that job.

The problem for Alderson is that he can't dip into the minors for help and he can't spend any money. So any holes on the team (rotation, bench depth, etc.) will have to come from fliers on non-tendered and fringe players on the market who will agree to play for less money. It is hoped that Alderson will resist the temptation to trade Jonathan Niese. Most people do not realize that he out-pitched Gio Gonzalez last season if you believe in Fielding Independent Pitching statistics (FIP). A good left-handed pitcher like him is very useful against teams like the Braves and the Phillies. He is a possible star in the making and right now, he's cheap.

There are a lot of players fans in New York can rally around. The Mets were surprisingly effective for large parts of last season and even without Jose Reyes, can be fun to watch this season. The problem for Mets fans is that this dark cloud follows the team around and as long as that cloud is the big New York Mets story, much of the fun of being a fan of that team is removed. Let's hope that things improve for the New York Mets and that such an important team in the biggest market on earth can again join the healthy status it used to enjoy.

1 comment:

Thomas Slocum said...

If FIP shows that Jonathon Niese was Gio Gonzalez' superior in 2010, that about says all I'd need to hear to dismiss that method/statistic as anything meaningful. Gonzalez was (by the ACTUAL numbers) superior in wins, winning percentage, starts, innings, ERA+, WHIP, H/9, and K/9, several by substantial margins. Niese was the victor in but two categories, BB/9 and SO/BB ratio (but both by significant margins). One would almost be forced to conclude that FIP stats favor pitch to contact nibblers who eschew the base on balls (regardless of the alternative) if those statistics suggest that Niese was the better pitcher overall in 2011.