Are the Mets better or worse off than they were last year?

OK, that’s not a rhetorical question and it’s not one I’m fully prepared to answer yet. Allow a braindump of sorts — I’m trying to figure it out.

I’m thinking about about Bob Klapisch’s column today and a couple of things I wrote this offseason, most notably this piece that pissed a lot of people off.

Klapisch strongly suggests that Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya will be canned after the season. I thought that should have and would have happened last year, so I’ll believe it when I see it. And obviously a lot of the Mets’ future hinges on whether it does.

The fanbase is angry right now, pitchforks and torches. The Mets are no fun to watch, and for some crazy reason we don’t even get to see the kids play every day. We watch Luis Castillo hobble and Jeff Francoeur hack instead, and we get mad. I’m with you.

But thinking about the future, are you more or less optimistic about 2011 and 2012 than you were last year at this time?

Last year we weren’t sure Jose Reyes would ever be decent or healthy again. He hasn’t had a great year, sure, and now his contract status is up in the air, but he has been pretty damn good since mid-May, once he (presumably) got up to speed.

David Wright, though, has had another weird year. Still a good year, but, like 2009, not as good as his years from 2005 through 2008. That’s an investigation for another post.

Johan Santana has been healthy and effective. It appeared he may have been getting exceptionally lucky — or something — at the beginning of the season, but he now appears to be striking out batters like he used to.

Oh, I could go on and on. You know the rest. The Mets are a year closer to getting out from under some big, bad contracts. Angel Pagan is awesome. Jon Niese looks pretty good. Josh Thole might be a serviceable Major League regular. Ike Davis has been pretty bad stats-wise as far as first basemen go, but he hasn’t entirely embarrassed himself — a decent sign for a 23-year-old rushed through the Minors.

They added the Jason Bay contract, which looks pretty terrible right about now. Bay looks like a pretty safe bet to bounce back a bit next year, but obviously that deal, with the vesting option and everything, looks like something of an albatross after the season Bay put up in Flushing.

And then there are the guys in the system. Fernando Martinez has yet to demonstrate he’s a hitting machine and shouldn’t be in the Majors, though he’s still quite young. Kirk Nieuwenhuis appears to have taken big steps forward, as has Wilmer Flores. But Reese Havens has struggled with injury and the crop of pitchers in High A ball has struggled.

I’m recapping lots of stuff you already know. So what do you think? Do the Mets, as a franchise, appear better or worse prepared to compete in the future than they did a year ago?

19 thoughts on “Are the Mets better or worse off than they were last year?

  1. I’d have to say better…. I mean what compared to last year is any worse? Like you said, the injury questions surrounding Reyes, Santana, and Niese have been answered. They are fine. Wright bounced back, hes good again.

    Pelfrey has had a bounce back year (sort of), I’m less worried about him now. Pagan is awesome, thats a plus. We are a year closer to being without Ollie P and Castillo, thats a plus. Dickey is a plus.

    Outside of the Bay thing, in that we could be stuck with anothe rbig contract, and now Krod, I dont see what else is worse than last year.

  2. The team has clearly improved from where they were last year in that they’ve won more games and seen players who could plausibly be on the next good Mets team develop. My issue is that the institutional problems all still seem to be in place – as you’ve noted previously, Manuel & Minaya should have lost their jobs some time ago, and the fact that they haven’t and this season has been allowed to go down the toilet has to be cause for concern. The organization’s failure to do anything of substance this season further cements, to my mind, the dysfunction in the organization. As a result, it’s difficult to take the insufficient on-field improvements as too much of a positive. When Manuel and particularly Minaya are removed from their jobs, I’ll feel differently.

  3. Middle of the road. I don’t see them improving much next year via FA because they’re inundated with those big contracts and attendance is so paltry this year. So its up to the youngsters. However, those young guns have been rushed through the system and not really projected to be superstars anyway. Anyone hoping for a 30-35 HR season out of Ike Davis anytime soon is going to be awfully disappointed.

    So, in 2011, I expect to see more of the same. After that, I would expect to start slotting in or slotting out Mejia into the rotation depending on whether the Mets successfully develop or ruin him this season or next. I expect to see Santana’s eventual decline, a real travesty wasting his prime on this team. Finally, I would not at all be surprised to see Jose Reyes leaving the Mets if any other team offered him similar money. In the same vein, I can see the Mets overpaying for him and then Reyes playing similar to where he is now rather than what he was a couple years back. All the while, the pressure grows and grows on Wright again raising the very real possibility that he might bolt.

    Honestly, the best hires the team could make is scouting, minor league coaches, and better medical/fitness personnel. I don’t think there are any quick fixes in sports, it just doesnt work that way. Name me one other team in baseball that has successfully rebuilt on the fly. There are really very very few. Best thing to do is invest in the draft, bring in some well scouted and vetted youngsters with high-upside talent and nurture them and develop them properly. The Mets have squandered an entire generation of players and lost an entire generation of fans. I hope they don’t lose the next generation too.

  4. What has to happen for Bay to reach his vesting option? Obviously I think he will be better next year than he was this year but if he truly is in a decline phase is it possible that he might not reach the required milestones for the option?

  5. Slightly better. And the media and fans really need to keep things in perspective. The Mets are not bad and are only a few players away from being on par with the Braves and Phillies, if not better than them. Our problem, as usual, is that our complimentary players are replacement level, or worse, and we got nothing from two of our core players (Bay and Beltran) this year. Bay will return to form next year, and Beltran will be playing for a contract and perhaps his career. If the Mets trade for a Kelley Johnson and sign a pitcher like Jorge De le Rosa, we could field good team: Thole (c), Davis (1b), Johnson (2b), Reyes (ss), Wright (3b), Bay (lf), Pagan (cf) and Beltran (rf), with a pitching staff of Santana, Pelfrey, Niese, Dickey and DelaRosa (with Mejia waiting in the wings). That’s a 90 win team.

    • Thats is true…. I heard a couple guys call up WFAN the other day and claim to be ’40 year Met fans” and these guys were saying that the team is currently the worst its ever been since they’ve been fans.

      Now I know things arent great but the team is currently in the worst shape its ever been? these clowns must not have been paying attention for aloto ftheose 40 years they’ve been fans.

      • I guess they forgot about 77 through 82 and 92 through 96. But why be factual when it’s so easy to wax bombastic?

    • Why do some fans think its so easy to trade for decent to good players? Its not like the other MLB teams are the Mets’ buddies and would cheerfully hand over a good player. The Mets are clearly in a bind at 2nd and with the farm looking halfway decent would the other teams really just give up a Kelly Johnson that easily? I doubt it.

  6. I think to key to this question is whether the Wilpons make changes at this team’s weakest position, its decision making process.

    If they finally make long needed changes in the front office and with the field staff, yes, they are in better shape now than last year. Assuming changes, they are closer to a point where those bad contracts are gone and real improvements can be made.

    If the Wilpons are not going to make these changes, the question might be moot. Does it matter if they are closer to bad contracts coming off the books if Omar and company are still around to decide how the newly unbound resources are spent?

    The outlook for this team’s future largely hinges on who is making decisions going forward. If its still Omar, does it matter if this year is better or worse than last?

  7. I would have to agree; but, they definitely need, at the very least, changes at the field level: someone who can manage and instill that swagger a winner should always have; and, more importantly (I think) a REAL hitting coach. When a team doesn’t hit collectively for this long a period of time, it’s his job to fix it. Those in the game will tell you how important a good hitting coach is. Just look at the top teams and those teams before and after the change this year alone.

    And if they could get another solid starter. The closer is up to what KRod does to right himself.

  8. I’ve been a Met fan since 1965 and have seen good times and bad times alike. However, I can say with sadness that this team is the worst team that they have produced in all the years (sans 1977 – the year Seaver was traded).
    What really stinks is that the ownership is clueless to what the team needs and is totally removed from receptivity to its fanbase. E.g., why do they build a pitcher’s stadium and fail to acquire a #2 starter for several years after signing Santana?
    The expectations of this team have been significantly higher than the performance as the core of this team is bereft of any emotional grit.

    Although they won’t sell, the Wilpons need to reassess their place in New York. The sooner that they realize that they have lost the fanbase and relent on their promise to never sell this franchise will be the first day of hope for our Mets. Until that time, expect the continuation of ridiculous contracts (in an attempt to sign 2nd tier players who perform way below the ability of star {top tier} players. Expect more buyouts like the Bobby Bonillas who is owed $35 Million over the next 25 years; payoff beginning on 7/1/11.

    Need I say anymore. This franchise is an embarrassment to the city and fans of New York and the Wilpons will either sell or we will be faced with a mediocre franchise for years to come.

    • I’ve only been on board for 26 years or so, so I don’t have quite the firsthand experience that you have in watching Met futility.

      Still… I’m afraid that I’ll have have to call “BS” on you, sir/madam. “Worst team… in all the years?” You can’t possibly be serious, can you? You’re telling me that the Bonilla-Coleman-Sabes teams were more fun to root for? That the Alomar-Kaz-Vaughn teams were more fun to watch? “Disappointing,” I’d buy (and even then, the late-’80s Mets may still outstrip these guys, who– Santana, Bay and Beltran aside– likely still have the lion’s share of their primes ahead of them).

      I’m more than a little disheartened about the way this season has wound up, as you most assuredly seem to be, as well. And the tears probably won’t be unstoppable when we one day finally hear that the Wilpons have sold/lost control of the team. But if you can’t enjoy a story like Dickey, or watching a player like Pagan develop, or the growth of a Davis or Thole… then maybe you need to find another hobby, man, ’cause this one’s making you miserable.

  9. I know this isn’t answering the question you asked, but, that Klpaisch article is awful. To wit:

    “They either prevail in a grievance hearing and void the contract — or, according to a person familiar with ownership’s thinking, the closer will be traded over the winter.”

    To who, exactly? Who’s going to trade for a declining closer coming off a season-ending thumb injury, with an awful contract, and a worse vesting option, and a now publicly-known history of violence? If they were willing to make the kind of pennies-on-the-dollar trade required, they would’ve gotten rid of Perez and Castillo already.

    “It appears the Wilpons finally have taken stock of the ruins that surround them: Their $138 million team is finishing out of the running for the fourth year in a row while attendance has fallen by 15 percent – the largest per-game drop in the big leagues.”

    Isn’t it pretty obvious that the attendance drop is due to last year’s first-year-in-a-new-stadium bounce? Or, at least partially due to that? In any case, 15% (when used merely as a measure of fan attitude about the team’s on-field performance) is a misleadingly high number.

    “They’ve been embarrassed by Rodriguez, which begs the question: Didn’t anyone consider it a red flag when the Angels let K-Rod leave after his age-26 season, when he’d just racked up 62 saves?”

    They didn’t “let” him go; they offered him arbitration and presumably would have been happy to take him back, but not at the exorbitant price the Mets paid. And if it raised a red flag, it should’ve been because despite only being 26, he had a lot of miles on his arm, and the Angels were smart enough to recognize his declining performance, and the red flag should’ve been raised at the time; I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to guess Klapisch wasn’t complaining then, though.

    “Minaya said during Tuesday’s conference call that the Mets had no inkling that Rodriguez had behavioral problems. Yet, K-Rod’s girlfriend, Daian Pena, told investigators that Rodriguez beat her after an argument when they lived in California and he was playing for the Angels.

    To be fair, Minaya was in the dark for good reason: Pena never reported to police the incident she later spoke of. But Rodriguez’s outburst was on Minaya’s watch, and that’s what gets general managers fired.”

    So… Minaya didn’t know, then? She hadn’t reported it to the police? He should be fired not because he spends money inefficiently, but because he’s not omniscient and didn’t plan his signings based on facts he was not aware of which were actively concealed?

    “Manuel has failed — no one in the front office will argue that. His laidback style was a refreshing change from the Willie Randolph era, but the dividends dried up a year ago.”

    It was? Isn’t Manuel basically a carbon copy of Randolph in a lot of respects? And what dividends, exactly, were paid by hiring Manuel? I don’t recall the Mets making the playoffs on his watch.

    “Manuel didn’t have the guts to renounce K-Rod’s actions. Even as late as Monday afternoon, after the closer confessed to injuring his thumb during the incident, the manager was defending him. That passivity, on top of a million tactical errors, will cost Manuel his job.”

    He didn’t have the guts? Or the organization hadn’t decided on a stance and he was going along with them? It’s the tactical errors that should cost him his job.

    “The second item on Wilpon’s agenda is Minaya, who is well-liked, if not beloved by his bosses and his peers. But the Mets have been in a slow, insidious decline since Carlos Beltran looked at the last pitch of the 2006 NL Championship Series.”

    Of course, the obligatory shot at Carlos Beltran. He OPSed 1.054 in that NLCS. Why doesn’t Paul LoDuca (.499 OPS) get scapegoated? Why doesn’t Steve Trachsel (1 IP, 5 R, 5 H, 5 BB, 1 K, 45.00 ERA)? Why is it always Beltran?

    (Sorry for the long post, but I thought the article deserved it.)

  10. IMO worse, because we have everyone back healthy and are just as bad as we were, and with an offense that’s actually worse. And there’s not a lot of reason to hope for the future, especially since David Wright is rapidly devolving from a HOF type player to a slightly above average one and no one seems to have an answer for it. And if he and Reyes aren’t playing how they were from 2006-2008 in 2011 we might as well punt on the next 3 years.

  11. I’m wondering if they’re not worse off. I was recently comparing the current team with the 2006 vintage, and it’s amazing how much better that team was. The rotation wasn’t even that good–average at best, and basically empty in the fifth spot–but the bullpen was sick and the offense was outstanding. They got career years out of Wright, Reyes, Delgado, Beltran. That’s four star-caliber players at the top of their game. Those guys finished 9th, 7th, 4th, and 12th in MVP voting that year, respectively.

    The reason that this makes me more pessimistic is that that team won because it got lucky on two fronts: a lot of unexpected things went right (Valentin, Ollie, Maine, Endy, even Heilman), and a lot of expected things went right. It took career performances from both the stars and the scrubs. And to me, even if a lot of things went right for the current team, they still don’t seem to have the horses. This team is mostly guys who, at the top of their game, are average players. Looking at next year, even if Wright and Reyes revert to 2006 form, where is the rest of the production going to come from? A rebounded Beltran is probably closer to his excellent 2008 than his MVP-caliber 2006. Bay will likely be better than this year, but he’s probably not going to carry a team like Delgado did. Pagan has been a wonderful surprise, but it gets thinner beyond that.

    Here’s the thing. We’re all really happy to see guys like Ike, Tejada, Thole, and Fernando, and we’re right to be. The home-grown low-cost guys to fill in around the edges are exactly what the Mets have been lacking dating back to the Frank Cashen era. But not a single one of those guys looks likely to be a star. In today’s game, it’s extremely difficult to win pennants without a multitude of star-quality performances. And I just don’t see where, be it from the system or from the free agent market, the Mets are going to get that type of production.

    I’m not sure if I’m articulating this properly, but I think the issue is that for so long the Mets have failed at building low-cost depth into the roster, and surrounded high-upside stars with minor leaguers. Now it feels like they’ve just flattened out, and failed to get the high-end part right. I just don’t see where this team has an upside that’s all that much better than what we’re seeing this year. And with so much money being thrown away on Castillo, Ollie, Bay, and so on, I don’t see how they’re going to fix that any time soon.

    Maybe this is just pessimism born from a mistrust of ownership and management, but I think it’s true. More to the point, if you put me in charge, I have no idea how to make this club competitive without either a huge budget increase or waiting until a few contracts expire. And by then, Wright and Reyes might be declining, if they’re not already.

    So, while one could argue that they as a team are better off, by virtue of a bit of a bounce-back from Wright and a healthy Reyes, I feel more pessimistic about the future than I did at this time last year.

    On the plus side, R.A. Dickey is awesome.

  12. The Mets last year were a question mark. Now we know they are a .500 team. They do need more stars to make a run at 92 wins, or whatever the playoffs need. Trade Ike Davis for Prince Fielder, and sign Prince for $100m over five years. You need a lot of offence out of 1B. And spend $125m for five years of Cliff Lee. Hire Wally to manage. Do those three things and Mets fans will think they have a chance next year. you want to fill the seats, you gotta spend some money and make some moves.

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