Blow up the team and start over. Forget about the Core Four. The core is rotten. Reyes keeps breaking down. Beltran has arthritic knees. David Wright hasn’t been right since he was beaned in the head last year, and he hasn’t ever truly gotten comfortable at Citi Field or stepped up as a vocal leader in the clubhouse.
You ask, “What will the Mets do about a power hitter and a major league quality shortstop?” How far has it gotten them in the last four years? What has this group done? Come up short in the NLCS, gotten overtaken with a seven-game lead in the division with 17 games to play, fallen out of the money for four straight years. The only untouchable — and that would be the case anyway because of his salary — is Santana.
Blow it up.
OK, exhale. I’ve really been working hard — and succeeding, I think — to not make this site a Daily News watchdog blog. But upon receiving my third or fourth reader email from about this particular column this weekend, I figured I should tackle its thesis. Plus, this way I’ll have something in the bag to link to for the inevitable onslaught of “BLOW UP THE CORE” columns to come in the offseason.
Smith’s effort is more or less a compendium of the nonsense typically bandied about regarding the Mets, some of it accurate, some of less so. He writes that their front office seems to have no plan, which often appears true. He also blusters about players tossing Frisbees in the outfield before a game — precisely the type of thing that earns a winning team labels like “carefree” and “fun-loving,” and something plenty of teams do that seems like just as good a way to stretch out the legs as any.
Smith then asserts that the Mets cut Alex Cora for financial reasons rather than general scrubbiness, that Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo ruined the clubhouse chemistry, and that — this is the best part — Francisco Rodriguez was reacting to the front office’s lack of strategy when he punched his girlfriend’s father in the face.
Finally he comes to the conclusion that it’s time to “forget about the Core Four.” This is fascinating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the label “Core Four.” I thought that was a Yankee thing. Who knew? Apparently in the Mets’ case the Core Four I am to forget about refers to David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana.
The particular suggestion is problematic because it reflects something akin to an underpants-gnome approach to sports analysis. David Wright and Jose Reyes are the best players on the Mets this year. The Mets will not win a World Series this year. Thus, the Mets will not win a World Series with David Wright and Jose Reyes as their best players.
That’s perhaps an oversimplification, but the fundamental lapse in logic is the same.
The problem has never been that the Mets are building around “rotten” players, but that they’ve done a rotten job building around good players. The Mets have gotten the second-worst production in the National League out of their first basemen in 2010, the worst out of their second basemen and the worst out of their right fielders.
And you’re telling me the problems are with the guys that can actually play? The young guys under reasonable contracts, no less?
I’ve put aside Beltran for the sake of this argument because his situation is entirely different from Reyes’ and Wright’s. He’s older and he’s playing poorly, and he’s got a bone-on-bone condition in his knee that isn’t going anywhere and an $18.5 million deal for next season.
We’ve still only seen a very small sample of Beltran this season, and who knows what time, strength and more rehab will bring. But the Mets almost certainly will try to trade Beltran, very likely in vain, even if he’s got that whole no-trade thing. Arguing to trade him, though, is a very different thing than arguing to “blow up the core.”
Ugh. I don’t even know why I’m bothering with this. There’s really nothing more pointless than impassioned missives to trade players for the sake of trading them with no set target in mind. It’s the worst type of radio gaga, the type of nonsense I shouldn’t even indulge. Look: Trade Reyes for Felix Hernandez? Yeah, sign me up. That one probably isn’t on the table, though.
Here’s the thing: It’s really, really hard to win the World Series. It’s hard to make the playoffs even. I’m not saying the Mets do a good job of it, or even do a good job of working towards it.
But a great step in that direction — the best step, even — is having excellent players in their primes. That’s really the whole idea. Trading excellent players in their primes only because you’ve been thus far unable to capitalize on the primes of those excellent players is not a good way to run a baseball team. Decidedly not.
David Wright and Jose Reyes are excellent players in their primes. Trading them for other excellent players in their primes in the right deal might be reasonable.
Trading them for the sake of trading them would be stupid.