Fun fact: If you asked me yesterday to predict the 2011 NL East winner, I would have said the Braves. They have a bunch of good young hitters and a strong, durable front of the rotation.
Then last night, the Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a reported five-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option. Today, the Phillies stand as the obvious favorites to repeat as division champs. And I hate the Phillies even more than I hate the Braves, so that sucks.
On Twitter this morning, someone asked me if I still thought the Mets shouldn’t have pursued Lee this offseason.
What? Of course I still think that. As a Mets fan, my foremost concern is that the Mets get better for the short- and long-term, and if I didn’t believe signing Lee was the best way for the team to do that yesterday or in September I’m not about to change my mind just because the Phillies signed him. That’d be some weird, Freudian approach to roster construction, and not a good one.
Besides, if Cliff Lee supposedly rejected the Yankees’ six-year, $132 million offer with a vesting option for the seventh year, that means the Mets would have had to beat that to lock up Lee. And I mean, hey, it’s not my money. But it sure seems like handing a 32-year-old pitcher $140 million over six years is a great way to get the Mets right back into the inflexible mess they’re in right now.
And just on a plain visceral level, do you really want a guy who apparently loves Philadelphia so much? What type of judgment is that? C’mon.
The Phillies will be awesome next year. They’ll have Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in their rotation. That’s unreal. Unreal. You can pencil them into the playoffs for 2011. Even if one of those fellows goes down, they’ll have the best starting pitching in baseball.
They’ll also be one of the very oldest teams in baseball, quite likely the oldest. They were the oldest team in baseball last year, and now they’re all a year older — you probably know how that works. Chase Utley missed 40-odd games with injuries. Ryan Howard suffered the lowest OPS of his career. Jimmy Rollins hasn’t been good since 2008.
As Mets fans, we think of the Phillies as invincible because the Phillies are the bad guys, and the ones that so often victimize our favorite team. But the cracks are starting to show. Probably not enough to slow them in 2011, but don’t go writing off 2012 for the Mets. Have you been watching baseball? Do you not realize how quickly things can go south for old players?
For a variety of reasons, the Mets could not sign Cliff Lee. They didn’t have the money and he didn’t seem particularly eager to pitch in New York. That’s fine, because the Mets should not have signed Cliff Lee. The Phillies’ decision is perhaps defensible since they’ve got an old team and an opportunity to win now and flags fly forever. They can worry about how they’ve got $80 million committed in 2013 to four players who are 33 and older in 2013.
And Mets fans, what we need to worry about most is that the Mets do the right things to make the Mets better. The Mets seem to be doing that. Hold it together.