Hold it together

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.

31 thoughts on “Hold it together

    • I drove through Philadelphia on Saturday on and was quickly reminded how much that place sucks. Living there for the next 5 years should be punishment enough for Lee for deciding to go there.

    • Wow. If you are pinning your hopes on a Pujols signing then you are seriously delusional.

      Wainwright would be the more realistic option, and even he will most likely extend with the Cards.

    • OH LORD NO..

      For all the same reasons to no sign lee to a crazy 5 year with a 6th vesting option.

      Should you not sign King Albert to a 10 year contract which is what it will take to sign him.

      When are fans going to figure this out. Signing players past the age of 35 is not smart. Let alone signing Albert for 7 years past 35.

      I don’t care how good he is.

  1. Let’s also not forget the law of “If everyone says something is going to happen, it never does”. We already saw that in effect when every sportswriter outside of Texas swore Lee would end up with the Yankees. Here’s to hoping the entire Phillies rotation ends up on an SI cover.

  2. There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “how wonderful. The boy got a horse” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “How terrible.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, “How wonderful.”

    And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
    -Gust Avrakotos

  3. Does anyone have any idea what is causing these pitchers (Halladay and Lee) to take “discounts” to pitch in Philadelphia? It seems as if it takes premiums to get guys to the Mets but the Phills get guys on relatively cheap deals

    • Is that undermarket?
      25m/yr over 5 plus easily reachable 6th for presumably largest annual amount. Sounds like a lot.

      I know there are reports the Rangers and Yankees offered more but I thought it was speculation (from the latin for “bullsh#t until proven otherwise”).

      • Based on Verducci’s write up:
        Rangers 138m over 6
        Yankees 132m over 6
        Phillies 120m over 5

        Yankees and Phillies had options. Yankees was for 16m, Philly’s was for 27.5(!)m. So Yankees and Phillies totals were the same only in Philly he does it in 1 less year, and it is reportedly “an easily achievable option”.

        I’m sure the AL and spitting on his wife didn’t help, but this is still about money.

  4. I also enjoy that the Phillies gave Lee away last year for what now appears to be no discernible reason.

    They didn’t get any real good players in the deal, lost a year of Lee in his prime and give up a first-round pick (which could easily net a better player than anyone they got from Seattle for Lee) in the process.

    It’ll still be painful to watch in 2011. But they better win it all in the next two years.

  5. The way I see it, if the Phillies don’t win the World Series this year and next year, they’ll be the laughing stock of baseball. They have absolutely no excuse. It should be a foregone conclusion.

    Also, where does a team like the Phillies get all this money? I don’t understand how a team that just a few years ago couldn’t sign Johan Santana turns into a team that somehow locks up multiple superstars like it’s nothing. Did Pat Burrell and Jason Werth have massive contracts or something?

    • I think they have sold out every game for the past few seasons plus postseason play always helps with revenues. Maybe the GM is really good at convincing the owner to spend. By the way I can probably name the owner(s) of at least 2/3s of the teams but I have no earthly idea who owns the Phillies.

    • Costs don’t matter, profits do. If spending the $25m per year on Cliff Lee keeps them in the playoffs and sells $30m of tickets and TV ads and merchandise, then it pays off.

      There’s no way the Mets should be so focused on keeping a flat salary budget. They too should be focused on profits. Just go out and sign a few medium pitchers at $5m each, and maybe we can be over .500, and you’ll sell some seats and you’ll make money on the signings.

  6. What I find odd is that I feel the signing of Cliff Lee makes me hate the Phillies less.
    I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I must be in true awe of that rotation to feel this way.

    • Unlike Ted, I still hate the Braves more than I hate the Phillies. Maybe I thought the Braves smug arrogance during their 14-year run was worse than the Philly noisy cockiness.

      As a baseball fan, it’s ok to be awed by the Phillys on paper. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

      • No way. See, I used to hate the Braves, but at least I could respect some of them. Maddux was awe-inspiring, Chipper was, in Klosterman’s terms, the fan base’s collective nemesis. I hated the Braves, but I liked Bobby Cox. And the Tomahawk Chop was pretty cool.

        Maybe it’s biased, because I go to school with 20,000 Philadelphians, but I hate everything about the Phillies. I hate their stupid mascot. I hate the color red. I hate their stupid fans who can’t conjugate verbs properly (“why can’t us?”). I hate the arrogant douches who make up their lineup, I hate that Jimmy Rollins stole the MVP in 2007, I hate that they’re outspending us, and I hate their idiotic fans who are especially prone to violence. I hate their players. I hate the city of Philadelphia. almost am to the point where I’m rooting for their plane to crash during a cross-country trip, but then I’d hate the sympathy card they’d get to play.

        In short, f*** Philadelphia, f*** the Phillies, and f*** anyone thereby associated.

      • I live in Philadelphia, and I have to say that the entire city is just one big fair weather fan when it comes to baseball. I was here in ’06 when nobody even knew who the second baseman for the team was. A few NL East titles and a WS championship later, and now everyone is a fan.

        Now, in theory this is great. I love baseball and I get excited when a city backs their team. However, Philadelphia is a breading ground for hatred. The term “city of brotherly love” must’ve been an ironic nickname, because Philadelphia thrives on it’s rivalries. They love to see other teams fail more than seeing their own team thrive. I could go on and on about how terrible the Phillie’s fan base is, but I feel that they’re summed up best in one word: scum.

  7. Is there any reason to buy Mets tickets now, rather than wait to pick them up for pennies on stubhub from season ticket holders once the season starts?

    Can the Mets please sign Young or other pitchers so I can believe they’ll be in the wild card race, and that tickets will be hard to get at some point?

    • Which assertion here constitutes waving pom-poms? That the Phillies will be awesome in 2011, that the Phillies have the oldest team in baseball, or that I didn’t think the Mets should have signed Cliff Lee yesterday and I don’t see why the Phillies getting him should change that?

  8. Ted will tell ya Ive gone to battle with him on several issues, but this one he is spot on. If we signed Lee we would have 50M a year tied up in two pitchers both lefty both with health issues both over 30.

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