I’m not the GM, though. I’m a fan. And, what I know is that it’s time to make moves. It has to be. Mets fans are shockingly patient and tolerant, but only to a point. Alderson had two years to rip the house down, which he’s done. He’s had two years to evaluate and develop talent and take stock in what he has to work with. He’s had two years to create a new infrastructure and shed bad contracts (with one, maybe two more to go). He’s had two years to let it bleed, and let us anticipate, and imagine, and be patient, which I think we’ve done rather well considering the soap opera we were forced to root for in the four seasons prior to his arrival. He’s done his due diligence and demolition, this off season it’s time to start building.
I hardly disagree with most of the general points Matt made in his post this morning, but I’ll offer this (mostly semantic) counterpoint: This is building. This is what building looks like. It’ll try our patience, for sure, but our patience is only one of the myriad aspects of the process that Sandy Alderson and his SABRos must manage.
The Mets have looked atrocious the last few weeks. Straight-up old-timey LOLMets stuff. The bullpen and defense stayed bad and an offense with one too many holes in it stopped hitting for power. Maybe these Mets could string together enough singles to score runs with a couple of more good on-base guys, but they’ve suffered with too many easy outs in their lineup. Check this out:
Last year, the Mets gave 185 plate appearances all season to position players with on-base percentages lower than .300. This month alone, they’ve given 183 plate appearances to position players with on-base percentages below .300. That’s based on their season lines so it’s hardly a perfect way to make this point (and Ike Davis, one of 2012’s sub-.300 culprits, has been one of their best hitters this month). Last year, none of their top 11 contributors finished with an OBP below .320. This year, more than half of them might. Again — arbitrary endpoints and not perfect, but that’s essentially what’s happening here. The 2012 Mets’ on-base percentage has gotten worse every month. So now, with the team getting on at a futile .309 clip in August, pitchers can work around the few guys who might do damage with one swing. David Wright has been intentionally walked five times this month and has yet to homer. Ruben Tejada leads the team in extra-base hits in August. They stopped getting on base and they stopped scoring runs. Not a coincidence.
Is that lethargy, or is that a lack of good players? Maybe a little from Column A, a little from Column B. I don’t know and I’m not sure it matters. Players who fade down the stretch — whether due to packing it up or lacking it entirely — will see their season stat lines and their team’s perception of them suffer. It’s part of the building process: The Mets work to determine which players look like parts of their next contender and which they should cast off. That should — and probably does — happen primarily on the field, but certainly it happens out of sight too.
Step back from this misery and take stock of what we’ve learned: Before this season, neither the Mets nor their fans could know what to expect from Ike Davis coming off injury, from Daniel Murphy playing second, from Ruben Tejada as an everyday shortstop, from David Wright after the worst year of his career, from Lucas Duda in right field, and from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin in the Major Leagues. Uncertainty dominates baseball and everything, but we will enter 2013 with a much better understanding of which positions the Mets can fill (or already have filled) internally and which require help from the outside. I’d say they need outfielders most of all, but then I suppose there’s still over a month left for someone else to go in the tank.
Also, before this season, many — myself included — expected the Mets would ultimately need to look outside the organization for starting pitching. The only certainty in the rotation appeared to be Mike Pelfrey’s 200 mediocre innings. Now we know R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese are fine building blocks for a rotation, we suspect Matt Harvey is a real and possibly very good big-leaguer, and we’re fairly certain Johan Santana will pitch again. Actually, if Santana and Dillon Gee show up to Spring Training healthy — far from a safe bet, of course — the Mets could open camp with their Major League and Triple-A starting rotations looking reasonably flush. Dickey, Niese, Harvey and a healthy Santana and Gee make a fine first five, with Collin McHugh and Jeremy Hefner around for depth in Triple-A or the bullpen and Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia ironing out the kinks in Buffalo with eyes on midseason openings in the big-league rotation. And that’s without the team bringing back Pelfrey or Chris Young.
While it’s true that no team can ever have too much pitching, the Mets will need to give something to get something this offseason and starting pitching suddenly looks like an organizational strength. I did not see that coming.
Part of the process, though, right?
Yes, as Cerrone and Alderson agree, the Mets need an infusion of productive players. They should go about getting some, using the resources and knowledge they’ve gained from this season. And since they’re not on the brink of certain contention, they should aim to get players that can help them win games in 2014 and 2015 instead of just spending money on some old dude for the sake of it. And next offseason, the Mets should use the resources and knowledge they’ve gained from 2013 to infuse themselves with even more productive players at the positions they need, and so on.
As for their attitudes? I’m less concerned. It seems pretty rare that guys become productive players in the big-leagues without winning attitudes, or at least the potential for them. Certainly some guys can seem like prima donnas at times or fold up under duress, but I don’t imagine it takes much more than good players to foster good attitudes across the clubhouse. Spirals of awful negativity like this one could probably be avoided if the team were better at hitting and pitching and fielding and base-running.