Learning a lesson

I’ve beat up on John Harper a fair share in this space. I’ve never met the guy and it’s not anything personal, but I read the Daily News every morning and Harper often focuses his columns on (what I deem to be) unquantifiable nonsense.

But Harper published a column yesterday that has to be considered a must-read. And I don’t toss that phrase around liberally.

Essentially, Harper is issuing a huge “my bad” on behalf of the mainstream New York media for criticizing Cashman upon his failure to acquire Johan Santana before the 2008 season. He writes:

All along Cashman clung to what he believed was a better idea, a long-term vision that is materializing right before our eyes as CC Sabathia pitches the Yankees toward the World Series while players such as Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera, who would have been dealt for Santana, contribute as well.

Cashman was skewered for the gamble, and the Yankees did pay a price, missing out on the playoffs last season. But more and more it is looking as if that were a relatively small price to pay for a likely return to the World Series and more in the years ahead.

In a market where way, way too often people simply dismiss the idea of rebuilding or retooling by saying, “Well, New York demands a winner! We must win now,” Harper admits here that sometimes, patience pays off.

I think that’s something pretty important for fans and the media to remember when discussing the Mets this offseason. Yes, I think the Mets should be active on the free-agent market if they can find good players to fill in some of their holes at the right cost.

But I am certain there’ll be a call for the Mets to trade a gang of their better prospects for one good player, and I’m equally certain that’s a bad idea. The Mets have many holes to fill this offseason and, regardless of how they fill them, many question marks heading into 2010.

Moving forward — and especially if they continue to be active in the free-agent market — the Mets will need to have contributors that they’re not paying too much for. Real, actual Major League contributors who are above replacement-level. And the way to get those guys is not to trade away prospects in bulk.

You’ve heard this from me before, of course. Many times. But it’s still true, and it’s nice — and quite rare — to hear a newspaper columnist echo the sentiment.

2 thoughts on “Learning a lesson

  1. I have to wonder, though… would the Yankees be all that different if they had made that trade? If you figure they’d have Santana instead of CC, and replace Hughes in the pen with Joba (yeah, I know, Hughes is better), and Melky with a bag of donuts (point being that he’s replaceable), they’re still in the playoffs, and still dominating the American League.

    • Well then you have to replace Joba in the rotation with someone, plus pay for the bag of donuts you need to replace Melky with. Though he’s only a league-average hitter, he’s still a capable center fielder, and league-average hitting capable center fielders don’t grow on trees.

      The Yankees seem to have nearly an infinite amount of money to spend, so it probably matters less to them than it would the Mets. But if you figure CC and Santana make about the same amount of money (though the Yanks are on the hook for CC for longer), and that — by not trading for Santana — the Yanks saved two useful commodities at a very controlled cost, it makes the year of patience look like a good move from an economic standpoint.

      Of course, that’s assuming Santana wouldn’t have made the difference for the Yanks last season.

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