Fare thee well, R.A. Dickey.
You were a terrific pitcher while you were here, and are an even better human being wherever you are. We, the fan base of the New York Mets wish you nothing but success in the jungle that is the AL East, especially against your new ultimate rivals, the New York Yankees. We thank you for your inspiration, for your talent and – despite whatever Ken Davidoff may think — for your candor. Besides, no respectable fish would ever find itself wrapped in the Post. We also thank you for the bounty the Mets received by trading you, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas: Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra and John Buck. These guys should – SHOULD – stand your former team in good stead for years to come. Godspeed.
So, having said that and emitting a heavy sigh, your intrepid columnist shifts his gaze to try and grasp the overall plan – the “Big Picture,” if you will. A week ago, many of us were questioning the existence of any overall plan. We saw Sandy Alderson as a mere place-holder/budget slasher until his henchmen – Paul DePodesta, John Ricco and J. P. Ricciardi – established their respective corporate footholds inside the Wilponian fiefdom. Not so, apparently.
The Dickey trade and the extension of David Wright’s contract may give us a glimpse. It seems that the plan is to pare down salaries, yes – this is still the Wilpons we’re talking about. Rather than just clear-cutting deadwood, though, Alderson has also set about maximizing whatever assets he finds at hand. This is refreshing, considering some prior regimes, wherein many major assets were mishandled, minimized and discarded in favor of stop-gap solutions to glaring problems. Some of us among the fan base seem to be having a problem with Alderson’s cold, calculating approach, but having seen, first-hand, the results of the sentimentality and outright cronyism that had prevailed in Flushing, this front office reminds me of nothing so much as the early Frank Cashen years. But that doesn’t look like who Sandy Alderson is patterning the Mets after. For that, we need to look to the South geographically and north in the standings: the Mets are starting to look like the Atlanta Braves, circa 1984 through ’90.
The Braves won the very first ever NL West division. After that, they went full nosedive, and despite a 1982 surprise division title, pretty well defined “treading water,” posting win totals in the 65-80 range afterward. They had one genuine superstar, and one oft-injured, oft-disgruntled upper echelon – just short of “elite” – player. Dale Murphy and Bob Horner soldiered on, but the team repeatedly failed to build any sort of solidity around them. Instead, they threw silly money at players like Len Barker, Claudell Washington and a broken-down Bruce Sutter. This was a squad that led Bill James – in his 1987 Baseball Abstract – to begin his assessment of the Braves with the sentence, “Lord, what an awful team.” It wasn’t until a big influx of young arms arrived in the Atlanta farm system and a strong GM took over that the Braves became the perennial division contenders and infuriating goads to the Mets that we all know and hate today. More to the point, the Braves’ GM was not afraid to make unpopular moves, including trading Horner and eventually Murphy.
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