I’ve been as guilty of it as the next guy. I’ve had my patience wear thin with the seeming sloth-pace of a couple of off-seasons. I’ve been clamoring for the Mets to DO. SOMETHING. I’ve actually been missing the nonstop headline-mongering of Omar Minaya’s early days. And then I realize where it’s gotten me, as a fan: one playoff appearance, two epic collapses and five seasons of mediocre-at-best baseball. Maybe it is time for a different approach.
Yes, we fans were clamoring for some fresh air when Sandy Alderson arrived after the 2010 season. Yes, the more enlightened among us realized that Rome wouldn’t be built in a day. Yes, we knew in our heads that there would be at least a couple seasons of clear-cutting deadwood from the roster. Yes, we knew in our heads that building up the farm was the right way to go, and that is what’s been happening so far.
Our hearts are another matter.
In case you don’t read the papers, this is New York: patience is (perceived) weakness and you’re only as relevant as tomorrow’s headline or call-in show. If you’re looking to satisfy the maw of the 24-hour news cycle, the Minaya approach was the best one out there. The team was on everyone’s lips in the dead of winter, without the aid of a fan caravan or promo tour. Ticket sales were a function of offseason wheel-spinning. The big names would do the heavy lifting for you: Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay. Letting the names play out across the headlines in the News, Post, Times and Newsday would generate enough buzz to carry fans right up to Opening Day. But again, this is New York. Fans here ain’t stooopid and once this approach goes bankrupt – if you’ll pardon the expression – people tend to sniff it out quickly. Toward the end, Omar could have resurrected Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Dizzy Dean and Citi Field would have remained unoccupied until results started to appear on the actual greensward.
If you’re a man like Alderson, you could give less than a hang about the maw. You know the right approach – from years of experience as the smartest guy in the room, yes, and from going to school on teams like the Yankees and Atlanta. These teams infuriate Met fans because they’ve been both wildly successful and in our face. But to a smart baseball exec, they are exactly the blueprint to follow: grow your stars, hang onto them at almost all cost and supplement them with the appropriate free agent here and there. Everyone screams about the Yankees buying pennants, but rare is the time that a total “all-in” approach on the free agent front been successful. The Yankees’ true success stems from the development of/ability to retain the services of the “Core Four:” Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte. When they can supplement them with a savvy trade or plug a hole with a free agent signing, they become that much stronger. Same with the Braves and Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, et al.
The plan is there and it will take a shifting of expectations and a look beyond the trees to the beauty of the forest to have this fan base quell itself and see it.