If you are a listener of sports talk radio, it has been impossible over the past week to listen and not hear some host and/or caller mock Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson for telling fans to be patient.
The formula is simple; cite some play or statistic that shows how dreadful the Mets have been this season, then say, “but Sandy Alderson says they’re almost there,” followed by a hearty laugh.
It fits perfectly with the New York media’s favorite storyline that the Mets are a hapless organization that doesn’t know it’s rear-end from a hole in the ground. The latest example of this is New York Daily News Mets beat writer and noted clown Andy Martino’s article claiming that top prospect Zack Wheeler won’t be able to handle the pressure of New York, despite never having pitched a game there yet.
That narrative might have been true three years ago under the Minaya regime, but what Alderson has brought this team is a level-headed executive who makes decisions based on a long-term plan.
The Mets are – gasp – actually run by intelligent baseball people whose mission from day one has been to build the team into a perennial contender. Unfortunately these things can’t be done overnight, and they certainly can’t be done by giving out ludicrous free agent contracts to Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, or Jason Bay.
Through three drafts, and two huge trades, Alderson, Paul DePodesta, and J.P. Ricciardi have been able to build the Mets farm system into one of the top 15 systems in all of baseball. But since it’s only been three years, most of the talented players are in Binghamton or below, with only Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud, Jack Leathersich, and Rafael Montero having advanced to AAA.
Yet they still call in. “The Mets are nowhere near contending!” “In ’83 at least there was Strawberry and Gooden the next year!” While d’Arnaud is likely not Darryl Strawberry, they’ve got two Goodens in Wheeler and Matt Harvey.
While their record might not show it, the Mets are a much improved team this season, if only because it is another year for their prospects to develop and advance a little bit closer to the major leagues.
By this time next year, the Mets figure to be a much different team, especially in terms of their pitching staff. The rotation could feasibly consist of Harvey, Wheeler, Jon Niese, Montero and Dillon Gee, with Leathersich, Logan Verrett, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and others in the bullpen.
If Wilmer Flores continues to progress as a hitter, he could be knocking on the Mets doorstep to take over as the second baseman, and Cesar Puello (yeah, yeah, I know, suspension) not too far behind him. Cory Vaughn could also be looking at a September call up.
A Flores call up then opens the door for either a Daniel Murphy trade or an Ike Davis/Lucas Duda trade (assuming Davis doesn’t get non-tendered) if the team decides to either put Flores or Murphy at first base.
Alderson also maintains that the team will have $45 million to spend this offseason, enough to sign Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, and still have $33 million left to fill out the bench, bullpen, and sign a few placeholders to play until the prospects are ready. Perhaps he’ll even sign guys to be AAA depth so that in the event of an injury, there is a replacement level player available to take his roster spot.
2014 is going to be brighter for the Mets, though playoff contention is probably out of the question. Think of this year as 2004, and next year as 2005, great steps forward, but only a piece or two away. The only difference is that this time around, there’s going to be a farm system that produces talent so the success can be more sustained.