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“We’re still a fraud! We trimmed the attendance again!” — Casey Stengel, following a loss on Opening Day 1963

The Mets’ first manager many things: quotable, funny, old and brilliant. Turns out he was also prophetic. “News” – if you want to call it that – is that Sandy Alderson is experiencing “sticker shock” at the price of some of the free agents he covets. Jhonny Peralta, seemingly a perfect plug for the gaping hole at shortstop, “surprised” people by asking for a three-year contract instead of settling for two. As if he would forego a year of a multi-million dollar contract out of the goodness of his heart. His name is “Jhonny Peralta” not David Wright, after all. Bronson Arroyo is deemed “not worth a three-year deal” – to be fair, he’s probably not – so their eyes turn to Phil Hughes…on a one-year contract. This has led at least one member of the MSM to wonder whether Alderson’s offseason plan, famed in story and song since 2010, “has legs.”

So everything that has led to this point – the shedding of Carlos Beltran, the non-starter that was the Jose Reyes negotiation, the jettisoning of Francisco Rodriguez in exchange for a few Milwaukeean barley grains, the trade of R.A. Dickey, the wait-til-the-sun-shines-Nellie attitude for the expiring Jason Bay and Johan Santana contracts – looks like it’s been for nothing. Same ol’ Mets. I’m not sure anyone in the offices of Citi Field knows how to keep his/her mouth shut. Grandiose plans are announced, only to be walked back when things start to get real. And the make-or-break offseason suddenly shifts from 2014 to 2015…maybe 2016…for sure 2017 at the absolute latest. There are many – very many — fans who have had enough. The Wilpons and Alderson seem to think that we won’t notice that the goal posts keep moving. Guess what: we’ve noticed. The margin for error this winter has suddenly gotten thinner than a hair’s breadth, if the Wilpons want to reduce the number of unoccupied green seats visible on their SNY network this summer. Something has got to give if the Mets want to keep the few fans they have left.

Of course, this all could mean that every dire prophecy concerning payroll, the Wilpons’ desperate desire to retain control of the team and the massive debt service on the team/Citi Field/SNY – due before the summer is a month old – will come to fruition. These are three pretty large opposing forces, and it would not come as a surprise for us to find the team on the market by the time offseason 2015 rolls around. Meanwhile, the mythical “money off the books” will more than likely be going to finance that debt service and help Fred, Jeff and Uncle Saul pay themselves.

Color your intrepid columnist outraged. And unsurprised.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley

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23 comments on “Close To The Edge: This Offseason Will Make Or Break The Fan Base

  • Jerry Grote

    Sandy Alderson has reiterated that the payroll will be roughly $90MM.

    To this point, all he’s backed away from is the contracts for Elsbury, Choo and Cano. If you were angry about that, shame on you.

    My understanding is that Hughes might be a one OR two year deal, and at any rate I don’t think the guy warrants a 2 year deal anyways. Beyond that, we require a stopgap position, sufficient to cover 12-15 starts reliably until mid-June/early July. Why do you want to commit to a multi-year contract for that?

  • Charlie Hangley

    No, but how about SS? And the OF? And the “big bat?” We’ve been promised much; I fear we will be delivered little.

    • Jerry Grote

      Nobody’s said Peralta (or Drew) won’t get signed. Some of this noise is just posturing, playing for the back pages of the NYC tabloids. Through leaks, the team has made it clear that Jhonny is a priority, but they won’t prioritize.

      I could see three bats being added to this team, and still add a pitcher.

      Peralta, SS: 20 HR, $15MM.
      Markakis, RF: 20 HR, $10MM Oriole’s send along $5MM for Davis. Markakis is in his walk year. Look out.
      Kelly Johnson, LF: 17 HR, $4MM

      Each of those player definitively improves over their predecessor. Duda plays a full year at 1B and plays to his potential, getting you just a couple Wins at 1B. Almost every bat in the lineup is consistent as all hell.

      Toss $4MM at AJ P, and now you’ve got C filled out in case TDA can’t make it go. Or you can package TDA with Montero and get yourself a real left fielder.

      Yeah, its a pipe dream and I didn’t even look to see what I did with right/left lineups. But what I put together is five or six guys capable of hitting 15-30 HRs, each above league average, each a winner.

      Give Alderson the chance to do it.

      • Brian Joura

        In the last five years Markakis and Peralta combined have hit 20 HR once (Peralta, 21 in 2011) so the idea that they’re both going to hit 20 while playing half their games in Citi Field seems optimistic. Regardless, I wouldn’t mind adding Peralta but want no part of Markakis.

        • Jerry Grote

          I think I’m being more optimistic on Peralta than Markakis. Players in their walk years have a tendency to play at their best. In his best three year stretch, he put up an OPS+ at 121 and average nearly 18 dingers per 159 games.

          That said, you could put Matt Joyce in the same position; he’s averaged 22 HR on a 162 game set over the last three years.

          Its just my sense that Charlie represents an opinion that’s getting rampant hereabouts: If the Mets don’t make a big splash in free agency, they are letting us down. Value is about accumulating players that can deliver ML play consistently, without overpaying. Its not about big ticket signings.

          I mean, look at Kelly Johnson. Nobody wants this guy, and I have yet to figure out why. Last year he popped 16 HR in 116 games; and in the years before, 18,21 and 26. No, he can’t field. Neither can Nelson Cruz, and somebody will pay that juiced idiot $16MM a year to drop fly balls.

          Johnson, Hawkins, AJ Pier … there’s probably another four names that are the cheapest, most consistent 1-2 WIN players you’ll see. Heck no. Let’s get all upset because we can’t sign Choo or worse yet, Elsbury. And next year you’ll get a steady diet of Matt DenDekker and for Pete’s sake Tovar.

          I’m feeling a little Clint Eastwood. Don’t mind me.

          • pete

            Go ahead! Make my day! Sorry I couldn’t resist. Maybe SA will do a blockbuster deal and shock us out of our stupor. Then again reality will sink in and ruin my X-Mas wishlist.

          • Brian Joura

            This is a couple of years old but my overwhelming suspicion is if you ran the numbers again it would not be materially different:

            “Over the past nine years, 177 players performing in the last year of a contract hit for a collective .282 batting average, with an .824 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage, an increasingly used measurement of the moneyball era). They also averaged 19 home runs, 51 extra base hits and 73 runs batted in per 500 at-bats.

            That’s not much different from their collective numbers from the previous year: .283 batting average, .821 OPS, 19 homers, 51 extra base hits and 74 RBI. Two years before? A .279 batting average and .809 OPS, with 18 home runs, 50 extra base hits and 73 RBI per 500 at-bats.”

            http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/13/yankees-phillies-astros-business-sports-bloomberg-baseball.html

            Here’s another study:

            “Of the 179 players I included in this regression (that is the number of position players in baseball in 2009 who had seen six years or more of MLB service, and thus were eligible for free agency), the 68 members of the 2009-10 free agency class had, on average, a three point decrease in OPS versus their under contract counterparts (an OPS of .786 instead of .783, for instance). However, the value was not statistically significant at the five or 10 percent level, so no conclusions can be rightfully drawn. The only result that pointed towards a difference in the contract year was that players who were in that last year of their deal played more games than the average MLBer, perhaps pointing towards the fact that they were incentivized to play through injuries they otherwise would not have.”

            http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/04/18/by-the-numbers-the-myth-of-the-contract-year-phenomenon/

            We can all think of a dozen or more players who had great years before hitting free agency but we cannot extrapolate from that to assume that most players are going to perform similarly.

            • Jerry Grote

              excellent reading, Brian, thank you.

              Two questions into the details of the studies: one, does this apply equally across the talent spectrum (in other words, it would strike me that more talented players have the capacity to raise their ability); and two, how do the studies control for age? The Forbes study, in particular, only compares the player against his own performance. It would be my guess that most free agency deals occur when a player is at his age 27/28/29 season.

              All my questions aside, perhaps I was wrong on Nick and the walk year. I guess we’ll see, but my money is still on him massively improving from last year.

              • Brian Joura

                Neither specifically addressed your questions so I don’t know the answer.

                I don’t think the age one is as interesting as the “talent” question. It would be interesting to pick a floor in the previous year. Maybe compare everyone who had a 2.0 fWAR in the year before their contract year and then see how they did in the actual contract year.

                My guess is that the results would still be that any improvement would be within the bar of error but I suppose it wouldn’t totally surprise me if there was a small something there.

                As for Markakis – he was so bad last year (-0.1 fWAR) that I expect he’ll almost have to improve in 2014. But I think it would be a coin flip as to who is better, Markakis or Eric Young. And since we’re trying to upgrade from EY….

                • Jerry Grote

                  unfortunately, we have the answer today.

                  Chris Young, projects to f1.6, on a 1 year deal. From what I am guessing that the Mets will have to pay him, and the amount they have to spend in total …

                  that is one of your “bats”. I have to think he’s being brought here to play one of the OF positions fulltime.

          • Charlie Hangley

            My opinion represents what we’ve seen all too often: a lot of talk about money coming off the books, having the ability to spend, but awww shucks! These free agents are just too darn expensive! We’d really like to make a trade, but, golly, those other teams are asking for too much from us! Prime example, from last year: “We made an offer to Michael Bourne, but goshdernit, he turned us down…” Isn’t it convenient that we heard this the day after he signed!

            I cannot hew the line of the Wilponian bullcrap anymore. All we want is some straight talk: “Look, I know you’re disappointed, fans, but right now we don’t have the wherewithal to make a big-ticket signing.”

            I can hear that, I can deal with that. I just will not be lied to anymore.

      • pete

        Give him every opportunity? Yes we can do that. It’s just that there are 29 other teams out there who really don’t give a crap about our woes. So when SA doesn’t come through for you Jerry Grote what are you going to do about it?

        • Jerry Grote

          Tell me what is it you would have him do this off season, Pete.

          He’s met with Peralta, with Granderson. He’s offered up Davis to the interested parties. He met with Jay-Z – not about Cano, it was a get-to-know-you meeting. He’s exploring trades.

          Thankfully, he’s discarded what he won’t do and I am 100%, completely on board with every deal he thinks isn’t worthwhile. Arroyo > Hughes? For the Mets, you bet. Peralta>Drew? Yup. No Els, no Choo, no $100MM deals? Got it, we don’t have enough money and too many holes to fill.

          I mean, other than simply wanting to hate for hate’s sake, has Sandy Alderson said or done anything this offseason that you completely disagree with?

          • Jerry Grote

            Oops. I did want him to sign Hawkins. And I thought Byrd was worthwhile. So maybe not 100%. 🙁

  • pete

    I think the only thing the Wilpons care about is how to keep a hold on their franchise. This issue about empty seats irrelevant to them right now. You can already see that the team is going to make NO significant changes this off season or for the foreseeable future. It’s a waiting game. Promises of a better future are just an illusion. Let’s see if they are able to refinance their loans that are due in June 2014. If they are able to resolve this crisis then next years excuse will be to put the blame on the restructured loans.

  • Scott Ferguson

    The Mets in general just need to be quiet. Stop giving payroll figures unless the intent is to hit that number. Stop saying inane stuff like they’re looking at over 20 pitchers or how they have 16 outfielders on their lists. Don’t “anticipate” 2 to 3 new faces in the lineup, then talk about “waiting to see whose left”.
    They also need to stop lauding themselves about Byrd and Hawkins. Yeah, they got two good players on minor league deals, forgetting that Byrd was a favor and not some great scouting discovery.
    It’s all getting irritating. I hope he fields a solid team next year, but I don’t see the empirical evidence that will happen.

  • Metsense

    The Mets currently don’t have a legitimate starting RF so this is the top priority. They can’t efficiently function offensively with Lagares, Young and Tejada in the same lineup. This is why SS is so important to upgrade next and then address another outfielder to upgrade LF. The offense is further stymied by d’Arnaud’s unknown production but the Mets are committed to him for 2014 and his level of success will have a large bearing on the team’s 2014 results. They have $30 M to spend and three major offensive holes to fill. It is the winter Met fans have been patiently waiting for after five sub .500 seasons. It is only November but I expect that $30M to be reinvested in the club, other wise it will probably break what is left of the fan base.

    • Chris F

      Tweeted from John Harper
      “Heard tonight Mets’ owners won’t stretch budget due to high cost of FAs. Alderson has $25-30 mil to spend and no more. Good luck with that.”

  • Jim OMalley

    I love the comment about Uncle Saul. He is the man behind the curtain.

  • Scott Ferguson

    25 to 30 million?
    Count out Peralta, Drew, Ellsbury and Choo.
    Count in anybody with an injury history.
    What a joke!

  • pete

    To Jerry Grote. If you read between the lines SA has not ruled out Choo. He’s not showing his cards and that’s the way a GM should conduct business(not like JW). Choo 4 years at 15-17 million is within their budget and less than 100 million. Dice-K for a million plus incentives should be the only addition to the starting rotation. Yes sign Peralta 3 years at 30-35 million. Move Tejada to second base, Package Murphy and(you fill it in)for a left fielder. At first base You have plenty of options available. How many teams are in need of a first baseman that are shopping in the free agent market? Colorado, Detroit, Pittsburgh? Do The Mets make an offer for Justin Morneau? Who is going to take Ike Davis after a disappointing 2013? Is Duda the answer at first? We’ll see.

  • John Zakour

    Quite simply I just want the Mets to do something to show the fans they are at least trying.

  • Scott Ferguson

    Chris Young, the OF, is a Met

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