The Mets are “close” to contention? Really?

Matt HarveyMets General Manager Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins, and pitchers Jon Niese, Jacob deGrom, and Matt Harvey held a Q&A session with season ticket holders yesterday at Citi Field. Unsurprisingly, there was really nothing of substance to take away from it. Even Alderson’s staunchest supporters (including yours truly) can no longer defend the way he always talks his way around questions. It’s not only become quite obvious, it’s become tiresome and irritating. This Q&A session was no different in that aspect.

Beyond again flatly refusing to just directly answer questions about an increase to next year’s payroll, of note was his continued assertion that he feels that the team is “close” to contending:

“As I said, I think we’re close. And I think we have the capacity to play better. Statistically, we’ve got to get back to … average with respect to wins with one-run leads and that sort of thing.”

Does he really think that the team has the capacity to play better with the players he just keeps marching out there year after year? Has he been paying attention the last few years? It’s hard to believe he actually feels that way about the offense. Surely he must be referring to the bullpen and the rotation.

“But, as I said before, we have some strengths. The pitching is a strength. We’re getting there offensively. We’re finding where we can fit the pieces in that lineup. I really do believe that we are close.”

What has Alderson seen in this offense to make him possibly believe they are “getting there?” Perhaps it’s the fact David Wright is having what may amount to be his worst season ever. Maybe it’s that, as Metsblog pointed out this morning, Chris Young has a slash of .196/.283/.313 and now has more strikeouts than hits. How about the fact that Terry Collins is depending on the corpse of Bobby Abreu to keep his lineup afloat? It can’t be the .214/.299/.323 line the team has put up in June, or their .277 wOBA over that same period, right? There’s a lot to be optimistic about there, for sure.

“We went into Philadelphia and won four out of five. That was an exhausting series. There’s no question about that. And I think we got to Chicago and were maybe a little bit tired. Not an excuse. A lot of close games. We didn’t win them. We played a better-than-Chicago-Cub team in San Francisco. All of those games were close.”

That’ll be the last of the long quotes, but honestly you cannot make this stuff up. Playing close games against the likes of the Chicago Cubs is not a barometer on which the quality of this Mets team should be measured. As of this writing, the Mets have just three more wins than the Cubs, the worst team in the National League (NL). Sure, they played close games against the best team in the NL in the Giants as well. They still lost those games, though. All three of them.

It doesn’t appear as though Alderson is enamored with the idea of trading some of the Mets’ heralded pitching depth, either. When asked about trading some of it for a power bat, Alderson replied with something along the lines of “you can never have enough pitching.” True enough, Mr. Alderson, but at some point you’re going to have to address the offense in earnest. As Ken Davidoff pointed out this week in NY Post, the Mets are doing a fantastic job at proving you can’t win with pitching alone. Even so, and as we pointed out here a couple of weeks back, the pitching has been a bit of an illusion thus far.

Of course, we have to consider that Alderson has been working under constraints placed on him by ownership. Those constraints appear to be incredibly volatile and the Wilpons seem to have continually misled him about them every year. Still, the decisions made by Alderson and his front office within those constraints are theirs and theirs alone. That includes actions taken and those not taken, whatever their reasoning behind them. If Alderson feels that those decisions have led to a team “close” to contention at this point, then maybe we Mets fans may have more to be worried about than we originally thought.

10 comments for “The Mets are “close” to contention? Really?

  1. Jerry Grote
    June 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Simple.
    If the Mets are “close to competing”, then those five games against Philadelphia – the *worst team in the division* – shouldn’t have been exhausting.

    If the Mets are “close to competing”, then a stretch against the weakest teams doesn’t end up 7 wins and 7 losses. Especially if you are going to follow that up with 1 win and 5 losses against elite competition.

    It tells any thinking fan that we are on par with the worst in the league, not “close to competing*. We’ve won 16 of the last 43 games. WTFU.

    • June 16, 2014 at 1:22 am

      Better yet next year will be no different than this year. Collins and Alderson will be here and so will the Wilpons with their 80 million dollar payroll. God help us! I see the same problems in 2015, inconsistent bull pen, overrating of our players no clutch hitters. A young inexperienced team with some ancient fossils added to the mix. lets go Mets.

  2. Metsense
    June 16, 2014 at 8:11 am

    He was obviously misquoted. He said the Mets were close to Conventions and he was correct, The Retail Confectioners Covention at the Hyatt in St Louis June 16 -20th. Their theme “Innovate, collaborate, accelerate” , something the team needs to do.http://www.retailconfectioners.org/events/event_details.asp?id=285360
    What a mix, Candy and Grandy!

  3. Name
    June 16, 2014 at 8:15 am

    There’s really no such thing as “close” or “not close” in baseball. Teams can easily turn on the switch (2014 Marlins, Brewers, Giants, 2013 Indians, Red Sox, 08 Rays, etc…) or can easily have it turned off (2014 Rays, Red Sox)
    Additionally you have teams who fans/media think should be great but don’t live up the billing (2013 and 2014 Nats, 2013 Blue Jays) and teams that the fans/media think are OK but do much better (A’s in recent years, 2014 Blue Jays)

    Most of the time, winning isn’t like learning where it comes incrementally. Winning is more like a business; it can take off or tank at any minute with little warning.

  4. Chris F
    June 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

    If the info shared from the season ticket holders presser wasnt enough of an open gas can next to a camp fire, yesterday, Alderson also appeared on the “Front Office” show with Jim’s Bowden and Duquette on MLB radio. Because we couldnt actually hear his words in the written reports in the season tix holders meeting, the actual amount of delusion doesnt really come across.

    Alderson outwardly laughs at the press and blogs. Absolutely no regard for any commentary outside Fort Alderson. The walls of the echo chamber are hermetically sealed…a perfect 68 degrees with 40 % humidity every day, all the time. Outside conditions do not exist in his version of reality. A veritable baseball “Truman Show”.

    Alderson is absolutely lost, as I feared, in peripheral metrics. He talks about the club not in wins and losses, but in run differential/pythagorean record…as if either are somehow measurements on making the playoffs. It makes him say: we are close to contention. If reality only matched the modeling, we would be close to .500, and that kind of record puts in in real wild card potential. If you ask me, given how miserable the NL East is (however, dont blink or you will see the Nats pass right on by and disappear off the horizon), we would have better chances winning the division outright than dreaming about a wild card. I digress. I should say I regress…or the team will regress…its just a matter of time that the actual record will regress to the pythagorean record, at which point we will be contenders. He is quite impressed with OBP, as we all know, as if that is another metric equally important as wins/losses. He did mention that it is hard to understand why the runs do not come home with all this “on-basing”. But hey, no panic, his offensive system is not just a Metsian thing, others use it to great success. Chuckle chuckle chuckle.

    To quote an infamous politician, “we are going to war with the army we have, not the army we want.” Tied to the above, it is clear Alderson thinks that we have the personnel as constructed to be contenders. When pressed on the matter, he said money would be available for the club to be buyers at the trade deadline, although he will not part with prospects. Exactly how that would occur then stumped me and the Jim’s and anyone else listening to the drivel. Of course we have competing “realities” to face: are we actual contenders or are we “Alderson” (derivative mathematical) contenders. The Mets will be buyers fans. I could not believe what I was hearing.

    Collins is the guy. He reiterated that TC is doing an excellent job, otherwise we would not be “near contenders”. He is going nowhere. Listening to his description of the Hudgens firing in order to have the squad hear a new voice about the exact same message was a type of mental gymnastics that I recall facing in grad school oral exams. Really, I have no clue what the hell he was trying to say.

    On pitching: Jon Niese is going nowhere if you can believe anything SA says. He made it clear that he is a lefty cornerstone for the future. Harvey will be pitching, as Adam Rubin speculated, somewhere in the system this year, but it wont be in NY. He loves Matz.

    Conforto could be in Queens next year. He could start in Lucie or Binghamton. Nimmo is a favorite (his draft afterall). So lets review the ’15 or ’16 OF: Coforto LF, Nimmo CF, Grandy RF. Let me ask you all…who’s missing on this list? Thats the sound of my tears falling.

    Im sure there were other things I missed…but what struck me was the bald-faced detachment with reality in nearly every aspect of the interview. After he hung up, Bowden said the reason the Mets are not doing well isnt because the the run differential, but because there are quite a few below average people that SA has staffed in these positions. That seems to be missed by SA.

    • norme
      June 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Great post, Chris F.

  5. pablo
    June 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Pitching doesn’t win baseball games. It could keep you in the game, along with a strong defense.

  6. Patrick Albanesius
    June 17, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    We were supposed to be contenders enough to win 90 games this year, but now we are simply close to contending? That sounds like a step backwards to me. Yes, our young pitching is the future of the team, but what offense do we have coming through the system next year to make us competitive? Free agency is not what it used to be, and that’s assuming we’ll somehow have more money next year. So the only possible route left to improve the offense is trades. I understand that Alderson doesn’t want to show his cards on that front, but everyone knows that’s his only play. At least admit it, and move on, rather than keep up this cloak and dagger routine.

    • Chris F
      June 18, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Well SA moving in the shadows is his MO. Partly its Ok, because he does need to have some advantage in his dealings, but the fact is we cant even see the compass needle at all, and its accompanied by blatant lies about the squad and plans (I can only take being peed on and having SA call it rain for so long before I understand reality). The thing is Patrick, trading is not SAs strong suit. He seems to be best at trading real MLB talent for prospects (however, so far the Beltran and RA trades have yet see any genuine benefit), but much less competent at other kinds of trades. My confidence in his capacity to pick quality FAs (why on Earth we didnt pursue Jose Abreu still just floors me) or win trades is pretty low. All in all, the Alderson era is going out with a whimper, not a bang.

      • Jerry Grote
        June 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

        Abreu … Sandy presided over a team that had three firstbaseman at one point, each of whom had provided a 130+ OPS season before their age 25 season – *and all three were still on the roster*.

        When you start from that space, signing another 1B becomes almost impossible. How can you justify such a mis-allocation of resources?

        Unfortunately the legacy of the Sandy Alderson era might well be receiving little more than magic beans – and passing on the likes of Abreu or for that matter, Kendry Morales.

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