The Mets went to Atlanta last night having lost four of their last six games. It’s never good news when the Mets travel to Georgia – it hasn’t been since that chamber of horrors opened in 1997 – and particularly bad when they go in reeling. So it came as no shock that a pretty good win would morph into a horrendous loss in a matter of moments: same ol’ Mets. We fans were promised that this 2014 season would be different. This would be the year the team turned the corner. This would be the year the finances would be stable. This would be the year we’d catch a glimpse of contention.
Who could blame a Met fan for feeling as though he’d been had? Again?
In the aftermath of the passing of beloved Mets GM Frank Cashen, much has been made of Cashen’s first four wildly unsuccessful years vs. Sandy Alderson’s current attempts to right the ship. There are similarities, to be sure. Both men had been working in the MLB offices at the time of hire and both came with impressive track records in winner-building. Both men arrived with the team’s infrastructure in ashes. Each man brought along “his people” to work alongside. Both put an emphasis on pitching – prudent in a spacious home stadium. Out of desperate necessity, both preached patience with a young team. Both hired managers whom they could trust – and neither of their first shots at it were what you would call “successful.” Both had teams that consistently sported winning percentages well below the .500 mark. Yes, a case could be made that Alderson – in year number four – is on the same path tread by Cashen and that 2015 will be the year it all bears fruit. At the same time, as similar as the early going of the two regimes looks, they are actually wildly disparate.
For one thing, when Cashen was brought in to run things in 1980, he came along with brand-spankin’-new owners. At the urging of then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, newbies Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon brought in an experienced hand, seeing as they had none. In case you hadn’t heard, Wilpon is still here, thirty-four years later, so Alderson is burdened by expectation and limitation from above, while hearing frustration from a fan base that’s all too aware of the fact that Alderson can work no miracles in the absence of real resources. That’s another difference: back in the ‘80s, Cashen did have resources with which to work. The Doubleday/Wilpon fresh money allowed him to send a signal to MLB and the fans that the Mets could be players in the modern management game: he was able to trade for George Foster and sign him to a lucrative contract extension. He was able to bring back fan favorites like Dave Kingman and Rusty Staub to placate those of us pining for the mediocre-ol’-days. He was able to bring Tom Seaver home. All of this before the Mets could harbor any thought of competing. When Keith Hernandez arrived half-way through the 1983 season – another lost campaign – this was the true sign that Cashen meant business and opened the door for the acquisition of Gary Carter, which put the franchise firmly over the top.
No such similar sign seems to be coming from Sandy Alderson. As much as the Met fan wishes this season to be a latter-day version of 1983, it’s getting harder and harder to project this team being that close to contention and it appears that Alderson will not get the same kind of help Cashen had when assembling his would-be dynasty.
More’s the pity.
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