Well, here we are. This awful season is nearly finished and won’t be lamented. Just 18 games left and the Mets cannot finish over .500. That was made official last night, with their eighty-second loss of 2017, a craven 17-5 debacle in Chicago. It would appear they’re back where they started. We all know the litany: the Mets began shedding talent just before the July 31 trade deadline, continuing through mid-August. Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson were all peddled for bullpen arms and salary relief. In so doing, the Mets saved themselves about $25 million and pared the payroll down to the $75 million-or-so range. A couple of weeks ago, there was a loud hue and cry among Mets fans about Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons not reinvesting that money, using it instead to pay down debt and line their pockets. It’s a familiar refrain.
We’ve been over this before. You don’t need an obscenely large payroll to be successful. Successes by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays in recent years have proven that. And when the Mets have tried to play it the big-money way… well, can we really call that successful? What you need are superior scouting, development and analytics teams. It’s unclear at the moment if the Mets have any of those. Yes, it would appear they have an eye for pitching talent – if not long-term health – but their drafting has been just shy of woeful and recent playoff runs have left the cupboard kind of bare. Yes, Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith are all homegrown products having measures of success with no pressure, but only Conforto has proven that he can contribute to a World Series contender. There’s been talk of a “rebuild-on-the-fly” scenario for 2018, but it’s tough to envision that without a massive infusion of cash or a massive amount of prayer for the health of the pitching staff. History tells us that it’s unlikely the cash will be spent and it’s been proven time and again in baseball that prayer isn’t an effective strategy.
And so…what we fans are left with are a few remnants of a World Series team and a lot of question marks. Meanwhile, teams like the Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals seem to keep churning out youngster after youngster without missing a beat. All three will waltz into the playoffs this year with mainly young talent, supplemented by a few well-chosen veterans – the Dodgers’ super-huge payroll notwithstanding. They all have the depth to hold up in the face of disaster, whereas the Mets were left to collapse, their shaky underpinnings exposed to the world.
As your intrepid columnist is so un-fond of saying, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon.
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