The Mets and the seven-year itch

Well, here we are, another season come and gone. One might be tempted to say “down the drain,” or “shot to hell” and one wouldn’t be wrong. Let’s face it, coming off an all-too-brief success cycle, the Mets’ 2017 season is one best left in the pile of bones representing 1974, 1992 or 2003. 92 losses is an awful lot, especially for a club that had designs on the World Series when the season started. As a result, changes were definitely required. Manager Terry Collins, pitching coach Dan Warthen and head trainer Ray (“Angel of Death”) Ramirez were all let go before the last hot dog wrapper blew from the Citi Field grass. You can’t say any of these firings or non-renewals is unfair, though holding Ramirez responsible for the spate of injuries is a little like blaming Sam Champion – the New York Eyewitness News weather guy — because it’s raining out. Besides, as one Twitter wag put it, “Ramirez fired? Well, now who am I going to boo on Opening Day?”

Funnily enough, though, yesterday, October 4, marked the seventh anniversary of the last spate of Queens head-rolling. On that date in 2010, manager Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya were let go. And after another 90-plus loss year – 2004 – there was another lineup for the guillotine, when manager Art Howe and GM Steve Phillips spent that season dead-men-walking. Do you see the same pattern I do? The Mets are a perpetual bell curve. A management team comes in when they’re at their lowest. They start replenishing resources, so there’s a slight modicum of success for the first year, a significant jump in fortunes the next and a playoff appearance – or two – right after that. Then the steep downslide starts and it always appears a lot swifter that the rise or the building. It bears repeating – and it often is right here – that the Mets were in the World Series only two years ago and fought their way into the Wild Card game last year. Suddenly, seven years into the regime of GM Sandy Alderson, they fell off a cliff. It should be noted as well that Alderson is entering this offseason without a contract extension of his own, but he has cultivated his reputation and gravitas such that he can basically write his own ticket when it comes to employment status: he’ll leave when he’s damn good and ready. We fans still wait for the day when the bell curve flattens at the high point. Alderson and his predecessors always preach developing a “sustainable run of success,” or a “culture of winning,” and it never happens. We look into our own division and see a historically long streak of playoff appearances. We look across town and can’t escape some moron braying “27 rings, baby!” We want that. We’re hungry for that. Yet, we content ourselves with a couple of postseason appearances a decade. The beat just goes on.

So… now what? The team is in rubble, what with all the mid-season contract shedding, there’s no manager and no pitching coach. Replacement names were being floated about, even before this benighted year was over. Given Alderson’s reputation, it probably won’t be somebody who would excite the fan base, at least at first flush. We’ll hope for the next Joe Maddon or Terry Francona and probably end up with Dick Scott or Bob Geren. Whoever it is, he will most likely lead the team back up the mountain, get to the playoffs a time or two, then get cashiered six or seven years hence. The beat just goes on.

This same article could probably be written after the 2024 season, just with updated names.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

17 comments for “The Mets and the seven-year itch

  1. Jim OMalley
    October 5, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I think to some degree comparisons to the full Yankee history is ill-placed. They had generational talents in Ruth, Gerhig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Ford, etc. Then they had a generational owner in Steinbrenner. And then they had Jeter. I think for comparison purposes, we need to restrict comparsions a bit. Otherwise we just buy-in to that bravado. That said, we have multiple areas to improve with inter-club communication and health practice strategies being at the head of the list. Let’s get a manager with ideas too. And lets get a final decision from David Wright and stop the 3b limbo.

  2. Pete from NJ
    October 5, 2017 at 10:29 am

    I just read an article in the WSJ written by Jared Diamond. He described the Houston Astros theory of building their excellent team.

    He wrote: “They parted with virtually all of their tradeable assets, trying to bolster an uninspiring farm system. They abstained from adding veteran free agents that might help them lose respectably, choosing to focus on young talent and load up on coveted high draft picks.

    The Astros intentionally bottomed out—a strategy known today as ‘tanking.’”

    Are we there yet? Do we want to be there?

    • Chris F
      October 5, 2017 at 11:08 am

      yup

      so did the Cubs.

      I find “half-winning” or “respectable losing” a complete and utter waste. It can only lead to treading water, hoping for .500, and miracle chance at the 2nd wild card spot…followed by additional “believe in miracles” pile of doggy doo that from the 2nd wildcard anything can happen.

      • October 5, 2017 at 11:57 am

        “But but but but….!

        You can’t rebuild in New York! Everybody knows that!”

        — Fred, Jeff & Saul

        • Chris F
          October 6, 2017 at 9:57 am

          …and there you have the cornerstone of the problem.

          In baseball Im have more of the Rocky Bobby philosophy: If you ain’t first, you’re last. Finishing 2 under .500, 20 games back has exactly zero merit.

  3. MattyMets
    October 5, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Charlie – you make some solid observations but I think it’s different this time. We have a core in place and only stripped away the ancillary parts, which are replaceable. Add four smart pieces and a high energy manager (Cora, McEwing, Montoyo) and we’re back in business.

    • Chris F
      October 5, 2017 at 11:26 am

      I dont see it at all. This team is so far from contending that saying were a few pieces away just seems like its fantasy.

      1. Pitching. If you think the pitching staff is somehow going to be what we thought this year was, then relook at this year. The only person with any reasonable hope at expectation is deGrom. After that, its not much different than this year. I havent seen enough of Familia to know hes ok. Ramos is shaky. Blevins is a hero. After that, theres a long line of “not good enough” if you want to be serious about October.

      2. Infield. Smith is wholly unproven. Rosario a bit of a disappointment with the glove and in the box…hes no Altuve, Correa, Lindor, etc. Third base is a black hole. And I dont care who you put at 2B from our buffet table (please keep away from Smith), they will only ever be passable at best.

      3. Catcher.The situation behind the plate is basically 2 back up catchers.

      4. OF. Conforto, our hero, is a giant question mark. This coming back from major shoulder surgery…will it affect his swing? his capacity to dive? who know? Centerfield is a question mark. And the we have Captain Hammy Whammy in LF. I dont like to drink water or gatorade.

      5. FO. Collins and Warthen may be gone, but Alderson is still running the show. He is a meddling GM. The owners are meddling. I dont care who you put out in the dugout, those are maximum hurdles.

      • MattyMets
        October 6, 2017 at 8:40 am

        Chris F – As you know I’m the optimist of the group. But here’s a reasonable plan (that I’m sure we’ll be dissecting all winter long) that won’t break the bank and will put us back in the playoff hunt.

        1- hire the right coach. Cora, McEwing or Montoya can spark this team the way Roberts did L.A.
        2 – add two lineup/fielding pieces. example: trade for Dee Gordon + resign Jay Bruce = strong lineup, better defense, more speed, another backup at 1st.
        3 – add a veteran innings eater. plenty to choose from: Andrew Cashner, Joulys Chacin, Doug Fister, Lance Lynn, RA Dickey, CC Sabathia, et al
        4- add another strong bullpen piece or two. examples: Tony Watson, Jake McGee, Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw, Addison Reed, Brandon Kintzler, Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson, et al

        A rotation that starts with Syndergaard/deGrom, a lineup built around Cespedes/Conforto, a bullpen anchored by Familia/Blevins/Ramos, two exciting young infielders. Right now we kind of resemble last year’s White Sox. The difference is that most of our core players are in their 20s, not 30s. It’s up to ownership to open the checkbook and Alderson to be smart to fill in the holes.

        • Jimmy P
          October 6, 2017 at 10:27 am

          I think the Mets could definitely compete for the WC next season if they made a series of moves like those listed above.

          I don’t believe they have any intention of doing that. I don’t think they are going to try very hard.

          And if they wanted Bruce, they missed the chance to extend him. He’s gotten expensive and tasted the good life. Why he’d ever return to the Mets is beyond me.

          • October 6, 2017 at 12:55 pm

            And after a couple of more performances like last night’s, the price is only going to — if you’ll pardon the expression — rise.

  4. Chris F
    October 5, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I think the other thing Mets fans in particular need to come to terms with is: 1. quit overestimating this team and 2. quit talking about October and being a juggernaut…in February, March, April, and May. We have plenty of empirical evidence that this leads only to massive disappointment.

    Win today, focus solely on today. Tomorrow will get here soon enough.

  5. Pete from NJ
    October 5, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Chris:

    I’m actually very torn into believing what I wrote as opposed to your comment #1.

    If the pitching can come back, the team is fine. If deGrom and Thor are the base and the other 5=3, then it’s a go. The hitting is adequate with some paint by the numbers additions. If not the team is doomed.

  6. Metsense
    October 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    In the era of free agency baseball is very cyclical. Team control of a new player is only six years. Determining by the end of the fifth year if a team should extend the “good” player or trade him is an important decision. Avoiding to make that decision leaves the team with a minimum return if a Qualifying Offer is decline after the sixth year. If the player isn’t good enough for a QO he can just go to the highest bidder in free agency and the original team receives nothing. Familia, Ramos and Harvey are in this position now. Trade them and bring in some players with two or more years of team control (and if there are salary savings then invest the savings in the free agent market or for higher salaried team controlled players in trade). Or, the Mets can extend these three this winter but whatever the Mets do, they should not let an asset walk out of the door without getting value back. Making fifth year decisions should avoid that.

    • Jimmy P
      October 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      In Oakland, Sandy let the Big Three walk. That’s his belief system.

      The only guy he extended early was Lagares, and today that looks like a horrible and completely unnecessary decision.

      It entirely depends on the status of the team, IMO. If you are competing for a championship, you don’t trade away valuable pieces. If the player has a great year, then you have the option of signing him or not. It would cost money, but you’d have the inside track.

      I think keeping Blevins at $7 million was a curious call this season. Sandy must really believe the Mets will compete in 2018. Otherwise, you can’t justify it.

      • October 6, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        When I hear A’s and Big Three, I think of Hudson, Mulder and Zito. Alderson drafted Hudson but was gone the next year. Beane was responsible for drafting the other two and the decision to keep/get rid of them.

        The decision not to re-up with Zito sure seems like the right one with the benefit of hindsight. The trade of Mulder was a steal for the A’s. Only the Hudson trade would the franchise like a do-over on.

        • Jimmy P
          October 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm

          I misremembered those details. Sorry about that. Should have looked it up before typing. My bad.

  7. Chris F
    October 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I completely agree Metsense. And this is the world of have/have not …. with a couple of middling exceptions that make waves. It does lead to a team is either rebuilding or going for it.

    Lets look at 2018 Mets. I think the approach can be either right now. And, unlike the Alderson way of doing business, I think you need to have clarity rather than pretending to be doing it all at once. Thats the Alderson windtalker double speak. Are you going for it? We will see how the pitching looks… blah blah blah. So we have these guys looming for FA Harvey of course, Familia, and Ramos. So, do you say this team is worth the investment to make a run with them. That costs $. Otherwise, do you shed them and bring back whatever. Pitching never goes out of style, and if these guys are really good, and we are 5 under .500 at the ASG, I think spin them off if you havent brought in other FA. The talent pool in the minors is lean, so there wont be much to trade for. The question always remains, what exactly are the Mets doing…which we have to ask even when we see it with our own eyes because the FO is so disinterested in being candid.

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