How far are the Mets away from having Dodgers-like success?

While payroll salary appears to be a way of comparing levels of investment in players, it is just for the world to see. The real difference in organizational success is behind the scenes. The scouting department sizes and the areas they reach, the size of the analytics department, the amount of instruction and correction available to the young player via coaching and analytical information to teach their strengths to be stronger and weaknesses to be better managed, and the facilities and tools given to each player in the entire organization in order to improve themselves.

There will always be “haves” and “have nots” due to differences in markets. While there are revenue sharing streams from larger markets meant to help the smaller markets, a lack of a salary floor allows the receiving owners to just pocket the money and use the market size as an excuse to not be able to afford better players. This does not even consider the difference in facilities the players use, information and guidance given to them, and the backbone to every team: scouting and finding talent. Big city teams will always be able to spend money to secure talent because their coffers should be fuller, if they do things right. When the Mets gave up top prospects to get Edwin Diaz instead of taking the entirety of Cano’s contract and keeping their dead weight, they gave the Mariners negotiating leverage. Conversely, when the Astros received Justin Verlander from the Tigers, they took the entire deal and gave the Tigers very little talent since they were giving them financial relief. Houston is the fourth biggest metro in the country. They knew that the revenue they would be receiving from playoff tickets would cover most of Verlander’s salary. After all, they played in a division expected to be weakened for a few years at least and they had a new TV deal; they can afford Verlander. Just this last post-season as the Astros made it to the World Series, check out this article placed on Houston’s ABC-TV news page on October 20th:

“Now that the Houston Astros have advanced to the World Series for the second time in three years, fans are scrambling to buy tickets. Tickets for Game 1 and 2 are already sold out, but resale tickets are available for a hefty price. On StubHub, tickets for Game 1 at Minute Maid Park are selling for around $450 per ticket. That’s for standing room only. The highest ticket price spotted on the site was $13,000. Vividseats has tickets for about $35 cheaper, but still for standing room only. Club level tickets are going for around $1,300. The Major League Baseball site has Insperity and Diamond club tickets available for $13,000 to $15,000.” Obviously, winning has its advantages.
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As the Dodgers were negotiating a new TV deal in 2012, they knew Los Angeles wasn’t going to support the patience of rebuilding. So, the Dodgers used their financial advantage to buy time. A major trade with the Red Sox provided the big names of Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett to buy some time and fill the stadium. They increased their payroll to $291 million in order to buy talent without having to sacrifice the minor league rebuilding.

When Andrew Friedman took over the Rays, he bolstered their analytical and scouting departments and built a successful organization on a shoestring payroll. As soon as a player started to become expensive (David Price or Scott Kazmir) or was approaching the end of their prime years (Evan Longoria or Carl Crawford) they were traded for well scouted prospects that kept the talent level on their farm strong and replenished.

When Friedman went to the Dodgers in 2014, he used the same organizational model as he did on the Rays. The farm improvement led to young and cheap but outstanding players filling the roster and the payroll steadily decreasing to under $200 million, without any players having a nine figure contract. Their highest-paid player is left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who signed a three-year, $93 million extension before this season.

Consider this information from John Tomase’s October 10, 2019 piece on NBC Sports Boston: “The Dodgers are set up to maintain their success, too, with $113 million committed to next season, $89.5 million on the books in 2021, and only $20 million committed to 2022 (per Baseball-Reference). Compare that to the Red Sox, who have $118 million in guarantees committed to 2022 as part of a bloated payroll that’s the reason they’re seeking new leadership in the first place. In Los Angeles, Friedman built an All-Star front office featuring no fewer than five former GMs: Josh Byrnes, Alex Anthopoulos, Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti, and Gerry Hunsicker. He hired liberally from the Red Sox, stealing respected figures like Dave Finley and Galen Carr. He has built the Dodgers into an analytics-driven powerhouse, which is how they ended up on the forefront of the launch angle revolution.” Even before Friedman came to Los Angeles in 2014, the Dodgers were already investing into improvement by signing international free agents like Yasiel Puig and Alexander Guerrero. Friedman just gave them a better focus and plan.

Brodie Van Wagenen has tried to emulate this as best he can by stealing the Royals AGM and two of Boston’s top analytics people, but he needs the resources to go for more. Consider this: Jon Updike was a Mets Scouting Supervisor and the reason the Mets have Matt Allen and Pete Alonso in their organization. However, this man left the Mets to start an analytics business for the amateur player called Baseball Cloud. Now, I understand that people want to better themselves but other organizations – like the Reds last November, the Red Sox several years ago – have hired people from similar companies and gave them the latitude to stay on with both the baseball organization and their outside business interest as a way to keep an association with the better talent evaluators. Plus, he’s working with amateur players and that’s what you’re looking for!!! How do you let this guy get away to go to a startup that doesn’t know when it will make money and how much, and you don’t entice him to work with you a few years while the business model is growing?

Comparing the approaches used by both organizations with regard to talent, the Mets will sacrifice talent in order to meet their budget. They are willing to throw promising players into deals to take those players with problematic contracts off the books, supposing that there will always be other players available to give Mets fans an expectation that the team is of the quality to achieve entry into the post season. By willing to dispose of promising and cheap players like Dominic Smith and JD Davis, and top prospects such as Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic in order to trade players away with troubling contracts, they take their talent pool for granted and have thus been in the post season only once in the last twelve years – a World Series appearance that surprised even the team itself.

Conversely, The Dodgers are willing to take half of injury prone and recently erratic David Price’s remaining three year $96 million deal in order to get Mookie Betts for a single prospect and a swing man out of their bullpen. The deal is being lauded by baseball writers for its brilliance in that the Dodgers receive the second best player in baseball over the last four years with a very small sacrifice because the draft pick they will receive if Betts signs with another team for next season will equal the Alex Verdugo payment they made; they just need to allow the player time to develop. The Dodgers therefore are keeping their top prospects while getting the second best player in MLB according to WAR, who no one believed they can do when the trade talks began, and it will merely cost them the talent of a swing man out of the bullpen in the long run! The Dodgers have won their division seven years in a row and have been consistently vying for the best record in baseball.

Both the Dodgers and Mets compete in large markets. Los Angeles is the second largest and New York is the largest in the nation. However, it appears the biggest difference between the Mets and the Dodgers is the mindset, and if that doesn’t change nothing else will. The Mets’ inspiration could very well be the Yankees but instead of emulating the Yankees, Mets ownership chooses to shun them in trades and to look for “friendly” reporters that will mock Yankee business in the local press. It is actually the Yankees that are more Dodgers-like. Adding to the comparisons, the Dodgers and Angels are presently working on a trade to send a talented young outfielder, Joc Pederson, from the Dodgers to the Angels. Pederson hit 36 homeruns last year and is considered an outstanding defensive corner outfielder that can give you acceptable defense in centerfield; sort of a “Michael Conforto” makeup with more speed, and the entire baseball world knows that there is no way the Mets are trading a player like that to the Yankees unless the Yankees are willing to overpay by an extreme amount.

21 comments for “How far are the Mets away from having Dodgers-like success?

  1. Chris F
    February 7, 2020 at 10:42 am

    The Plimsouls, one of my favorite bands ever, wrote the perfect song to answer the question in your title:

    “A Million Miles Away”

    • TexasGusCC
      February 7, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      Nice tune, never heard it before. I’m surprised you only said 1 million and not 2.6 billion miles away.

      (Low blow, I know. But it was too tempting to just let pass.)

      • Chris F
        February 7, 2020 at 8:07 pm

        🙂

  2. February 7, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    We need to change ownership – get an owner in who wants to make the Team better not just use it for leverage in Real Estate deals.

  3. José
    February 7, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Actually, I’m trying to decide just how amazingly incredibly unbelievably stupendous the Dod’s starting lineup is, especially after reading all the post-Mookie fangasms. Yes, The Mook and Bellinger are top-notch, and Seager can potentially be highly regarded depending on his defense (which I can’t judge based on my limited info), but the rest of the herd is not that incredible.

    It seems that their status as “the best ever” (or close to it) would depend much on the performance of the 2 rookies (or near rooks) Lux and Smith

    • TexasGusCC
      February 7, 2020 at 5:51 pm

      They better average 6 runs a game, and Kershaw better stay healthy. I see alot of rookies being used there, including that ”Ginger Thor” kid. I think the nickname is cute, but Syndergaard called it “stupid”. LOL

  4. John Fox
    February 7, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    Its been 31 years since the Dodgers won a World Series

  5. Herb G
    February 7, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    Now that the Wilpons have stated their intention to sell the team, the issue of matching Dodger-like success is wholly dependent upon who buys the team. And so, how far they are from being a big market player again is either the length of time it takes to find another billionaire buyer or consortium , , or never.

  6. February 8, 2020 at 12:33 am

    My opinion is that a big pitching acquisition or two would have been more useful to the Dodgers than getting Betts. Not taking anything away from Betts. But LA needs pitching more than it needs hitting. I wonder if $20 more million dollars would have made Wheeler a West Coast guy.

    As for when the Mets catch up to LA? Since 2014, the Mets have brought deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Conforto, Nimmo, Rosario, McNeil and Alonso to the majors and farm system chits including Fulmer, Wotell and Woods-Richardson were used to bring in Cespedes, Bruce and Stroman. I feel like the farm has done its job.

    The two areas where they’ve been far behind LA have been the health of their most expensive players and their ability to go dumpster diving and find jewels. Wright and Cespedes are both about to come off the books, which will help in one area. Now if they could just pick up some trash and have it turn into Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy, they’d be in business.

    Maybe we can view JD Davis as this type of guy. It would be nice if Porcello and/or Wacha became another.

    • TexasGusCC
      February 8, 2020 at 3:09 am

      You made a very good point about being lucky with the “trash” pickup. Only of Chris Taylor do the Dodgers say that they had some level of confidence in picking up. Turner went to them and Max Muncy was a head scratcher. When the Dodgers beat the Mets in L.A. last year, the Mets hinted at the Dodgers having “some very confident swings” at their pitches. I won’t say more but I have to agree with the Mets suspicions, and feel Muncy was a major benefactor. In fact, I think it’s time that pitchers go to wearing an earpiece like quarterbacks do because too much smoke out there to not have multiple fires.

      What the biggest deal in L.A. was last year was a dominant bullpen to cover for unimpressive starters that were ecstatic to reach the fifth inning.

      • MattyMets
        February 8, 2020 at 9:28 am

        As long as the Mets have short-sighted owners who treat the luxe tax threshold like a hard cap, we can’t possibly emulate the Dodgers. According to MLBTR, the Mets pushed hard for London at the winter meetings and could have gotten him for Rosario and 2 prospects but balked at the money. The arb2 Lindor will make 17.5mm this year, a bargain for one of the games best talents and he’d be a significant upgrade to our defense and lineup. However his salary would have pushed us over “the cap” so the Mets were busy trying to shoehorn Lowrie or Familia into any any negotiations and hence no big trades happened. Going slightly over the threshold for one season is of small consequence – about a $4mm penalty. Either the Wilpons don’t understand that or else they really are that cheap.

        • Chris F
          February 8, 2020 at 10:24 am

          This is *exactly* the reason I think the Mets are fake “win now”. Win now means landing Lindor and making it palatable like the Ces trade. So we get players that once were good, fell off the cart form age or injury, and get hired cheap with the hope of high upside. That’s very different than signing Cole, or Bryant, or Betts, or Harper etc.

  7. Eraff
    February 8, 2020 at 5:59 am

    That low future payroll Obligation— Seager, Bellinger, Petersen…..Betts!!!!!….. Kershaw…..Turner…. The 22 million dollar Dodgers don’t include Any of those players. They’re all in the same 2 year or so window.

    The Dodgers have spent lots of Money so they could keep prospects. It’s purely a Big Money Ball approach…that’s not the finger print of the Mets’ Ownership

  8. NYM6986
    February 8, 2020 at 7:39 am

    It has always been the shortsightedness of Mets ownership that prevented them from bringing a winner to the table and then somehow figuring how to sustain that winning concept. Granted, you could look back at the 1969 and 1986 championship teams and see that they were hit by injuries in the following year. But so were many other teams. Organizations like the Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles were famous for having other players ready to step in. The Mets on the other hand have generally tried to pick up pieces on the cheap and not look for stars who could maintain that competitive edge.
    Until this practice ends they will not sustain a winning ball club who, like the Braves, or Yankees, or Cardinals, or Dodgers seem to strive to win their Division as goal number one each year and not try to just be competitive and sneak into a wild-card spot. With a good pitching staff like the one we have, we know that backing into a wild-card spot still puts us in a position to advance in the playoffs. The best teams in baseball take a different approach and build their team with a strong minor-league contingent. What the Mets continue to need to do is to supplement the strong homegrown component that is a good part of their starting roster with some out and out difference makers much like Gary Carter was a generation ago, or Keith Hernandez, or Don Clendenon, or Mike Piazza. The other huge component is getting ownership to reinvest in the team and understand that a winning team puts fans in the seats and generates a great deal of revenue from everything that goes to bringing people back into the stadium.
    We have not acted like a big market team in forever. My hope is that BVW continues to get the resources to keep thinking our side the box. We have a good core group but must invest in players that make a huge difference like we hoped Cespedes would and did in 2015 leading the team to the WS.
    Keep the faith – it’s what we got as Met fans.

  9. Chris F
    February 8, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I’ve looked over the past 10 years to get a comparison. I guess in baseball one might say neither won a WS and so they are not far apart at all. I get that. After all that is the only goal of playing the game in my opinion. Let’s look at the regular season.

    1. The Dodgers have won 126 more games than the Mets in the past 10 years.
    2. The Dodgers have finished over .500 9 of 10 years, the Mets have 3 times.
    3. The Dodgers have won their division 7 times, the Mets once.
    4. The Dodgers have had 90+ wins in 7 seasons, twice >100; The Mets 90 once.

    So I just don’t see the Mets are anywhere near the Dodgers, even if the Mets have a great season and the Dodgers flop this year. A long term look tells something about the system and sustained success – the mark of a very solid team and system. It’s just not how it works in Queens with the Ownership, Madoff disaster, and front office personnel. Until there’s a change with a real vision and a clear “Mets way” , it will be hard to close the gap.

    • February 8, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      You love to go back and include a 10-year period when figuring out where the current Mets are. My opinion is that this is blatantly unfair.

      When they traded Beltran in 2011, it was a clear rebuild.

      Why don’t you make these comparisons from 2014 – when they signed Granderson and Colon and were actively trying to compete – on?

      They’re still going to fall short of the Dodgers – the class of the NL right now. But at least it will be a slightly more even playing field. It’s still not even because the Dodgers until this year were spending around $100 million more per season than the Mets. The worst discrepancy was 2015, when the Dodgers final payroll was $291 million while the Mets’ was not quite $110 million. But at least both teams were somewhat equivalent on the success cycle at this point.

      • Chris F
        February 8, 2020 at 12:16 pm

        A decade is arbitrary, much like selecting September production to predict the success of next season, but if you are comparing teams and team success, you need a longer frequency to even out the yearly ups and downs. Every year we hear the Mets are a 90+ win team, and well, that’s happened once in a decade. You may not like that but it’s true. I don’t see a question like how far is a team from dodger like success as a “now” or short term comparison.

  10. Chris F
    February 8, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Well, you make my regular point. Virtually no one thinks the Mets have been or are a 90 win team. Yet every February the fans make it clear how much the team is a 90, 95, or even 100 win team…see plenty of previous posts. If I say the team is. not 90 win, Im a pessimist and get criticized for mentioning it, yet now it seems ok for others out in the baseball world to be quoted as saying that.

    I dont think there is any way you can look at the short term to compare the Mets record and Dodger-like success. Their success is longitudinal, which is so phenomenally hard to maintain. If the Mets won 115 games in 2020, they still would not be close to the Dodgers success story.

    Have the Mets been rebuilding since 2010? Ok, take the past 5 years of you dont like 10. If thats too much take the past 2 or even 1. However I refuse to use predictions about either team for games that have not started as a way to see where the teams are. I compared actual records to estimate sameness, nothing more.

    • February 8, 2020 at 8:00 pm

      I think I’ve been pretty clear crediting the Dodgers as the class of the NL.

      The Mets are not in that class. But they’re approaching a point where it’s not ridiculous to consider them in the upper echelon. In 3 of the last 5 years they’ve won 86-90 games. The only other NL teams to win 85 or more games at least 3X in that span are the Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, Cards and Nats. The two times the Mets didn’t reach that mark they had some serious injury issues with their highest-paid players.

      I want the Mets to be at the point where if we read 30 neutral predictions that all 30 of them have them making the playoffs. If they get to that point, and then do it on a regular basis – I’ll consider them on par with the Dodgers. And I won’t consider them second-class citizens because they were rebuilding in the 2011-2014 period.

  11. TexasGusCC
    February 9, 2020 at 2:14 am

    Stop the presses! Someone turned on their lightbulb, and it’s a strong LED one!

    https://nypost.com/2020/02/08/the-mets-way-inside-the-overhaul-that-could-change-everything/

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