Seems to me…
…there’s something missing in the Mets’ front office these days: panic.
It’s beyond refreshing to have another team in the division – our arch-rival, even, if you will – make a big, splashy move and have the reaction from Flushing be…well…nothing. The Phillies, of all teams, signed Cliff Lee to a contract lesser in years and smaller in funds than he’d been offered by Texas or the Yankees. Apparently, he loves Philly JUST. THAT. MUCH. Whatever. “De gustibus non desputandum est,” in my high-school Latin for “No accounting for taste.”
The quote from Sandy Alderson — amid the clamor and clanging of sports talk radio and the yarn-heads in the mainstream media — was as honest, forthright and bullet-like as could be. “Honestly, I don’t think it affects our long-term thinking as much as you might expect,” he said. What’s that? A flat-out declaration that we have a plan & we’re sticking to it? No promises to the fans that the front office will make you feel better right away? Wow. And hurrah!
You see, there is a looooooooong history of panicky reactions when some team or other stings us with a big-time signing. The mentality goes back to the early-‘90s, the waning days of the Frank Cashen regime – and in the first case, it was in direct response to losing the big player.
Darryl Strawberry bolted Queens to join his hometown team, the Dodgers. The Mets – never believing he’d actually, y’know, LEAVE – threw a wheelbarrow of money at long-time nemesis Vince Coleman. Coleman was a whole different kind of outfielder – and human being, as it turned out. Coleman was fast, very fast. As soon as he came into the league in 1985, he set NL stolen-base records in St. Louis. That’s about it. He didn’t hit much, had no power and his OBP hovered between .300 and .340.
How the Mets’ figured to replace Strawberry’s 1985-90 bWAR of 32.2 with Coleman’s b9.69 over the same time span is beyond rational thought, especially when there were far better options out there. Some 1991 free agent outfielders and their respective 1985-90 bWARs:
But Coleman had some key steals when the Cards beat out the Mets for the NL East in ’85 & ’87, so there’s…um…gimme a minute…Nope, it STILL boggles the mind.
If we fast-forward 10 years, the Mets are on the heels of another success cycle, fresh off an NL pennant. One of their big pitchers, NLCS MVP Mike Hampton has departed for the snow-capped school systems of Colorado. The top free agent is Mike Mussina, late of Baltimore, who did some outstanding post-season pitching back when the Orioles known for that sort of thing.
Mussina – while being wooed by nearly everyone, including the Mets, hard — wasted little time in finding his new home: the Yankees. With a front office and fan base still smarting from a World Series loss to those very Yankees, this came as a blow. It didn’t help when Mr. Mussina rubbed in a little salt at his introductory press conference, saying, in effect, “If you’re going to play in New York, why would you EVER choose the Mets?” Ouch.
Reeling, the Mets turned around and signed Kevin Appier – in their view the next best thing in an admittedly weak crop of free agent starting pitchers. Now that’s fine. Appier had a pretty good track record and pitched okay for the Mets – just okay: a 117 ERA+ — but the contract GM Steve Phillips bestowed on him was absolutely ludicrous. Three years, $29.5 million 2001 dollars. For Kevin Appier. Not Tom Seaver. Not Sandy Koufax. Not Christy Mathewson. Kevin Appier.
By the off-season, even Phillips was conscious of the ridicularity of the deal and sought to unload Appier at the earliest possible convenience. Enter the Angels with Mo Vaughn and his bloated…contract. A one-up swap of Appier for Vaughn netted the Mets the living symbol of their early-aughts futility, the poster boy for the Top Payroll/Bottom Lineup Mets we’re so familiar with this very day. These days, the examples are our very own Dynamic Duo, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.
So I’ll take Sandy Alderson’s “passive-aggressive” stance — his words –until we can be “aggressive-aggressive.”