Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Stayin' With Who Brung Ya

Alan Schwarz, a writer for, has hit the nail on the head today. His article, "Duquette in no-win situation", adequately outlines the problem that Mets GM Jim Duquette faces today as the Mets linger on the fringe of the playoff race.

There's currently a lot of talk in baseball about the Mets, Jim Duquette and
unenviable position he's in: Knowing what's best for the organization and yet
having the weight of 10 million tri-state yahoos ready to tar and feather him
for it.

This was a refreshing article to read. Of course, it was a little depressing, verification of my fears that the Mets really aren't in the race as much as we would hope them to be... but that sadness is outweighed by the fact that we finally got an honest perspective on the whole thing. I'm tired of listening to these talk-radio callers who don't know anything, or reading articles by guys in the NY Post of Daily News who have no concept of the future, or who are trying to sell papers. It's frustrating.

Of course, I'm just a student, and far away from the players and managers and businessmen who really make the decisions in baseball... but even I can see that making a deadline deal just doesn't make sense for the Mets right now. At least, not a BUYING/win-now deal. This article is basically a summary of every argument I have made regarding the Mets this season, to every thick-skulled neanderthal who thinks that a team who is currently 48-51 can win a World Series. People who point to the exception (the '97 and '03 Marlins, the '84 Royals, the '86 Mets) rather than the Rule.

Schwarz, who is a professional, did the work for me on this one. He dug up the numbers, and made a convincing arguments for the Mets to do the frustrating thing - to stand pat.

Well, five games is a lot -- a lot more than most people realize. Since 1969,
there have been 112 teams between 4-6½ games back on July 31, and just nine of
them came back to win. That's 8 percent, or about a one in 12 shot. (Those clubs
were far more likely to finish the season at least 10 games out than truly
remain in the race.) Of the teams that did win, only the 1984 Royals jumped over
three teams, which is what's facing the Mets.

I'm giddy about our future. Although our stars are all on the old side (Al Leiter is 38, Tom Glavine is 38, Mike Piazza is 36) we have a very intriguing team right now. I'll let Schwarz tell you about it.

The reason Duquette shouldn't sacrifice the future is that he's actually got one
-- one which other executives envy. The Mets' only existing deals past next year
are to left fielder Cliff Floyd, center fielder Mike Cameron and shortstop Kazuo
. They have two young, talented infielders (Jose Reyes and David Wright) who will be inexpensive contributors. They have a fine stable of pitching prospects (Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson and several mid-level guys) from which one or two can join the rotation within a year or two. Given that the team can carry a top-five payroll, this club is about to have more wiggle room than Calista Flockhart in Tony Soprano's tux.

And he's absolutely right. We're looking at the best crop of prospects we've seen in years, and this isn't just wild speculation - Reyes is already a star at the major league level, and Wright is here as well and could be a star. Lastings Milledge is a legitimate OF prospect, and Victor Diaz is crushing the ball at Triple-A. We've got a lot of pitching in the high minors - in Kazmir (dominant at AA), Keppel (struggling at AAA), Peterson (doing well at AA), Yates (back in the ML), Ring (closing in AAA) - so it's no longer just pinning our dreams on one injury-plagued guy (Alex Escobar) or on guys doing well in the lowest minors.

Combine all that cheap, young talent, with the fact that the Mets are the third-richest team in baseball (behind the Yankees and Red Sox) and we can go places with this team. Even without our aging stars, we've got a nucleus that will be around for a while. Imagine what just a few high-profile additions can do to that?

Plenty of reason for Met fans to be encouraged. Enjoy this season as we return to prominence... but don't expect too much. I'm comforted to know I'm not the only one who feels that way... save those unreasonable expectations for 2005 and beyond.

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