Friday, January 15, 2010

Carlos Beltran's Surgery and Moving On

I have had almost 24 hours to digest the news that my favorite player, Carlos Beltran had surgery on his knee yesterday. I'm not going to engage in the ongoing speculation about who knew what, or how this reflects on the Mets, or any of that. All that I know is that, in my eyes, the Mets just went from a fringe contender to an unbelievable long shot -- and that the Mets would probably be best served by forgetting 2010.

On November 23rd I asked, "What should the Mets offseason strategy be?" It always appeared to me that the Mets were in the most undesirable of positions -- not good enough to compete for the East, not bad enough to sell everything and start over, and with several players locked into big contracts in their prime.

It was my opinion then that the Mets should "spend the money conservatively and gear up for a serious run at the post-season in 2011." It is even more true today. It appears now, more than ever, that any Mets run toward the playoffs this year was nothing more than a complete fantasy.

Did we really expect that Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, AND Johan Santana would all return from injury and be 100%? And that David Wright would recover his power and stop striking out? And that our underachieving young starters would somehow form a competent rotation? And before you say no -- we must have. If any of them faltered, we wouldn't have had a chance at Philadelphia or Atlanta even if we DID make a big-time offseason move.

So here we are, faced with the worst of the worst. Even if Beltran was able to make a miraculous recovery AND be back before the end of April AND be able to play centerfield, is this a team that we think we can win with? Or is this just a splash of cold water to the face? Is the fact that our best player had surgery performed on him less than two weeks into a new calendar year a coincidence? Or is it a grim reminder of the reality of the situation - that the injuries of 2009 can't be wished away? That life exists objectively, regardless of our optimism?

I never thought the Mets had enough to make a run at the playoffs this year -- not unless 1) we made a big splash and went over the widely-reported budget we were on or 2) literally every lucky break went our way. Now, neither of those things are possible. I still think the Mets can be good. I think they can compete in a tough NL East (where the Marlins are now using their revenue-sharing money and the Nationals are the most improved team). But I think it is time to bite the bullet on this one.

The Mets could, of course, do what so many have suggested and now try to make up for Beltran's absence. Sam Page over at Amazin Avenue does a great job and takes a crack at a solution:

So, as the A's did in Moneyball with Jason Giambi, the Mets need to replace Beltran in components, looking to upgrade elsewhere, which means firstbase and secondbase, most likely. Now, Orlando Hudson at secondbase and a flyer on either Russell Branyan or Carlos Delgado seems more likely.

* * *

The blind hope that Beltran would be fine and his old-self really allowed me to warm up to the Bay signing. Hopefully, this whole fiasco motivates the Mets to make drastic improvements to both their run-scoring and run-prevention.
How does the loss of a key player indicate to anyone that these is MORE reason to invest in this team? And if we didn't have the money before, how do we have it now? I'm not picking on Amazin Avenue - because I think this is the prevailing notion.

The loss of our centerfielder - a generational talent - is the LAST reason to pour more resources into the 2010 team. Now, more than ever, I think the Mets should stand pat and see what they have got. See if Reyes and others can bounce back, and see if we have a core of a contender for 2011 and beyond. And who knows? Maybe the team as currently constituted will be good or lucky enough to make a run -- and then we can make moves in-season.

But as I wrote yesterday:

An idea is either good or bad -- it doesn't matter which team it is. Ben Sheets is a good risk or a bad one, depending on the price -- not depending on which team he signs with.

* * *

Everyone has their own preference, either to gamble or be safe. But such a preference is personal -- it does not affect the OBJECTIVE truth of whether an investment is smart or not.

The Mets just became a far worse gamble than before.


Sam said...

My sentiment that we should invest more in the team now kind of supposes three things:
1. We can make short terms signings that will not hurt the 2011 payroll, i.e. one year for Felipe Lopez and one year for Russell Branyan each at ~2MM. I would really support these signings either way.
2. The Mets have enough talent that they should always give themselves a chance to compete in the short term. What I mean by that, is even if they don't invest heavily in 2010, they should at least shore up the holes in the roster (2B) with bridge-solutions in case Reyes and Pelfrey, for example, have breakouts and suddenly we are competing with the Phillies/for the wild card.
3.--my main point here--The Mets didn't significantly improve these areas before so maybe the panic of the Beltran situation will motivate them to make a more well-rounded roster.

I don't think my hope is really conflicting with the idea they should "go for it" in 2011.

Brian said...

Well said. If we can patch up some holes and field a reasonably decent team and not handicap our chance at success in 2011, I am all for it. It would be nice to stay within shouting distance of the Phils/Braves and have a fighting chance come August.

And I suppose that you are right - this incident might light a fire under the Mets front-office to actually accomplish some of those upgrades.

But whether they will and whether they should are separate questions -- and I'd personally rather save money this year and reinvest it in the minors and the draft than be just good enough to win 85 games.