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.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.
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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.
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.
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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.