Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ownership v. Management and the #averagejob

Okay Will Davidian, I'll take the bait.

In a post yesterday afternoon, I lambasted the Mets for the terrible situation they have put us in by having $110 million committed to only seven players (or depending on your source, around $112 million to eight). I criticized them for lacking a plan. And finally, I questioned whether the Mets will ever win with the current ownership.

Then, and in a footnote mind you, I mentioned that I thought that Minaya and Manuel are "doing at least an average job." Erm. Well, Mr. Davidian then spent the night poking fun at the phrase via twitter. Since I'm an old fart or something, I needed to get this news from Roger via email:
Nick Evans started Game 162 of 2008. He started three games in September/October of 2009. #averagejob #15org

The manager called a player soft after he suffered a concussion breaking up a double play. #averagejob #15org

Elmer Dessens is getting paid $1M to be terrible. Thanks Omar? @FonzieForever

Mets lost two game on a West Coast trip with Oliver Perez on the mound. K-Rod was unused in either game. #averagejob #15org
Okay, har har, well played. And don't get me wrong - I actually do find these kinds of things amusing. I find it interesting that Mets fans have such a unique community here among the blogs/twitter, etc... in fact, unique not only in terms of media used, but also by team. Mets fans dominate talk radio here in the city, and it seems that they occupy a unique space here on the internet as well -- it is our curse.

That said, I am going to try and defend the statement. There are three points:

1. When I say average, I do not mean the strict arithmetic mean. I don't think anyone does. If I had said "okay" or "decent" the statement would have provided way less material... but I said average.

2. They may well have been average, even by that definition. Could Omar and Jerry have been the 15th best team? I think you could make the argument. Have you watched other teams?

Managers for different clubs make absolutely terrible moves all the time. Just watch out of town games - I promise you, your hatred for Manuel will decrease immediately. In addition, there has been more ink spilled on the uselessness of managers tactical decisions than I feel comfortable talking about. It's just not a worthwhile topic of conversation unless you're at an absolute extreme - and I like that this team likes to play for Jerry.

The job done by Omar Minaya looks even rosier by comparison. Every team is saddled with bad contracts, sometimes several. Take a look at this list by Sky Andrecheck in Sports Illustrated from December of 2009: Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Zito, Carlos Silva, Kyle Lohse, Oliver Perez, Gary Matthews Jr. ($23 million owed by Angels), Aaron Rowand, Juan Pierre, Milton Bradley.

Big League Stew did a similar list, but this time took the ten worst contracts of the decade. You will see not a single Met contract on that list. Add familiar names like Chan Ho Park and Mike Hampton, and you'll think the Castillo deal meaningless by comparison.

Heck, Minaya barely makes MLB Trade Rumors' list of 10 Worst Free Agent Signings of this past offseason. That list includes the likes of Matt Holliday, Jason Kendall, Jason Marquis, Mark DeRosa, etc. Alex Cora cracks the list at #10, but at $2 million, who cares?

I say this while keeping as objective as possible. Only a casual perusal of the Fonzie archives from this past offseason will show my absolute frustration with the team's moves. But I'm realistic -- Omar has been okay, minus one fatal flaw.

3. The lack of a plan and forced bad free agent signings, I suspect, originate from Mets ownership. This is as close to speculation as you'll probably ever find on this site, but it's a feeling that I just can't shake. Many have complained that the Mets moves over the last two years have been the direct result of the Wilpons' losses in the Madoff scandal, and evidence of that fact is getting harder and harder to refute.

I resisted this insinuation -- always believing that the Mets would sustain themselves through ticket sales and the like -- but the bottom line is that Omar wasn't able to make any kind of move in June when the Mets were in it, and he made one huge boneheaded signing in the offseason, in December when season ticket sales were flagging. A blog entry over at forbes.com does a good job of summarizing the argument for me:
Baseball’s worst owner? Always tough to say, given how subjective the arguments can be. But the Mets’ Fred Wilpon is certainly making a good run at it.

* * *

Wilpon’s general manager, Omar Minaya, makes the big splash every winter (Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Frankie Rodriguez, and now Jason Bay) only to find disappointment by the following October. Minaya’s predecessor, Steve Phillips, did the same thing, trying to transition an aging 2000 World Series team on the fly by picking up the washed up Mo Vaughan, Roberto Alomar and Pedro Astacio. Result: four straight seasons finishing third or lower. Both Phillips and Minaya have taken a lot of heat from local fans and press. But who did each work for? Wilpon, under whom the Mets are 639-655 since he wrested full control from former partner Nelson Doubleday in 2002.

* * *

But that one step back that’s usually required to move two steps forward is one that Wilpon has never been willing to take. The Mets have become a franchise with a handful of stars supported by a soft underbelly...
One look at the Mets moves from the last couple of years shows that the Mets are willing to make one big addition as the last year's big addition comes off the books. They get to maintain the status quo in terms of payroll while being able to tout a new addition to the team.

Welcome to the team, Carlos Beltran? No mention of the goodbye to Mike Piazza.
Nice to see you, Francisco Rodriguez? You'll be replacing Billy Wagner.
Thank you for joining us, Jason Bay! You'll be batting fifth, because we're parting ways with Carlos Delgado.

There is no way this doesn't come from the ownership. There is no way that you go out and sign Jason Bay to a mega-contract yet choose not to part with a young prospect at the deadline for help for the playoff push if you are "going for it". For that matter, there is no way you look at the team as it was constituted last offseason and truly believe that Jason Bay is going to make the difference on the field. And what of the things that Minaya can control? Excellent drafts and a plentiful farm system. R.A. Dickey. Hisanori Takahashi. Trading for Santana.

The problem is that the Mets exist in perpetual limbo. They had a good run from 2006-2008, but so much of that was just luck -- we managed to develop two of the best players in the league, and two players who may end up as the two best Mets hitters of all time, at the exact same time. They supplemented a core of free agent stars.

Now, David Wright and Jose Reyes are becoming expensive. Jason Bay's contract is back loaded. The window of opportunity to capitalize on their youth is passed, and Johan Santana isn't getting any younger.

I'm not saying the Mets can never win, I'm just saying that they can't win so long as the current ownership continues to require Minaya to make a ticket-selling "splash" each offseason and then ties his hands otherwise. In light of all this, I think Minaya has been doing an average job.-

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

By Tommy2cat

Will -

I agree with the thrust of your article, that the Mets are constituted of a coterie of marquee players supported by a substandard group.

However, many analysts look past Omar's dismantling of one of the team's primary strengths, the bullpen, when assessing the reasons why the team fell flat in 2008-09. In my view, clearly these moves were controlled by Omar.

In 2009, injuries plagued the ballclub to an extent never anticipated; however, an aging roster, reliance on retreads and a depleted farm system are prescriptions for disaster. These two factors were under Omar's control.

In 2010, I can't help but hold the current coaching staff responsible for the team's substandard play, especially on the road. Whoever is instructing Jason Bay and David Wright to stand light years away from home plate should be fired without a second thought. And if we're among the perennial league leaders in walks, then the pitching coach also should take a walk.

When assessing Omar, think about whether trading Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore for Bartolo Colon was a good idea. Then ask whether you would want that guy running your ballclub.