Why the New York Mets Are Headed in the Right Direction
Unless you are the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning is cyclical. This is especially pertinent in the NL East, which has seen the incredible run of the Atlanta Braves and the mini-dynasty of the Philadelphia Phillies within the past two decades.
The New York Mets have only been able to muster one postseason appearance since the Subway Series in 2000, but perhaps that drought is going to end sooner than expected with the way the team is beginning to operate.
During the Omar Minaya days, the team was carried by their superstars but curtailed by their lack of depth and mental toughness late in the season.
While the team was forced to suffer through three sub-.500 and mostly inept seasons, there was something brewing in the minor leagues.
Players that were not gaining much respect around the inside circles were quietly producing and showing the Mets brass that they are capable of being productive players.
That leads me to the first reason.
Since taking over as the general manager prior to the 2011 season, Alderson has quietly built the Mets from the ground up. While Omar Minaya was persuaded by "band-aid" replacement players such as Gary Sheffield in order to fill needs, Alderson has been more inclined to develop prospects and save the money.
Has Sandy Alderson done a good job with the Mets thus far?
Right now, Alderson looks very smart. While he did not have many supporters during the winter when he failed to address the Mets' glaring needs with a power hitter or durable starting pitcher, the Mets now seem to have found the right mix of youth and experience.
A great example of that is their starting rotation. The top two starters, Johan Santana and RA Dickey, are 33 and 37, respectively. They provide the veteran presence.
Following them are Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, two young starters who are still maturing.
Alderson has a terrific reputation of turning franchises around. He was the brains behind the "Moneyball" operation and also rebuilt the San Diego Padres as a back-to-back division-winning club.
While Alderson may not have the luxury of operating with the tremendous payroll that Minaya did, he is finding some contributing young pieces that have gotten the Mets off to an impressive start.
Terry Collins previously managed in the big leagues with Anaheim in 1999. He resigned before the end of the season and was not a favorite among the veteran players.
Collins was away from Major League Baseball until the Mets hired him to be the manager prior to the 2011 season.
He was dealt a tough hand with a roster lacking in starting pitching depth and plagued by injuries to David Wright and Ike Davis.
Although the Mets finished with a 77-85 season, he really did a good job considering the level of talent of the team.
This season the Mets are off to an 18-13 start which has rejuvenated the fan base. Collins is doing a terrific job of holding the players accountable for mistakes and putting the best players on the field—as opposed to sticking with struggling players the way Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph did.
It's also impressive that Collins has gotten the best out of youngsters Josh Thole, Kirk Nieuwenheis, Ruben Tejada and Dillon Gee.
The Mets might not hang in the thick of the pennant race all season, but they have overachieved to this point, and much of it is due to the fiery and passionate style of Terry Collins.
Prospects on the Farm
The Omar Minaya regime will certainly receive criticism for the failure of prospects Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez. They were highly touted prospects who, for whatever reason, were unable to perform their best in New York.
While those prospects did not pan out, Omar is also responsible for drafting the current crop of Mets prospects sans Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo.
Players like Jenrry Mejia, Jordany Valdespin, Kirk Nieuwenheis, Ike Davis, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were all products of the Minaya administration.
With the Mets unable to add prime-time free agent talent, they must have several contributing young players and depth in the minors in order for them to withstand any injuries.
The current crop of Mets star prospects will either help the Mets win games or enable them to acquire talent that will ultimately win them games.
Just two or three years ago the Mets were thought to have an incredibly thin farm system minus their top talents. Now, they not only have five-star prospects but also players at the lower levels that will be in the spotlight in the coming years.
The Mets are playing a great brand of baseball right now. They are not backing down from the top pitchers in the division, and they are showing a great deal of resiliency. Regardless of whether they make the playoffs or not, most Mets fan will be content with the direction of the franchise—which would not have been said following the 2009 and 2010 season.
It will not be an overnight process, but the Mets are in the midst of building a sustainable winning club the way they did in the early 1980s under general manager Frank Cashen.
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