Believe it or not, if you think back to the beginning of the year many Mets fans were devoid of any hope that this was the season the Mets would win it all. Think back to spring training, our first baseman was Mike Jacobs, Luis Castillo was still installed as the team's second baseman and Carlos Beltran was fighting with Mets brass over knee surgery. That is all before we mention the question marks we had in the starting rotation, bullpen, rightfield, catcher and in Reyes' thyroid.
Things did not look good, and expectations were low; after all the Mets had just come off a 90+ loss season. The totality of these facts did not give any Mets fan much reason to hope for much of anything; even if they signed Jason Bay.
However, shortly after the season began the Mets realized at least one of their mistakes and DFA'd Mike Jacobs. Even if they should have just released him (so that Nick Evans could have remained in AAA), Jacobs was not hogging a space on the big league roster. Ike Davis was promoted, and after a very impressive spring Davis was installed as the everyday first baseman and clean up hitter. Luis Castillo got hurt, and Rueben Tejada came up; he played with extraordinary energy and with defensive prowess we have not seen since Edgardo Alfonzo. Jon Niese, who has exceeded all expectations got injured and haggard knuckle balling journeyman R.A. Dickey came up.
After all is said and done, the Mets gave us some hope early on, but really have exceeded the fan's original expectations for them. However, there is so much more that needs to be done in order to bring this team up to the level that it needs to be.
If I was one of the Wilpons, this is what I would do:
However, there is just one thing that needs to be said first. Many Mets fans have this idea that Fred/Jeff Wilpon is cheap. And the fan base cries out to the media and the media cries back: WILPON SPEND MORE MONEY! Well, they spend tons of money on the team's payroll. The Mets are consistently amongst the leagues highest payrolls. The problem is and always has been what they are spending that money on. This game is not about looking at your team's problems and throwing money at them, while hoping and praying that something sticks. It is about spending wisely for the right parts at the right time. Which, by the way, is much easier said than done (but Omar Minaya has never given me the impression that he understands this concept).
So here is my plan.
1) Change starts at the top. The first thing I do after the season ends is fire the General Manager, Omar Minaya. He has made some fairly decent moves in his tenure as Mets GM, but he has also cost this team its image, and has made some of the most wasteful decisions I have ever seen. If a doctor had Minaya's track record, he would be out of the job faster than Steven Strasburg throws a fastball (which is like 200 mph- right?). It is time to hold Minaya accountable, kick him to the curb and bring in someone with baseball and business acumen. Or at least someone who does not honestly believe Jeff Francoeur is a great outfielder because he has a great arm. To be honest, I am not really sure who I would install as GM but I would rather see some fresh faced newbie take the job instead of some old GM that has been there and done that (read: been fired several times over for the mistakes they made while building their teams- think about it where were Epstein, Huntington and Friedman before they took their respective jobs? Now think about how many teams they were GMs for- 3 total, combined). Obviously this plan has its flaws, but if you give the job to a brand new face, we are interjecting a fresh set of ideas, and a new understanding of how the game works, rather than recycling some other team's GM with the same plan he used before, which would be the same plan that got him fired in the years before.
2a) Fire Jerry. Unlike many New Yorkers I like Jerry Manuel but baseball isn't like making a list of people you like and dislike. It is not like deciding who I would love to get a beer with either (sorry Jerry, but if you want a beer I got you). It is about winning and while the managers don't play and win games for the team (unless you are Bobby V, who unquestionably took a team with 4 mediocre Outfielders to the World Series in 2000) they may have an effect on the players and definitely affect the image of the organization as a whole. Unlike my move with the General Manager, I do know who I want managing the Mets in 2011. Well, I have it narrowed down to a list of two: 1) Wally Backman. 2) Bobby Valentine. These are the names that everyone is talking about in New York, and to be honest for once the fans are right. Recently Wally Backman was heard saying something to the effect of ' my job is to develop players, in my book developing is winning.' That is the attitude I want from my manager, no matter what he is in it to win it and will do whatever it takes to get there. As for Bobby, he is unquestionably one of the better managers in recent Mets history and really gets the most from his players. He also has undying passion for his team and shows them that he is there for them ( I just hope this time he brings more than a fake mustache in his wardrobe of disguises).
2b) Fire the rest of the of the coaching staff. Let the manager determine who he wants with him on his bench.
3) Teach people what a Dead-weight Loss is. Mainly used in economics, the term "dead-weight loss" can be applied to any deficiency due to an inefficient allocation of resources. Lost production due to inaccurate forecasting for labor is an example of a deadweight loss. Essentially, a dead-weight loss can be explained in English by looking at Oliver Perez. Signing Ollie was always a mistake, it was a bad idea from day one. However, we did and here we are. When Mr. Minaya signed him we expected a certain level of output from him and for that output we allocated him his $12 million per year salary. However, Mr. Minaya's forecast was inaccurate, and we did not get that production. The moral of the dead-weight loss story is this: we are going to be paying him whether we keep him or lose him. His salary is literally dead-weight. Therefore we give him an ultimatum. Go to the minors or we will release you on the spot. My wish would be to flat out cut him, but given that we are paying his salary anyway, sticking him on the minor league roster would not hurt the big club. Essentially, in understanding the DWL the team would grab hold of some bargaining power with some players, but also give us a better shot at ditching the players who if kept on a big league roster do more harm than good. Players that fall into this category are Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.
4) Trade Carlos Beltran. The best thing that could happen for this team at this point in the current season is for Beltran to get very very hot. If he shows the other ball clubs that he is healthy and playing well, we will be able to trade him in the off season. Not only would ditching his contract free up some space, it is not like we need him on our team. In a slight departure from my normally sabrmetric/econometric way of thinking about baseball, Beltran is simply a loser. Blessed with all of the talent in the world he is a bland human being incapable of being a leading force in the clubhouse. In the popular sport parlance, he just doesn't seem to want it that badly. Also, we have Jason Bay in Left, Angel Pagan in Center and a whole collection of players who can fill up time in right, such as Fernando Martinez and Kirk Neuwenhuis amongst other up and coming outfield prospects. Who would be in the market for Carlos Beltran? Perhaps the Boston Red Sox would want him, after all, Mike Cameron does not seem to be working out and they certainly have the prospects to make the trade worthwhile. Perhaps the Chicago White Sox, who occasionally make bold moves and are in need of a bat.
You may have already noticed I have not mentioned Beltran's no trade clause. That is because Beltran will probably not block a trade to get out of New York.
5) The Rotation. This is a sticky area for the team. Is Mike Pelfrey the Pelfrey from the first half? Is he coming around? I think Pelfrey has earned his chance and he should stick around and be counted on to win ball games. So from the top we have Santana, Pelfrey and and Jonathan Niese, who has been nothing short of stellar this season. So with the 1,2 and 4 spots in the rotation on lock, who fills in the rest of the holes? My biggest fear is that the Mets hand R.A. Dickey a big pile o' cash at the end of the year believing that he really has become a 2.43 ERA pitcher at 35 years old. However, it could also be a mistake to not bring him back at all. This season Dickey has not only rocked an amazing ERA but he also sports a 3.83 xFIP and 3.37 FIP which in my book is the most impressive portion of his stat line outside of the 2.2 WAR he is worth. I would really like to have Dickey compete for a spot on the roster again, but I would not just hand it to him (to be honest I would like a whole lot more competition on the team in Spring Training).
Outside of using Beltran to trade for a pitcher we are left with having to sign someone. The best options would be to turn to Red's pitchers and likely Free Agents Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang, if they do not come with long contracts and very high salaries one of them would be great to use in the rotation. Imagine a top 4 of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Bronson Arroyo and Jon Niese with Jenry Mejia and RA Dickey duking it out for the 5th spot. BTW, (yes, I said BTW) Arroyo has a 40 % GB rate with a near 40% Flyball rate. He would probably play pretty well in Citi Field.
6)The Bench. The bench is largely dependent on who starts and the other minor player acquisitions we make but there are some names worthy of consideration from within the organization. Back when I was working for the Cyclones I told a scout I thought that Lucas Duda was going to be Ty Wiggington light insofar as he can sort of play multiple positions and give you some pop. The scout agreed with my assessment and looking at hims AAA numbers, maybe I was wrong in only that he might give a little more pop than Wiggy did. Duda, can play 1B/3B and LF at the very least. Nick Evans also needs a shot to make this team, I would feel comfortable with him taking some AB's in the OF and the corner INF positions, primarily 1B. The problem is we also have Daniel Murphy on his way back and I am pretty sure that he is a good fielder at 1B and no where else. Maybe he can do something at 2nd base and 3rd base (his natural position- if he had what could be called a "natural position") Depending on who replaces Luis Castillo, Rueben Tejada needs to be on the team for his speed, defense and all around energetic play. I feel like he has hit pretty well at most levels, and he will be passable at the plate.
7) The Catcher. Two words: Josh Thole. Even when he isnt hitting, he is walking and when players get on base teams have a strange ability to win games. I am just saying that Thole has a keen eye and makes solid contact, and at the plate he will be valuable. The only question is how will he hold up behind the plate? I think he has improved to the point where he can play most days. Get rid of Barajas, it was fun while it lasted but he just does not cut it.
Obviously there is a lot more to do, and tons of vague conversation left here. But this would be the foundation I would use to move this team toward success.