Put simply, the Mets may just be the worst franchise in all of professional baseball. Not worst by record mind you. No, the Mets are the worst in terms of potential versus realized potential.
Other teams have their ups and downs. No team is run to perfection, but no team makes so many poor decisions and along the way squanders so much opportunity.
The Mets are not a franchise maligned by a small-market location. They're not playing in a decrepit old stadium devoid of modern amenities or luxury box accommodations. Nope, the Mets make bad decisions, compound those with flawed solutions and then seemingly await the inevitable downward spiral.
The "spiral" is here.
The Mets aren't just in a tough spot in regard to their team. The Mets also play in a rapidly improving division. The perennial powers like the Braves and Phillies are still quite strong.
The other two division rivals are both in the midst of serious upswings. The Miami Marlins just finished a week in which they acquired one of baseball's best closers in Heath Bell as well as former Met and one of baseball's best shortstops Jose Reyes.
In Washington, the Nationals have been on a steadily improving pace for a few years, but that pace promises to quicken as two former No. 1 overall picks—Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper—mature and begin to have a serious impact in the majors. For Strasburg that time could be as soon as next season, while for Harper 2013 seems a more likely time frame.
The Mets? Well the Mets are still in the process of recovering from a called third strike against Carlos Beltran in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series. Since that point the Mets have blown two seemingly safe September leads with playoff berths on the line in both 2007 and 2008.
As if that wasn't bad enough, from there the team slid into two seasons in which it was never a serious threat at contention. Through it all there was another ball of serious trouble waiting to drop like a lead anchor.
Before 2008, the Mets were a team that had money to spend. In spite of playing second fiddle to their crosstown rival Yankees, the Mets were still a big-time team playing in the nation's most lucrative media market.
They made some bad signings, some good signings and some OK signings, but they could always enter the free-agent market and make an impact.
Then on December 11th, 2008, the Bernie Madoff scandal exploded, his Ponzi scheme went up in smoke and with it went $550 million of the New York Mets owners', the Wilpon's, considerable assets. Those losses could be added to this list of financial mishaps:
1. The Carlos Beltran deal for seven years and $119 million
2. The Johan Santana deal for six years and $137.5 million
3. The Oliver Perez deal for three years and $36 million dollars
4. The Luis Castillo contract for four years and $25 million dollars
5. The Francisco Rodriguez deal for three years and $37.5 million
6 The Jason Bay contract for four seasons and $66 million
7. Taking on the sizable contract of Carlos Delgado via trade following the 2005 season
These deals have been coupled with questionable moves involving team chemistry, a lack of a cohesive organizational philosophy throughout their minor league system and a somewhat off disconnect between key components of the organization.
The proverbial "buck" stops with the owners of the Mets: the Wilpons. The Wilpons who have made countless bad hires. The Wilpons who at the very least made the bad decision to link much of their financial well-being to Bernie Madoff.
There are legal actions in place trying to link the Wilpons to the Madoff scandal. The Wilpons, of course, deny any such knowledge, and talked extensively about that and many other Met issues in an interview in The New Yorker last spring.
It starts there, and it's continued throughout the organization. Omar Minaya was hired on the basis of his ability to stock a farm system with talent. After all, that's what he had done while in Montreal stocking the system with talent such as Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Carl Pavano and Jason Bay.
He also traded away all that talent. Minaya made one of the worst trades since the turn of the century when he dealt Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Lee Stevens and Brandon Phillips to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon.
None of that stopped the Wilpons from handing Minaya the keys to the Mets' franchise following the 2004 season. Minaya wasted no time in spending as he brought in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran as high-profile and high-priced signings.
Those deals almost got the Mets back to the World Series in 2006. Yet it was Carlos Beltran who looked at a called third strike by Cardinals relief pitcher Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the NLCS that ended the Mets' season and began what has been a free fall since then.
While the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves both had massive September collapses this season, the Mets managed to do that in back-to-back seasons. Both 2007 and 2008 featured Mets teams that appeared playoff bound on September 1st, and both seasons ended with the Mets missing the postseason.
2007 was especially catastrophic as the Mets had a seven-game lead on September 12th and went just 5-12 the rest of the way, including a first-inning meltdown by Tom Glavine on the season's final day which sealed the Mets' fate.
In 2008 a 7-10 stretch run erased a three-and-a-half game lead, and the Mets once again missed the postseason with a loss to the Marlins on the final day of the regular season.
Since then, the Mets have had seasons in which there was no concern about their September record. There appear to be many more of those on the horizon now.
The Mets lost arguably their best offensive player earlier in the week when All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes left via free agency for the division rival Miami Marlins. The pitching staff is in bad shape with an aging closer in Jason Isringhausen, and their best pitcher, Johan Santana, hoping to bounce back from serious shoulder surgery which cost him the entire 2011 season.
The offense is depleted now that Reyes is gone, and there's not a ton of help coming from a minor league system ranked in the bottom third of all baseball teams as of last spring, according to Baseball America's rankings.
With a weak farm system, financial problems and a weak roster in place at the major league level, the Mets are in serious trouble. When you throw in the rapidly improving quality of the division they play in, the outlook is even more bleak.
Could the Mets be headed for several seasons of last-place finishes? Nothing in life is ever 100 percent, but there's no question that the future is not bright for the New York Mets.