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Just Another Panic Monday

It’s hard enough being a Mets fan these days without inventing apoplexies. Thus, when I read John Harper in the Daily News go tabloid-dramatic and declare December 14 was Black Monday [1], I rolled my eyes and shrugged at the insipidness of it all.

Tuesday, when Harper’s piece ran, was a worse day for sports journalism than Monday was for the Mets.

Too bad the Phillies have Roy Halladay (though not so bad that they’re stripped of Cliff Lee). And newly Red Socked John Lackey no doubt could have poured us a nice, tall glass of Johan-Aid, which is a drink our notoriously short rotation is thirsting for. But under no realistic scenario were we going to get Roy Halladay, while overextending ourselves for John Lackey would have been a long-term folly. The transactions that landed them in Philadelphia and Boston, respectively, were discrete events. They had nothing to do with the Mets. It was not a Met failing that neither is a Met. Not everybody is potentially a Met.

I suppose it’s progress that our expectations have been raised so high in the last few years that we consider ourselves automatic players for almost every big name, many of whom have successfully draped Mets jerseys over designer suits in front of blue and orange logo walls. There was a time not so long ago when an aggressive Met offseason consisted of lowballing Vladimir Guerrero and scooping up in his stead Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer, a.k.a. the Glimmer Twins.

Not trading for Halladay and not signing Lackey wasn’t that. It just wasn’t. Halladay would have taken a load of prospects (Phillies had to give up a few) as well as a truckful of cash. It didn’t hurt that his new team could come at him from a position of strength. The word on ol’ Roy was he wanted to be near his Suncoast home for Spring Training and not so far from a World Series. The Mets happened to be on the other side of Florida and the wrong end of the recent competitive divide. Geography, standings and finances notwithstanding, who exactly were we going to trade to gain another Cy Young winner? The Phillies could part with Lee and not feel it. We did our prospects ‘n’ paychecks deal two years ago with Johan. It would have been fantastic to have lured another ace since, but I don’t see it as an organizational sin that Halladay didn’t happen for us. It’s Met-opic to believe it was.

Lackey? A real solid No. 2 framed as a No. 1 because he’s the cream of a feeble crop. Did you see what he got from Boston? The $85 million is insane enough, but the five years may be crazier. How many long-term contracts have the Mets given out in which somebody didn’t miss time or noticeably decline? The rationale has been that the Mets needed the help immediately, thus the front-loaded upside was worth the unwanted years at the end. Lackey is 31, not old. Fourth year, fifth year, we’re talking way more mileage and limited tradability based on what he’d be owed.

Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if Lackey was setting the world on fire in the first year or three, but a five-year commitment? At $17 million a year? That’s $17 million every year for five years, an albatross waiting to happen every winter when we’re drooling after other, better, more desirable saviors to fill needs that will loom as equally urgent if not more so.

So Omar didn’t make a Red Sox-sized pitch for Lackey. Y’know what? Good for him. At best he would have driven up Lackey’s asking price and wound up paying it.

It wasn’t Black Monday. It was just another Monday, no matter the perceptions fed by hacks like Harper who toss every dry twig they can gather into the Mets R Dopes narrative machine. Read his article and note the cheap shot he takes toward the end regarding the Mets possibly inviting Kelvim Escobar to Spring Training. Harper the Hack packages this non-development with not getting Halladay and Lackey to form a neat Bad Things Happen To The Dumb Mets In Threes package.

We’re not shy about criticizing the Mets here, either, you may have noticed, but not every good thing that doesn’t happen for them equals a bad thing that they caused. It’s rare that I say this regarding Minaya, Wilpon and the rest of management, but get off their backs.

The Mets are still in need of pitching and a lot of everything else. I thought somebody was talking out the side of a mouth when Jason Bay’s name came up as a Met target last week, but maybe this is a self-fulfilling prophecy coming to fruition. The Red Sox have kissed him goodbye, other suitors are falling by the wayside and the Mets…well, they have to sign somebody. They could do worse than Bay. I suppose they could do better, but in this free agent market, not much. Judging by the offer the Cardinals have reportedly made Matt Holliday — eight years, $128 million — Bay is the most reasonable big bat available. He ain’t perfect, but he’s an upgrade over the incumbent leftfielder who, at present, is nobody.

The Mets’ offer is four years, $65 million. It’ll probably have to be hiked up to five years, which I don’t like either, but I’d rather see five years go to a hitter of Bay’s caliber than a pitcher of Lackey’s. That’s not a knock on Lackey. It’s a knock on pitcher durability. Jason Marquis for three, no more than four years strikes me as a safer investment. Hell, he actually wants to pitch here. I try not to fall for the New Yorker Wants To Come Home storyline, but we could really use his bat.

We’re also still after Bengie Molina. I would give him one year and ask him to change his last name, but I understand it will take at least two and that he’ll still be related to Yadier. Shiver.

The Mets aren’t close to complete for 2010, not anywhere near close. Thankfully, the next Monday that counts is Monday, April 5 — and that’s still sixteen Mondays away.