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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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An Offseason Like All the Rest of Them

First off: There’s nothing wrong with Chris Young.

Heck, it’s even a potentially shrewd move. Going into the offseason, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had Young as one of his potential free-agent bargains. Yeah, he only hit .200 last year and is never going to be great at hitting righties. But he’s 30 years old, a plus defender and baserunner, has some pop and can take a walk. And he’s coming off a .237 BABIP campaign, suggesting that a good chunk of what was wrong with him last year was basically bad luck. (More from Cameron here.)

But wait, you say: If a year of Young at $7 million is shrewd, then what was wrong with two years of Marlon Byrd at $8 million each? Well, as Ted Berg noted on Twitter, Byrd’s coming off his best season in four years and is 36 years old, while Young’s coming off his worst season in four years and is 30. You don’t have to be a stathead to see why that one makes sense.

But wait, you say: Even if Young rebounds, why should I care? After all, he’d be basically average. Yes — but as also noted on Twitter, the 2013 Mets were 29th in slugging, 29th in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage. Average would be a big step up.

So, in my book there’s nothing wrong with adding Chris Young as our latest entry in the annals of Wait, Didn’t We Have That Guy Already? (See also the Bob Millers, Bob Johnsons, Bobby Joneses and Pedro Martinezes.) I can easily see Young having a pretty good season and getting flipped to a contender in late July, just like Marlon Byrd — whom we remember fondly and might remember even more fondly if Dilson Herrera can cut down on the Ks and live up to the rest of his scouting reports.

But wait, you say: Weren’t we supposed to be done with this sort of thing? Wasn’t 2014 the year we got to be a normal team again?

And here, I’m not going to talk you down. Because you’re right.

The Mets are playing their usual games with payroll figures, making people guess what they think they’ve spent and recheck what they said they were going to spend. They’re making beat reporters comb through spreadsheets to figure out if the Santana and Bay buyouts count against this year or last year or are being recorded through some new accounting method involving hexadecimals and phases of the moon.

The Mets — or rather, the usual Met sources we’re heartily sick of — are bleating about being surprised by the market and having sticker shock. Which just leaves me fuming, because it reminds me of nothing so much as M. Donald Grant instructing his minions to send potential free agents telegrams asking them to make contact with the club. Tough noogs. Deal with it, like the other 29 teams are dealing with it.

The Mets are also doing their usual thing of claiming they’ve been misunderstood and spending can be raised if the right opportunity presents itself. This barely merits laughing at by now — it gets said every offseason and again in late spring, but somehow that opportunity never seems to show up.

This was supposed to be the offseason when such games stopped, but so far it sure seems like the same carny barking from ownership. There’s nothing wrong with the Chris Young signing, but what’s very wrong is the likelihood that Chris Young is about as good as the news is going to get this offseason. (And it’s possible for both of these things to be true.) Shin-Soo Choo? Too expensive. Jhonny Peralta? Same. Robinson Cano? Oh hahahahahaha. Nelson Cruz? Stephen Drew? Keep dreaming. Sandy Alderson’s still in the scratch-and-dent aisle.

So the problem isn’t Chris Young. It’s the overall budget, and what that says about the Mets. Which wasn’t supposed to be a problem anymore.

The problem is this:

football

The only sane conclusion is that the Mets are broken, and are going to be broken as long as they’re owned by the Wilpons. They’re going to be broken as long as Major League Baseball continues to let the National League’s New York franchise be run like the old Chicago Blackhawks, who couldn’t be fixed until “Dollar Bill” Wirtz shuffled off this mortal coil.

I’d love to be proved wrong about all that. Hell, if I’m proved wrong I’ll print out this post and eat it on the Shea Bridge.

Somebody prove me wrong. Sandy? Jeff? Fred? Bud? Anybody?

27 comments to An Offseason Like All the Rest of Them

  • Parth

    Glad someone can still capture the fans’ imagination- albeit via a sobering statement of reality. In the business world, when CMO’s are “surprised by competition”, they get fired. For senior leadership to imply or state disillusionment with this marketplace reveals either utter incompetence or manipulativeness. STOP INSULTING US!

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Trying to remember paying big contracts for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez because they were the best guys available. Also trying to remember how mortified we all still were in the 2007 offseason that we did NOTHING to improve post-collapse, and then suddenly Johan. Trying to stay optimistic.

    That being said, nothing would make me more optimistic about the Mets than a team sale.

  • Ed Rising

    I like the signing of Chris Young – but not as our solution to RF. I’ve been under the impression a bigger move or moves are coming. Trades are more likely to bring in the hitters we need then free agency which has a mediocre class – especially in addressing the Mets power needs. I cansee The Mets sending back the pitcher we got for RA Dickey to Toronto for Jose Batista (Swnd away Duda too please!; We have alogjam of infielders (Flores, Satin, Lutz, never mnd the crowd at 1B. We should be able to make a trade with some of these guys and young pitching for another big hitter.

    • My guess is the Mets trade Davis and Murph. Which I’m fine with — I like Murph, but a team this crummy can’t have very many untouchables. Given the financial constraints Sandy’s stuck with, a trade looks like the Mets’ best answer.

      Which again, is one of those things where I’ll probably wind up OK with the move itself but incredibly disheartened by the circumstances dictating it.

  • Dave

    I know that the FA market is not full of high impact offensive players, and this guy wouldn’t be so bad if perhaps they had 2 solid everyday OF’ers and just needed one other guy they could throw out there, hitting 7th in the batting order, or even as a 4th OF’er or platoon guy. But as Jason pointed out, he’s probably about as big a signing as Alderson will do as he continues to go dumpster diving for third and fourth tier guys willing to settle for a 1 year contract. And I don’t care at all for the thought that if he has a decent year they can trade him before the deadline…we’ve made some of those trades, now it’s time to start adding players who are going to help now. Enough of kicking the can down the road…we’ve waited since 1986, now we’re supposed to wait until Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera become stars? By then Alderson will be shopping Harvey and Wheeler around to get something before they leave as FA’s and DWright will be wondering why he signed that contract.

    • Yes, this is my fear. The window never fully opens because the Wilpons stay poor, Harvey/Wheeler have to be shopped, Wright gets old. You wind up trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Ask the Royals how well that turns out.

      • Dave

        Yep, the lightning in a bottle approach. Except for every Marlon Byrd out there, there’s an endless stream of Marcums and Laffeys and Cowgills and Lyons and all the stuff you catch in a bottle that I’m not sure what it is, but it sure isn’t lightning. If I hear the phrase “low risk, high reward” one more time I’m going to scream, because all that means is “he’s injured and he’s probably going to suck.” Enough of the hoping that some guy is suddenly going to set the clock back to 2009.

  • dak442

    As far as I was concerned, 2014 became a washout the day Harvey had his surgery. Might as well wait till next year and see if any decent free agents are available. I mean really – Shin Soo Choo for $15M a year? The FA’s are overpriced and underwhelming. If we can’t snooker someone in a trade (someone would actually give up more than a couple of towels for Ike?), it’s another year without hope.

  • sturock

    When is Sandy’s contract up? At the end of the 2014 season? It’ll really suck if he walks…

    Look, it’s only November 23rd, way too early to declare this off-season a bust. The fact is, the Mets are not “one player away” from contention so dropping $100 million on a big free agent is not really gonna help that much. Chris Young might be able to help in the short term and if not, they haven’t tied up their payroll. I’d actually like to see them make a bunch of moves like this…

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    I would rather see them do nothing than bring in this kind of crap just for the sake of change.

    If you are a free agent, would you even consider coming to the Mets?

    It will get so bad that they are going to have to overpay…ala Jason Worth and the Nats.

  • Lenny65

    Good old Mets…still throwing nickels around like manhole covers. How many Chris Young’s does one franchise really need? Sometimes it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Wilpons are sitting there behind their tinted glass pointing and laughing at us, isn’t it?

  • open the gates

    And while the Mets are futzing around with the Chris Youngs of the world, the Yankees go and land Brian McCann. Headline:

    YANKS: McCANN
    METS: McCAN’T

  • Tom

    Is anyone else but me a little tired of hearing the pity-party, on behalf of the Wilpons, from working-class Mets fans who pay big bucks to watch a minor league team play in Citi Field every season? Why do those same fans go on and on about how cash strapped the Wilpons supposedly are? Do you take their word for it, really? When did it become the fans agenda to audit their books and fret about the financial resources of extravagantly wealthy owners, who, let’s not forget, made HUGE returns on Madoff schemes for over 20 years while their Sterling’s pension funds went bust? They are not cash strapped. Period. Much of the Wilpons vast fortune comes–and shall continue to flow–from the booming NYC commercial real estate business. Fred and Jeff just aren’t that into using their money on the Mets anymore (“rebuilding”= we are putting our investment monies into other higher yield areas of our businesses for the foreseeable future). Fine to discuss the value of this player or that player and Mets needs at various positions but please stop pleading poverty on behalf of rich guys who are laughing all the way to the bank with your hard-earned.

  • 9th string catcher

    This reminds me of the Frank Francisco move. $7M for a guy hitting .200. I don’t really understand it. You can’t pay 2.5M for Hawkins, but you can pony up 7 large for a guy who might not be any better than den Dekker? What exactly is the strategy? Guys who can’t pitch, a strung out bullpen and no defense? Why exactly does this team guess at everything? He might be good. He might not be too old. He might learn the position. He might not get hurt. He might not stay hurt. He might get better this season. He might get better next season. Seriously – what are we looking at?

  • Lou

    You’re not wrong Jason. In fact, it it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, guess what? It’s the Mets.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason, and a happy Thanksgiving to you and your’s as well as Greg and his.

    “Young’s coming off his worst season in four years and is 30. You don’t have to be a stathead to see why that one makes sense.”

    Young has been in a decline for three years now and what is overlooked is that his best power years were not only accompanied by nothing better than a .257 average (his highest) and a ton of strikeouts, but that his power itself was deceiving, taking advantage of playing in Arizona.

    In 2010 of his 27 home runs, 20 were hit at home and 7 were on the road. In 2011, 14 of his 20 home runs were hit at home as well. In 2012 he did manage to hit 9 of his 14 home runs on the road, however, only two of those road ones were at a park not conducive to hitters – San Diego.

    It can’t be said that is a common trait for all who play in Arizona. Of his 36 home runs this year, Paul Godschmidt hit 19 on the road, two more than at home. The year before that it was an even split of his 20. When Jason Kubel hit 30 in 2012, 18 came at home, 12 on the road. That was a 2/1 ratio. With Young at his best, it was closer to a 3/1 home to road ratio.

    Chris is now playing at Citi Field – not Arizona. He is also coming off an injury riddled .200 season but he year before that he hit .231 and prior to that it was .236.

    And you are also forgetting one other thing. The Mets only signed him to one year, there is no second year option. What if Young does surprise everyone and has a very good season? He will then be in demand for a more expensive multi-year signing. More important, if 2014 was to be a springboard to get us to .500 and so we could then compete again in 2015, what good is signing Young for one year if he won’t be with us the following one? What type of rationale thinking is that?

    Of course, it’s due to exactly what you said: “the overall budget, and what that says about the Mets. Which wasn’t supposed to be a problem anymore.”

  • MDv

    Thank you- this post expresses my thoughts exactly.

    In a vacuum, the Young deal isn’t a bad one. But a one year deal with an OK player like this is not what you’d think should be happenning at this point in the rebuilding process. The big bad contracts are over, the young pitching talent is here or close and the lineup is a bunch of nothing surounding Wright- making it quite easy to find pieces that “fit”. This is when they’re supposed to be aquiring proven talent, whatcha call yer “impact players”, and when they’re supposed to have the means to do so. But now there are signs that no, they aint got no means.

    The recent very public statements by Alderdson & Wright make me wonder whether if they’re feeling the same way and might be thinking they were hoodwinked by ownership about how much was possible this offseason.

  • Gruff

    You said it perfectly, and in a clear logical way…..

    The thought of the Mets infuriates me and I consider myself a die hard fan….

    • Joe D.

      Hi Gruff,

      We all know that baseball is a business, that the owners main interest is profit and that the players are in it for the money and as fans we have to become more attached to the uniform than we do with any single player anymore. But in our own way, we’ve still been able to hang on to some sort of illusion that baseball is still a game and that there is still a child inside each of us whether it be a player, a fan or an executive.

      But more than the Wilpons whom, of course, are the actual roots of the problem, it’s really Sandy Alderson who has actually shattered that last bit of illusion at least for me. His concern about payroll concentration, his priority on spending opposed to addressing the team’s needs, statistical conclusions over learned experience, logic over emotion, lying to the public with a straight face and throwing the team under the bus in 2011 and 2012 for reasons of economics (causing players to say the front office not having faith in them hurt or they felt kicked in the teeth) has taken that remaining innocence away from me. Forget about the teeth – I feel like he’s kicked me in the stomach.

      Sandy Alderson created an apathy with his non-passionate concern about the team other than in terms of business. That apathy is obvious even to this St. Louis Cardinal fan last June (though he likes Sandy Alderson as a GM):

      “But I have never seen Mets fans more dispirited than they were last night.
      “Dispirited is the perfect word, too: All spirit is gone. I wear my Cardinals gear to these games, and I’ve been booed and heckled and mocked, almost always with (reasonable) good cheer. But nobody even bothered last night. Citi Field was a collective, three-hour shrug. My friend who went to the game with me, who knows and cares about the Mets as well and as much as anyone could possibly care to, put it well: “Why waste a nice evening dwelling on things nobody seems able to change?”

      http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/50407266/

      I will always wear my badge of honor being an original new breeder with pride but when a Cardinal fan feels he can go to Citi Field unscathed, what else more needs to be said?

  • March'62

    I agree that the Chris Young signing leaves me sighing and shaking my head but I’m not quite sure what Alderson could have done differently so far this off season. My initial reaction to the Fielder trade was “why didn’t the Mets go get him with Murph and a young pitcher as bait”? But on closer examination I believe that Fielder is a Mo Vaughn wannabe and wouldn’t help the Mets at all. The free agents: Granderson, Cano, et al – which one is going to put the Mets over the top, and would cost a king’s ransom for way longer than they would be worth. Getting ‘impact’ players in trades would cause us to deal some of our young arms on which we’re relying to establish that ‘long-term-and-sustained-winning-thing’. So Alderson has been using patience – snatching a Wheeler here, and a Syndegaard there, and a Black there. The waiting is interminable but I just get the sense that we’re headed in the right direction. For everyone to examine the signing of a free agent fourth outfielder to a one year contract as proof of anything is ludicrous. I still believe that if the right player was available at a fair price either as a free agent or in a trade, Alderson wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Well, maybe when Bonilla’s contract comes off the books. But you know what I mean. Patience, folks, patience.

    • dennis

      I agree. It’s only November….fans need to come down off the ledge. If nothing else is done by time the team heads north in March then management deserves all the criticism it gets.

  • […] An Offseason Like All the Rest of Them »    […]

  • Joe

    I heard a caller to Richard Neer on WFAN the other day mention that Met COO Jeff Wilpon apparently completed an entire month of studies at the University of Miami before leaving (or is that dropping out of ?) college. Well, at least, that’s one more month of undergraduate schooling than former Met GM Omar Minaya attained (for whatever that’s worth).

    Anyway, this caller pointed out to Richard Neer, that since Met CEO Fred Wilpon (a proud graduate of the University of Michigan) never even required his son to spend some time with the various teams in the Met minor league system to learn how baseball organizations are run, then just what the heck is Jeff Wilpon’s “expertise” in making important personnel decisions and in dealing with other experienced baseball executives on the major league level?

    Of course, we all know how truly effective and dynamic the younger Mr. Wilpon is in how he deals with the New York sports media. Heck, it’s almost as if we’re witnessing a young George Steinbrenner, watching Jeff Wilpon forcefully and oh-so-smoothly articulating his father’s great “plan” to bring “meaningful” September games back to the Citi Field faithful.

    So, hats off to the young and dynamic Met executive, “affectionately”known by Met fans far and wide as Jeff “Shemp” Wilpon!!!

  • Joe

    Oh, yes, “Jeffy” Wilpon, that oh-so-privileged dilettante, whose toughest decision in life was probably which color Mercedes-Benz to ask his father to buy for him.

    I got a kick out of that story, that when after Art Howe was hired to manage the Mets (after Art had “lit up that room” during his job interview with Met CEO Fred Wilpon), the younger Wilpon requested a written statement (or essay?) from the new Met manager, detailing his philosophy on just how a major league team should be run.

    Can you imagine how insulted even the unfailingly cordial, “Affable” Art Howe must have been, (after all, this is a man who had been in baseball for probably all of his adult life), having to submit his baseball philosohy on paper to a snotty upstart, albeit one without even a bachelor’s degree to his credit? Talk about hubris and chutzpah!

    Well, as the N.Y. Yankees sign just about every quality free agent around (while, no doubt, Jeff and Sandy are busy scouring the Mexican League for some new “prospects”), perhaps at next year’s Met Banner Day, some impish Met fan will unfurl a banner, which reads:

    As Joe Biden is only a heart beat away from becoming President of the United States, Jeff Wilpon is only a heart beat away from becoming Chief Executive Officer of the New York Mets. (And, God help us all if either of those two nightmare scenarios come to pass!)

    PS Here’s one more suggestion for next year’s Met Banner Day:

    Jeff Wilpon and Omar Minaya: Perfect together!