Coleman: Third Place? Fourth Place? Does It Really Matter, Mets Fans?
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By Ed Coleman
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After being declared dead, the Mets have suddenly come to life.
The low point came after a four-game sweep at Citi Field by the lowly Colorado Rockies, and then a loss the next night to the lowlier Houston Astros. They were labeled as “dead,” “lifeless” and “quitters.” Since then, the Mets have won seven of nine, and five of seven on the latest road trip.
Third place? Fourth place? Look, any place that isn’t first place or a place that means a playoff spot should really be immaterial to anyone who plays for, roots for, or follows a team. Manager Terry Collins has taken a lot of unnecessary grief over his “third place” comment, which wasn’t his idea or sentiment to begin with.
Listen to what Collins had to say about the situation the other day:
This came from up top in the Mets organization, and the message was well-intended, but misdirected. What Collins and the Mets want to do is finish .500 or above, or with more wins (77) than they had last year, and make sure the talented young players being groomed continue to improve as the season winds down to its close.
Yes, it’s important that the Mets finish strong. Why? Maybe simply because it’s better to recall the team that stood at 46-40 at the All-Star break rather than the one that’s gone 18-31 since. Are fans going to have a more positive perception of the club if that happens, as the Mets’ hierarchy hopes?
I doubt it.
Most fans want to see ownership open up the purse strings and spend some money. And that’s fine if the money is wisely spent. But this is not a great free-agent class coming up — the only sure things (maybe) are Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, and both those gentlemen come with a lot of baggage, especially for New York.
I’ve heard many Met fans say, “Why can’t the Mets be like the Dodgers under their new owners.” Really? Be careful what you wish for. The Dodgers are no lock to make the postseason this year, and they have severely constrained themselves financially in future years.
Consider this: the luxury tax threshold for next season is $178 million — and the Dodgers are already over it. Their payroll for 2013 now sits at $188.7 million – and that does not even include arbitration-eligible or pre-arbitration players. The Dodgers’ payroll for 2014 drops but only to $130.7 million right now. And their tab due for the years 2015,16 and 17 sits in the $85-88 million range already. The luxury tax for 2014 increases to $189 million, but the Dodgers will have difficulty getting under that even with the $11 million increase.
It may come down to what it usually comes down to with the money available — spending smart. That, and the trading ingenuity of GM Sandy Alderson.
Third place or not.
C U soon
Is there anything — besides miraculously making the playoffs — the Mets can do to create a positive perception? Be heard in the comments below…