By Brad Kallet
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It was a solid weekend for the Mets. After embarrassingly getting swept by the Nationals in the opening series of 2014, New York took two out of three from a very good Reds team to maintain some semblance of respect and not fall into complete oblivion in the first week of the season.
But, my goodness, what it took to get those two wins. Jose Valverde escaped in the ninth inning on Friday night and it took an improbable comeback highlighted by an Ike Davis walk-off grand slam to win on Saturday. The overturned challenge at second base helped matters, too.
It’s never going to be easy with this team — that’s for sure. The starting rotation is excellent, but the bullpen is very shaky. The news that Bobby Parnell will miss the remainder of the season — which didn’t come as much of a shock — is damaging. This offense strikes out way too much and doesn’t get on base nearly enough. There’s a lack of team speed, and the infield defense is subpar.
The Amazin’s sniffing 90 wins with this collection of players is nothing more than a pipe dream. When it comes down to it, this team is just not very good. It will lose more games than it wins.
And that falls squarely on the shoulders of general manager Sandy Alderson.
I’ve adamantly defended this GM throughout his disappointing tenure. But I can’t anymore, as much as I’d like to. No matter which way you slice it, the longtime executive deserves much of the blame for why the on-field product has become so utterly unwatchable.
I have tremendous respect for Alderson as a baseball man. He’s accomplished plenty throughout his distinguished career — more than I’ll ever know. But it’s been hard to wrap my head around his thought process and decision-making of late.
Since being named the general manager of the Mets following the 2010 season, the 66-year-old has had three losing seasons under his watch. Come late September, he’ll have a fourth.
In all fairness, when he was hired he was given the unenviable task of turning around a dysfunctional franchise that was bleeding money. It doesn’t matter who the executive is — that’s a brutally difficult job.
He wasn’t expected to win right away, and naturally, he didn’t. But he made some shrewd moves along the way, acquiring Zack Wheeler from the Giants and stealing Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud from the Blue Jays. He’s had some rough signings — see Frank Francisco — but has also had strong ones. (Marlon Byrd comes to mind.)
You could live with the constant losing at first. But now four seasons into his reign, his team has only marginally improved. And that’s unacceptable.
Alderson is clearly handcuffed by the Wilpons financially, and the owners deserve more blame than anybody. But the financial-limitations excuse is getting old and tired. The Mets began the season with the 22nd-highest payroll in the league ($89 million). If Alderson can’t spend, he can’t spend. There’s nothing he can do about that. But if he’s such a baseball genius, shouldn’t he have figured out a way to make this club the best it could be without the benefit of deep pockets?
If he’s really the godfather of the “Moneyball” concept, shouldn’t this be his bread and butter? Under the Alderson philosophy, shouldn’t payroll be relatively immaterial as it equates to success on the diamond?
It just so happens that many of the general managers with less money to spend are outsmarting Alderson. The A’s ($83 million payroll), Indians ($82 million), Pirates ($78 million) and the Rays ($77 million) are all far superior to the Mets.
“There are no constraints on the payroll,” Alderson said prior to the start of the season.
Now I don’t believe that for a second — and I don’t think anybody else does either — but if that’s true, then Alderson is simply incompetent when it comes to free agency. I’m not suggesting that he should have thrown nine-figure contracts out to 30-somethings this offseason, but if there were in fact no constraints on his payroll, then signing Bartolo Colon, Curtis Granderson and Chris Young simply wasn’t enough. With all of the holes on this roster, adding two more impact players for only $20 million or so would have significantly improved this club.
And then, of course, there’s the “plan” that we’ve been hearing about ever since Alderson arrived in Flushing. The idea of stockpiling young arms who will be under team control for years to come is a good one, and the future of New York’s pitching staff is bright. The Mets have a very good starting rotation as it is, and with the return of Matt Harvey in 2015 and the emergence of promising hurlers — namely Syndergaard — this pitching could be deadly for a long time.
And that’s fantastic. But if I may ask, where are the runs going to come from? There are zero — count ’em, zero — minor-league position players who appear ready to contribute in a big way in the foreseeable future. That could mean a lot more 2-1 and 3-2 defeats.
So it’s simple, right? Complement your starting pitching by signing three hitters and two relievers in the offseason. Or, with a surplus of pitchers, trade one away for a legitimate, middle-of-the-order bat.
Well Alderson has yet to prove that he can do any of that. So until he does, I’ll remain skeptical.
We all knew that this was a rebuilding process, but the rebuilding is taking too long.
Alderson, regarded by many as one of the best and brightest in the business, still has a lot to prove. And patience is wearing thin.
Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.
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