Frank Cashen

The Mets, The Plan; Still Skeptical After All This Years

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HarazinTwo GMs in Mets history had a plan that evolved into a winning one; Bing Devine and Frank Cashen. Each inherited some of the worse baseball talent in the entire game and within a few years, saw their drafts, signings and trades result in a World Series winning team.

Some would put current Mets GM Sandy Alderson into that class. Alderson has turned two All-Star players making a lot of money (Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey) into highly touted prospects Zach Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. He and his staff, including J.P Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, have also done a nice job in rebuilding and revamping the minoe league operations of the ballclub.

But as of yet, Alderson and Co. has had very little success in finding talent at the MLB level. Though Marlon Byrd has enjoyed some success, especially of late, the team’s complete lack of offensive firepower has turned this season into another irrelevant one.

With every passing day, the Mets fan base is growing more and more frustrated with the state of the team. Though the “Super Tuesday” debut of Wheeler and continued stellar work by Matt Harvey resulted in a sweep of the first place Atlanta Braves, the team imploded again on Wednesday night.

Fire Terry Collins! The Wilpons are cheap! What has Sandy Alderson and his front office really done in three years…we’re WORSE!

or

This is a plan that Alderson put in place from Day 1. We Mets fans need to be patient, they know what they are doing. Look at the teams that did spend money this offseason, like the Dodgers.

That’s a brief summary of some of the thoughts of a large portion of Mets fans on sports radio and social media, and to a certain extent they all have a point.

Despite the presence of Harvey and Wheeler, another solid season from David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there have been few standout moments from the rest of the roster. To a man, almost every player that Alderson has imported this offseason has been a failure.

It doesn’t mean Alderson is a failure, or that he’s a terrible GM, but the “Sandy is doing a fabulous job, he has a plan, and we just have to be patient” mantra is inaccurate.

Some folks like to say that any criticism of Alderson for this current roster is “hindsight” and unduly harsh, but aren’t GMs supposed to make teams progressively better, not worse? I am fully aware of Alderson’s money woes, but not sure I can say he’s always been:

http://network.yardbarker.com/mlb/article_external/aldersons_shrinking_payroll_in_quotes/8122600

Now as for value, let’s look at some of the OFs Alderson could have signed for similar to equal value for the 2013 Mets:

Endy Chavez – When in doubt, bring back and old favorite who will make the fans smile as Rome burns. The fact that he’s been been far better than the departed Colin Cowgill should be noted.

Ryan Raburn – Versatile veteran helping Indians battle for AL Central. Can also play the infield.

Nate Schierholtz – In some ways, the opposite of every player the Mets imported this offseason; productive and consistent.

Ryan Sweeney – Not a game-breaker, but a good defensive OF who doesn’t fall apart when he doesn’t get a ton of playing time.

Lets be real clear; methodology is secondary to performance. This is pro sports and GMs are graded on results. And given the fact that the Mets have had so little money to spend, and that Alderson has wasted 10.5 million this season on Shawn Marcum and Frank Francisco alone is cause enough to render his performance to date as incomplete.

Kool Aid is not served here, and pom-pom waving is for children and folks who follow college football. I have heard Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine, Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya and now Alderson tell me about “The Plan”. I have heard Fred Wilpon promise “a new direction” many times, and to a certain extent with each of his GM hires, his family’s clumsy and catastrophic interference with said “Plan”.

Alderson still has to find some offense, and we are hearing that he plans to trade for a significant impact player in the coming months. He will likely have to deal some pieces from the improved minor league system he’s revamped. Money and prospects are short in supply for the “New Mets” with “The Plan”, so I’m hoping that Alderson plans on improving his ability to supply the talent at the MLB level that he’s been unable to provide at this point.

When that happens, you’ll see me start to believe in this current regime’s version of “The Plan”. Until then, it’s just another attempt to sell a flawed product to a miserable yet loyal fanbase.

Tim Leary: A Cautionary Tale

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Tim_Leary_(Mets)As the New York Mets get ready to begin the Zach Wheeler era, anyone who has followed the team as long as I have knows that the excitement of a young pitching prospect making his major league debut is tinged with more than a touch of fear.

I’m not talking about the “Generation K” debacle (though it certainly applies), but instead hearken back to another young hurler who was touted as the next great franchise pitcher; Tim Leary.

While doing research, I came across this New York Times article about the aftermath of the Leary injury, and found it fascinating.

As Leary progressed in his first spring as a Met, despite his statistics and raves from opponents, he says it became more and more obvious to him that he was uncomfortable. Nothing was wrong with his arm, but Leary was troubled by the way he thought he was being used.

In 1979, his junior year at U.C.L.A. and the year he became the Mets’ first selection in the draft, Leary struck out 111 batters in 148 innings. In his first professional season, with Jackson of the Class AA Texas League, Leary struck out 138 batters in 173 innings, and he was named the league’s most valuable player.

But Leary did not see himself as a strikeout pitcher. He preferred to rely on intelligence and a range of pitches. ”Play with the batters’ minds,” he says. That was not the Mets’ plan.

”I know he thinks that way,” Bill Monbouquette, the Met pitching coach and the organization’s minor league instructor last year, said recently. ”I’ve said, ‘Tim, you have a chance to be a power pitcher. A power pitcher doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and strike out 13, 14 or 15 a night. It means you’ll be hard to hit.’

”He’s said, often, ‘I’m a guy that gets ahead of the hitters, and gets everything over. I consider myself more of a ground-ball pitcher, making them hit the ball and making the guys catch the ball.’ ”

That was clearly not the style that made Leary the talk of the Mets’ camp. Leary had discussed his reservations about being a power pitcher with Monbouquette, but not with Joe Torre, the Mets’ manager last year, or Bob Gibson, the pitching coach. ”There were no lines of communication,” Leary said.

I’ll be watching Harvey / Wheeler Day with antiipation like everyone else, but forgive me if I will be sitting on my hands mos of the time.

A Mets Fest, the Winter Caravan and Old-Timers’ Day

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For about two years now, I have been telling Mets fans to flex their ticket-buying muscles and force the ownership of the team to either sell or run the team in a fashion that befits a major market team with a new stadium and its own regional sports network.

Do I want to stay home? No. But how else can a fan show his/her displeasure with a dysfunctional franchise that has low to zero credibility? Yes, Mets GM Sandy Alderson may have made a shrewd trade to acquire top prospects in exchange for Mets fan favorite and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but hasn’t the window for winning a World Series been pushed back a few years now? Lowering expectations for the third straight year? That spells zero accountability to this fan.

Yes, I’m angry. I’ve rooted for this team since 1975 and have covered it since 1996. I love the team and distrust the ownership with equal passion. I’ve been told by many — including my wife — that I have allowed my dissatisfaction with the ownership cloud my judgement. So in an effort to make a positive impact rather than a negative one, I’d like to help the Wilpon ownership group from continuing to punch itself in the face.

The cheapest seat in the house on Opening Day? 63 bucks. Dumb. The logic behind it? Even dumber.

The Mets introduced two new alternate jerseys this offseason, as well as a new cap. The jerseys were promoted by email. And the new on-field cap? David Wright wore it — without any fanfare at all — in Nashville, as he was “re-introduced” to the fanbase with his new extension. Now that’s just silly. Fact: A contest to design a new cap, much like what the Brewers are doing, would have been smarter. It also would have allowed for a fan-type event during the cold winter.

The Astros were the worst team in baseball last season. Like the Mets, they have seen significant declines in their season ticket and overall sales for years, despite a new ballpark. How did they intro their new jerseys and caps?

They had a party

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121102&content_id=40159356&c_id=mlb

The Reds have a new ballpark, had a great 2012, and are primed for another run at the NL Central title. They’re not considered a major market team. They’ve sold tickets pretty well the last few years. How do they get ready for the 2013 season?

Reds Fest

There is NO reason for not trying to do this with the Mets fan.  With all of the aforementioned ability to support and promote their own product,  especially with tickets sales being down every year since Citi Field opened, the idea that the Mets don’t have an annual Fan Fest is incredibly short-sighted.

The team used to do a Mets Caravan, but that stopped after the 2006 season. Is this why?

… (Carlos) Delgado and (agent David) Sloane were still taking their time, mulling offers from the Mets, Marlins, and Orioles. The Mets were about to stage their annual Winter Caravan, a somewhat corny old-school promotional event in which most of the team visits city schools, hospitals, and business offices to kick off the start of season-ticket sales. On a Sunday evening, during another conference call with Delgado’s agent, Wilpon demanded the first-baseman’s answer by the next day so as not to “interfere” with the Winter Caravan, Sloane says.

“I’m not stupid enough to believe they were serious,” Sloane says, still angry. “I knew what they were trying to do, which is why I told Carlos that when you’re confronted by a bully, you hit him in the mouth.” Sloane delivered his punch on ESPN, which suddenly ran a report saying the Mets had withdrawn from the Delgado sweepstakes. At midnight Sunday, a stunned Jeff Wilpon, watching TV at home, called Minaya, who spent Monday re-entering the hunt. To no avail: On Tuesday, Delgado signed with Florida. “I don’t think he ever really wanted to be a Met,” Wilpon says..

Old Timer’s Day - This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the Mets faithful’s favorite teams, the unlikely “Ya Gotta Believe” pennant winners of 1973. First off, any excuse to get Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays in the house, wearing #Mets gear, is a win-win, no matter the cost. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, it is another teachable moment for a young team trying to find its identity in a ballpark built for the owner’s friends from Coney Island Ave. Mix with a few HOFers is good for everyone. Great photo opps abound.

duke-dimag-mays-mantle

Lastly, like Banner Day, it’s another way for this ownership group to show the fanbase they actually care about the traditions that Mets fans miss most. Banner Day was a great way to begin that process, but Old Timer’s Day shows a real commitment; ’cause it costs time and money. Because it seems like that’s the problem.

“It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t effective, fans weren’t responding and it wasn’t selling very many tickets,” (Mets VP Dave) Howard says. “The fans spoke volumes. It’s a very expensive promotion and it wasn’t producing the sales and marketing results we wanted for that investment. It died of its own unpopularity “

Now, let’s be honest Dave, the landscape has changed dramatically for the team since the mid-1990′s. Its ability to ptomote and engage the fans for this type of an event is vastly improved. Also, given that the team’s endgame is to rebuild for the foreseeable future, you should be trying EVERYTHING to get fans in the ballpark. You can only watch Shea Goodbyw so many times.

I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video w/o doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity.

In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.

From the Times:

That’s as much my fault as anybody,” said executive vice president Frank Cashen, who dismissed Johnson last May 29. “I thought it was just the 1969 team we’re inviting and I’m still not sure who’s involved, but Old-Timers’ Day is supposed to be joyous and having Davey back might put us and him in an untenable position.”

Why?

If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed?

Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans.

Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.