Who are the Mets?
I don’t mean that in a wacky, existential sort of way. I’m not the scraggly-bearded kid sitting in the back row of your freshman year philosophy class trying to impress the professor. I don’t want to ask “who are the Mets? Who are any of us, man?” That’s not what I’m getting at here.
Rather, I want to know who THE METS are. When I read that “THE METS refuse to cut Oliver Perez,” I want to know who we’re talking about — who is it, exactly, refusing to cut Oliver Perez? Or when “THE METS decide to stand pat at the trade deadline” . . . who decides that? Is it their general manager? Ownership? Mr. Met? Are ideas being Inceptioned into leadership’s minds by Leonardo DiCaprio and the kid from “Angels in the Outfield”? I want to know who’s pulling the strings and what their plan is — because too often it doesn’t seem like anyone is running anything.
And I’m curious because it seems “the Mets” are content to simply tread water. Just this weekend, the Mets lost two of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks — the last place Diamondbacks. The team that has allowed more runs and more home runs than any other team in the National League. Those Diamondbacks. On Friday, Mike Pelfrey and Raul Valdes combined to surrender 9 runs in a loss. On Saturday, the Mets made no moves at the trade deadline, acting as neither buyers nor sellers. On Sunday, the Mets held a Hall of Fame induction ceremony in front of an underwhelming crowd . . . and then were blown out 14-1 by those same Diamondbacks. They look like a team without a direction or purpose both on and off the field; their 53-52 record seems to reflect that.
It’s almost as if the entire organization, “The Mets,” is waiting for SOMETHING, anything, to happen. As if they’re all just sitting around, waiting for the Titanic to finally sink so someone — or heck, everyone — can be finally be fired and we all can just move on with our lives. It’s as if Omar Minaya is waiting for the season to end so he can dump Jerry Manuel, as the Wilpons wait for the season to end so they can “reassign” Omar Minaya, while we wait for the season to end so we won’t have to think about the Mets anymore. But for the moment, no one can do anything.
It’s gotten to the point where I almost feel bad for Jerry Manuel. Imagine the phone call he got at the beginning of the season:
“Hey, Jerry. It’s Omar. Listen, Jerry. I’m going to give you a team this season without a second baseman and probably the worst right fielder in baseball. You’re also going to get just three starting pitchers to start off with, no Carlos Beltran for the first half, and a scrub bullpen. But, uh, Jerry . . . you need to get us to the playoffs or I’m going to have to let you go. Alright then. Good luck.”
Manuel has, in a way, almost been set up to be the scapegoat, the guy who is let go to show that the team in moving in a new direction. That being said, I’m not sure he’s helped his own cause all that much considering that most of his managerial decisions are justified with “well, everyone else is doing it!” But still. The deck seems to have been stacked against him.
And I almost feel just as bad for Omar Minaya. Ownership seems to have allocated most of his budget into the thing he isn’t good at (signing major league free agents to reasonable, non-backloaded contracts) and almost nothing into the thing he IS good at (evaluating, drafting, and signing amateur talent). Then ownership keeps reducing the amount Minaya gets to spend, reducing his flexibility and making it more difficult to correct his mistakes. He doesn’t seem to have full autonomy.
Again, I’m not sure Minaya has helped his cause all that much either. I mean, they couldn’t even let him do his own press conferences for a while. But still — the deck seems to have been stacked against him. His hands seem to be tied from above.
Which brings us up the ladder to ownership — I’m not sure what to say here. Attendance is down dramatically in a year-old ballpark. They’re being sued. The team is again middling. Maybe I should just say this: Oliver Perez is currently holding the Wilpon’s organization hostage as they pay him to do so. And maybe that’s all anyone needs to know about any of that.
So you have a manager with his hands tied, a general manager with his hands tied, and an ownership group that is apparently haplessly tangled up in their own ropes. It just doesn’t inspire much confidence as a fan.
And this is what I’m thinking about when I see Alex Cora play his 61st game of the season yesterday. Each game brings that option in his contract closer and closer to vesting, the doomsday clock ticking closer and closer to midnight.
This is not a good thing. On one hand, I know that Alex Cora is lauded for his leadership, and that has real value. But I also know that hitting has value, and Alex Cora is being outhit by the pitching staff of the Milwaukee Brewers this season. Going into yesterday’s game, Alex Cora had a .535 OPS this season. The Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff has a .554 OPS. If you prefer wOBA, Alex Cora has a .244 wOBA; the Brewers pitchers have a .247 wOBA. Alex Cora has 8 extra base hits, none of them home runs; the Brewers pitchers have 13 extra base hits, 4 of them home runs. Alex Cora has scored 14 runs; Brewers pitchers have scored 18. Yet this is the player “the Mets” are effectively resigning to a $2 million dollar contract by allowing him play 80 games this season.
But who is really letting this happen? Is Jerry Manuel letting this happen by playing Cora so often? Is Omar Minaya letting this happen by not cutting Cora? Are the Wilpons letting this happen because they don’t understand sunk costs like Alex Cora? Or are everyone’s hands so tied that no one can stop Alex Cora in 2011 from happening?
And maybe that’s “the Mets” problem — it doesn’t seem like anyone is in charge. Or, everyone is just really bad at being in charge. There doesn’t appear to be a wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings, for better or for worse. No one knows whose dream we’re in. No one has the power to say, “stop playing Alex Cora, it’s a BAD IDEA.” It doesn’t seem like anyone has the power to do much of anything.
After all, Oliver Perez seems to be the only one in control of his fate with the Mets. Perez is not the Mets only problem — but that he’s still here might be indicative of the biggest one.