Well, hold on. Let me back up and start that over. So it seems to me that you can divide people into two groups:
– Those who liked what the Mets did to their roster this offseason
– Those who did not
I fall into the first group: I’m decidedly a fan of what the Mets did this offseason. Sandy Alderson, JP Ricciardi, Supercomputer Watson, and Paul DePodesta certainly didn’t make the team worse; that alone would have been good enough for me. That they also made some sharp moves (or at least moves I think are sharp) with the limited resources available — bringing in a handful of refurbished arms and useful bench players – pushed the winter into the black. The team is better than it was in October, even if only slightly so, and I think that’s all any fan can expect.
But like Inception, there appears to be a sharp critical divide about the Mets’ offseason. ESPN’s Jayson Stark recently graded their winter work as worthy of a C-. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman – Mets fans might know him better as “mean baseball Twitter man” — has also been critical of this front office’s offseason approach. So there are some differing opinions, not just those of the big boys of media, but even some Mets fans.
Here’s the thing: Now I’m even starting to doubt myself. I think I like the players the Mets have brought in, I think I like what the team did this winter, but I’m wondering why. Not just because of what someone over at ESPN thinks; I’ve been wondering this for a while. Every minor signing the Mets have made this offseason – and they’ve all been minor signings — I’ve liked. I see the upside. But do I like new guys because I think they’re good . . . or do I like them because the new front office brought them in, and I’m just happily drinking the sabermetric Kool-Aid?
See, at this point last year, I was ragging on the Mets for bringing Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews Jr., among others, to the team. Part of that was because Jacobs and Matthews were . . . let’s just say they probably shouldn’t have been playing major league baseball. But it was also based on the assumption that, if Omar Minaya was doing something, it was probably a bad idea. I was rooting for the Mets to do well, but that often clashed with my rooting interest against stupidity. So if a player was brought in for reasons that were clearly misguided — like Jacobs and Matthews were — then I kind of wanted them to fail. I didn’t want dumb luck to win, because dumb luck is bound to fail eventually, and the crash only gets uglier the longer it takes. I’d rather they just fail right away and get it over with.
Now I’m worried that, because I’m so excited about the team being run by the SABR Stonecutters, I can’t see any of their mistakes. I think I’m rooting extra hard for Alderson players to do well, looking for their positives, as if it’d be some sort of victory for facts if they did well. I’d love to have goggles that could let me see what I’d be writing if Omar Minaya were running the team and signing the exact same players. Would I be hating on everything?
I think I might. Let’s try the Minaya goggles on Chris Young. Over age 30, shoulder injuries, 18 starts the last two seasons and then declining velocity and strikeout numbers on top of that? Yeah, he sounds promising. Scott Hairston hits home runs and doesn’t get on base – he’s Mike Jacobs in the outfield. Brad Emaus put up a .890 OPS in Las Vegas last season, but the ball flies in the Pacific Coast League like everyone is playing on the Moon. Run his line through the (nerd warning) minor league equivalency calculator and that OPS drops to .678. And then all those scrap heap pitchers — is the team suddenly being run by scavenging Jawas? Did they pick up Chris Capuano because he can speak Bocce?
See how easy that was? I almost miss Minaya.
Only that’s not what I’ve said. I see some negative things about Young, Hairston, Emaus, Capuano, Ronny Paulino, and D.J. Carrasco . . . but I’m pretty sure Sandy Alderson sees those things too. He’s a smarter dude than I am, he knows more about baseball, and he’s been doing this for a long time. So if he sees those drawbacks and brings those players in anyway, he probably has a good reason. Even if that reason is just lack of money and options. Anything the Mets have done this winter, I’ve assumed that they have a good reason for doing so, even if I don’t always get it. I like their offseason moves, but that’s partially because I assume Alderson knows best.
Then again, if you don’t start with the assumption that Alderson knows best – and that’s an assumption I think most Mets fans are operating under — then I could see how the Mets’ offseason looks a little weird. The new front office didn’t fix any of the team’s big problems; they didn’t rebuild, and they didn’t really add on. It wasn’t so much phase one of the plan as it was sitting around waiting for phase one to start — preparing the ship for ludicrous speed, if you will. So if you look at it that way, then yeah, this offseason didn’t go that well. Nothing creative or groundbreaking was done by the SABR Friends. They didn’t even get a chance to dust off the good ol’ abacuses and slide rules.
I’m still cool with the assumption that Alderson knows what he’s doing. I can see the upside of the guys he added: Young and Capuano have been All Stars, Emaus has shown a good batting eye, and Hairston has pop. Also, the 15 or so new guys in big league camp came without much commitment on the organization’s part, which is good for 2012 and beyond. Even if they all stink — and they might — it’s not like any one player is a Vernon Wells, franchise destroying problem. I still like how the Mets’ offseason went.
Or maybe I’m just drinking the sabermetric Kool-Aid. I really can’t tell anymore. At the very least, I know I like it better than the stuff they were serving around here before.