In this crazy little business of sports blogging, you tend to develop certain friendships. Some are as simple as a quick link exchange, while others are based in mutual respect and appreciation for the other’s work.
Over the years, one site has truly championed the Bugs & Cranks cause — not just on the Mets end, but for our work as a whole. They are Dave and Bryan at Mets Lifer. They’ve been featured here before, and when it came time to do a proper postmortem for the 2012 Mets, it took me exactly 1.4 seconds to decide who to ask.
Below, see the results of my little sit-down with David M., the grand puba of the Mets Lifers.
Brad: As the Mets enter the offseason, what are your three biggest positives entering 2013, and what are your three biggest concerns?
David M: Every fiber of my being wants to just harp on the negatives, so let me start with the three positives:
- RA Dickey – This is a no-brainer. The guy is truly a hidden gem that the Mets have been fortunate enough to uncover. What I love about him is that you don’t have to worry about losing velocity or pitch count with him. He goes out there and gives you a consistently great outing, and he’s done it for the last few seasons. He deserves to be the Cy Young award winner and a contract extension. It’s the easiest signing of the off season for Alderson and the Mets.
- Ruben Tejada – Yes, Tejada’s output at the plate is fading as the season comes to a close, but even as he slumps his way through the second half his numbers are still way better than I ever expected. I wanted Reyes back, but Tejada has quickly made me forget about that guy who used to play shortstop. His glove is great and he can only get better at the plate with this being his first full year as an everyday player. As long as he stays healthy, the Mets will have a productive shortstop for the foreseeable future.
- Starting Pitching Depth – Remember when we all used to make fun of the Mets’ farm system? When it was the laughing stock of baseball? Me, neither. The number of arms the Mets have trotted up to the big leagues over the last two seasons that have actually performed well its exceptional. Dillon Gee two years ago was not someone you cared about. Hefner was a guy who played first base for the Indians. Edgin was as obscure as a Democrat in South Carolina. Now these are guys that the Mets can use either as trading chips or arms for the future.
I also really like Josh Edgin’s stuff and having him as a second lefty in the pen would be a huge asset. Gee might have been the #2 starter when all was said and done this season had he not been hurt. And of course you have Harvey, the potential of Wheeler, the hope in Familia and Mejia that really give the Mets some nice assets to make moves with in 2013.
And now for the concerns…
- The Alderson Plan – Pop Quiz: Which facet of the Mets received the most attention from Sandy Alderson last off season? Answer: The BLOWpen. I realize it’s hard for any GM to come into a situation like the Mets found themselves in and turn things around quickly. I don’t expect championships right away. I’m realistic, but what I do expect is progress. That is what I thought I was going to see this year when Alderson made these bullpen moves. I trusted that he had the wherewithal and instincts to find these reclamation projects and turn them into reliable options. The bullpen has been better of late, but anyone who watches the Mets knows the damage has already been done and when the pressure was on, they often crumbled. What happens when Alderson wants to tinker with starting pitching? Or the lineup? We need, scratch that. We have to see some progress in this master plan we’ve been told to trust for the last few seasons.
- We’ve Been Here Before – The last four seasons the Mets have played close to .500 ball before the All-Star Break, only to plunge well below .500 after the All-Star Break. Why is that? Why does the bullpen continue to blow every year even when new pieces and faces are brought in? The names on the backs of the uniforms change, but the outcome remains the same. This pattern of losing is a concern. The Royals are a bad team. They’re bad all year. Why do the Mets start well and then A-bomb implode as the season goes on? If the Mets were a regular business, senior leadership would be held accountable. Something needs to change or we’re doomed to yet again repeat our recent history.
- The Outfield – I’m not worried about the fences, just the players roaming around out there. None of them have showed they can be true power hitters. Torres is the only half decent glove out there except for maybe Baxter. The Mets outfield is actually very reminiscent of the 2000 Mets outfield. The only issue is the 2000 Mets outfielders overachieved. The 2012 Mets haven’t. Of all of them I actually think Baxter is the one guy I’d want to keep. He’s proven he can be a great pinch hitter and a reliable super sub. Bay, I’m done with. Duda should be a first baseman. Torres can’t hit. Valdespin isn’t a major leaguer. Hairston isn’t an everyday player. It’s not realistic to think they can or should get rid of everyone, but one outfielder who can be reliable to give you some power has to be a priority.
B: In an ideal world, what should the Mets do with Johan Santana? Now, what about a real world scenario?
D: Ideally, they keep Santana for another year. He throws another no-hitter. He says “believe” a lot. We love him and he retires realizing his best days are behind him. Or if we want to get super ideal (also reads: completely unrealistic), Santana agrees to move to the bullpen and become a stop-gap closer for the Mets until Mejia/Familia are ready where he becomes the second coming of John Smoltz and finally gives the Mets a reliable closer who doesn’t walk the first batter he faces every time out.
Meanwhile back on earth, the Mets have to be praying that Santana comes back in April and looks fantastic so they can quickly trade him before he breaks down yet again. That should be the hope and dream of every Mets executive because there’s no way they get anything worthwhile for him in any other scenario. If Santana can’t be moved, we need to accept the fact that, much like Pedro Martinez, Santana was a phenomenal pitcher when he was healthy and be satisfied that he gave us one of the most memorable moments in Mets history thanks to his no-hitter.
B: What is your take on the Mets’ coaching scenario, and what changes would you make?
D: I like Terry Collins, but I’m not sure he should be the Mets’ manager. If we step back and look at his coaching tenure objectively, is the end result any different than what we saw from Jerry Manuel? Collins coached teams are perennially crumbling in the second half and that was the issue we saw with both Randolph and Manuel that made us want to run them out of town. We like Terry because his attitude is great and we “feel” like the players like him and try hard for him. We have to separate our “feelings” from the equation and look at the results. I’m not seeing them.
Regardless of whether Collins stays or goes, Dan Warthen should pack his bags.
B: Should the Mets commit to higher-salary players this offseason, once again trying to “out Yankee the Yankees?” Or, should the Marlins and Red Sox be cautionary tales for Sandy Alderson?
D: We like to package this argument into a good vs. evil scenario as if committing to high salary players is bad and going the “natural” route of player development is the more justified option. The issue is the Mets are notoriously awful at signing the right high salary player. I offer up as evidence: Alomar, Vaughn, Burnitz, and Bay. What if the Mets signed Matt Holliday? Pujols? Cabrera? Those are high price tag players, but they put up numbers worthy of their salaries. Call it bad luck or call it chance but the Mets have a history of making the wrong choice.
That being said, I think if they can get a power bat in a corner outfield spot, they should do it if they can afford it. If Justin Upton can be had, I think they should get him. I don’t think they should buy an entire team like the Dodgers, Marlins, and Red Sox tried this year, but buying pieces to the puzzle shouldn’t be ignored.
B: Who is the one surprising player you think the Mets need to trade to improve in other areas? Why?
D: In May I would have said Niewenhuis, but that ship has certainly sailed, crashed and may be sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic. Is there really a surprising player worth trading? The one that comes to mind is Josh Edgin. Everyone needs a lefty out of the bullpen and he has certainly proven he belongs at the big league level. But, how much can you really get for a lefty specialist in the bullpen?
The other guy would be Ike Davis. I like Ike, but he’s a young Adam LaRoche. He’ll get you 25+ HRs & close to 100 RBI, but is Adam LaRoche that valuable an asset? He’s been traded half a dozen times and he’s not the type of player organizations build around.
What if you could trade Ike Davis and Josh Edgin and another player for a young (but proven), good hitting catcher? I’d do it.
B: In recent weeks, David Wright stopped sounding like a naive Mets fan, and started sounding like a player thinking about free agency. Do you think David Wright is sincere in his desire to stay in Queens? Or is going to pack his bags when other teams throw more money his way?
D: David Wright is a smart guy. As it gets closer to negotiation time, he has to know that he’s needs to swing the scales in his favor so the Mets offer him more money. I think he wants to stay with the Mets because he sees the legacy play of spending his entire career with the Mets, something not even Tom Seaver can claim. But he wants to get paid well so he must dance the dance to make sure the Mets know he’s not a mortal lock to return. I don’t think we’ll see a Jose Reyes type move from Wright, but the Mets can’t rest on their laurels with him and have to be proactive in making a deal to get him to stay.
B: Speaking of which, it now appears that Jose Reyes’ large contract will never be seen to fruition. Do you think he regrets not giving the Mets a little more time to make an offer? Are the Mets better off with or without him?
D: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Mets are better off without Jose Reyes. I would have called you an idiot if you said that in March, but it’s true. The only thing the Mets miss from Reyes are stolen bases, but I read Moneyball and know that they really don’t mean anything.
This is year one of the Ruben Tejada era so there’s time for things to change, but everything I see from the kid makes me feel like shortstop is the one position the Mets don’t have to worry about. He’s more patient at the plate than Reyes. His glove is just as solid. He doesn’t have Reyes’ home run totals, but Tejada is still really young and can develop some power as time goes on.
I don’t know if Reyes regrets not waiting for the Mets, but I think he regrets jumping at the first offer available. He could be on the San Francisco Giants right now if he waited.
B: Scouring the free agent market, what players could best improve the Mets in 2013?
D: Michael Bourn is the name that jumps out at me. The Mets desperately lack speed and have a gaping offensive hole in center field right now with Torres. Bourn is gold glove worthy and would lead the league in triples playing at Citi Field. He does strikeout a lot though which is a concern from a leadoff batter, but he’s a pesky hitter that I think would give Tejada the ability to slip to the #2 spot in the order and give the Mets a much needed upgrade at the top of the lineup.
B: Final Thoughts: Summarize your predictions for the Mets in the next few years.
D: I sadly see more of the same for the Mets in 2013. They will continue to get solid starting pitching as their stable of arms appears to be reliable or even better next year as long as they keep Dickey, and Harvey stays healthy. I do think the hype over Wheeler reminds me of other celebrated youngsters like Milledge, F-Mart, Humber, etc. and we’ll find out he’s a middle of the rotation guy. 2014 will be the year to look forward to as Bay’s and Santana’s contracts will be gone, and the Mets will have room to make some moves.
The Murphy experiment at second base will come to an end when he gets injured at some point in the next 18 months. Wilmer Flores is brought in and we realize Murphy was just an average player only to be traded to another team and turn into Jeff Kent.
I wish I could see a playoff run in our future but magic 8 ball just keeps coming up with “LOL.”
Big thanks to David M. from Mets Lifer for taking the time to do such an extensive interview. Mets fans, if you don’t have their blog bookmarked, you’re wrong.