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Mets’ Fans Tears Dry On Their Own

Social media has allowed for an annual image to signify the true start of spring – Mr. and Mrs. Met standing near a moving fan shipping bats and gloves to Port St. Lucie. But wherever you turn to for your latest Mets news; whichever comment board you gander to get a feel for the proletariat; however you choose to collect more data about your favorite team – the end result around town is the same.

Everything about this version of the Mets is the worst thing ever.

I’m paraphrasing, but really, I’m not. President of Baseball Operations (POBO) David Stearns hasn’t been on the job for six months, but I’ve already read how horrible he is at his chosen profession. How he’s avoiding talented free agents for fringe players who wouldn’t be in the league if not for this last lifeline. That ignoring the uber-talented players represented by super-agent Scott Boras means another year watching other teams play in September. It’s also ignoring the fact that Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Matt Chapman and J.D. Martinez are all still available, but only the Mets are foolish for not opening their wallets.

With "Everything Everywhere All At Once" not just a movie title but a way of life in the 21st century; it seems as if last winter has been forgotten. How a year ago, Billy Eppler and his first normal free agent period as the Mets’ general manager was met with optimism despite the unprecedented spending spree that retained three players, added a couple of All-Star pitchers and took a flyer on a 30-year-old rookie. OK, ‘flyer’ is an understatement for a five-year, $75 million investment in Kodai Senga, but for all the money spent; he was the biggest unknown.

He’s since taken an exit, then the fall for doing what was once common practice. But that was then and this is now. In this now, this winter’s free agent class had a lot of names people know, but not nearly as many impactful names despite critics critiquing the POBO for not signing subpar talent. There was a call to sign former All-Star Matt Chapman to man the Hot Corner at Citi Field; ignoring the potential $18 million per year contract the 30-year-old client Scott Boras expected after winning his fourth Gold Glove in Toronto last year.

Maybe Chapman is worth another large check from Cohen; reincarnating Robin Ventura, who arrived in New York with five Gold Gloves in 1999. The former Chicago White Sox signed “the biggest contract offer of his life”, joining the Mets on a four-year, $32 million deal that was well worth it despite his first season being by far his best. Ventura’s last full season at Shea (.237, 21 HR, .778 OPS) was better than Chapman last year (.240, 17 HR, .755 OPS), who has never come close to his pre-Pandemic numbers. So, what are we really talking about? Is it just the lack of a flashy name or crying for an actual need?

The Mets’ need for a Designated Hitter (DH) isn’t new; but the old National League roots of this franchise runs deep, and, in the past, you used your minor league system to get better. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid on giving Mark Vientos and Brett Baty a chance to play. The drink was already ordered because I was anticipating Ronny Mauricio playing third. Another season-ending injury before spring training that alters the front office plans, but the alternative allows POBO to see what’s in the system. What’s there is far away, but worth waiting for, for no other reason than why not? 

Why should Uncle Stevie spend more of his money after another freak accident when he’s still paying the bill for James McCann? When Cohen assumed control of the team, the other owners instituted a larger luxury tax and were fearful he would make them spend their money. So that offseason instead of attempting to outspend for free agent J.T. Realmuto, the front office led by Sandy Alderson quietly signed McCann to a four-year $32 million deal that looks horrid in hindsight. 

Hindsight shows owners blocking front office interviews and crying about big-market overspending, but Cohen didn’t let that stop him from overpaying Francisco Lindor, then Max Scherzer the following offseason and winning 101 games. Scherzer and Justin Verlander both pitched and left to improve those that are far away, but Mets fans have already grown sour on a core group that won the second-most games in franchise history just a heartbeat ago. Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil are homegrown players that came up through the system, helped that team win and got paid. Why would anything be any different for Pete Alonso?

Because that will be the focus of every media story until Opening Day - What will the Mets do with Pete Alonso? It will generate clicks and posts and long diatribes from fans staring into the camera, swearing how they’ll never visit Citi Field again if Alonso isn’t a Met for life. What has Uncle Stevie done to make one think that won’t happen? They offered Yoshinobu Yamamoto $325 million. They offered Carlos Correa $315 million over 12 years before the medical records. They gave Nimmo $162 million and plan to move him from center field. This is clearly not your Wilpon Mets, but the fanbase still has the Wilpon mindset instead of embracing being the Evil Empire.

I mention McCann because between Baltimore’s backup catcher, Scherzer, Verlander and more; Uncle Stevie is paying more than Oakland’s entire payroll for players no longer on the roster. Those high-priced free agents are still available. If the price lowers enough, POBO may dip back into the bank, but it should be understandable why the team isn’t buying out the bar this offseason. Instead, they’ve finally formed a solid foundation of professional baseball players across the entire roster. There’s not a lot of flash in Austin Adams clearing waivers and being willing to go to the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. 

He’s one of many signings similar to that; something I assume is why Milwaukee remained in the pennant chase during Stearns’ time there. Between that and a deep bullpen with two left-handed pitchers for the first time in forever, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid that a fully functional team from the bottom up will stand tall over 162 games to match POBO’s ‘competitive’; meaning to contend for the postseason. But with the additional wild-card, that means hovering above .500 by the trade deadline and if they’re close, buying talent to patch up any holes. It’s not close to wishing for a World Championship; but I’d rather have an entertaining product to watch all summer. It’s a luxury I don’t take for granted, and that’s the truth.

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