Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oldies Aren't Necessarily Goodies

When Julio Franco was a Met, he vowed to play until he was 50. That didn't happen, but the way Omar Minaya has put this team together, the Mets might have a few AARP members before too long.

When the 2009 season began, more than half of the 25-man roster (13 players in all) was on the wrong side of age 30. Of those 13 players, only three of them made it out of the 2009 season alive (where alive is defined as not having been placed on the disabled list) and still on the 25-man roster. Those three players were Luis Castillo, Fernando Tatis and Pedro Feliciano.

The Mets did well to trade one of the members of the over-30 brigade for a younger player when they sent Ryan Church to Atlanta for 25-year-old Jeff Francoeur. They must continue to get younger if they don't want to break down again next season.

Over the past few years, Omar Minaya has tried to make splashes in the offseason through trades and free agent acquisitions. The problem with the moves Omar has made in the past is that he's gotten players who were past their prime, players who might help the Mets early on, but fall apart before their contracts end (see Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner). These players were under contract until they were past their mid-thirties.

When the Mets put together their back-to-back playoff teams in 1999 and 2000, the core players were Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura. Alfonzo was entering his prime and Piazza and Ventura were in their prime.

Those teams did well because they depended on the senior citizens to be role players and guidance counselors, not EVERYDAY PLAYERS! The Mets have depended too much on the elder statesmen over the past few years and as a result, they have broken down physically.

Generally speaking, a player is considered to be in his prime from the ages of 28 to 32. If the Mets sign someone to a long-term deal (i.e. at least four years), he cannot be older than 32. Should they sign a player who is already over the age of 32, it should only be as a role player and it should be a short-term deal. Surely, the Mets have learned from the mistakes they made in the past. Let someone else sign a player past his prime to the long-term deal and watch as they struggle to replace him when he breaks down.

If the Mets want to get back on the winning track, they should follow the program they used in 1999 and 2000, when they signed and traded for players in their prime (Piazza and Ventura) and used the veterans in smaller roles where they could be more effective (Rickey Henderson). Stay young, stay healthy, stay competitive. Is that so hard for Omar to understand?

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