Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Joey's Soapbox: What The Wilpons Should Do With Their Money

Over the past 24 hours, two seasons officially ended.  For those not involved in Ponzi schemes, winter turned to spring at 1:14 AM.  For those whose surname is Wilpon, your winter of discontent has also ended.  Now that the Mets’ owners and Irving Picard have settled for $162 million before the case went to trial, the focus can now shift completely to what’s happening on the field and not what could have happened off it.

But before we return to the action between the foul lines, I wanted to hop on my soapbox.  If I may, I’d like to share my thoughts with you on what I think the brothers-in-law Wilpon and Katz should do now that they won’t have to fork over $386 million to the Picard peeps.  Who knows?  Maybe they might actually listen to me this time.  Who am I?  I'm Joey Beartran, and I'm about to take you for a ride on my soapbox.

Sign a starting pitcher that can actually stay on the mound

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games.  They also used 13 starting pitchers, all of whom made at least three starts for the team.  Only Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel were able to make more than 23 starts.  Of course, the Mets' lack of depth and health in the starting rotation caught up with them in the National League Championship Series, especially when both Pedro Martinez and Orlando "The Dookie" Hernandez couldn't pitch in the postseason due to injuries.

Two years later, the Mets traded for Johan Santana and gave him a six-year contract extension.  To date, Santana has given the Mets one DL-free season.  Looks like it's obvious here.  The Wilpons should use their money to sign a dependable starting pitcher that can actually stay on the mound.  The Phillies did it with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and they've been able to withstand all sorts of injuries to their everyday players.  The Mets should follow suit.  Or they should find a way to injure Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

How about a pitcher who can strike out a batter or ten?

In 1984, Dwight Gooden struck out 276 batters as a rookie, fanning ten or more batters in 15 of his 31 starts.  In 2011, a Mets' starting pitcher reached double digits in strikeouts in a single game twice.  That's two times in 162 games.  Only R.A. Dickey and Chris Capuano reached the level that Gooden reached regularly, and they were only able to do it once apiece.

Since 1992, the only Mets pitchers to strike out 200 or more batters in a single season have been Al Leiter (2000, 200 Ks), Pedro Martinez (2005, 208 Ks) and Johan Santana (2008, 206 Ks).  In each of the years they accomplished their hefty strikeout totals, the Mets finished with a winning record.  That's not a coincidence.

With Citi Field's fences moving in for the start of the 2012 season, it would behoove the Mets to find pitchers who can keep the ball in the ballpark.  Either that or they'll need pitchers with the ability to get opposing batters to hit the ball on the ground, preferably away from Daniel Murphy at second base.  Of course, we wouldn't even have to discuss this if the Mets had pitchers who could strike out a batter or ten.

Spend money on scouting and minor league development

Over the past decade, the only two pitching prospects to stick around have been Mike Pelfrey and Jonathon Niese.  Both players have losing records in the major leagues and neither has made the All-Star team.  In fact, other than Jose Reyes and David Wright, the last homegrown All-Star (regardless of whether he was a pitcher or everyday player) was Edgardo Alfonzo in 2000.  Who was the last homegrown All-Star pitcher?  You have to go back to 1997 and Bobby Jones.

Winning teams succeed with the right combination of veteran leadership and homegrown talent.  The Mets haven't been able to get this consistently right for over a decade.  A few extra bucks spent on their scouts and the development of players in the minor leagues should help the Mets in that regard.

Don't spend on a big-name free agent; spend on a big-name exorcist

On the night Citi Field hosted its first regular season game, a frisky feline darted onto the field and crept past David Wright, who was standing in the on-deck circle.  It was a scene reminiscent of the black cat that ran behind Cubs' third baseman Ron Santo at Shea Stadium in 1969.  Just as the black cat served as the superstitious impetus for the Cubs' demise, the Citi kitty might have done the same to the Mets.

I don't usually believe in curses or the supernatural, but surely a lower power must be involved in the Mets' misfortunes.  Therefore, instead of throwing cash at the next hot ticket free agent, why don't the Mets just hire the best exorcist money can buy?  Clearly, Fred Wilpon already used an exorcist on himself, as his head is no longer spinning due to the resolution of the Madoff mess.  Now it's time to use it on the team.  It might be our only hope.

Give Jeff Wilpon a makeover

New York is the media capital of the world.  Because of that, Jeff Wilpon has found himself in front of the TV cameras quite a bit over the years.  This would normally be a good thing for someone who bears a strong facial resemblance to a popular TV star, as Wilpon does.  However, when that popular television character is Alfalfa from The Little Rascals, it’s a sign that Little Jeffy needs a makeover.

Perhaps a new hairstyle would work.  It doesn’t have to be outlandish like the blond curls sported by the late Jose Lima during his month-long stay in New York in 2006.  (If you don’t remember Lima ever being a Met, it’s probably because you were in an alcohol-induced stupor due to his constant poundings on the mound.)  All his new "do" must do is say “I want you to believe that I’m going to put the best team on the field” instead of “I want you to believe that Darla will one day fall in love with me”.  It’s time for Jeff Wilpon to change the way he looks.  Even Buckwheat would say “o-tay” to that.

Invest in antivenom

In last year’s infamous New Yorker interview, Fred Wilpon stated that Jose Reyes would never get Carl Crawford’s money.  He was right.  He also said that David Wright was a good, but not great player.  With Wright’s latest injury keeping him out of action, he may be right on that front, too.  Papa Smirk is definitely not a saint, but he might be a prophet.

Since everything Wilpon said in the article has come true, then we should also believe him when he says “we’re snakebit, baby!”  In that case, I’d like to make a suggestion to our fearless leader.  Snakes have venom.  Antivenom can combat snake bites.  You now have extra money that won’t be siphoned out of your Sandy Koufax piggy back.  Do the math.

As things stand now, even if the Mets improve upon last year’s 77-85 record, they might still finish in last place.  Every team in the National League East is better on paper.  The Nationals and Marlins, who finished in third and fifth place in the division last year, respectively, are exponentially better this year.  The Nationals added Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson to their starting rotation (not to mention a healthy Stephen Strasburg) and will now have Brad Lidge closing games for them.  Meanwhile, the Marlins added Mark Buehrle to anchor their rotation and All-Star Heath Bell to seal the deal in the ninth inning.  The Braves have the best one-two punch in the bullpen in Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, in addition to a solid starting rotation.  Even with an off-year by rightfielder Jason Heyward, the Braves still competed for a playoff spot until the last day of the season.  And the Phillies?  They’re pretty good.

The Mets have a long way to go if they want to be mentioned in the same sentence as the other teams in the division.  Right now, the only way the Mets could realistically compete in the National League East is if they faced Cole Hamels every day.  That’s about as likely as Shane Victorino learning how not to complain like a little … ahem … sorry,  I got carried away there.  It’s just that I’m very passionate about my team, and I want them to do well.

Surely, the team’s owners want the same thing for their team as I do.  Throwing money at the best available free agent just won’t cut it anymore.  Doing that just gets you Oliver Perez or Jason Bay.  Perhaps Los Wilpons will read this and get an idea or six.  My suggestions can’t hurt as much as the Wilpons have hurt the fan base over the past few years, right?

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