Lennon: Ownership has questions to answer going forward

“Given the Mets’ disappointing freefall, I asked [Principal Owner Fred Wilpon on Saturday], did he want to give any assurances to the fans about improving the club going forward? Wilpon pleasantly declined, saying only “check with Sandy,” a reference to general manager Alderson. Fair enough. Maybe Wilpon had more pressing obligations. Or maybe he didn’t feel like getting tangled in an impromptu dugout news conference with a small group of reporters that soon closed ranks around him. But there are questions that eventually will need to be answered about the Mets – ones that don’t involve whether Mike Baxter can be an everyday outfielder.”

~ David Lennon, Newsday

Michael Baron, Contributor

First off, I would expect nothing else from ownership regarding this question at this point in the year. It’s not to say that’s the answer anyone wants to hear, but mid-August is not when these questions can be answered anyway. And if he were to be more specific, he would be held to that and this is not the time of year to be discussing plans for 2013.

Now, that doesn’t mean the question isn’t valid – it very much is. No matter what the results ultimately are this year, 2012 was really a season for evaluation. What has been learned? The team basically needs a new bullpen again, a completely new outfield, and a new catching corps. On top of that, they don’t really know what they’re going to get for the $31 million they have invested in Johan Santana next year, either – they clearly need much more starting pitching depth as well. It’s also been discovered that their minor league solutions have holes to their game, and so these solutions aren’t immediately available in the minor league system either – they have to go outside the organization for many of these parts.

Like I said yesterday, I understand what Sandy is trying to do here, and it’s important he stays the course and succeeds. No matter how anyone spins the situation, this is a rebuilding phase from top to bottom for the Mets. Despite this very disappointing stretch, they have kept to their philosophy and approach and have begun to stockpile their minor league system with promising talent (although most of that talent is in the lower levels of the system). That is progress, even though it doesn’t seem that way right now. But at some point, the organization must begin to invest in the Major League roster, especially in areas they can’t solve from within. It’s also important they have the flexibility to improve the team at any point in the season via trade. Sometimes, organizations cultivate prospects for other teams. That’s perfectly ok, but that can only happen if the developmental process is functioning well and the organization reaches a level where they have excess. The Mets don’t have a lot of excess yet – that process takes more than two years.

The Mets are still in a very difficult spot from a payroll perspective next season. They  already have $80.5 million committed to Johan Santana, David Wright, Jason Bay, R.A. Dickey, Frank Francisco and Jon Niese for the 2013 season. After 2013, their payroll commitments dwindle to nobody, but presumably they’ll sign (and hopefully retain) some players into that year. Nevertheless, it’s going to be important the organization not just show a willingness to invest in the roster, but an ability to invest in the roster in 2013 and beyond. It’s not to say they should sign everybody on the free agent market, or make moves just to appease fans. Their moves should all be geared towards improving the team and winning. Period. Extending players such as David Wright and R.A. Dickey would go a long way towards showing they’re back in the game, but in talking with other fans, that seems to be only the beginning of restoring faith and restoring hope.