Opinion: Stay Calm, We'll be Fine

Yesterday, I talked with a few people aware of what the Mets are doing, behind the scenes, and, despite how they are being portrayed in the media, not a single person seemed flustered or lacking in confidence.

The plan has always been, and continues to be: 1) acquire a bat for the middle of the lineup, 2) get a starting pitcher with a proven track record, and 3) acquire a new catching tandem that will work well with the pitching staff; while also shoring up the bench and bullpen.

The problem is, they haven’t crossed off any of these tasks from their to-do list.  This is why I believe they will soon concede a bit of ground in negotiations with free-agent OF Jason Bay, in hopes of reeling him in by Christmas.

Nevertheless, when reading comments on MetsBlog, as well as e-mails from fans and posts to Twitter, false debates and unfair frames seem to be leading fans to overreact emotionally, all while a handful of people on air and in print-media keep fanning the fire.

I was told by people connected to both teams that Jose Reyes was never discussed in the short-lived trade talks between the Mets and Blue Jays for Roy Halladay.  Yet, I have repeatedly been asked by fans and reporters whether I would have swapped the two players in a deal; to which I ask, ‘Can I trade Reyes for Albert Pujols, instead,’ because neither deal was – or is – ever going to happen.  It’s all false debate; it is futile, and non-existent, and only serving to rile up Mets fans.

Similarly, the Mets did have interest in John Lackey, but only to a point.  The same can be said for the Yankees, Mariners and Angels, all of whom had no interest in signing him to more than a three– or four-year deal; mostly due to medical issues with his arm, which would have made it virtually impossible to insure his contract.  The same can be said for the Red Sox, who signed him to a five-year deal; but who, according to reports, needed to put protection in to the deal so they could take out minimal insurance – a risk no other team seemed willing to take, including the Mets.  So, to frame the Mets as having lost out on Lackey, like some radio hosts and reporters are doing, again, creates a false debate suggesting had the Mets just ‘tried harder,’ Lackey would be in Queens.  The reality is, the Mets could have offered more, just like the Angels and Mariners could have done; but they all chose not to.  They didn’t lose out; it was a decision to move on.

I recently heard Mike Francesa on WFAN refer to the Mets as ‘sitting on their hands,’ and, ‘falling asleep at the wheel,’ which is yet another false frame being put around the team, and lots of fans are buying in to it.

The thing is, there is no single move yet to be made by another team that I wish the Mets made instead.  Sure, I might have considered acquiring Curtis Granderson or Edwin Jackson from the Tigers; but, judging by the talent sent to Detroit, the Mets do not yet have the prospects needed to make such a deal; so it was never an option.  That said, no, I would not have given Randy Wolf a three-year, $39 million deal; and, no, I would not have signed Rich Harden or Brad Penny to one-year, $8 million deals with incentives; nor would I have given a two-year deal to Mike Cameron or Ivan Rodriguez; and I certainly would not have signed a designated hitter, Hideki Matsui, to play left field.  So, what moves did the Mets miss out on, while sleeping at the wheel?

This is not to say I love the current 25–man roster, or that I think the team is in the best possible position to challenge the Phillies, because I don’t; and I most certainly have concerns about the future.  But, so far, Holliday and Bay are still free agents; there are free-agent catchers still available; Joel Pineiro, Ben Sheets and Jason Marquis are still unsigned; and there are trades that can be made, such as with the Reds for Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo.

The Mets are ‘waiting for the market to come back to them,’ as they like to say.  This may or may not prove to be a wise strategy… time will tell.  But, it’s a deliberate strategy nonetheless, not a byproduct of being cheap and lazy.  In either case, though, I see no reason why on Opening Day the Mets will not be at least similar to the roster that left St. Lucie in 2009; when they were picked to win the World Series by Sports Illustrated.

For instance, I prefer Bay in left, with a second-year Daniel Murphy and a right-handed hitting platoon-partner at first base next season; as opposed to having a Murphy in left field and Carlos Delgado at first base, like they had at the start of 2009.  Johan Santana and Marquis, Harang or Arroyo, with a healthy John Maine and Oliver Perez, and a more-mature Mike Pelfrey, would also be better than the rotation they started with last season.  And, though I would rather not sign him at all, Bengie Molina is better than Brian Schneider.  Lastly, the farm system is in better shape today than it was 12 months ago, and they have the seventh-overall pick in next June’s draft.

Yes, the Mets do have question marks at literally every position.  Santana is coming off surgery, as are Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.  David Wright will be trying to rebound from a 10–HR season.  I have no idea what to expect from Maine, Pelfrey and Perez.  Francisco Rodriguez had a 6.30 ERA in the second half of last season… and the list goes on.  But, despite all that, adding, say, Bay, Molina and Marquis, plus a bench player and a relief pitcher or two, all surrounding Wright, Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Santana, Beltran and Rodriguez, the Mets will be far from the dire situation some reporters and fans are portraying… especially when you consider it is a super-long season, during which all sorts of crazy, unforeseen things will happen.

The key, at this point – as SNY’s Ted Berg has said to me on a number of occasions – is for the Mets to do just enough to compete in 2010, without doing something stupid that will jeopardize their future, such as give a ridiculous, long-term contract to an overrated free agent.

So, I’m taking a deep breath, sitting back in my chair, and waiting to see what happens; because, despite what the Daily News and WFAN want me to think, nothing has yet derailed the team’s ‘plan,’ and nothing has yet jeopardized their future, and players who can help, and who are well within reach, are all still available.