Saturday, July 18, 2009

Concession to Reality

The less said about last night's debacle, the better.

One of the dangers of MLB's current playoff system is that it gives too many teams a false sense of hope that they are just one winning streak away from playoff contention. Poorly-run franchises fail to identify the mediocrity of their on-field product and choose instead to make a quixotic run at a playoff berth.

Fans are just as guilty of this, of course. They mistakenly believe that, because they're only five games out in the division race or the wild card race, their favorite team is just a big bat or a power arm away from a playoff berth. The media outlets covering the team are in favor of anything that generates another day's news, so reporters often adopt the "voice of the fan" and put pressure on a team's general manager to make a deal.

So what happens? A general manager who (intentionally or otherwise) fails to make an honest assessment of his team chooses not to sell off spare parts at the trading deadline. Worse yet, he may actually sacrifice minor-league talent in the hopes of bolstering his team for an improbable playoff run.

You know the end result. Most of the time, that improbable run never materializes. The mediocre team finishes with a mediocre record and without a playoff spot. Except now, that team has either given up minor-league talent or failed to maximize value on players that had no future with the franchise.

The New York Mets are 42-47. They are in fourth place, 8.5 games behind the Phillies. They are seven games behind the Giants in the wild card race, with seven other teams to catch as well. They are without their first baseman, their shortstop, their center fielder, their #3 starter and their set-up man. None of those players are coming back anytime soon, and several will not play again this season, no matter what spin the front office tries to put on those injuries.

The New York Mets are not a playoff-caliber baseball club.

This is a lost season. It happens sometimes, even to big-market clubs. There are so many reasons why things have gone sour in 2009 - and if you think that injuries are the only problem then it's time to start looking a little more closely at how this franchise is being run.

With less than two weeks to the trading deadline, Omar Minaya simply must lay to rest any plans to add talent to his current roster in an attempt to make a playoff run. It will not work and will only further compromise the long-term future of the franchise.

Minaya has to take an honest look at his 25-man roster and decide which players will not be with the team in 2010. Then, he must offer those players to GMs around the league, especially GMs that lack the courage and the baseball acumen to admit that their team is not a winner and who will pay foolish prices for minor upgrades.

It makes for a boring August and September around these parts, but its the first step in restoring the health of an ailing franchise.

1 comment:

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