How could so many experts be wrong about the Washington Nationals, yet everyone was right about the Mets being nothing more than a .500 ball club?
Good question. There's no simple answer, but I think it has to do with the fact that the Mets are an older club with a ceiling, and the Nats are a younger club with more potential that just hadn't been realized yet...all the more reason that Omar Minaya, barring a 10 game win streak that starts tonight, should be a seller in the trade market. They're about 3 and 1/2 games further out of first place than they were when they made "the Kazmir trade" and also acquired Kris Benson last season.
I think there's this mistaken notion that's spread by people that don't know any better that says that "New York sports franchises will never tolerate rebuilding, that it's all about 'win now'". And unfortunately, after this way of thinking is grabbed and run with by powerhouse mainstream media, GM's of New York sports teams buy into that notion at the expense of the franchise (all you need to do is look at the New York Rangers circa 1998-2004 for proof). The truth is, most of your fair weather, fancy seat sitting patrons that try to pass themselves off as fans feel that way and spread that myth. But there are many true, dyed in the wool fans that don't feel that way. I understand that I don't speak for everyone, but Omar Minaya should know that many fans that have followed this franchise for years and really understand the state of the club better and longer than I have would welcome a re-stocking of the farm system for the overall health of the Mets in 2006 and beyond. (And if you want proof, check out what Mr. Met wrote hours before I posted this. Mr. Met, please don't sue...I had no idea!)
Are you going to get a superstar prospect like catcher Kelly Shoppach from Boston (for example) for Tom Glavine, or Mike Piazza? Probably not, but Chuck Lamar turned Victor Zambrano into Scott Kazmir so anything is possible. The Mets in 2002 traded Jason Bay for Steve Reed at a time when the team was 4 and a half games back of the wild card, not to mention 13 games behind Atlanta. Bay wasn't a big time heralded prospect (he couldn't have been if he was traded for Steve Reed) at the time, so one would think that there are some diamonds in the rough out there that can be had on the cheap. It would be up to the Mets' scouting department to buckle down and do their homework. It happened in 2003 when the Mets got Royce Ring for an obviously old and disinterested Robby Alomar, and it can happen again. It's time that the Mets stop being the team that gets victimized by these "old for young" deals and start becoming the beneficiary.
With Glavine and Piazza, you would have to pay the rest of their contracts (Piazza's expires after this season, Glavine has an automatic option for next season if he reaches 200 innings this year, and he's on pace to come very close) to get a halfway decent prospect. But Glavine has an almost all-encompassing no-trade clause (although Glavine would consider a move), and not a lot of teams have a use for Piazza, who's been basically reduced to a singles hitting DH. Victor Zambrano may be ripe for trading...now that he's supposedly turned the corner, wouldn't now be the perfect time to trade him to a team that's more in contention and needs a starter? You might be able to move Steve Trachsel in a waiver deal if he comes back and has a good August. Kaz Matsui has this year and next left, but he's basically unmovable unless the Mets take a salary back like Bret Boone. If I had my choice, I'd keep Mike Cameron, because he can be important in 2006, but he might bring back the most in a deal (the Cubs have a plethora of good prospects to choose from). Role players like Chris Woodward, Marlon Anderson and Miguel Cairo may bring back something, though not much when you consider that the Mets may very well have to trade one of them simply because the bench may get too crowded when Doug Mientkiewicz comes back. Roberto Hernandez may bring back a decent prospect when you consider how well he's been pitching, and how many teams need bullpen help.
Surely, there will be a backlash if the Mets do become sellers because the opinion will be that they "gave up" on the season. My response would be: Would you give up this season, considering where you are after 82 games, to be solid contenders for the next five? Sure, they're at .500 and could make a run, but there are also four teams ahead of them for the division, and three for the wild card (all in the N.L. East), so is it really wise to hope for that big win streak? There will be money to spend next year after losing Piazza's contract at the very least, and maybe Glavine's and Matsui's as well. And while the free agent crop may be considered weak for the lack of huge superstars, this may actually be the perfect off-season to take Piazza's money, and money otherwise paid to players who aren't going to be part of the plan in 2006 regardless, and turn it into three players that would fill holes (A.J. Burnett?) Combine the 2006 free agents with maybe a player or two from the kitty they get from 2005 trades, the Mets become set for 2006 and beyond. It would take some resolve on Minaya's part to do this, but he isn't your garden variety GM...the Mets didn't hire him to be such.
Ken Rosenthal has a little tidbit about Danny Graves on the Sporting News Website. Here's what he said in case you missed it:
The Mets have yet to use righthander Danny Graves in a pressure situation, but Graves -- waived by the Reds on May 22 after making an obscene gesture at a fan -- is thrilled to be with the team.
"This is the best time I've had in Major League Baseball since 1999 -- our one good year," Graves said, referring to a season in which the Reds won 96 games and were eliminated by the Mets in a playoff for the wild card. "I actually feel like a major leaguer again."
Graves had a 7.36 ERA at the time the Reds designated him for assignment, but had converted 10-of-12 save opportunities. He spoke highly not only of Mets manager Willie Randolph and pitching coach Rick Peterson, but also veteran pitchers Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine.
"I've never been on a veteran team. I've always been the veteran," Graves said. "It's not that I minded being a leader over there (with the Reds). But it's good again to have guys to look up to."
Dayn Perry's Anti NL All Star Team has a couple of familiar names:
At least David Wright's diving catch into the stands (1) and Marlon Anderson's inside the park HR (9) made ESPN's top 10 plays of the first half!
1B — Doug Mientkiewicz, Mets
It doesn't matter how good your glove is if you're a first baseman with a batting line of .218 AVG/.307 OBP/.386 SLG. Mercifully, he's now on the DL. The Mets will live to regret not signing Carlos Delgado this winter.
2B — Kaz Matsui, Mets
It's unusual for a nominal contender to have two awful regulars in the lineup, but the Mets have somehow pulled that off. As for Matsui, a .281 OBP, no power to speak of and questionable defense earn him a spot on the team.