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Gary Armida's Blog
Nothing Ever Simple About A Mets DealPosted on December 18, 2012 at 07:58 AM.
There is nothing ever simple when it comes to the New York Mets. The organization has a habit of making something that should be very good into something that can uncomfortable and, at times, classless. It is a characteristic that is established by the ownership group as Fred and Jeff Wilpon continue to deny that the Mets are operating like a small market club in the League’s biggest market. They can deny all they want, but the Mets payroll will decrease for a third consecutive season, which does coincide with a decreasing win total in each of the last three seasons.
What does that mean for Mets fans? It means higher ticket prices in 2013. And, it means that they are a team in a rebuild mode, even if they don’t want to publicly admit it.
But, again, the Mets have done some good. Their trade of the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey is one that makes sound baseball sense. It is one that the organization should be lauded for as they maximized the value of a 38 year pitcher and received two high end prospects along with another very young outfield prospect with a high ceiling.
With the Mets, there are always two sides.
From a baseball perspective, General Manager Sandy Alderson did well. RA Dickey had a great three year run with the Mets, but the Mets are nowhere near contention. Coming off of a Cy Young season, Dickey’s value was never going to be higher. Alderson capitalized on the Blue Jays desire to win in 2013 and was able to get the number one catching prospect in the sport. Travis d’Arnaud will be entering his age 24 season and is nearly ready to be a Major Leaguer. He battled injuries in 2012 and was limited to just 67 games at triple-A.
He did, however, show the skillset that has made him the number 17 prospect in Baseball according to Baseball America. He produced a slash line of .333/.380/.595 with 21 doubles, 3 triples, 16 home runs , and 52 RBI. As he has aged and progressed up the ladder, d’Arnaud has performed better. He does have flaws outside of being an injury risk as he doesn’t walk much and is prone to strike out. But, his power is real and he has thrown out 25 percent of all base runners during his six Minor League seasons.
Along with d’Arnaud, Alderson insisted on 19 year old right hander Noah Syndergaard. The 6’5” 200 pound strikeout pitcher started 19 games with another 8 relief appearances at the single-A level. In 103.2 innings, he allowed just 82 hits, 31 walks, and pitched to a 2.60 ERA. He also struck out 122 batters, bringing his career strikeout total to 196 batters in 176 career innings. He is another future arm that should land in the rotation in two years to go along with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jon Niese. If all come close to their projections, the Mets have a young, playoff caliber staff.
Alderson also brings in 18 year old Wuilmer Becerra, an outfielder whose season was cut short after he was hit in the face with a pitch. Obviously, there is much to be seen from the 18 year old, but there is talent. The Mets also get 32 year old backstop John Buck, who has a career batting line of .235/.303/.405. But, Buck can hit for some power as he has hit at least 10 home runs in seven of his nine seasons. At the very least, Buck is a veteran mentor for the young d’Arnaud. Or, he could be the starter for the first month or so if the Mets decide to save a year of service time with d’Arnaud.
Baseball-wise, this trade makes sense for the Mets. The organization got some quality Minor League talent that should make a difference in the next three to four seasons. With negotiations playing out publicly, Alderson did well to get two highly thought of players in return for his veteran pitcher.
But, there is that other side that continually stains the Mets brand. The Mets like to live in denial about their current state. They signed David Wright to a long term deal, but much of the money was deferred. Yet, they paraded him around in Nashville with his jersey and cap on to show that the organization could commit to the long term. They also said publicly that they wanted to re-sign RA Dickey. Dickey was open to it and even was said to be giving a discount. But, the Mets offered a two year, $20 million extension.
That is typical Mets operating. They made an offer, but it was an offer that could be considered insulting. Yes, $20 million is a lot of money, but consider that the one year tender offer to free agents was $13.5 million. Consider that Jeremy Guthrie was making essentially the same money. Ervin Santana is slated to make more. The offer was a public relations stunt, something the Mets are prone to, just to say they made an offer.
They can say that they wanted to re-sign Dickey, but offering him $8 million more was never a question. Their intention was to deal, which is actually fine considering their needs. Their execution was flawed and got to be classless.
As “talks” dragged on, reporters began to ask Dickey his feelings. When Dickey expressed disappointment at a Christmas party event, the Mets began to feed the local media. First, it was that they were unhappy that Dickey would comment at a party. Dickey responded to a question asked at the event and answered it with class. There was no controversy, just honesty.
Then the Mets, with the help of a local writer, hit below the belt. Stories began to circulate that Dickey was not beloved in the clubhouse and that the organization was worried that he was becoming too in love with his growing fame. They worried that he was making too many public appearances. Supposedly, the good guy wasn’t really a good guy at all. Supposedly, he is money hungry and fame hungry.
A smear campaign.
It’s funny that there were zero reports of this during the season. New York is the media market that can criticize what a player has for breakfast or if he was out with someone the night before. It is a market for controversial stories like that. In three years, there was not a single negative RA Dickey story printed. Not one. Yet, as they were about to deal one of the most popular players on the team, the negative message came out. And, those public appearances and extra media attention? Dickey did appear on the same shows that David Wright has done before. And, his Sports Illustrated cover story was about his history with child abuse and what he endured. The Mets evidently have a problem with a person having the courage to share his story so that it may help another.
Could a team botch a good story worse? Could a team stain a trade that is actually beneficial for them even more than the Mets?
It is just another example of the organization trying to spin something so that they look good. It always has the opposite effect. The Mets look petty and they show that they are classless. Having negative stories come out just days before a trade is consummated is rather obvious. Attacking a person’s character who has been a model citizen since the day he arrived is rather obvious too.
Instead of just admitting that they needed to rebuild and that it would be in the club’s best interest to deal Dickey, the Mets tried to make Dickey look selfish and the reason for the trade. The transparency is, once again, sickening. But, they’ll ask for their fans to pay more for less.
None of this is new. The Mets continue to embarrass themselves. Last season they denied credentials to a newspaper writer because he was too critical of the team. When the publicity got too bad, they changed their mind. They employed Tony Bernazard when his irrational acts were causing problems with the internal operations of the club. Jerry Manuel, their former manager, talked about jumping his shortstop. Omar Minaya once said a beat writer was looking for a job with the organization, insinuating that the writer was unfairly covering the team. They have denied money problems, only to slash payroll. They denied the reason why Sandy Alderson was brought in to be their General Manager. And, now, they talk bad about a player who has brought them nothing but good publicity and good on field performances.
Even as they try to distance themselves from those problems, the organization continues to remind everyone why it is one of the least professional organizations in sports. A smear campaign against a player who is about to traded is just about as low as an organization can go.
Sandy Alderson is a dignified man who was Bud Selig’s pick to save the Mets from further embarrassment. He is doing that on the baseball front. The organization was short on young talent and he has improved that, getting maximum value from the trades of Carlos Beltran and, now, RA Dickey. He is building a solid, young core around pitching. In a few seasons and with good health, his moves will pay off. Given the circumstances, he is doing the proper thing. Unfortunately, he has an ownership whose actions continually undercut the dignity that he brings to his post.
It is because of that ownership that even smart baseball moves like this trade look and feel dirty. It all starts from the top.
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