Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wilpon Needs to Remember Mets Woes Aren't All on Collins

Fred Wilpon spent 20 minutes with Terry Collins on Monday after the teams' 13-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in preseason action. The Mets are now 3-4 on the preseason, and already the owner of the Mets wants his manager to know that his presence will be felt, that expectations have changed.

It has been reported that Wilpon plans to be around the team much more than he's been in year's past, with Collins reiterating that Wilpon, "expects (the Mets) to be a much better team. He told me two weeks ago, 'Look I'm going to be here a lot ... A LOT,' where in the past, he'd come in and he'd be gone for a week to 10 days."

This is not to say that Wilpon will echo his inner George Steinbrenner, but with ownership and fans putting extremely high expectations on a team that hasn't cracked .500 since 2008 -- pressuring the manger this early would be alarming.

It has been widely speculated for years that Terry Collins is a fall guy for the next manager of the Mets, a placeholder who is just around to get the Mets through the dark days of bad baseball, as ownership tries to free itself from financial peril. Now that the Mets have astronomical expectations this season, there will be pressure on Collins, and to an extent GM Sandy Alderson, to get the job done this year. If the Mets should fall flat, or get off to a very sluggish start, there is a chance one of them will be out of a job.

Not fair. Then again the sports business isn't fair either sometimes.

If the Mets do falter this season, Collins will get the blame, even though he does not deserve any. He's been working with a short deck ever since he took this job in 2011, because ownership still can't get itself out of the same financial plight they have been in since 2008. From Bernie Madoff scandal which has cost the team millions, to millions more lost in lawsuit litigation around the case, to money lost at the gate due to a poor product, and a poor economy which took dents into Wilpon's real estate company, it has not been a good seven or so years for the Mets.

During this time the club has slashed its payroll by about 56% since 2010 when the team had a payroll amassing over $149 million. As of 2014 that payroll was $84, 951, 365 for the 25 man roster. While most of those 2010 contracts were bad deals, with the likes of Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana, the fact remains this has been a team that has been reluctant to spend money inspite of owernship's constant plea that they have money to spend and will do so.

The Mets only significant off-season moves this past winter included signing aging and injury prone outfielder Michael Cuddyer, and utility-man John Mayberry Jr. The team tried to pursue a short stop this winter, but felt the price tag and trade market was unreasonable. Last year their only significant move was signing Curtis Granderson who looked more like a grandfather with the bat. Until last year's surprising bullpen renaissance, Alderson's biggest faux pas was the lack of quality arms that he brought in via free agency. The Mets have also been very quiet at the trade deadline in recent years.

So the Mets still aren't spending wisely even though they have been paying much less. Yet the Wilpon's want the fans to believe that if this team doesn't win it's all the manager's fault?

The fact is the Mets salary for this year is expected to be around $89 million for active contracts. Still nowhere near where this team used to be, and not even sniffing the $100 million threshold. The Mets roster is comprised mostly of players in rookie contracts, with David Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million), and Cuddeyer ($8 million) being their biggest commitments to date.

If the Wilpon's insist that the money is there to spend on the team, why aren't they willing to throw some money on a short stop with a bat? Or willing to go after outfielders who are closer to their prime? Or even willing to boost the bullpen with a veteran arm? These are things a contender would be and should be doing, but the Mets haven't done that.

So while the Mets have some good young starting pitchers, and have some good, young talented players to compete, they will never get to 85 wins or even 90 wins relying on a payroll that reminds people of the Tampa Bay Rays.

So if we are sitting here in two months and the Mets are at or below .500 and in third place in the NL East, Fred Wilpon better look in the mirror at the real problem with his franchise.

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