Saturday, July 28, 2001

Q. Why the Mets are SOOOOO bad in 2001! A. Two Words - the offseason By Jeff Herz

It is absolutely amazing to me that last October the Mets were in the World Series and did something that the previous three World Series participants could not do against the Yankees. Win. Remember the Yankees swept the Braves in ’99, the Padres in ’98, and took 4 straight from the Braves in ’96 after losing the first two games that year. The Yankees were able to win a record 14 straight World Series games before the Mets beat them in game 3 last years.

The Mets looked like a million dollars after that series. Although they lost the series, every game was close and played evenly, no blowouts, no lopsided scores, nothing but great baseball. The Mets had a great battery, a solid well rounded outfield, a good infield and got a late season spark from the unknown Timo Perez. This was their second straight year in the playoffs. Steve Phillips and Bobby Valentine were signed to long-term contracts just after the season ended, then something went terribly wrong.

During the off season the Mets send their heavy hitters into recruiting mode. Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile, Turk Wendell, Al Leiter, Mookie Wilson, Tom Seaver, Jerry Grote and Ed Kranepool worked the phones trying to lure every major free agent to Flushing that would improve their roster to help them get over the top and beat the Yankees. Nothing seemed to work.

Nobody wanted to sign with the Mets. A-Rod came to watch a game at Shea during the World Series and dissed the stadium and the fans. Before long the Mets pulled out of the A-Rod sweepstakes. Coincidence? I am not so sure, but neither here nor there for purposes of this discussion. The Mets tried to resign Mike Hampton, who said he would only sign with a championship caliber team, and the Mets couldn’t sign him. He signed with the Rockies, long known for killing pitchers ERA’s and making many a mediocre or above average hitter (Todd Helton, Dante Bichette) look great. He also said Denver is a place he could raise a family. Now by my count, I believe that Colorado has had more school massacres (Columbine) than New York, New Jersey or Connecticut has combined. So in my opinion, the greater NYC area is a much better place to raise a family, but that is just me.

On a side note, I never want to hear another athlete claim he wants to play for a winner then sign simply the highest offer made to him, it is hypocritical and alienates the fans. Both A-Rod and Hampton claimed it was not about the money, but rather about winning, then wound up signing with teams that were more crappy then the teams they left. I want athletes to just admit it is about the money or otherwise just shut the fuck up. I am sick of it.

The Mets then went after Mike Mussina, and lost out to their cross-town rival the Yankees. Legitimately Moose wanted to stay in the AL, therefore excluding the Mets. Next the Mets targeted the Yankees discarded pitcher Denny Neagle. He wound up signing with Rockies for similar reasons as Hampton, which is a load of shit since the Mets have consistently been better the last few years than the Rockies. The Mets also refused to negotiate with Bobby J Jones, since he was looking for a shit-load of millions and anyone who has ever watched him pitch knows he is not worth that kind of money. This was probably their best decision, since he is now stinking up the Padres rotation, for only a half million dollars or so. This left the Mets with two gaping holes in their once powerful rotation. They signed Kevin Appier, a career nobody from the Oakland Athletics, and Steve Trachsel and weak throwing right hander that could not stand out for either of the two weak pitching teams in Chicago or the non-existent franchise in Tampa Bay.

The only thing the Mets had going for them this off season was David Wells’s desire to play for the Mets, and that got quashed when the Jays dealt the over weight and gout prone Wells to the White Sox for a broken Mike Sirotka. Yet another strike against the Mets in the off season.

Now the Mets are languishing in last place, 4.5 games behind the Phillies. Now I know that this lead is not insurmountable this early in the season. However, I don’t know how the Mets are going to compete in this now rough and tumble division without a major blockbuster trade (Gary Sheffield? David Wells?). They are lacking depth in the outfield, the weak hitting Rey Ordonez is back from the disabled list and the rotation is no more than 3rd best in the NL East.

I have never been a huge Bobby Valentine fan. I am not one who thinks he is a baseball genius. But I think he got screwed by the front office for not signing these players or maybe it is a perception in baseball that the Mets are a second rate organization, that you just don’t want to play for. I honestly don’t understand this, but the reality is now the Mets are looking like Archie “Moonlight” Graham in Field of Dreams, a player who could get so close to his dream that he could touch it, but was never given the chance to see go the distance, which is the real shame for 2001 Mets.

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