Thursday, September 23, 2010

Plans And Schemes

  • Is there a blueprint in the house?

A contractor?

An architect?

Someone with a children's coloring map leftover from a Howard Johnson's (complete with crayons)?

Far worse than a misguided plan is the absence of any plan at all. Regardless of whether the intentions are sensible, reasonably priced, workable or realistic, at least there's something to present as "this is what we're doing; this is why we're doing it; and we're sticking to it until it comes to fruition."

Absent of partisan politics, one can't argue with a set of tenets as to what an organization----any organization----is trying to accomplish and the steps they're taking to make it a reality.

"We'll do this now and worry about later later" doesn't count. Making unprovable assertions to justify the aftereffects or adding caveats in self-defense is the ultimate in lack of responsibility, absolution of blame and the feeding of underlings to a vengeful crowd as sacrifice.

There has to be a plan.

The Mets don't have a plan.

As of right now, it's unknown as to what they're doing with their management team; what they're looking for (if anything) in terms of a replacement; whom the manager's going to be; which players they intend to keep or jettison----no one knows what they're going to do. Evidently they don't know what they're going to do. There will be a new manager, but who is going to be the GM? Are they going to come up with a long-term solution to try and compete year-after-year or turn to the nuclear option to turn things around by 2011?

Does anyone know?

Speculating about the Mets is trendy, everyone's doing it and most have an overt agenda to get one of their "own" into the driver's seat. The easiest and cheapest thing to do in the long run is to keep Minaya as GM, bring in a younger executive with new ideas who may not be happy where he is (Logan White may be tired of the crumbling House of McCourt; Jerry DiPoto is vacillating on whether or not to stay in Arizona after he was passed over for the GM job in favor of Kevin Towers); then I'd spend on the manager----I'd spend BIG on the manager.

For all the promotion of Wally Backman to manage the team along with the short-term explosiveness and nostalgia he'd spawn, he's equivalent to Billy Martin in the positives and negatives. It's a risk----a big risk----to hire Backman and in the long run might make things far worse and embarrass the organization with an incident off the field. If they bring in a strong GM, then they could risk Backman; if they don't, it's a powder keg.

What the Mets could do, rather than overhaul the whole team, is to bring in a star manager with a proven record for getting the most out of his players and winning with what he has. There are two names to this end----Tony La Russa and Bobby Valentine.

Which is cheaper? Which is more salable to the fan base? Who would inspire people to say, "now we've got someone who'll make a difference"? Is it cheaper to clear out the house, tell the fans that they're rebuilding while doing what they can to win on the fly, trade David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran? To go with youngsters and again be sitting a year from now with an empty ballpark and ridicule from the inept hitmen in the media splaying their scattershot analysis all over the place making in-print, radio and television suggestions as to what they'd do?

Or is it better to pay Valentine and give him the sayso he desires in terms of player procurement? To bring in La Russa and (more importantly) Dave Duncan to fix what's currently here and tweak it to win fast? Valentine would presumably want a 4-year contract and there would be the inevitable incidents stemming from the "Bobby V Package"----but at least the Mets would again be relevant; there would be someone who knows how to handle everything inherent with the Mets from ownership on down.

With La Russa, there's always a question as to how he'd handle New York. For a manager with his resume, it's strange how thin-skinned he can be. Certain members of the media----Bill Madden and Mike Francesa specifically----don't like La Russa's way of doing things, but you cannot under any circumstances question his success. Could Duncan fix Oliver Perez? Wouldn't it be cheaper to keep Perez for the final year of his contract and hire La Russa/Duncan to do something with him than to dump him and pay him $12 million?

If they're going down this road, they can't undermine the manager; they have to make the conscious decision to go all-in with the new manager; jump in with both feet as it were and live with the consequences.

What is generally misunderstood----especially in New York----is that the idea that a 5-year-plan is impossible to sell; that the continued patchwork ends up being more expensive and faulty than the 5-year-plan to begin with. We've seen it in other sports and clubs. The Knicks and Rangers repeatedly tried to turn things within a year, again, without any plan. What they fail to see is that all the missed playoff years amounted to the same result and a repeat of the failed process. Had they made the decision to spend wisely, eat the lost playoff years as a cost of doing business and rebuilt properly, they'd have their planets aligned to contend on an annual basis without the desperate tossing of money at their issues.

Spending capriciously rarely works without a strong foundation upon which to build.

You can look at any team----good and bad----and find fault with their tactics. For every GM, you can plant an asterisk next to his name and say "this is why it worked; this is why it didn't".

Did the Red Sox think that they pitching-and-defense idea would work? Did the Yankees with their decision to rely on young pitchers in 2008? You can go up and down baseball and find the contradictions from then and now.

The Rockies are well-run and have their house in order----or so it seems. It's easy to forget that GM Dan O'Dowd was closing in on being fired in both 2007 and 2009. It was the Rockies' ridiculous hot streak in 2007 that brought them to the World Series and the firing of manager Clint Hurdle in 2009 that saved O'Dowd. He'd been there since 2000 and used every tool in a GM's arsenal (spending; trading; cutting back; spending again; going with power; developing pitchers) to turn the team around until hitting on something that worked through luck, smart moves, trades and development.

Now he's "smart".

Kevin Towers was the hot name now and got the Diamondbacks job. It's interesting to note that in 2005 Towers was passed over for the same job that went to Josh Byrnes and had to return to the Padres under the thumb of Sandy Alderson and go along to get along to keep his job. If that meant following stat-based tenets and allowing his longtime on-field partner Bruce Bochy leave in favor of a neophyte manager in Bud Black after 2006? So be it.

Is Towers a "brilliant" GM? Hardly. He's competent. Sometimes that's enough.

But he has a plan.

Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman are always one-upping one another. The Red Sox and Yankees were teams who just "did" things under those who were ultimately in charge prior to the Epstein/Cashman ascensions. In some respects, they continue to do things depending on the wind.

Did the Red Sox think the closer-by-committee, Wily Mo Pena, Julio Lugo and the pitching-and-defense scheme were truly good ideas? Maybe. But they took quick steps to rectify those mistakes and/or had a long-term goal in mind simultaneously. I'd think they realize that trading Bronson Arroyo for Pena was a stupid thing to do (and there's never been a reasonable explanation as to why they did it); that the Marco Scutaro signing was a response to the annual "new" shortstop----both Edgar Renteria and Lugo were expensive gaffes; that the "pitching-and-defense" template was a cover for what they knew was a transition period as they move forward from Jonathan Papelbon, Victor Martinez and perhaps David Ortiz and Jason Varitek.

In fact, it almost worked but not because of those moves. Had the Yankees or Rays slipped, the Red Sox would be on their way to the playoffs again in a season that has had nothing but hit and miss in their big acquisitions. John Lackey hasn't been consistent----he's been better than his high ERA----but he was signed, I think, because of his post-season pedigree. That doesn't do much good if the team isn't in the post-season. The hope that, in subsequent years, he's going to revert to the near 20-game winner he was with the Angels is a giant question mark given his age and injury history. Adrian Beltre's been terrific; Mike Cameron a disaster; Scutaro pretty much what they expected.

But they have a plan.

Cashman rapidly abandoned the "let's develop our own pitchers" stuff when the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008. And it worked. But don't twist it into something other than what it was. Much like the phantom "privilege of being a Yankee" and "Yankee Pride", C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixiera joined the Yankees for one reason and one reason only----they were offered the highest amount of money by the Yankees.

They had a plan and a backup plan.

It's easily forgotten that the concept of players choosing to sign with the Mets because of their dysfunction was the same as it is now----insane. They signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the winter of 2004-2005.

You'll see it with Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth this winter----pay them, you get them. Bernie Williams came within moments of signing with the Red Sox in 1998. Why? Money. Team allegiance had absolutely nothing to do with anything. The only player I can remember off the top of my head who left money on the table to go to a preferred venue was Greg Maddux as he spurned the Yankees for the Braves----the same Yankees who were as much of a questionably run team as the Mets are now.

As the Phillies are streaking into the playoffs and suddenly have over 90 wins, it's conveniently ignored that their season was spiraling down the tubes until they had the dual good fortune of having Shane Victorino get injured precluding their attempts to trade Werth; and they acquired Roy Oswalt. The idea that GM Ruben Amaro would let ego get in the way of acquiring another starter after the decried decision to trade Lee was viable and it's a credit to Amaro that he withstood that criticism and did what needed to be done. The Phillies would not have had this run had they kept J.A. Happ instead of getting Oswalt. They've hamstrung the organization with contracts and gutted the upper levels of their system----they're going to be in trouble by 2012----but if they win two championships this year and next (and they could), so what? I'll take 76-86 in 2012 to go along with the two World Series trophies.

They have a plan.

As much as I loathe the stat zombie way of doing things, at least it's a strategy.

The Mets don't have a strategy that's anything other than reactionary. The fans, media and other baseball people ridicule them? They react and many times stupidly.

What difference does it make what the oft-quoted "officials from other organizations" say about the Mets if they spin around and hire Valentine or La Russa and make the acquisitions they need to compete next year? It's not as if they're a wasteland with little talent at the big league level like the Pirates, hoping for a future that is unlikely to ever come; there's enough talent----young talent----for the Mets to build a contender by next year.

I'm not a believer in the theory of tearing the whole thing down to start over; it's unnecessary when there are usable pieces in place, but at least someone with that belief has a long-term goal in mind.

The Mets don't.

They need a plan.

Maybe the way they've been non-competitive over the second half of this season will lay the groundwork for a conscious decision to have that plan.

They certainly can't go on like this.

And they won't.

I don't think.

  • Viewer Mail 9.23.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joe Torre:

Ah, Joe Torre. He was only in NY for 24 hours, if that, and look at all the controversy he was able to stir up. I'm almost finished with "The Yankee Years" and, even knowing all the wonderful things he did with the Yankees, I'm mad as hell at him for that book and I don't blame Cashman, the players he insulted or the YES staff for being mad too.

The Yankee Years is an interesting read----I finished it in a couple of days----but on a human level, there was no need for him to take part in the project. You and I both know that Tom Verducci could've written it without Torre....and sold one-fifth of the number of copies. It was a last word maneuver from Torre and it was the epitome of that which he tried to preach against when he was managing the Yankees; something that he's been guilty of his entire career----selfishness.

I'm sure the entire Yankees crew from the front office all the way through the YES Network (and including Michael Kay) have things they could expose about Torre, but haven't. It's just as well, although I'd love to read it!

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE managers:

Torre, Francona, Girardi... all beneficiaries of beyond-real payrolls and mega-star lineups (in my humble-yet-accurate opinion).

It's easy to look smart when the team's really, really good. Look at Jim Tracy. Good with the Dodgers, rotten with the Pirates, good again with the Rockies. Are there situations where a manager has learned his lessons from a first job? Of course. That happened with all three of the people you mentioned, but they win because they have players to win.

Even La Russa is having his troubles now. Jim Leyland's teams flopped around after their World Series run in 2006 and essentially collapsed out of a playoff spot last year. The manager is important, but not the cure-all in many cases. They have to have talent at their disposal. Period.

Max Stevens at The Lonely One writes RE Michael Kay and the Mets:

Another great posting today, Prince. Two points in particular: Michael Kay is a putz. The one thing Met fans will always have over Yankee fans is our booth versus theirs. ...The second point is in regard to Beltran. Heyman is way off the mark, unless the Mets do something really stupid. Beltran will have every incentive to elevate his game and play well in 2011. The only issue is whether or not the Mets will do what I think would be the right thing and put Pagan in center and Beltran in right. If the Mets are out of it next year and Beltran is having a good year, they can trade him for prospects or good young players at the deadline. If no trade is made but he's signed in the following off season, the Mets would get a draft pick. To trade him at this point would be the dumbest thing in the world unless it was for a rock 'em sock 'em difference maker, and I just don't see that happening when there are questions about both his knees.

It all depends on who's running the show. I'm not adverse to looking at Angel Pagan, his career and injury history, and considering dealing him at his high value. He's not a kid at 29.

The idea that they're going to pay such a massive chunk of his salary just to get Beltran out of town is ludicrous. If they haven't dumped the $12 million Oliver Perez is owned, they're not paying Beltran to leave; nor should they.

Ah, Michael Kay; so rarely has someone been so prominent with so few people having anything good to say about him.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz a week ago talking about the stretch run. Go to Sal's site to download it on I-Tunes or click it directly here.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


She-Fan said...

You've been predicting a Bobby Valentine job for a long time now, so I'm going with him as the Mets next manager.

Jeff said...

Following on Jane's comment, Bobby Valentine better be managing somewhere next season. You've made me jump in on the hype, Prince. I wanna see Bobby, at someone's helm, stirrin' up shit!

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

OK...I guess everyone left the job of contrarian to me then. I want no part of Bobby Valentine here again. That's just my moving forward mentality. We've been there and done that. What I feel has nothing to do with Valentine per-say. I just can not envision Valentine and Jeff Wilpon co-existing peacefully. The relationship between Valentine and Fred Wilpon is already compromised. You once told me they (Fred and Valentine) need to get over it. That may be true but it is what it is. The two do not like each-other no matter what you or me want for this team. The truth is, there is no better place for Valentine and his ego, not to mention his ability and acumen, than right here. I agree with all that. But in Met Year 8 A.D. in the Age of Wilponianism...Bobby is a round peg in a square hole. I'll say it again...The Wilpons are in a bind because they've lived feeding off what CASHEN and Phillips left behind. Omar is the last vestige. The Wilpons do not know where to turn. Gerry Hunsicker would be the only Miracle Fred/Jeff could wish for. He is the last one out there whom the Wilpons would trust without hesitation. But it's very very unlikely he returns here. The continuous mind stream since 1980 ends with Omar. The Wilpons are in a bind. You have just entered...The Saul B. Katz Dilemma.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, you think the 2010 Boston Red Sox had a season not up to expectations, because they focused on "pitching and defense". That's the reason.

Of note, the Red Sox have a better record than the Texas Rangers. But their season is going to be viewed as a success! Nope, an arbitrary "divison" had nothing to do with it, it was that "pitching and defense". And, of course, come playoff time you will say: "pitching and defense wins championships!" Because I've heard that 1 billion times in my lifetime. I digress, but this is why their needs to be no divisions, but instead, just grab the four best records.

Anyhow, back to the topic, the injuries to, basically, an all-star team had NOTHING to do with it. Nope! It's because Theo Epstein focused on "pitching and defense". Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Kevin Cash, nope, they had nothing to do with it. It was that "pitching and defense". Losing Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Cameron to SEASON ending injuries had nothing to do with it! Josh Beckett missing half the season (and partially ineffective when actually pitching, because of his health)? Nope. Having your starting catcher (Martinez) and backup catcher (Varitek) both out at the same time (Martinez for a month+, Varitek for 2 months+)? Nope!

On top of that, before the Red Sox lost half an all-star team, they were something like 1st or 2nd in runs scored. In fact, they are currently 3rd .. in ALL of baseball! Unfortunately, the Rays and Yankees are 1st and 2nd. So, it's not like Theo didn't focus on "batting" too. Man, would I have loved to see what a healthy Red Sox team would have been like this year. Because that team would, dare I say, be better than the one we see now. You know, the one with the fourth best record in the AL. Stupid Theo!

Lastly, "closer by committee", did that so called fail because it was a bad idea? Or did it fail because the committee was comprised of Chad Fox, Scott Sauerback, Rudy Saenez, and Todd Jones? Nope. Those guys would have been Mariano Rivera in his prime, only if they weren't in that darn-fangled closer by committee thing! Fire Theo!

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