Maybe I should stop making fun of Sandy Alderson, Fred and Jeff Wilpon. Maybe they’ve finally earned my respect.
This week, the front office of the New York Mets recognized the glaring hole in their team and opted to fix it.
By opening up their purse and signing outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a three year $75 million contract, they have signaled to the fan base that they are committed to winning.
This could potentially represent a seismic change for the franchise.
The team has perhaps the most coveted asset in baseball: a stable of young, power pitchers in their pre-arbitration seasons with years of team control, all on cheap contracts.
In 2015, the Mets arrived ahead of schedule. A hot start in April had them positioned for a playoff run. The pitching staff, made up of Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, lived up to their lofty potential. However, the offense lagged behind. When general manager made a deadline deal with the Detroit Tigers for Cespedes, the Mets took off.
Cespedes, along with the returns of David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and call up Michael Conforto, carried New York all the way to the World Series. It was the presence of a true power hitter that transformed the lineup. The 30 year old Cuban slugged 17 home runs in 57 games, including nine in a 13-game stretch to start the month of September, heating up an offense that had ranked near the bottom in the majors in most categories upon his arrival in late July.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, most Mets fans had resigned themselves that he was gone. This era of the Mets have shown the propensity to let top talent walk away, with an eye always on the bottom line.
The Wilpons reportedly had hundreds of millions involved with Bernie Madoff and lost most of it when it turned out Madoff was a crook. For the last six or so years, the Wilpons have run their team like a small market one. Instead of taking advantage of being in New York City, the largest market in sports, the Wilpons were cheap and frugal.
From 2010 to 2015, the Mets had a payroll under $100 million, bottoming out at $84 million in 2014. That’s a disgrace.
It was the same old song and dance between management and the fans. The team would bring in mid-tier players on midsize contracts. Chris Young, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Bay, John Mayberry Jr. They would never bring in the best, most expensive players. The ownership was allergic to truly making the team better.
More of the same was expected this offseason. Sure, they made a trade for Neal Walker, but they also let postseason hero Daniel Murphy walk. Instead of immediately bringing in Cespdes, they signed backup outfielder Alejandro de Aza. It took a confluence of events for Cespdes to return.
By finally opening up their wallet, the Wilpons and Alderson have signaled to the fan base that this year will be different.
It looks like the Mets have shaken off the “cheapskate” label.
But I'll probably still make fun of the owners all the time.