12 April 2011

The Case for Blowing It Up

Every day, I peruse various Mets blogs and news articles, some of which have comment sections, of which in turn most are pretty spirited. The favored topic of those comments thus far this season--egged on to some extent by the content of the day--is what a disaster it would be if the Mets traded Jose Reyes at the deadline or let him walk over the coming winter. “If you're going to do that, you may as well throw in David Wright, too!” they bellow, dripping with sarcasm.

To which I can only reply while completely devoid of sarcasm, “Exactly.”

The National League has awarded 28 playoff berths since and including 2004, the first season those two homegrown cogs of the lineup took to the left side of the infield together. Of those 28 playoff appearances, the team with Wright and Reyes has made a grand total of 1. Teams without Wright and Reyes have collected the other 27. Obviously, David Wright and Jose Reyes are not necessities when it comes to making the playoffs.

“But it's not their fault,” these emotionally-driven, reality-challenged fans counter, “Reyes and Wright have done their jobs. It's all about the supporting cast and the pitching.”

There's a whale of a lot of truth in that, but the statement itself inherently begs the question of just where this magical supporting cast and above-average rotation and bullpen is going to come from if the Mets aren't willing to give up one of the few things of value they possess in order to get it.

This morning, I actually came across one comment that if the Mets start parting ways with their headliners, they'd be dooming themselves to Pirate-like irrelevancy for something in the neighborhood of the next two decades. Obviously, the premise upon which that statement is grounded is that the Mets still have any relevancy to put at risk in the first place.  That's a hard case to build for a last-place team whose stadium seems to emptying by the hour, the same team whose only media attention derisively--and at times outright laughingly--focuses on its current run of incompetence.

I'm not completely heartless. I enjoy watching Jose Reyes zoom around the bases. I love it when David Wright is locked in and knocking the ball all over the park. But at the end of the day, you could put me out there at shortstop or third base and play just as deeply into October as the Mets have done the past 4 years, with 5 and beyond looking like a pretty safe bet the more the status quo is preserved.  Maybe it does make me callous, but I'm simply not all that attached to a core of guys who have delivered so many lows and so few highs.  Edgardo Alfonzo and Rey Ordonez at 3rd and short conjure up better memories.  When all's said and done, the Mets can trot anybody out there, and I'll still pull for them.

I get that everyone wants the chance to enjoy the fairy tale that is home-grown fan favorites rising to the top of their trade and delivering a championship, but the reality of the situation is that the Reyes-Wright-Beltran core was very good for all of 6 months and has since lived whatever is the polar opposite of “happily every after."

While it may make some folks feel all warm and fuzzy inside to be able to say, “We've got one of the best 5 shortstops in the game! David Wright is special! Yea, us!” where has it gotten the team? We're not talking flukes here. From mid-October 2007 through today is a more than adequate sample size to decide "Yes, this path is working" or "No, it's not."

Overlooked by starry-eyed fans desperate for something to cling to in the absence of actual success is that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series last year without any everyday player even in serious contention for the MVP. (In fact, the last team to actually win a World Series with the MVP on it was those freaking Dodgers of 1988 and Kirk Gibson, who was admittedly given the award based more upon intangibles than eye-popping production.)  In baseball, the whole is often more than the sum of its parts (or on the other end of the spectrum, considerably less). It's entirely possible to have a better team without Jose Reyes or David Wright (I exclude Beltran because he's as good as gone regardless). In fact, every season since 2006, that has indisputably been the case.

I'm not at all saying the team's current state is directly the fault of any particular players, much less these particular ones, but there's little in the way of success to be directly attributed to any of them, either. In an ideal world, we keep Reyes and Wright and surround them with All-Stars, but that's simply not the way it works. You can't get something for nothing, especially when you're still paying Bobby Bonilla for the next 24 years.

The last time the Mets made the playoffs the stock market was setting record highs. This is a photo of a Mets crowd during a September game last season (via the awesomeness that is MetsPolice and taken by David; lots more beginning halfway down the page here). These are the current standings.  How much worse can it possibly get if Sandy Alderson starts testing the waters in a few months?  A trade of Jose Reyes or anyone else isn't going to bring about doomsday.  Doomsday arrived a good while ago and currently sits in the middle of the room much like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla, hidden only from those who choose to not see it.

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