Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon believes the organization is moving in the right direction and that he is confident in general manager Sandy Alderson’s plan.
Apparently, the 76-year-old Wilpon believes that things should improve as several of the Mets’ bloated contracts will come off the books following this season.
"We're coming to the end of the time when we have had an overhang of players who got hurt or didn't play well and I think that Sandy Alderson and his staff have a plan," Wilpon told Newsday on Monday. "I know some people are impatient about it. But they do have a plan and they're executing on their plan and I think things are in the right direction. It's hard to say that when the team loses four, five in a row.
"I get it, I suffer with it. I think that we have to see that plan become successful because in today's world it's not how much money you spend -- although we have invested a lot of money. Some of it has been wasted because right now we have a [$102.2 million] payroll and 50 percent of the payroll is not playing."
Wilpon was referring to starting pitcher Johan Santana, who is making a team-high $31 million this with a 2014 buyout, and outfielder Jason Bay, who was bought out for $21 million this past offseason, though $16 million is reportedly being deferred under the payment plan the team made with Bay to be completed by the end of the 2015 campaign. Currently, the Mets only have about $33 million committed to next season’s payroll, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
In reading between the lines, it seems that Wilpon is preaching patience. (What else is new?) Well, waiting out Wilpon’s ownership, lacking the financial resources to field a competitive major league roster, will require even more patience than Mets fans have given so far. It would be one thing if the Mets were progressively improving in the win-loss column, but they have won fewer games in each of the last three seasons.
That being said, most of the fan base and pundits have already written off this season and the focus has shifted to this offseason. With the aforementioned large contracts coming off the books, conventional wisdom says that the Mets will spend money to acquire talent the team desperately needs. In fact, general manager Sandy Alderson said Saturday that the organization has reached a stage that will soon allow it to make larger investments on major league talent.
““I do believe over the next six months or so, we will be in a position make some significant acquisitions, whether it’s through free agency or a trade,” Alderson told a group of 350 season-ticket holders, as reported by Rick Freeman of The Associated Press. “And I’m certainly looking forward to that possibility.”
Talk is cheap; Alderson will have to prove it. This isn’t the first the Mets have had a significant amount of money come off the books under Alderson’s watch. After the 2011 campaign, Alderson’s first with the team, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo no longer clogged the team’s payroll.
Before the 2011 season started, though, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon preached a single year of patience. Well, look how that turned out. The Mets’ Opening Day payroll decreased from more than $142 million in 2011 to just over $93 million in 2012, a nearly $50 million drop that was the largest in Major League history. At the time, Fred said that the unprecedented decline was thanks in large part to the uncertainty over the Bernie Madoff lawsuit that hovered over his franchise’s baseball operations.
These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many fans agreeing with anything the Wilpon family has to say about the state of the Mets. But in one of those rare instances, they are right about one thing: Mets fans really need to be patient.
For the fans’ sake – and Alderson’s and the Wilpons, too – the upcoming acquisitions this offseason better be an improvement on some of the Mets’ recent busts, like Bay, closer Frank Francisco and starting pitcher Shaun Marcum – just to name a few.
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.