On November 4, 2004, the New York Mets introduced Willie Randolph as the 18th manager in Mets history. In his three plus years on the job, Randolph would have the second best winning percentage in Mets history, and like Davey Johnson, he would be one of only two Mets managers to never have a losing record over a full season.
During Randolph’s tenure, there tends to be a heavy focus on the 2007 collapse and his being fired one game into a trip to the West Coast. Lost in that was Randolph taking the Mets to that level. Sure, adding players like Carlos Delgado were a huge factor. However, Randolph helped develop players like David Wright and Jose Reyes.
People also forget Randolph guided the Mets to a winning record in a season where Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo, and Victor Diaz got the most games played at first, second, and right. Randolph did help build a winning culture, and to his credit, he learned to adapt to the team while doing a good job with the bullpen.
No, he was not perfect by any means, but overall, Randolph had done a good job with the Mets. Seeing the jobs Jerry Manuel, Terry Collins, and Mickey Callaway did, you tend to realize Randolph was much better than anyone realized.
Fifteen years later, the Mets are following a pattern a bit in hiring their next manager.
Like Randolph, Carlos Beltran came to the New York Mets directly from the Yankees organization. Like Randolph, Beltran played for both the Mets and the Yankees. Both were multiple time All Stars who won a World Series. Both were looked upon by Mets fans as someone who really wanted to be a Yankee and not a Met.
It was odd for Randolph considering how he grew up a Mets fan. Randolph spoke lovingly about the team even telling everyone his first date with his wife was at Shea Stadium. When Randolph had an opportunity at the end of his career, he came to the Mets.
For Beltran, he actually signed with the Mets. As we know things ended poorly with the Mets, but despite all of that, Beltran came back to the Mets. Like Randolph 15 years ago, Beltran is going to become the Mets manager. He is also going to be entasked with guiding the young careers of players like Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
If in the end of his career as the Mets manager, Beltran never has a losing record, helped his young players take the next step forward, and he takes the Mets to the postseason, we would all agree it was a very successful run. However, that is today. As we know, there is a lot which happens in-between now and then.
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
After the Marlins beat the Nationals last night, the Mets magic number is finally in single digits. At a minimum, I thought it was nice to be off of 10. However, I saw the choices for 9, and I quickly realized it was going to be difficult to find a player that fits within my parameters.
Many of the players either played well or were on good teams. Many of the players played before I was born. However, I knew there was a player out there. I trusted that I could find someone who wasn’t that good and played on a bad Mets team. I then found my man Craig Brazell:
If you don’t remember him, it’s probably because he only played 24 games with the 2004 Mets, who went 71-91. In these 24 games, he would hit .265/.286/.412. He wouldn’t play in the majors for another three years when he would play five games for the Royals.
It’s a shame because he was an actual major league prospect. He was a Top 10 organizational player seen to have good power and a good glove at firstbase. Unfortunately for him, he was blocked by the Mike Piazza firstbase experiment. The next season, he was blocked by Doug Mientkiewicz (because Carlos Delgado wouldn’t sign with the Mets). After 2005, he was granted free agency, and he left Mets organization.
In some ways, Brazell reminds me of Ike Davis in that they were both good fielding first base prospects with power (Davis was a much better prospect). Unfortunately, neither panned out even if Davis had some early success. However, unlike with Brazell, the Mets had a viable option in their system with Lucas Duda.
That’s what this season has taught us. You need organizational depth. You need it not just to get the players you need at the trade deadline, but also to fill-in spots for your team when there is injury or ineffectiveness. It’s unfortunate when the prospects work out. It’s devastating when there’s no viable alternatives at the ready.
So with that, let’s offer a hat tip to our magic man number nine, Craig Brazell.
Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.
I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.
At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.
Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.
It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed. I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.