Narrative Fitting Semantics


Over the past few days, twitter has been abuzz with the fact that the Mets are the only team who have yet to sign an external Major League free agent this offseason.  This is viewed as a negative, even though many of the free agent deals that have been given out were atrocious in terms of both years and dollars.  In that same vein, Jayson Stark of ESPN listed the Mets as one of the “five least improved” teams so far this offseason, and projected that they would go 66-96 in 2013.

Sep 27, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) is congratulated by second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) and shortstop Ruben Tejada (11) after hitting a three-run home run during the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PREWIRE

After the season ended, most Mets fans had been hoping that Sandy Alderson would go the trade route when it came to acquiring impact players (which he recently did), due to the fact that this year’s free agent crop was fairly weak.  For arguments sake, let’s get a taste of the free agent signings some of the other teams have made so far. We’ll sample one team from each division (since everyone but the Mets has signed an external free agent), as well as the entire National League East:

Arizona – Signed catcher Wil Nieves, OF Eric Hinske, 3B Eric Chavez, and P Brandon McCarthy.  The only player here the Mets may have had use for was McCarthy, but his free agent deal was consummated before the R.A. Dickey trade.  Eric Hinske is a lefty who hit .197 last year.  Eric Chavez is a bit player.  What about Nieves?  Would anyone take him over Travis d’Arnaud?

Chicago (NL) – Too many moves to list, but they just gave Edwin Jackson $52 million over four years.  Forget the fact that Jackson has given up more hits than innings pitched over his career, has a career WHIP of 1.43 and an ERA of 4.40.  The Cubs are signing lots of players!  They must be improving.

Seattle – Signed OF Jason Bay.  I’ll let that one stand on its own.  According to ESPN, the Mariners have done more to improve than the Mets have.  Logical.

Cleveland – Another team with too many signings to list, but their main move has been to bring Mark Reynolds (who plays horrific defense and averages 213 strikeouts per year) on board.  Scintillating.

New York (AL) – Aside from re-signing players who were on the team in 2012, their major move was signing Kevin Youkilis to a one year, $12 million dollar deal.  This is the same Kevin Youkilis who the Red Sox unloaded last year for being horrendous.  Anyone jealous?

Atlanta – The Braves have made one signing of note, which was handing B.J. Upton a five year, $75 million dollar contract.  For reference, here are B.J. Upton’s batting averages over the last four seasons: .241, .237, .243, .246.  This is the same Upton who has a history of being lazy in the field.

Miami – We’re only talking about free agent signings right now, so I won’t dig deep into the fact that the Marlins traded half of their team to the Blue Jays.  ESPN listed the Marlins as the least improved team thus far.  However, they did sign the franchise altering duo of Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco.

Philadelphia – Their two major signings thus far were reliever Mike Adams and RHP John Lannan.  Those are two solid moves. Lannan is a back end guy (who was sent to the minors by Washington last year), and the Mets are likely to make a move for a more high upside starter.  Adams has been one of the better relievers in baseball, but his peripherals last year were atrocious when compared to previous years.  Take a look.

Washington – The Nats ran away with the division last year, so they were in great shape heading into the winter.  Their one move of note was signing Dan Haren to a one year, $13 million dollar deal.  Like the Phillies with Mike Adams, Haren happens to be coming off the worst season of his career.

…So, there’s a taste of the signings other teams have made.  As has been mentioned, the Mets have yet to sign an external Major League free agent this winter.  What have they done?

They came to an agreement with Jason Bay that resulted in his release, while also allowing the team to save money in 2013.

They said goodbye to Manny Acosta, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez, Kelly Shoppach, Ronny Cedeno, and Mike Pelfrey – players that the majority of Mets fans never wanted to see in orange and blue again.

They re-signed David Wright to an 8 year, $138 million dollar contract.

They traded R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas to the Blue Jays for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra – a move that most fans approved of.

They traded Jefry Marte to Oakland for outfielder Collin Cowgill, in an under the radar move that should pay dividends in 2013. Cowgill, a 26 year old right handed hitter, has hit close to .300 against lefties over his career, and should be a productive platoon partner in the outfield.

Do the Mets have more work to do?  Absolutely.  Should Mets fans be satisfied with the current state of the outfield?  No.  However, when you step back from the hyperbole, you’ll realize that the Mets have done a solid job thus far.  Calling them vastly improved is a reach, but putting them on par with the Marlins as one of the clubs who have done the least to improve?  That’s simply short sighted.

Granted, the Mets may take a small step back in 2013 with the objective being sustained success in 2014 and beyond.  Still, what they’ve done so far has at least been creative – something you can’t say for a host of other teams.

Still, when ESPN comes out and puts them on a list of the “five least improved” teams,  everyone runs around like chickens with their heads cut off.  According to ESPN, the Mets are projected to go 66-96 in 2013 (as of right now).  Expecting the Mets to be a 95+ loss team in 2013 is absurd.  The Mets are on ESPN’s “least improved” list because it fits their narrative, and they’re on the list because ESPN knows it will generate clicks.  Logic is ignored, and nonsense is embraced.

It’s understandable for fans to want immediate results, and for the media to pounce on a team they view as being down.  However, throwing money around recklessly and spending on mediocrity is what put the Mets in the situation they’re currently in.  Until the Dickey trade, it was unclear whether or not Sandy Alderson and his assistants were properly implementing a plan.  The fans were rightfully skeptical.  Now that the deal has been made, it’s time to give the front office the benefit of the doubt.  To stop piling on and wailing in agony every time any mediocre free agent signs somewhere else.  The Mets are a work in progress, but progress is being made.