The Mets are close to being contenders. However, they still have some work to do to get over the proverbial hump. Going into 2014, fans and media suggested several analogs for the Mets to emulate as they attempt to contend on a limited budget. The Indians and Mariners were often mentioned as organizational role models.
Sep 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning of the 2014 American League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier this week, the Kansas City Royals defeated the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game. In an epic battle, the Royals stole seven bases and utilized four sacrifice bunts on their way to victory. They used athleticism and execution to down the power-laden Athletics. So, my question is, why can’t the Mets use that methodology?
Going into 2014, the Royals’ payroll was $92 million (19th) and the Mets’ payroll was $89 million (22nd). The Royals play at Kauffman Stadium, a large, pitcher-friendly park. Citi Field plays similarly. The Royals have structured their team with speedy, athletic players to use their home surroundings to their advantage.
In 2014, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar stole 31 bases. Lorenzo Cain stole 28, and Jarrod Dyson stole 36. All three of these players are excellent defensively. Royals manager Ned Yost bunts often. While many think of that as “giving away outs,” Yost uses small ball to his advantage, recognizing that playing to his team’s strength makes sense.
How does this apply to the Mets? The Mets need an outfielder, likely a right fielder so Curtis Granderson can move to left field. There’s some talk that they may be interested in free agent Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer will be 36 next season, and while he does have power, he rates as a below average outfielder.
In the spacious right field of Citi Field, would adding an older player like Cuddyer be wise? Do you remember when Lucas Duda played right field for the Mets?
The message here is that the Royals may be a good team for the Mets to notice. The teams have similar payrolls, and similar ballparks. The Royals have gone down the strong defense, small ball path to the post season. They play an exciting brand of baseball, and make their home turf an advantage.
I’ve felt for a long time that the Mets should endeavor to be more athletic. As they teeter on the brink of contention, maybe power, given the Mets’ circumstances, isn’t necessarily the way to promised land. If proof is needed, all the Mets need to do is watch the Royals in the ALDS.