Mark your calendar, New York Mets fans. The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is set to expire on Dec. 1, 2021, and there is little coming out of 1271 Avenue of the Americas that should make you feel warm and fuzzy about the MLB and MLBPA reaching a new agreement. Indeed, the negative impact on the Mets is clear right now: the team is struggling in the public eye to get a new President of Baseball Operations (POBO), General Manager, and Manager in place with a season killing lockout hanging over Sandy Alderson’s head before he retires.
As we approach what will surely be a highly contentious and drawn-out war between the owners and players, here are three issues that currently and will impact the long-term future of the Mets:
Getting Quality Decisionmakers in Place
It’s quite ridiculous that baseball pundits continue to make “predictions” on who will fill the POBO/GM/Manager roles given the GM can’t be divined until a POBO is named, and even if the Mets skip the whole POBO thing, any prognostications on who will be the Mets next manager amounts to a total waste of time until the GM is named.
Let’s add to the Mets dysfunctional game of musical chairs in finding top-notch candidates to fill leadership roles the looming absence of a baseball season next year, and it becomes easy to see how frivolous the premise is in “predicting” who will fill those roles.
The ludicrousness of this all is playing out in real-time as the Mets — on the heels of embarrassingly getting rejected over and over again by their first, second, and third-tier candidates — just announced they are now moving towards several “internal candidates” to fill most of these roles. In an ironic twist given the Mets past history with their All in the Family approach to losing, the candidates include Sandy’s own son, Bryn Alderson. No disrespect to Bryn, but isn’t that how the Mets got into this mess in the first place? Then again, should we be surprised given it is the instability surrounding not just the Mets but whether there will be a CBA in place by December 1 that is likely driving much of the various candidates’ hesitation to be considered.
After all, why on earth would anyone take any job that necessarily and immediately undermines a chance at success? Why would anyone engage in planning and strategy “shots in the dark” until the CBA gets negotiated? Where you don’t know what players will be available; when they will be available; under what service time conditions they become available; and based on what money will be available in the context of a yet-to-be-determined luxury tax?
Worse yet, even if a candidate from an already successful position in what is likely a successful organization bravely takes on the challenge to develop Plans A, B, C, D and F to cover their ass, at any time over the course of the potential lockout, a new CBA could be had that implements new rules regarding on-field play, DH, etc., that can tremendously alter any sabermetric projections (and, consequently, correlative salaries and contracts) prepared by the daring new POBO or GM.
In short, why should candidates with a successful, winning pedigree take on a questionable role with the Mets before a CBA is in place when the very lack of a CBA can quickly undermine their efforts, talent, and strategy in building them into a winning ballclub?
The Designated Hitter
Having a DH in the National League will benefit the likes of Alonso and give more credence to the idea of keeping Dominic Smith at 1B while getting a much-needed righty slugger like Kris Bryant to play 1B, 3B, LF, and DH over the course of the season without losing punch in the lineup. IBy contrast, without a DH, you can kiss Smith — an important and beloved teammate — goodbye. In addition, the likelihood of getting someone like Bryant becomes less attractive as he will need to outright sit on the bench rather than DH him.
But, all weighing heavily over this scenario is whether there the league coming out of a lockout will implement a DH in the National League and, if so, whether someone like Bryant is even around anymore. And let’s not forget Cano who — at best — will be cut before the season starts with the Mets eating the approximately $40 million in salary or, at worst, kept on through June when star minor league talent like Brett Baty will get called while the Mets realize Cano is nothing more than a has-been Hall of Famer eating up valuable DH time from the likes of Alonso and others.
But what happens if the new CBA changes the rules on MLB service time and eligibility? That will have a direct impact on how long we may have to suffer seeing Cano bat .182 while getting fed the “it takes time to get back up to speed after being away from the game for over a year” nonsense.
A minor point in the scheme of things is how playoff eligibility will affect the Mets coming out of the new CBA, but an important point, nonetheless. As the Braves showed this past year, what’s past is prologue and had the Mets won just a handful more games before the trade deadline, it’s clear the Braves would have packed it in for the season. Instead, the Braves are the team in rebuilding mode that is playing in the World Series. Believe me, it kills me to say the Braves are the class of the division and a bane to the side of the Mets for decades. One wonders why Steve Cohen is so obsessed with looking all the way to the West Coast to emulate a winning organization when they’re only a few miles away down south. That being the case, what of next year? What if the CBA adds more teams to the playoffs?
Will expanded playoffs hurt the Mets? If the Mets record of failure in taking advantage of opportunities indicates anything, then the answer is yes.
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We need only look to 2020 as a prologue to their underachievement, heartbreak, and dysfunctionality– all traits that continue to haunt the Mets through Halloween and beyond until they prove otherwise.