The New York Mets are in such a bad state that the fans and media are demanding action. They are not happy with manager Buck Showalter and they are certainly not happy with General Manager Billy Eppler. The truth is that one should be kept and one should be dumped.
People complain that Buck Showalter never won anything. That’s not exactly true. He’s won a lot of games. Has he won a World Series title? No. But what was Joe Torre before he took over for Buck as Yankees manager? And what did Torre do after he left the Yankees and went to the Dodgers? Absolutely nothing. No pennants, no World Series titles. Nothing. Just like he did before Buck laid the foundation.
Buck was instrumental in building the Arizona Diamondbacks from their inception…even including the design of the baseball diamond. In just the second season as an expansion team, Buck led the team to 100 victories. Two seasons later, Bob Brenly was the manager when the Diamondbacks defeated Torre’s Yankees in the World Series. How many pennants and titles did Brenly win after that? None.
Next stop…Texas Rangers. Same thing. Buck leads the organization out of the woods…withstanding the pain of the growth and changes. After he relinquishes the reigns to Ron Washington and, like Torre and Brenly before, Washington reaps the benefits and captures two consecutive pennants. Then…nothing.
On to Baltimore where Buck takes over a huge mess of an organization and turns it completely around making it a consistent winner, converting a 93-loss team into a 93-win team the very next season. And two seasons later the Orioles captured a division title with 96 wins.
Since coming to the New York Mets, Buck Showalter has insisted that the game be played the right way.
Buck is a guy that knows the game inside and out. He is big on fundamentals. While he is open to the analytics, he is still an old-school baseball man. And he has turned chicken crap into chicken soup wherever he has been…regardless that he hasn’t been the one to carry that World Series trophy.
The thing is, the manager can only do so much. Heck, in today’s world, most managers don’t make out the lineup cards. Quite often, it is some bunch of geeks who are sitting in front of a screen who probably think that the game on the field is no different than playing Nintendo or Xbox.
Managers can’t hit or pitch or field. They are, most of the time, only as good as the players that they are handed. And that is where the General Manager comes in.
Buck Showalter did not construct the team. Billy Eppler is the designer and architect. Sure, there are some leftovers from the old regime. But like Brodie Van Wagenen before him, Eppler was the one handed the controls to put this team together.
Eppler came in prior to last season, at the very last minute, and made some moves that were, on the surface pretty good. Bringing in Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar were good moves as stop-gaps…they were not good if they were expected to be long-term solutions. And Escobar, as great a teammate as he was, struggled mightily and was a key target of the boo-birds and has since been shipped out for virtually nothing. Although he got off to a good start last season, Marte’s injuries have greatly hindered his performance and he has been vastly underperforming this season, now also a target of the fans’ ire. Canha has had his moments, and makes for a really good fourth outfielder, but he is not the kind of player the Mets can count on as an everyday outfielder.
I’ll get to the signing of Max Scherzer momentarily. But first…
…the dreadful 2022 deadline trades that everyone can’t let go of – the acquisitions of Darin Ruf and Daniel Vogelbach. The Mets have had a history of good fortunes with deadline trades that helped with pennant drives – think Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and, of course, Yoenis Cespedes. But Ruf was, and Vogelbach remains, disasters. Ruf was given mercy by releasing him from the pain of the New York experience, when in New York going to be released from the Vogelbach experience?
It can’t be easy for Billy Eppler because he knows he wasn’t the New York Mets top choice.
This is all on Eppler. He KNOWS he wasn’t the Mets top choice. Heck, it wasn’t even in their Top 10 choices. But how is it possible that he had a similar size wallet to work with in Anaheim…had two All-World players in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani…and couldn’t put together a winning squad? He signed players like Juston Upton and Andrelton Simmons. They both turned out to be horrible acquisitions. Well…he signed Anthony Rendon after he had a monster year and what has Rendon done since? He has been hurt and off the field more than he has been on the field. And when he has been on the field…he has been brutal. Poor judgment of handing a huge contract to someone whose best years were behind him?
Now let’s go back to Scherzer. He hands $43 million a year contract to a 37-year-old who showed indications that he was not able to pitch a full season. And he didn’t…missing significant time last season. Then he doubles down by handing another $43 million a year contract to a 40-year-old who, although winning a Cy Young Award last season, had missed the two previous seasons after major surgery. Two sure Hall of Famers…but that’s their pasts, not their futures with the Mets.
Then there is the handling of the young players like Brett Baty, Francisco Alvarez, Mark Vientos, and that guy Ronny Mauricio who we have still yet to see. Look at how the Braves handled THEIR young players last season and look at the result – they overtook the Mets to win a division title.
Are the Braves rookies that much better than the Mets rookies? Or is there a difference in philosophy? The Braves beat out the Mets last season, and at the half-way mark, the Braves are in first place, 26 games OVER the .500 mark while the Mets are 17 ½ games behind them, nine games UNDER the .500 mark.
Buck Showalter has a history of building a winner. Billy Eppler, on the other hand, has no such history. He has had very little experience as a general manager and the moves he HAS made have all been failures, with the exception of getting Ohtani to sign with the Angels. And it seems like everyone is hanging their hats on that one. But signing Ohtani did not ensure the Angels of a World Series title…remember that.
Buck Showalter can be the man to lead the team in the dugout. But he has to have a general manager that gives him the kind of players that are capable of playing championship caliber baseball. Billy Eppler is clearly not that person, and he should find where Darin Ruf is hiding and join him.