The New York Mets were built to win now but the pieces just don't fit
By Alan Karmin
The team with the best payroll in Major League Baseball is well-known to be the New York Mets at $353,546,854. The closest to that is, of course the New York Yankees at $276,999,872…with the Mets outspending the Yankees by over $76 million. Let that one sink in.
Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s are dead last with a payroll of $56,895,000, and are dead least in the American League’s Western Division, dead last in MLB with a record of 8-29. Most years the A’s seem to make themselves competitive and a presence in the AL, but they sold off a lot of pieces this off-season to reload for next season. That seems to be the annual formula in Oakland…at least until that organization is out of Oakland.
Next up are the Baltimore Orioles with a payroll of $60,722,300 and they are currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Division of the AL with a record of 22-12.
Then there are the Tampa Bay Rays paying out $73,184,811, and there they are sitting on top of the Eastern Division of the AL sporting the best record in Major League Baseball with 28 wins against only 7 losses.
And, get this, the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a payroll of slightly more than the Rays at $73,277,500, are atop the National League’s Central Division at 20-15.
Let all of that sink in as well…as the New York Mets…with the highest payroll in MLB are, themselves, sinking.
The Mets were briefly under .500 at 3-4 on April 5, but that early in the season makes it almost irrelevant. Because they rebounded right after that to win 8 out of 10 and 11 of 14. Then this debacle started and they have done the complete opposite, now having lost 11 of the last 14 games to put them where they are at now, again, one game under .500 at 17-18 and sinking fast and hard.
The relevancy of the payroll comes in to play for a number of reasons.
Everyone wanted the Wilpons gone because they wouldn’t spend money. I’ll get back to that.
Everyone wanted an owner like Steve Cohen, or at least someone with his kind of money, where money is no object. They got that. WE got that. And no matter how much money he has spent, people aren’t happy. The pundits always want more.
When you pay people…pay them a lot of money, you expect them to perform in accordance with what they are being paid. It doesn’t always happen. And, with the New York Mets, it hasn’t happened.
Just look at the two players – Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander – two future Hall of Famers, each making almost as much as the entire Oakland A’s roster. And what have they provided for that money?
So now let’s get back to the Wilpons…just for this point. They DID spend money. Not often, but it DID happen. Prior to the 1991 and 1992 seasons, the Mets went out and got Vince Coleman, Hubie Brooks, Bret Saberhagen, Willie Randolph, Eddie Murray, and, good ole Bobby Bonilla. They shelled out a lot for all of those players with some pretty decent star power. In 1991, the Mets finished at 77-84, in fifth place in the NL East. In 1992, the Mets finished at 72-90, again in fifth place in the NL East.
The bottom line is that spending money doesn’t always translate into winning.
The fact is that the New York Mets were built to be in “win now” mode but certainly don’t have the parts to, actually, win now.
It is easy to point to having Edwin Diaz out for the year as a reason for why the team is where it’s at right now. But the truth is that the Mets would be in the same situation even if he WERE around…because the Mets starters, and middle relievers, have been awful.
The older starters, like Scherzer and Verlander, are undependable and starting show signs of wearing down and breaking down, the younger guys, like Tylor Megill and David Peterson, are inconsistent and unreliable, and the new import, Kodai Senga, is all over the place and having trouble finding the strike zone.
The back end of the bullpen, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino, thus far, have performed exceptionally well, especially considering their age and injury history. Drew Smith has also done a pretty good job in the set-up role. But everyone else coming out of the pen, is like playing Russian Roulette with five of the six chambers loaded, because the odds are fairly good that there will be an implosion.
And then there is the offense…which has been brutal and even more painful to watch than the Mets pitching. Brandon Nimmo has been the only steady performer. Everyone else in the lineup, has been underperforming at best, but, in reality, they have been brutal…possibly the exception of Brett Baty who is starting to show why he is such a highly rated prospect.
Francisco Lindor has, for the third consecutive season with the Mets, gotten off to a horrible start. He rebounded to have a really good season in 2022. But, with all due respect to Pete Alonso, Lindor is supposed to be THAT guy. We all loved David Wright, but we all knew Jose Reyes made the team go. And that is what is expected of Lindor and it just ain’t happening.
Alonso was expected to be the big home run guy again. And he HAS hit some home runs – 11 to be exact. But he has pretty much been held in check as teams have held him to a .235 average. Reining NL batting champ Jeff McNeil has been up and down and is struggling, getting three hits in the finale against the Rockies has him up t0 .289. A lot was also expected of Starling Marte, an exceptionally talented player who can do a lot of things well. But he has been at less than full strength and that leaves a huge hole…he is currently at .213 with one home run.
What are teams like the Orioles, Rays, and Pirates doing that has them playing winning baseball while spending 20% of what the Mets are spending? Are they doing it with smoke and mirrors, or was what the Mets did by winning 101 games in 2022 a mirage? Are they as good as they were in 2022…are they as good as they were just a short time ago when they actually WON 11 of 14 games…or are they as bad as they appear LOSING 11 of 14 after that?
The worst part of the Mets recent streak is who they have actually been losing to – the Washington Nationals, the Detroit Tigers, and the Colorado Rockies – three of the worst teams in MLB. The Mets were supposedly built to win now…but…obviously, they’ve built wrong…because they are losing now.