Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dusting Off the Keyboard

Dusting Off the Keyboard

Okay, so it's been a while since Rob and I had anything to say about baseball. Correction: we are never at a loss for opinions both trite and cockamamie, we just haven't been in a sharing mood since the holidays. What'd we miss?

Ignoring my plea to pass on Pedro, Minaya-cal Omar inked him to a deal that should provide us with ample fodder over the next few years at MLC. That said, it seems the move gave Minaya and the Mets the necessary street cred to draw Carlos Beltran. It's still stunning to type that -- CARLOS BELTRAN, CF, NEW YORK METS. Not bad. Yes, they threw an insane amount of money at Beltran, perhaps a great deal more than he's "worth." (I'm still not sure how other writers act like there's an exact math to players' worth.) But it's a great, great signing, at least from this early vantage point.
  1. Carlos Beltran was, without question, the single best player available in the 2004-5 offseason.
  2. He's a Met.
  3. See #2.
It's really all you need to know. The Mets finally recognized what we've been harping on for years now -- they are a New York franchise in an lopsided, capless, money-equals-wins league. That this could have eluded them as they signed Tier 2 players for Tier 1 money over the past few years is baffling, but apparently that's in the past. Perhaps it was the finalization of the cable station that ushered in this new era of "hey, wait, we have more money that other teams" epiphany, but it had to happen. By making the "splashy" signings, the Mets have made themselves pertinent again, and in New York City pertinent is solvent. As we've seen, you can't have Mike Cameron be your big name free agent signing, blather on about "meaningful games," trade away your star prospects for questionable, mid-range talent, and come out much better than they did. (In case the holidays dulled the pain, I'll rip off the Band-Aid: 71-91.)

So, the notion that you have to spend money to make money (and oh, yeah, win ballgames) has finally registered in Flushing, with even crazier (in the good way) rumors swirling that the dominoes haven't yet stopped falling -- Carlos Delgado might also come aboard. It's another long shot, but the Mets were apparent long shots in both the Martinez and Beltran auctions, too. And in this scenario, everything I said about the wisdom of abstinence where Pedro Martinez was concerned is out the window -- waaay out the window, it's down the 17 stories, squashed on the pavement, and scraped up by a street sweeper. If Pedro (plus his $53 million dollar inking) was the catalyst to Beltran and possibly Delgado, then this was shrewd beyond any credit ever awarded to Omar Minaya. If this was rushing the dork to get his cool friends into the fraternity, so be it. (Hmm. Pedro's been called many things over the years, but that maybe the first "dork" reference.) Anyway, even if it's just Beltran . . . yeah, that's the first time this winter "just Beltran" has been uttered, too. [It's a day of journalistic firsts here at MLC! Almost as thrilling as chicken sandwich day at the cafeteria.]

You get my point.

Some folks are still taking aim at my boys for overpaying all the way. (By the way, did you catch how I claim this team again once they've taken steps in the right direction? A month ago I was auditioning for Washington Nationals mascot. Nice.) Between the contracts of Kris Benson, Martinez, and Beltran, the Mets have overpaid more money than the president wanted to send for tsunami relief. (As an aside, will it ever be politically correct to refer to the Mets' middle relief this season as "tsunami relief"? You look at the current roster and tell me it isn't fitting. Okay fine, it's uncool.)

The Mets have not overpaid a dime, in reality. They paid precisely what it would take to wrest these players from the clutches of other waiting, wanting ballclubs. Market value is whatever it takes to land the player, and that's what Fred is paying. People blame the Mets for Benson's deal, saying it had a ripple effect to free agents everywhere. That's asinine. Benson's deal was what he could wrangle out of the Mets and only affects other salaries if other clubs give in to other players' equally ludicrous demands. Other .500 pitchers saw Benson's deal and used it as a template, but if other GM's and owners had stood their ground and simply said, "You might be Kris Benson, but we aren't the New York Mets," the rash of similarly mediocre arms would have had to back off the demands and be jealous of Benson (for more than just a voluptuous wife). As it turned out, the teams were so afraid to come away empty-handed, they started throwing out the same offer to 90mph-fastball, two-pitch artists all over the place, and it was easier to justify by blaming the Mets.

In truth, the other execs are less to blame than (hold on, let me grab my sopabox again) this preposterous financial system of MLB's. The same scenario will happen every year, and the same bitterness will exude the way it has for the past few years. It's just that now the Mets will start receiving some of the potshots for their payroll,too -- something on which the Yankees previously had the market cornered.

At last.

No comments: