Every noted prognostication system released so far has the Mets finishing with one of the majors’ four best records in 2021.
Of course, that and $2.75 gets you on the subway. These systems generally liked the Mets the past two years before two playoff-less seasons gave them 12 in 14 years.
Whether you appreciate how these programs reach their conclusions or not, they are fed with data not passion, and what it spits out is that the Mets are the NL East team to beat in the first spring training under new owner Steve Cohen. Which should heighten excitement.
So why does a Wilpon-ian feeling persist?
Because again, when it came to free agency, the Mets pursued big fish, but lacked the tactical or financial push to land Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto or George Springer.
And because again the Mets cannot escape off-the-field humiliation.
The arrival of Cohen and — just as vitally — the disappearance of the Wilpons was supposed to summon a new day and a new way. Maybe it will over time. A few months is just not enough to flush the contamination of the previous regime.
But this administration promised it would assemble a state-of-the-art baseball braintrust. That didn’t happen. Whether it was Cohen’s sharp-elbowed reputation from the business world, or concerns about just how involved Sandy Alderson would be as team president, or something else, the Mets most desired candidates to be president of baseball operations proved unattainable.
They pivoted to just a general manager, picked Jared Porter, and that lasted a month before they fired him after revelations he harassed a female reporter in a previous job. Porter had to go. But with him went wide connections to teams and agents and a greater sense of how a modern front office operates. Agents have commented how it at times feels like a time warp that they are negotiating with Alderson and John Ricco again as if 2014 booked a return visit. This clearly was not the plan in October.
Zack Scott was elevated to acting GM, but the Mets started from behind in the brain game and remain in severe catch-up mode.
Yes, the Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. But many competitors and agents are shocked that they did not capitalize further in a free-agent landscape in which few were bidding to pull down Bauer, Realmuto and, especially, Springer. When will the field be this wide open for them again?
Each miss could be explained. They had the top bid for Bauer, but couldn’t provide, among other things, the West Coast locale and near certain contention, as the Dodgers could. Realmuto was not in the five-year, $115.5 million range early in the offseason and the Mets did not want to miss out on a catcher, so they signed James McCann for four years at $40 million (know that many teams thought that was a dramatic overpayment).
When it came to Springer, the Mets worried how they would play all their best hitters without a designated hitter in the NL and if signing Springer would preclude them from doing a long-term deal with another outfielder, Michael Conforto. Maybe. But Conforto is repped by Scott Boras and without even talking to Boras, I guarantee he will seek more for Conforto than the six years at $150 million for which Springer signed with the Blue Jays (of the three big fish, Springer was the free agent I thought would work best for the Mets).
Again, you can explain each away. But that is a Wilpon thing, close but no big star in free agency. Cohen pledged not to spend like “a drunken sailor.” However, generally handcuffing the organization to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold is being done why exactly?
On Wednesday, The Athletic reported that the Mets recently fired hitting performance coordinator Ryan Ellis, long after complaints were lodged in 2018 to human resources about lewd behavior toward female employees. This comes in the aftermath of Porter’s dismissal and revelations about former manager Mickey Callaway’s alleged improper actions toward women. Porter’s transgressions and some of Callaway’s reportedly happened in whole or part when they were not employed by the Mets.
That accentuates the obvious; that sadly deplorable behavior toward women is a sport-wide problem. But only the Mets had all three cases revealed this offseason fall on them — they remain a magnet for bad news. All three were either hired or promoted at some point by Alderson, who was the first hire of Cohen’s administration — a hire designed to signal that the stumbling of the past would stop.
Alderson has much on his plate. To get the culture right. And to sustain winning. His first team is beloved by the computers and could still get better with Trevor Rosenthal or Taijuan Walker. Nevertheless, it was very Wilpon-ian for the Mets to underperform their talent, which is how the systems predicted big things and the Mets failed to honor them.
And the Mets really need to stop being Wilpon-ian.