HIGHER DECISIONS by Tom Brennan
No, this is not a philosophical treatise - mostly, anyway. "Higher Thoughts" here mean what? From my perch as a Mack’s Mets writer, I've focused on Lower Thoughts – no, nothing like that - I mean that over the past several weeks, all of my musings and reportage have focused on the Mets' minor league wannabes.
I now veer for a day sharply towards Queens for this post. To Citifield.
Higher Decisions are ones in Mets land that may not have been easy to make, that took real guts, but when made, and later found to be successful, they must be oh, so satisfying to the decision makers.
5 such decisions come to mind that helped alter the landscape of this franchise.
1) Re-signing Cespedes: I either wrote articles, or added comments to Morning Reports, every doggone day in the fall, for Mets ownership to do what most prognosticating Met fans assumed would just not happen: that the Mets would have the cojones to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes.
I wrote that he was, in complement with our young stud pitching, an offensive game changer, one who would bring excitement daily, put fear in opposing team's hearts, and put fannies in the seats. One who would reverse the trend of ceding the ability to bomb in this town to the Bronx Bombers. I rationalized that he'd make the Mets’ hitting great, to go with great starting pitching and a great pen.
I added that the days of having all of your borderline offensive players (utility types like Mayberry and Decker) get up 700 times and hit .180 (like those guys did last year before the cavalry was summoned in late July) had to be a thing of the past. Well, it is - not saying they read a word of this madman's ramblings, but they did the right thing, and signed Cespedes. I'm sure they are getting facial stretch marks from how much they are smiling over that decision. WARNING: Constant smiling can lead to facial discomfort!
2) Avoiding "Met Penny Pinching" - in the past, how many of you would agree with me was the Mets way was to go cheap, with fingers tightly crossed? Well, if that trend had continued, besides not re-signing Cespedes, our infield would look like Herrera at 2B, Flores at SS (until Cecchini or Rosario arrived), and Tejada backing up. HOW MUCH BETTER ARE THINGS WITH WALKER AND CABRERA STARTING, AND WITH FLORES BACKING UP?
I kept posting and posting in hopes that the Mets would spend to beef up the offense to support a once-every-30-year uber-rotation. To their great credit, they did spend. No more Muno and Nieuwenhuis flawed, marginal types. Rather. a carefully constructed, top to bottom potent offense. To which (as a Mets fan who has seen far too many impotent Mets offensive squads since 1962) I say THANK YOU SO MUCH.
3) Shortened Fences - it is not easy to admit your mistakes. The original Citifield dimensions were a huge mistake. How else to say it? Colossal.
Ridiculous fence dimensions turn thrilling, fan-increasing moments like Cespedes' game tying recent 3 run pinch homer into long outs or hits staying in the park (Cespedes' 3 run shot would have only been a single, and probably a thrilling win becomes a painful loss). I wrote to Mets management, by letter and on this web site, repeatedly in years past, to move the fences in, stating above all it would make good bottom-line, business sense. Google old articles on the fence moves - they got it.
What did I write to them?
a) Fans love homers, and low scoring is boring. If a 73 win team hits 100 homers, and another wins 73 and hits 200 homers, I'll go to more games for the latter. So will most fans.
b) The Yanks owned the claim to power hitting in NY for years (sucking in disproportionate numbers and ticket sales $$ of new fans in the process).
c) Fans love a team that is not impotent offensively (and losing homers to deep dimensions fed the cycle of impotence).
d) Some said that it would all even out – the Mets hit more, the opponents hit more – au contraire: with the great pitchers we have, we'd figure out collectively how to minimize any increases in opponents' HR totals while greatly increasing our own, leading to more wins.
e) Lastly, psychologically, as guys like Jeff Francoeur, David Wright, Jason Bay, and Grandy (year 1) were mentally screwed by cavernous fences. Shorter fences give them doubles and HRs instead of frustrating long outs, boosting their batting averages, slugging percentages, and egos. Pressing hitters press - and do poorly. Happy hitters do nicely.
THANK YOU FOR MOVING THE FENCES IN - TWICE. Took guts. Smart.
4) Re-signing Bart - it would have been easy to save $8 million and pass on signing Bartolo Colon again. He is, by baseball standards, ancient.
Mets crossed their fingers in years past while “economizing” and hoped that the likes of a Montero or a Verrett could be every-fifth-day starters. But the Mets realized Bart was a different breed of cat, more of a sure thing, and took a chance in re-signing him. So far, so good.
They realize that a 100 win team making the playoffs will draw a whole lot more fans, and ring up the cash registers a whole lot more, than a team struggling to win 88 and missing a wild card slot by 2 games. Young guys tend to struggle. Instead, they spent in hopes to win big and earn big.
Bart is part of that World Series Winner philosophy of spending. The Yanks have been lucky, crazy spenders mostly, for years. Jeter was clutch and effective until the very end. Rivera never slipping as the years pressed on. Now it has caught up, though, as the Yanks have 8 mostly struggling guys averaging 35 years of age making more $ ($135 million) than the entire Mets team. Our only old guy is a 40+, 300 pound leprechaun. Our payroll is affordable. Sweet.
5) Working correctly with David Wright - another team (or even this team a few years ago) might have exhorted him to retire on disability so they could try to collect the substantial insurance. Yet, here is the Captain, encouraged and believed in by ownership, with a .380 on base % and .470 slug % through Monday, a valuable contributor so far and team symbol, as was Jeter to the Bronx Bunglers. May our King David stay healthy and get carried off the field smiling after the Mets win the 2016 World Series.
Because he will be carried off triumphant. After all, it is our time. Because...
We made the right decisions.
Thanks to ownership and management for that.