I won't have the time this week to write up more than what follows, but I'd really like to push the notion early this offseason, before fan opinion to the contrary gels, that the Mets can compete, and compete *strongly* for the postseason in 2011, in spite of likely budget constraints.
To set the tone here, I want to note that the Mets have a middle of the pack farm system. It's not loaded, but it's not barren, either. There's enough there to go after a solid starter, one the team will need not only in 2011, but in the seasons following. A starter still in his arbitration years who won't start getting expensive until after 2011, when the Mets will have a fortune in payroll coming off the books, would be ideal. I also wouldn't rule out a backloaded deal for the right player. While as Mets fans we have good reason to dread backloaded deals, we shouldn't dread the *right* backloaded deal. It also stands to reason that spending several more million dollars on payroll in order to give the team a good shot at a win total in the high 80s in 2011 will be paid back that year in increased revenue. More importantly, it's a damned sight more fun to root for a Mets team chugging along at a relatively modest .540 clip in September and that has a shot at the wildcard even in a down year than it is to try to maintain more than a passing interest in a team that's stumbling around the .500 mark the last two months of the season as the 2010 Mets did.
So--what do we call this? "The Alderson Challenge" isn't clever enough, but for the moment it gets the point across. I'd like here to challenge Sandy Alderson to assemble a Mets team that sacrifices nothing of 2012 and beyond even as it's a team that by March is a consensus to pull down a win total in the high 80s for 2011. Alderson has gotten high praise here to date, and I don't doubt he deserves it. Putting together a competitive Mets team for this coming season is a very, very tough challenge, and would surely add substantially to the sum of that praise. I'm not asking for miracles and I certainly don't expect a World Series, but there is a nucleus of good players on the team, and I can note without undue optimism that there's no good reason to expect that we'll see worse production in 2011 from any of the eight nonpitching positions on the diamond.
A good GM would have this team back in contention by 2012. A great GM will have this team back in contention in 2011. I think Alderson can accomplish the latter, but it will absolutely be one of the greater challenges of an illustrious career.