Better The Devil You Know

Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Given the Mets' payroll uncertainty and their hardball negotiations with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, how much of the frustration felt by fans should fall at the feet of Mets general manager Sandy Alderson?

So did you give the devil his due?

I found myself re-reading Michael Donato's thought experiment from yesterday regarding whether you'd willingly disavow any Mets-centric knowledge of the 2013 baseball season if it meant a better outlook in 2014. No more knucklers, no more bunts, no more fielders that look like runts. I couldn't do it; I take too much satisfaction in the journey (which may be due to the end coming prematurely for the last 26 seasons and counting).

But I gave Michael's post a second look as I looked over comments from various beat writers at the Mets holiday party this morning with regard to R.A. Dickey's contract status. Here's the gist of those:

And it led me to the one important question left out of yesterday's hypothetical: Do you still trust Sandy Alderson enough to believe he could put the team in a better place come 2014?

When the Mets brought Alderson on as their general manager in October 2010, they hired him into the pinnacle of precarious positions. Between the boatload of albatross contracts on the payroll and the shadow of Madoff's ponzi scheme engulfing the the formative years of Citi Field, it's a wonder he took the job -- let alone found a way to keep the ragtag band of misfits from hitting 100 losses.

Yet it's worth noting that Alderson now enters his third offseason at the helm of the Amazin's, with some promising crops in the farm system but little to inspire hope at the Major League level in the near term. And that's the crux of Michael's thought experiment: How long are you willing to wait for a winner?

Then I keep hearing how the Mets are playing hardball with R.A. Dickey, who, at least publicly, appears to be negotiating in good faith and with the expressed desire to stay put in Flushing for the foreseeable future.

And I recall Alderson's inability to tender any kind of offer to Jose Reyes last year, or how Alderson threw a not-insignificant amount of money at a bad bullpen in 2012, or that he uncovered a lot of building blocks in Oakland and San Diego using sabermetric principles but didn't stick around to see the structures come to fruition.

This isn't a "FIRE SANDY ALDERSON!" post. I generally like him and do approve of the direction the club is heading, in terms of player development, the lack of fear in implementing statistics analysis, and in having a long-term plan that doesn't involve bringing in shiny new free agents every offseason.

But there are certain inalienable truths guaranteed to all inhabitants of Metsopotamia these days: we're broke, bankruptcy is looming for an ownership group that will not sell until their beloved team is ripped from their cold, dead fingers, and the next great Met won't come by someone in Queens throwing copious amounts of money at a free agent who fills a need.

Those troubles -- the lack of finances and the resulting uncertainty -- is the reality Mets fans face, whether we want to admit it or not. And if we just close our eyes for a season as Michael suggested, that reality likely won't change.

So the question remains: If you were to close your eyes, what, if anything, would you see when they reopened in 2014? Seeing the difficult Dickey's having in negotiations and knowing few, if any, other players will be afforded even that luxury anytime soon, what would Alderson build that would make you feel better about the team's future? Or, if he does nothing at all and the team improves anyway, should the credit still stay with the Mets GM?

I suppose we're better off with the devil you know than the one you don't. But we also need to remain vigilant about when to play devil's advocate.

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