In 2013, the Mets had their lowest attendance since 1997, the tail end of a period in which I am fairly certain that they did not in fact field a baseball team. I certainly don't remember the Mets existing from 1991 to 1997, do you? No, you don't. Shut up shut up shut up I'm not listening. My Mets calendar goes straight from 1990 to 1998 and there's nothing you can say to change that. The 1998 Mets not only turned around declining attendance numbers but also turned the team into contenders for a brief period before it all came crashing down and the Mets mysteriously disappeared from the baseball world for a few more years.
Looking at where the Mets are today, I can almost feel the memories of the last few years slipping away. Clearly, we need to replicate the events of 1998 to bring the Mets back to relevance and, with some luck, the World Series. So what's so special about 1998? Other than the Mets once again fielding a baseball team after seven years of, I don't know, monster trucks and tractor pulls at Shea? The obvious answer here is newly-inducted Mets Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, but that's really only secondary. The big change wasn't a personnel move and was the real key to that team's success.
Back in Black
In the late '90s, black was the new, um, black. The Mets, more concerned about image and marketing than whatever it was they were putting on the field at the time, wanted a piece of the black action and got it with black drop shadows behind patches and an all-new black jersey. First used in 1998, the new look became iconic when the Mets made it all the way to the World Series in 2000. The black remained until 2012, when the drop shadows and black socks and undershirts were finally purged. The black uniform was worn only twice that year and has not returned since. Even on Mike Piazza day, when all fans in attendance received a black Mike Piazza shirt, the Mets took the field in white. Piazza's enshrinement at Citi Field has, hopefully, put the black era to rest.
Paint it Red
"I see a red door and I want it painted black."
The first move we need to make is clear. We need a new team color. We already have blue, orange, and white. Black is clearly out. What happens when you scrape the black paint off that door? You get red. Studies have shown that teams with red on their uniforms win more often than teams without red. Unless they're the Phillies. For proof, you need look no further than this year's World Series (seriously, don't look any further or you might throw off the results) between the Red Sox and Cardinals. Red equals winning.
Still not convinced? Look at this year's NLCS teams. The Cardinals are obvious, but what's that on the front of every Dodgers jersey? Red numbers. And the story behind them only makes the case for red that much stronger. As the story goes, the Dodgers added red numbers to the front of the jerseys they planned to wear in the 1951 World Series. After the Giants turned innovative sign stealing into the Shot Heard 'Round the World, the uniforms would wait until 1952 to make their debut. The Dodgers, who had never won a World Series, would go on to total victory six times with their red numbers and reached the postseason 22 times in those 62 years.
So we're adding red to the uniforms. How? Well, first we need to know which uniforms are most in need of an overhaul. For that, we'l look at the team record in each of the five main uniforms. Only the road grays had a winning record, so we won't touch those. The home pinstripes were just below .500, which is pretty good for a team that sucked at home. No changes to the pins. The road blues were also one game under .500, so no big changes are needed there. That leaves the home whites and home blues as the big losers. For the home white, we're changing the orange patch outlines to red and swapping the blue piping for red as well. There's really no need for the home blue when there's already a road blue and blue batting practice jerseys, so we're replacing that with a red alternate based on the 2013 Los Mets jersey. The orange on that one was almost red anyway, so it's not a big change. People seemed to like the darker orange, so they'll love red.
With the team properly attired for battle, we need a team. But first, let's cut some dead weight. We'll learn that Jordany Valdespin is really a malfunctioning alien android and S.H.I.E.L.D. will shoot him into the sun. This has nothing to do with my theme, I just want JV1 gone. As for Ike Davis, he's getting a non-tender with an offer for a minor league contract. If he accepts, he'll go to Las Vegas and get Havensed. If not, he'll sign on somewhere else and turn into a home run machine like that other Davis. It's lose-lose with Ike, so take your pick. I'm done wasting payroll on him.
The 1998 team had a veteran corner infielder who was signed to a contract the previous year. The 2014 team has one as well, only this one is going to stick around for more than three years. The rest of the existing team, well, there's not much we can do to draw parallels. As bad as it sounds, there was just more talent spread across the 1997 team, particularly in the middle of the infield. We'll just have to replicate some of the bigger moves that went into building the 1998 team and hope a few of the carryovers step up.
Florida Fire Sale
The 1998 Mets were largely built from the Florida Marlins, but we now have two Florida teams to work with. For the first move, we need a starting pitcher. David Price is on the market, but the starting price is said to start at Zack Wheeler. That ain't happening. Even here in fantasy land, I don't see a reasonable way to make this deal. Scratch one Florida deal.
The next move will be a little trickier and starts a few years back when we seeded the lower ranks of the Marlins front office with our operatives. With the recent personnel purge, we should have a couple of people among the ranks of the Loria loyalists. Now it's time to activate our sleepers. We just need to get the Marlins to set up a deal to get Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies... What's that, the Rockies aren't dealing CarGo? How about Tulowitzki? No Tulo? Um... Maybe just trade for Stanton? So that's nos to CarGo, Tulo, and Giancarlo. These things work a lot better when the Marlins win the World Series.
Let's just ditch the whole 1998 thing and get some guys to play baseball. We've got a third baseman, a center fielder, a catcher, a bunch of guys to try at first base, and maybe a second baseman.
Assuming that Niese, Gee, Wheeler, and Mejia are functional, that gives us most of a starting rotation. That leaves us short at short, mostly out of outfielders, and with a good start at starters.
Let's start at shortstop. How thin are we at SS? B-Mets shortstop Wilfredo Tovar was starting games there last month. Other starting shortstops in 2013 include Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner. We need a real starting shortstop, so we'll give a 2-year, $15 million deal to Jhonny Peralta, who will probably be starting in left field by the All-Star break. That leaves us with Ruben Tejada as the backup shortstop and Omar Quintanilla with a minor league deal. And a search for a starting shortstop again this time next year.
As for the outfield, let's face it, it's going to be a disaster. If we Bring Back Beltran, age will catch up to him and he'll spend most of the season on the DL. If we sign Choo... No, not going there. We'll let the Captain pick for us, so that means we're trading for Michael Cuddyer. Who will probably be playing first base by the All-Star break, replaced by Matt den Dekker or Cesar Puello or someone. To get him, we'll offer nothing but the finest second-tier players and prospects we can find: Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Danny Muno, Travis Taijeron, Hansel Robles, and Jack Leathersich. Yeah, that probably won't work. We'll go as high as Montero if a couple of other prospects and a couple million dollars come back our way (because $10.5 million is more than our budget can handle). Honestly, I suck at figuring out trades. Not like the real trades ever work out the way anyone here thinks they will. So no more trades.
With Daniel Murphy potentially gone, we're short a D. Murphy. So we sign David Murphy for $3.5 million to play left field until Peralta moves back there. He kind of sucked this year, so hopefully that keeps the price down. Because we're just about out of money. To make it fair, we'll offer $2 million in incentives and a $7 million option that will vest if he doesn't suck. We'll even word it that way in the contract. He may be able to get more guaranteed money to play somewhere else, but who could turn down a "doesn't suck" contract option? That would be like admitting that you do suck. He'll probably still suck next year, so we'll be seeing a lot of Eric Young Jr. in left until Young gets shifted to second base because Wilmer Flores can't handle it. In case you haven't noticed, it's a game of musical chairs in the field with this team.
At least the rotation should be stable. With three starters plus an injury risk, we just need one legitimate starter plus someone to stash in AAA, then we just wait for the AAA starters to be ready. There are a few options, but I like to give former Mets prospects a chance to finally play for the big league club, so that means we're signing Scott Kazmir for something like 2 years and $14 million. I'm not buying that the Lincecum deal will cause the market for iffy starters to go through the roof, plus we're broke. Josh Johnson would be the backup plan, but I have a bad feeling about him. For AAA, we can hope that Daisuke Matsuzaka will take a minor league deal with a chance at making the rotation out of spring training. Otherwise, Pelfrey? Matsuzaka would be preferable, especially if he can build on his last few starts.
But wait, we're not done. We'll need another starter when Zack Wheeler gets injured in spring training and needs Tommy John surgery. What's that, you didn't hear about his future injury? It's quite literally in the cards. First, he signed a lot of autographs recently, then he had pinstripe jersey cards released in 2013 Topps Triple Threads. There's no way he throws a pitch in 2014 with two curses working on him.
To shore up the rotation, we call up the Giants and give them a chance to get the better end of a deal again by offering Kevin Plawecki for Yusmeiro Petit. We'll look really stupid until Petit throws the Mets' first perfect game and finishes third in Cy Young voting.
For the bullpen, we've got most of what we need. Let's toss $2 million at LaTroy Hawkins and fill in the rest with anyone who makes it through spring training. Bullpens are a crap shoot anyway and they usually turn to crap for the Mets.
That puts us just over $80 million (plus a few million in incentives), so we're done. Cross your fingers and hope for the best. With the best being "third place in the NL East and contention for the second Wild Card spot."
|Matt den Dekker||OF||0.50|
|Eric Young Jr.||OF||1.90|