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Fish in a Stolen Barrel: Fun with the Mailbag

With the winter meetings coming up, it seems like a good time to revisit the glories of offseasons past, right? At least that's the idea that one fan writing to Marty Noble had earlier this week.

Which offseason do you think was the best in the Mets' history? With Kevin McReynolds and David Cone coming aboard, 1986-87 comes to mind. What's your opinion?
-- Michael C., Fort Drum, N.Y.

That gave good ol' Marty an opening to reminisce about the moves that built the team in the '80s, fairly interesting stuff. It's when he dabbles in evaluation of more recent offseasons that we enter "seriously, WTF?" territory:

Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran signed on in the 2004-05 offseason. But, to me, free-agent signings lack the cachet of trades. The Mets stole their right fielder and catcher, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, from the Nationals and acquired Johan Santana last year. Not too bad an offseason in 2007-08.

Wait, what was that again?

The Mets stole their right fielder and catcher, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, from the Nationals

It took me a little time to respond to that sentence, especially since I knocked the mouse off of my desk while I was reading it. Clearly, Noble is either incapable of admitting he was wrong, has a really odd definition of stealing, or thinks that we can't remember things that happened last year. Note his omission of what the Mets gave up in this alleged heist. I've already vented my extreme dislike of the Lastings Milledge trade on more than one occasion, and the main points of that argument still stand. A year ago, I thought the idea that a team that traded a promising young outfielder for the guy he'd be if he aged 6 years without developing any further as a hitter and a catcher whose defense allegedly made up for his inability to hit his way out of a paper bag (as long as you don't count "keeping the ball from skipping to the backstop" as defense or anything) was the one committing the theft was absurd. Knowing what we know now, that this "win-now" move failed at its stated goal, to defend it, let alone praise it as some sort of awesome genius move, is insanity.

But wait, there's more! Noble concludes that the 1998-1999 offseason was the best in Mets history. I'm not about to argue with that; just like pretty much every fan of my generation, the mere mention of the 1999 team and its heroes is enough to bring out my warm and fuzzy side.

But no Mets offseason compares with 1998-99. Mike Piazza could have demanded a trade, but re-signed. The Mets then signed Robin Ventura as a free agent, which allowed them to move Edgardo Alfonzo to second base; signed Pat Mahomes, who produced an 8-0 record; traded for Roger Cedeno, who scored 90 runs; signed Rickey Henderson, who scored 89 and emboldened Cedeno; signed Armando Benitez, who replaced John Franco when the incumbent closer injured his finger in July; and signed Orel Hershiser, who won 13 games.

What I am about to argue with is the idea that, amidst the signings of Piazza (and being eligible for free agency != "could have demanded a trade") and Ventura and Rickey (isn't it funny how just about every big move Noble is citing from the best offseason is a free-agent signing, just three paragraphs after he said they "lack the cachet of trades"?), we should also be celebrating the likes of Pat Mahomes, who was pretty much a textbook case of "it's better to be lucky than good." Mahomes walked 37 batters (5 intentionally) in 63 2/3 innings but got away with it thanks to a .224 BABIP. Of course, he did go 8-0 and everyone knows that wins are the most important measure when it comes to evaluating a middle reliever, right?