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Mets Paid $142 Million to Finish Fourth in NL East in 2011

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Spending boatloads of money just doesn't buy what it used to, does it?

The next time someone tells you that Sandy Alderson should simply throw more money at the problems facing the New York Mets for the foreseeable future, tell them about 2011. We begrudgingly understood that 2011 would be a hump year until the Wilpons' rapidly-diminishing financial capabilities morphed that molehill into a mountain and paralyzed the club's payroll for 2012 and beyond. That's why we settled for the likes of Chris Capuano and Chris Young instead of Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford; there was no point in spending the money.

And there was no point because the Mets apparently already did spend the money. Over at the Biz of Baseball, Maury Brown released his MLB end-of-year salary rankings for the 2011 season and the Mets finished a lot higher than I would have guessed given what I heard of the team's paltry payroll situation.

Here's the money quote:

The clubs lost a reported $70 million and has had to take out more than one loan, but the New York Mets actually saw player payroll rise 11.51%. At $142,244,744 they ended the season ranked 5th behind only the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Angels.

Brown then speculates that the Mets' payroll will likely drop down next season and in seasons to come, with the departure of Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins as Exhibit A in the club's spendthrift strategy. (He also includes the full rankings for MLB in 2011, which reflects a the largest spike in final player payroll since 2008 and a growing chasm in spending between the New York Yankees and the rest of the league.)

Still, if you had to guess a number off the top of your head, did you really think the Mets still spent $142 million to cover their players this past season? Based on everything we've been told, that just seemed ridiculously high actually came in about $3 million less than where Alderson projected it in Spring Training. (Ed. note (12:47 p.m. ET): For some reason, I thought the projected number was lower. Or I expected lower. That's on me, not the Mets.)

That said, let's not paint this as an indictment of Alderson being two-faced in his comments regarding player payroll. 2011 represented his first chance to untangle the web of poor contracts left behind by Omar Minaya and came in a year where Spring Training invitations were still extended to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. This was always a hump year for a reason; now we just see the actual size of the hump.

Considering the club's troubled standing in terms of finances going forward, it should also serve as proof positive that the "spend smarter" strategy being employed by Alderson couldn't possibly go any worse than the "spend harder" strategy which led to this past debacle of a season. Sure, you've gotta spend money to make money -- but trying using that to ease the minds of Jason Bay's detractors.