Baseball is a unique and wonderful sport. Accordingly, to be a fan of baseball is to have an experience that is, in some ways, entirely different from that of other sports' fans. Of course, like other sports' fans, we experience joy when our team wins, and deflation when they lose. Unlike other sports fans, however, we have those experiences over the course of a whopping 162-game regular season.
Given those circumstances, baseball fans—or, at least, reflective baseball fans—experience both sides of a weird dichotomy. We can—and do—get all riled up about any given game. We invest heavily in the outcomes of single at-bats, innings, games, and series. On the other hand, we feel these feelings in view of the obvious fact that each of those events is essentially meaningless. That is, none of those singular events considered in isolation, however dramatic, can ever really tell us much of a story—let alone an accurate story—about a player or a team; those wee little phenomena are simply not generalizable.
So, most of us know this. Most of us know that, in baseball, it is foolish to get too worked up about the outcome of a single game, or a single series, or a lousy week, or a lousy month, even. Most of us know, deep down, that the truth of a player’s or a team’s story doesn’t really begin to unfold until some pretty substantial time has passed. And that’s incredibly frustrating sometimes, because we’re hard-wired to REACT and DRAW CONCLUSIONS from phenomena, however anomalous or insignificant (stupid sexy amygdala!).
Fellow Mets fans, I have been considering these things, and I have fought to keep myself in check over these interminable recent years as our Mets persisted in wallowing in their crapulence. Despite my efforts to keep an even keel, I have alternately suffered and reveled in the emotional rollercoaster provided by this most current version of our team. By turns, the 2014 Mets have looked terrible, terrific, and meh; and my fleeting emotional experiences have followed suit in direct proportion.
None of these recent intrigues really matters, though, in terms of the overarching narrative of the Mets—and it is the arc of the story that has been on my mind of late. I’ve been saying to myself, “What does this mean? Where are they going with all this?” The emergent answer is one I simply cannot shake (though I’m a little nervous to say it). Namely, I think the Mets are on the brink of a Golden Age in franchise history.
I cringe a little when I write that—Golden Age—because it sounds like the kind of ham-fisted, click-bait, sports-talk hogwash that doesn’t really mean anything. I’m not sure I know exactly what a Golden Age is, and I certainly don’t know how to quantify one, to say nothing of the fact that I could be completely wrong.
I really don’t think I am, though. I think I’m right about this, whatever it actually is.
My reasons are simple and (likely) familiar. Broadly speaking, they are:
- The farm system
- Payroll management
- The “core” players
- The front office
To my way of thinking, everything boils down to that last reason: the front office. Most of the Sandy Alderson mega-fan memes (“Everyone chill the fuck out; I got this”) have faded to the background as the initial rush of excitement associated with his hiring have given way to the doldrums of a major league product that has remained pretty lousy. Indeed, a cursory look around the online Mets universe reveals a lot of un-ironic #SandysMess-themed commentary. To which I respond: Everyone chill the fuck out; he’s got this.
Isolated missteps aside, Sandy Alderson and his associates have almost completely transformed the franchise for the better, such that the major league team is currently within striking distance of a sustained run of success. Alderson et al. have achieved this by doing what most of their predecessors in franchise history have failed to do: cultivate the farm system—an exercise in patience and fortitude—and implement a consistent approach to player development. The result of these actions is becoming apparent, as the Mets suddenly enjoy one of the most highly regarded farm systems in Major League Baseball.
A good farm system equates to options and flexibility, both of which are priceless. For one thing, teams with good, deep systems can replenish their major league rosters quickly and cheaply. Moreover, they have an edge in trade negotiations, which, incidentally, is probably what will propel the Mets from “being on the brink of” to “being in” their Golden Age.
Add in the fact that the Mets no longer have a bundle of onerous long-term player contracts to contend with—and add in, too, the fact that the major league team features a group of pretty good regulars, most of whom are cost-controlled, young, and pre-prime—and we’re looking at a very, very bright future.
I don’t think this is going to be a flash in the pan, either. I think this is going to be something we haven’t seen in about 25 or 30 years, i.e., a long run of success. A Golden Age. The Mets are on the brink—just another step or two.
How awesome would that be?