I am big fan of the film, Major League. Aside from being incredibly funny, it is a truly bold film in the way it deals with the relationship between the business of baseball, the players and the fans. A greedy, ruthless owner wants to move the Indians from Cleveland to Miami. To do so, she must force attendance below a certain number. Naturally, she puts together a miserable bunch of players who then go on to win the pennant, ruining her plans (naturally). If I didn't know better, I would think the same plot was unfolding in Flushing, NY this very season.
The New York Mets 2009 season was dismal, to say the least. Yet, heading into 2010, the Mets front office had done little to change the make up of the team beyond adding Jason Bay to replace Gary Sheffield in left. Omar Minaya passed on Joel Pinerio, Jon Lackey, Carl Pavano, Randy Wolf and many, many others despite being 12th in the league in pitching (by FIP). After signing Bay, Minaya acquired a collection of spare parts like R.A. Dickey (case away by the Twins) Hansori Takahashi and Ryota Igarashi (low-profile Japanese imports), catchers Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco, (worth a combined 4.2 WAR in the past three seasons), Gary Matthews Jr. (who last posted a positive WAR in 2007) and Mike Jacobs (who last posted a positive WAR in 2006).
Making things even worse, Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya seemed to be conspiring to keep the best players they did have off the field. Top prospects Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis and Rueben Tejeda were left in AAA to allow Alex Cora (-5.1 wRAA) and Mike Jacobs (-.6 wRAA) and Gary Matthews Jr (-4.8 wRAA) to play regularly. Angel Pagan, who gave the Mets a .358 wOBA and 2.9 WAR subbing for the injured Beltran in 2009, was made to compete with zombie Gary Matthews Jr for playing time in center. While R.A. Dickey baffled AAA hitters in Buffalo, the Mets allowed Oliver Perez and John Maine to combine for 20 starts with a combined 6.23 FIP. If Miami didn't have a team already, this would be highly suspicious.
Yet, somehow, despite the organization ineptitude that seems to pervade every decision, the Mets are 37-28, half a game behind Atlanta in the East and one game behind San Diego in the wild card race. Ike Davis and Angel Pagan have come through big for the team that showed so little confidence in their skills at the beginning of the season. R.A. Dickey has earned a spot in the rotation once and for all (at least I really hope he has, but with this management...) and starters Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese have upped their game significantly. I wonder if somewhere in the clubhouse there is a cardboard cutout of Jeff Wilpon... God I hope not!
The Mets might be turning the corner as a team. Jose Reyes has struggled offensively, but looks much better as of late. Jason Bay is also coming around, putting up big numbers in the last two weeks. A healthy return of Carlos Beltran would add some much needed pop to the middle of the order, but if it means Pagan sits while Francoeur plays, it could be a zero sum move.
If anything is tempering the joy the Mets fans are feeling right now, it is the complete lack of confidence that they have in Manuel and Minaya. Being in contention right now opens up trade possibilities the Mets could not have expected to have earlier this season. Unfortunately, Omar Minaya will be responsible for making such a move and there in lies the problem. In Major League, the front office was corrupt, greedy and uncaring. In this version, they are simply poor evaluators of baseball talent. It might not be evil, but it sure isn't good.