First, your updated playoff seedings:
AL: Tampa Bay (1) vs. White Sox (3), Texas (2) vs. Yankees (4)
NL: San Diego (1) vs. Cincinnati (3), Atlanta (2) vs. San Francisco (4)
Tampa Bay gets the edge over the Yankees because, in our "If the season ended today..." scenario, the Rays are leading the season series over the Yankees, 6-5.
And yes, Cincinnati and St. Louis are even in the loss column, with the Reds owning one more victory. Just play along.
OK. Remember the "Wear Sunscreen" deal? This hit the world pre-yakosphere (copyright Neil Best), and for some reason, a rumor spread that Kurt Vonnegut wrote it. It turned out to the brilliant (IMO) work of a writer named Mary Schmich, published in the Chicago Tribune.
I had that in mind in thinking about the Mets. They're older than I am, so perhaps it would be inappropriate for me to dispense advice. But as we watch this season disintegrate, I can't help but feel inclined to offer my two cents.
With every loss, the chances increase that Omar Minaya will not return as the team's general manager and will be replaced by his assistant John Ricco. And COO Jeff Wilpon figures to be heavily involved in the winter planning, just as he was last winter (when, let's face it, the Mets didn't do as poorly as they had in the few prior offseasons).
When I scrutinize the Minaya era, what strikes me most is not the much-discussed dollar shortage since the Bernie Madoff scandal; I can't speak first-hand to the precise status of the Wilpons' finances. Rather, it's the brainpower shortage. The Mets simply seem to be behind most other clubs when it comes to their process and their values.
So...far more obvious and far less lyrical than the "Wear sunscreen" bit, here's my counsel to the Mets, as they start planning for 2011. This isn't "Trade Carlos Beltran." Rather, it's recommending widely held principles and notions that they need to adapt, because they haven't appeared to have done so yet.
1) Start planning for 2011. It's possible that Minaya, signed through 2012, will still be around with some cool title the next couple of years, with the idea that he'll scout both amateur and professional players. So there's no reason you can't formulate visions for what you anticipate the team looking like next season.
2) Increase your reliance on statistical analysis. Yes, Jeff Francoeur had a nice half-season with the Mets in 2009. Yet if the Mets had project edwhat they had in Frenchy, they could've realized that he almost certainly wouldn't be worth $5 million. If they really loved him so much, they could've non-tendered him and then tried to sign him for, say, $1 million plus incentives, with the understanding that he'd be the favorite to win the starting rightfield job. If Francoeur went elsewhere, then the Mets would have money to spend elsewhere.
3) Quit while you're ahead. The non-tender is a cool tool for players between three and five years of service (plus some with two years and many days). You don't want to give a player a healthy raise? Just let him go, and bang, you're done with him. Try to shop him around first, to see if you can find a club that likes the player more than you do, but if not, buh-bye.
In the past two offseasons alone, the Mets have foolishly tendered contracts to Ryan Church and Duaner Sanchez after 2008 and then Francoeur, Sean Green and John Maine after last year. They all proved to be colossal wastes of money.
(FWIW, I think they've learned their lesson on this one. No chance that either Maine or Francoeur return.)
4) Appreciate positional value. I guess this also relates back to #2 that the Mets valued Alex Cora at $2 million, not to mention the crazy vesting option for next year. Cora might be Abraham Lincoln in the clubhouse, but given his skill sets of a poor-hitting middle infielder, there's just no way any team should be paying him seven figures.
5) Don't bid against yourselves. This too applies to Cora and, of course, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. The Mets have improved on this - declining, for instance, to bid high on Bengie Molina - but they still wound up overbidding on Jason Bay. Not that any of us realized that until after the fact, and if the teams formally shared their business, that would constitute collusion. Nevertheless, a good front office manages to ferret out information somehow.
6) Consider everything. See what sort of trade interest there is this winter in Beltran, Jose Reyes and even, as NaOH suggested, Ike Davis. There's no harm in listening. Don't lock your team in too much.
7) Don't listen to the fans or media. The old saying is, if you listen to what people in the seats or press box say, then you'll wind up sitting alongside them. It's obvious that a significant portion of the Mets' fan base is very upset that the team didn't make any moves on July 31. But if the team really believes it did the right thing, then there should be no apologies. Explanations, sure, but no apologies.
The specter of unoccupied Citi Field seats in September shouldn't faze them, either. If they really want to get more people in the building, there are two rational solutions. One is to lower the prices, and the other is to increase the value of the product by having the Mets play better. Anything else, though, and they're asking for trouble.
Instead of "Wear sunscreen," perhaps the overriding theme should be "Wear earplugs."
(And yes, I appreciate the irony of ending an advice list with "Don't listen to the media," thereby negating everything that came before it. Which reminds me of this episode of "The Simpsons," when Sideshow Bob says: "By the way, I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it. So don't bother pointing that out.")
--Thanks to Twitter, I followed Carlos Santana's injury last night in sort of real time, while sitting at the Yankees game. My tweeps in Boston made it sound quite grim, but it appears that Santana might have avoided serious injury.
--Jon Heyman offers up some players who could be traded this month.
--And that's it for today. Taking the rest of the day off. Hey, let's be careful out there.