Other than doubling down on Tim Tebow’s viability as a future major leaguer, the Mets are on a pretty decent roll right now. About as good as it gets in early December, for a team that just overhauled its front office and took the risky leap of installing a former super-agent as the general manager.
The Mets are doing something they’ve rarely been able to do throughout their recent history, and that’s control the narrative coming out of Flushing. To make you believe they have the right people to make this a winning franchise again. That this time, there is real change, provided they open the checkbook as well.
Seeing Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz put on Mets jerseys and caps during Tuesday’s introduction at Citi Field was a big part of that, as was Brodie Van Wagenen’s flawless presentation. It’s been a fun show, and like any smart salesman, Van Wagenen is clever enough to hint at more to come, say at next week’s winter meetings in Las Vegas.
Gone is the staggering inertia that used to plague the Mets before every New Year, replaced by a boundless optimism preached by Van Wagenen, then echoed in more sedate terms by COO Jeff Wilpon, the one in charge of actually permitting all these things to become a reality.
It’s not without precedent. When Omar Minaya returned from Montreal to take the GM job at the end of the 2004 season, the Wilpons authorized the signings of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran during that first winter, then the next year added Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca. Initially, it was about repairing the Mets brand, but those moves ultimately culminated in an ’06 team that came within a Beltran swing of the World Series.
Life in Flushing has been vastly different in the post-Madoff era, though Sandy Alderson’s six-year rebuilding plan got the Mets to the World Series a season ahead of schedule in 2015 before plummeting back down the bell curve. In Wilpon’s view, returning to October -- through Van Wagenen’s guidance -- could come as early as this year, and he doesn’t intend it to be a one-and-done situation, as so often has been the case.
“I think if some of the deals Brodie’s been talking about actually come to fruition and he gets there, we’ll be in that position,” Wilpon said Wednesday on WFAN. “And I think what I talked about with Brodie in the interview process -- and some of the other candidates as well -- is how do we have a 10-year run of success, which to me success is we’re fighting for a playoff position every year.”
For the record, the Mets have reached the playoffs twice in the past dozen years, and that included their only two winning seasons of the last decade. We’re talking about reversing a truckload of bad mojo here. Only now, they seem to have a better grasp of how to attack it. While the Cano-Diaz swap provided a quick post-Thanksgiving jump start, the Mets capitalized on that momentum Wednesday by having Wilpon, Van Wagenen and Mickey Callaway spend a commercial-free 97 minutes on WFAN getting their collective message across during a studio visit with Mike Francesa.
The most surprising of the three was Wilpon, who has taken on a much more public role lately, speaking regularly at a number of news conferences and team appearances. It’s a smart PR move, after withering criticism for ducking the spotlight in the past, and the Mets have approached this makeover head on -- with Van Wagenen’s polished, energetic persona driving the bus. He’s already been talking with the Marlins on J.T. Realmuto -- seemingly a long shot -- but sounds as if he may be preparing aggressive free-agent pushes for A.J. Pollock and any number of top relievers, particularly the former Callaway pupil Andrew Miller.
“We’re going to add major-league pieces that people are going to recognize,” Van Wagenen said. “But we’re also going to do smart moves that get us better.”
Perhaps Van Wagenen’s only misstep of this first month was Wednesday’s appraisal of Tebow, his former client, who will be starting the season at Triple-A Syracuse. While the affection is understandable, suggesting that Tebow someday may be the Mets’ best offensive option as a major-league fill-in made us shudder about what that would mean for the depth down below.
Tebow should be off the radar for now. The Mets are relevant again in December, and are about to be even more so in another week. That’s not the playoffs yet, but it’s significant progress already.