From the desk of: HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET
NEW YORK METS: They Have Embarked On Three Official Rebuilding Processes in Their History. But Since the 1990's, It Seems to Have Become a Dirty Word In Flushing. And As a Result, They've Lost Their Way.
After the Mets finished toying with other teams' legacies; finishing last every season; and setting records in embarrassing fashion over their first few years of existence, Joe McDonald; Whitey Herzog; Bing Devine; Johnny Murphy; and a host of respected scouts set about on a concerted effort to procure and develop skilled prospects. Adherence to their plan of minor league development garnered names like Jerry Koosman; Tug McGraw; Bud Harrelson; Cleon Jones; Nolan Ryan; Gary Gentry; and others. With a little bit of luck landing Tom Seaver and some key acquisitions along the way, the Mets parlayed their efforts into a Championship.
Retooled with some new young players and savvy pick-ups like Felix Millan; Rusty Staub; John Milner; and Jon Matlack; the Mets almost pulled off another World Series victory in 1973; falling short by one game against the A's.
But by 1975-76, the Mets recognized age was creeping up on them. Newer, younger players, like John Stearns; Lee Mazzilli; Craig Swan; and Mike Vail were starting a transition toward youth. Then in 1977, Tom Seaver demanded a trade out of New York because he found his bosses insufferable. This triggered the full blown jettisoning of the last remnants of the Miracle Mets between 1977-1979 and initiated the second rebuilding of the Mets with a total commitment to the farm system.
However, the decision to totally rebuild the Mets through the farm system for a second time was thwarted by ownership's decision to finally sell the team. By 1979, the mandate to freeze all expenditures was put in place and Joe McDonald's hands were tied regarding bringing free agents to N.Y. or making trades that would raise payroll.
Before Joe McDonald's work here in Flushing was finished; upon the purchase of the team by the Doubleday/Wilpon group heading into 1980; he drafted and developed a good many number of key components to the 1986 Championship team. As mentioned, Lee Mazzilli enabled us to get Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. Terrell in turn got us Howard Johnson. He drafted Niel Allen who in return brought Kieth Hernandez to Flushing. He drafted Hubie Brooks who helped land the Mets Gary Carter. He selected Calvin Schiraldi in 1980 who later was traded for Bobby Ojeda. He drafted Wally Backman; Mookie Wilson; and Jesse Orosco. Among those that got away were guys like Mike Scott who was traded for Danny Heep and Jeff Reardon who was traded for Ellis Valentine.
Then, Frank Cashen made his mark with a continued minor league investment and drafted Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. And of course, give Frank Cashen credit for utilizing what Joe McDonald left behind. So in retrospect, the two men, through vigorous minor league development, chipped in and built another Championship team for the Mets.
The third time the Mets officially committed to a minor league focused rebuilding effort came in the mid-1990's when Joe McIlvaine was General Manager. METroplis was in total agreement with the movement. It was supposed to have been built with Generation-K as it's foundation. But the movement failed miserably as we know with few people to blame. But during that time, players were drafted that inevitably landed us Mike Piazza and some components of the 2000 team.
Since then, Rebuilding has become a dirty word in Flushing. It's become a like a lost codex burned by Spanish Conquistadors. So what I described winds up being the complete history of the Mets' rebuilding process over the years in the Homeric oral tradition only.
No time in between the Steve Phillips years to the present has been classified as a clear cut rebuilding process. Additionally, after David Wright; Jose Reyes; and Scott Kazmir; the well went dry until the current crop of minor leaguers drafted by Omar Minaya started to be called up to the majors over the last two seasons.
I know what Omar Minaya was trying to do. He was trying to align a transition of the old to new in the years between 2010 through 2012. He just didn't get to stick around long enough to realize his plan. Don't forget, we're still watching his blueprints in action. Aside of jettisoning some parts of Minaya's team, Sandy Alderson is still babysitting Omar's team and grand scheme. All Omar's contracts were designed to expire within a year or two of each other as his minor league draftees became ready for the majors. And that is more or less, where we are now.
Sandy Alderson has had one Winter Meeting; An Amateur Draft; and a Trade Deadline thus far. And we are still wondering what his plan might be. Does he consider rebuilding a dirty word also? Does he have something else in store us? Or will he return to the ancient but proven Met Scriptures like a true renaissance man and REBUILD the Mets? Can we finally lift the Dark Age stigma imposed on the word Rebuilding?