Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes
The Mets will bring back Kris Benson
at the price of $22.5 million dollars over the next three years. The deadline deal for Benson basically left the team stuck with him lest they wind up looking even more hapless than usual, so I suppose it's a victory that they managed to get him under contract for a bit less than the $24 million he was allegedly seeking, but that's about where the good news ends, I think.
Kris Benson was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates
in 1996 and that's still the most impressive thing on his resume. The man turned thirty years old about two weeks ago and his value is still wrapped up almost entirely in potential. He hasn't posted an ERA+ above league average since four years and one elbow surgery ago, and yet the Mets will pay him more than seven million dollars a year largely for nebulous concepts like "stuff". Now, league average is nothing to sneeze at, exactly, but it's hardly anything to pay top dollar for. What Benson's done to earn a couple million dollars more than the equally bland but consistently above-average Steve Trachsel
next year eludes me. Benson's walk, strikeout and ERA numbers have been consistenly mediocre since his 2002 return from Tommy John surgery and while 2004 saw slight improvements in those stats as well as his first 200-inning season since 2000, there's hardly anything to get exicted over on his stat sheet. Benson, like Victor Zambrano
, is long on hype and short on results, and lacking the success, recent or otherwise, that Trachsel and Tom Glavine
can point to. Benson would be a decent guy to have around as part of a supporting cast surrounding a serious ace, but given that the Mets completely lack that sort of pitcher, either in the majors or on the immediate horizon in the minors, Benson's just another guy who's not going to put the team's staff over the top.
Of course, the bigger news in that story is that the Mets are close to bringing back Al Leiter
for another year. It's hard to figure what the Mets think they're doing here. Putting together the starting rotation in this way can only signal that they think they can compete in 2005, but I can't really see how they're going to do that with this rotation. If they re-sign Leiter, they'll have five pitchers who are adequate in many ways, but coupled with the team's current bullpen, it should be obvious to anyone that the Mets will not have one of the league's elite pitching staffs in 2005. So that must mean that they're planning to significantly upgrade an offense that ranked twelfth in runs scored in 2004, right? Well, I suppose the rumored deal for Sammy Sosa could be seen as an extremely misguided attempt to do just that, but coupled with the rumored departures of Cliff Floyd
and Mike Piazza
--still the team's only legitimate major league catcher at thirty-six years old--it's hard to see this team scoring much more than the 684 runs they scored in 2004.
The Benson deal doesn't tell us a whole lot about Omar Minaya's thinking or his plan for the Mets, but bringing back Leiter would begin to paint a more disturbing picture. There's still a long way to go before the start of the season, and if nothing else Minays seems like to be very active between now and then. But his moves to upgrade the offense are going to have to start making a lot more sense than what he's done for the pitching staff if this team is going to turn into either the 2005 contender he thinks they can be or even a good team in the following years.
The End Of The Tour
's days as a New York Met are over. And while this is certainly cause for celebration as regards the 2005 bullpen, we shouldn't forget the many effective years Franco gave the Mets before he decided having Tommy John surgery at forty-one years of age and subsequently staging a major league comeback was a good idea. After being acquired on the sixth of December, 1989 from the Cincinnati Reds
along with minor leaguer Don Brown in exchange for Randy Myers and Kip Gross, Franco spent several years as the team's closer, racking up as many as thirty-eight saves in a season before being moved into a lesser role in favor of Armando Benitez. Franco had some ineffective years as well, topped off by this most recent one in which he posted a 5.28 ERA in forty-six innings, and even when he was at his best his easiest saves often escalated into tense moments. Much was made in recent years about Franco's alleged undue influence over the team's front office, and that shouldn't be ignored, however difficult it may be to quantify or even verify. But today the news is all good; the Mets' bullpen for next year is down to just one
horribly overrated lefthander bubbling over with "veteran presence" and so I choose to look on the bright side. John Franco served the Mets well for a long time and it's not like he was the difference between a good team and the 2004 Mets. Now that he and the Mets have chosen to part ways, the least I can do is wish him well in his future endeavors.
Memo To Human Resources
So the Mets have themselves a manager. Willie Randolph gets the job after spending the last decade on the other side of town with the Yankees
. Now we're hearing that Randolph grew up as a Mets fan and is therefore fulfilling a lifelong dream. The only year of his eighteen as a major league player that was spend with the Mets was his final one, the disastrous 1992 season
. That he was willing to give this franchise a second look after that debacle is, I suppose, an encouraging sign. I've said basically all I have to say about Randolph below, so I won't ramble. There's nothing immediately thrilling about this hire, but neither is there any obvious cause for grave concern about the future of the franchise. Perhaps it's reassuring that the Mets managed to make one personnel move without resorting to desperately grasping for a "proven veteran", but hiring a popular former Yankee isn't exactly thinking outside the box for the Mets. Wait and see appears to be the way to go for Mets fans right now, but at least we can say the team didn't entirely screw up its first big decision of this offseason.
I try to appreciate democracy. I want to believe it works. I really want to believe that the electorate is more than just a gaggle of slack-jawed yokels incapable of letting facts get in the way of their own preconceived notions. I can't think of a better system, and this one just sounds so good in theory. What could be better than democracy for making decisions like this? But then something like this happens and I start rethinking the whole thing again. Maybe the electorate really is incapable of making an informed decision. Maybe we're doomed to worse and worse decisions until finally something revolutionary alters the system dramatically. But right now, we're stuck with this result. We have to live with it. As much as we might not want to believe it, as much as we might be unable to conceive it, this is the way things are. Derek Jeter is a Gold Glove winner
. All we can do now is get on with our lives. The sun will come up tomorrow. I'm cautiously optimistic about that. We've got to be strong. Slowly, things will start to get better.