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September 04, 2013

Wilpon Family's Turn To Put Money Where Mouth Is


As we turn the calendar to September, the Mets find themselves in an all too familiar position: playing meaningless games in the season's final month. For the fifth straight year, the Mets are headed to a losing season. No, this September wasn't expected to have any playoff implications. But, it was expected to springboard the team into 2014, and finally give the fan base a reason to "believe."

Then, when news came down last week of Matt Harvey's partial UCL tear, the wind was taken out of the Mets' sails. Despite the punch in the gut to the organization and the fan base, general manager Sandy Alderson and the team's owners, the Wilpon family, need to keep to their promise and finally look into spending more money this offseason.

For the past eighteen months, Mets fans have heard about the offseason of 2013-14. It was billed as the year when Johan Santana and Jason Bay's contracts came off the books, giving ownership more flexibility to spend. The Wilpons' comments on potentially spending more money this offseason gained steam over the past several months since it appeared the team was a year or two ahead of schedule.

All of the sudden, fans eyed a few offseason moves as the difference between an improved season in 2014, and a potential playoff contender. Matt Harvey became an ace, Zack Wheeler impressed, Jon Neise came back strong from injury; and the group of Jennry Mejia, Dillon Gee, and Jeremy Hefner showed signs of becoming valuable pieces of a very strong starting rotation.

Even though the offense lacks a power punch, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, and Travis D'arnaud, have given fans enough optimism to be building blocks around David Wright.

The injury to Matt Harvey was a blow to the grand plan for next season. While Harvey insisted on twitter he won't be getting Tommy John surgery and will be ready for opening day 2014, the unfortunate reality is, he's not a doctor.

We likely won't know until the offseason whether or not Harvey will pitch in 2014. But regardless, Alderson and the Wilpons cannot use Harvey's potential absence next season as a reason to keep pinching pennies.

Mets fans have paid their dues, and more. They've suffered long enough through Madoff scandals and bad baseball. I had the opportunity to go to the Mets versus Phillies game last week at Citi Field. The ballpark lacked buzz. The listed attendance was 24,447, but the atmosphere and noise made it feel like 10,000.

While the fan base wants to see the team spend money, the key is spending any money "wisely." That's something the Mets have often failed to do.

This winter's free agent crop is far from outstanding. The big names are Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury. After that, there is a major drop off for position players. Shin-Soo Choo is a high on-base percentage player, but would he have the power for Citi Field? Curtis Granderson is a former 40-homer man, though he would be coming off an injury-riddled season.

Would Mets brass, or fans, ever be open to bringing back Carlos Beltran on a short-term deal? (Better question: would Beltran ever consider coming back? Unlikely.) How much of Nelson Cruz's power can be attributed to his reported PED use?

Despite many fans' frustrations with Sandy Alderson, I've always believed he's had a well-guided plan that will pay off sooner rather than later. Alderson has done a very good job rebuilding the farm system, especially with the power arms. But, this offseason needs to be about exploring how to take the next step to becoming a winning team in 2014.

No one expects World Series contention, but playing meaningful games heading into Labor Day weekend, is long overdue for a hungry fan base.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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