No one is paying attention to the Mets as they play out the final two weeks of the season. The Yankees are trying to make a ferocious late season run to earn one of the two wild card spots. Elsewhere, the NFL season has kicked off, consuming plenty of our time. But, there is a lot at stake for the Mets over the remaining twelve games. Fans who want to see the team improve as soon as possible, should want this team to lose as often as possible over the final dozen games.
Why? It can all be explained in the new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect last year. The Mets should want to finish with one of the 10 worst records in major league baseball. If they do, their first round, and top 10 draft pick will be protected; meaning they will be able to sign any free agent who has been given a qualifying offer by his previous team, without losing the aforementioned draft choice. Typically, the most coveted free agents are given a qualifying offer. This is because if their former team loses the player, they'll receive a compensation draft pick between the first and second rounds. If the Mets don't finish with a record in the bottom 10 of baseball, and decide to dip into the free agent market this offseason, they could lose their first round draft pick.
This was a problem the Mets had last offseason with the eleventh pick in the draft. They were interested in signing center fielder Michael Bourn. But, they did not deem him worthy of a $50 million contract, along with losing the eleventh draft choice. Last offseason, the Indians had a top-10 protected pick, signed Bourne and Nick Swisher, and find themselves in the hunt for one of the Wild Card spots with less than two weeks to play. Missing out on Bourne may have worked out for the Mets, since they potentially found a diamond in the rough with Juan Lagares. But the last thing Mets management needs this offseason is another excuse.
Since Sandy Alderson's arrival as general manager, ownership and the front office have preached patience. For the most part, the fans have granted their request over the past five years. The upcoming offseason Johan Santana and Jason Bay's contracts come off the books, causing the Wilpons to previously suggest it would trigger their willingness to start spending again on free agents. If the team finishes with a record in the bottom third of the league, there will be no excuse for ownership to not open their checkbook. They would be unable to use the "loss of a first round pick" as a defense for not signing certain players.
As of Sunday night the Mets had the eighth worst record in baseball. But, they are only two games ahead of owning the eleventh worst record. There's no doubt the teams on the cusp, including the Giants, Rockies, Phillies, and Blue Jays, are paying attention to this bizarre race, and don't want to finish higher than tenth. As a result of this backwards chase by teams, Terry Collins' job status should not be tied to the Mets' September finish.
If you're a Mets fan, instead of groaning every time you see Daisuke Matsuzaka or Aaron Harang as the starting pitcher for an upcoming game, just smile. It means your team is that much closer to finishing with one of the ten worst records in baseball; and hopefully, a no holds barred approach from management this offseason.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.