PORT ST. LUCIE FL - Owner Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets talks on the phone during spring training at Tradition Field. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
The New York Mets are paupers now. We're all used to this. Here's one more reminder that it's kind of strange.
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is on Twitter now. His first tweet was some ol' fashioned self-deprecating humor:
Getting ready for Spring Training-Driving to FL but haven’t left yet. Big fundraiser tonight for gas money. Also exploring PAC contribution.
Get it? The Mets are poor. A fundraiser is funny to think about -- a black-tie affair where everyone has mustard stains on their cummerbunds. But the situation isn't that funny. Travel back in time to February, 2008. The Mets had just traded for Johan Santana. They signed him to the six-year, $137.5 million contract that the Twins couldn't. He'd be the ace; Carloses Delgado and Beltran would be the pricey bats. Optimism was high. So was Grant Roberts*. The Mets were a powerhouse of spending.
* Mets joke
Now that you're back there in time, mess with the people there. Tell them about Albert Pujols on the Angels. They'll be a little shocked, but they'll get over it quickly. Tell them about the declines of David Wright and Jason Bay. That'll make for some sad, surprised folks. Then tell them that Jose Reyes left the Mets for the Marlins because of money.
That's the one that'll make their faces melt like they opened the Ark of the Covenant. After years of being the team that struck fear into the hearts of the little teams looking to keep their homegrown heroes, after being the team that would take the Beltrans, Santanas, Delgados, Glavines, and Pedros for the highest price, the Mets couldn't come close to outspending the Marlins. And it looks like that's it for the Mets' offseason.
"We’re pretty much there," Alderson said of what the Mets’ roster is going to look like in spring training.
There. There is Ruben Tejada at shortstop. There is Andres Torres as the big-ticket acquisition. There is watching every team in the division hoard talent around them. It's a new dynamic.
But it isn't always going to be like this. The Mets play in New York, where there are a lot of eyes for the TV, and a lot of butts for the seats. They have people willing to pay $20 million to be a minority investor, where one of the biggest perks is getting Mr. Met to come to your kid's birthday. The financial mess will get sorted out. And there's one thing going for the Mets:
Their crazy long-term deals run out sooner rather than later. They aren't staring down the barrel of a seven-year commitment to Jayson Werth; in 2014, they can build a Rays-like payroll if they want. And they won't want. If the Wilpons are still there, they'll probably have an infusion of new cash from new investors. If new owners are there, even better. That's when the Mets will be back, making everyone nervous by throwing money at Joey Votto, Tim Lincecum, and Ian Kinsler. Maybe they'll get goofy with an offer to Robinson Cano just to make a point. The Mets won't be pretending to be a small-market team for long.
Until then, though, that's exactly what they're doing. They're not aping the Oakland A's and trading every young player within eyesight, but they're lowering their heads and letting the offseason pass them by because they have to. The outrage and surprise is all dried up. Alderson's admission that this is the final roster, more or less, was met with waves of indifference. The Mets are just going to sit the next couple of years out and catch their breath, and everyone's used to it now. The Mets. They used to be one of those teams.
But they'll get back. It's a brave, new, strange, and temporary world.