Commentary

Mets aren't underrated, they're irrelevant

The Wilpon family business churns out misery by the truckload for fans

Updated: December 10, 2011, 3:32 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

Perhaps the day will come when we'll all be convinced the New York Mets actually matter again. That they are a franchise on the upswing, filled with promising young talent -- a credible organization from top to bottom, led by ownership willing to do whatever it takes to contend for a championship.

But that day is not now. Not with the latest non-move that culminated with Jose Reyes' departure to the Miami Marlins on Monday, cementing the long-held belief that New York's other team will always leave the chores of winning to somebody else.

[+] EnlargeWilpon
Noah K. Murray/US PresswireWe can't believe it either, Fred.

You want championship chatter in this town, plan on talking about the New York Yankees. You want relevance, feel free to stick with the Yankees there, too. The Mets have nothing to offer in those categories. Nothing but subpar players, subpar facilities, handcuffed -- albeit credible -- executives and ownership figures too preoccupied or too apathetic to do anything about it.

No one's immune to criticism and skepticism any longer. Not in the face of the Mets' unapologetic descent into perpetual ineptitude. The Mets didn't just fail to come up with the six years and $106 million Reyes left for. They let him go to the Marlins, a National League East foe.

Another team in their way. Another team helping to push them to the bottom of the division. With Ozzie Guillen, Reyes and Heath Bell joining Hanley Ramirez in Miami; with an inexplicable September collapse -- not a lack of talent -- having barely prevented the Atlanta Braves from entering the postseason; with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels all expected to be in Philadelphia next season and beyond, where exactly is the light emanating from the basement the Mets will be living in for years to come?

The answer would be: NOWHERE.

Just disgusting!

Mets fans, by and large, deserve so much better than this. Yet the truth is, they'll never get it. And here we all were, in our infinite optimism, thinking that the Bernie Madoff scandal was the major reason the Mets were a bit frugal with their checkbooks. Little did we know it did nothing but buy the Mets time to get away with doing what they always do in the end, which is to say virtually nothing at all.

"What we have as a team might be a little underrated," GM Sandy Alderson reportedly said, alluding to the Mets' chances of making the postseason next year (stop laughing!).

Evidently, Alderson's excuse for feeling this way is the health of Ike Davis, along with MLB's imminent adoption of a second wild-card berth and selective amnesia in all the areas that matter. And that alone should deflate any level of optimism anyone has for the prospect of this franchise in the near future.

At the moment, the Mets have David Wright and nothing else. A third baseman who's popular and politically correct, with far too many question marks about his level of production to feel supremely confident.

There's still the issue of losing the reigning batting champion in Reyes, who hit .337 last season with 39 steals. There's still the issue of the 116 errors (second-most in the NL) the Mets committed, as well. One could easily get into the $23 million that the oft-injured Johan Santana will earn next season. Or the $18 million Jason Bay is expected to pocket, undoubtedly one of the worst contracts in MLB right now.

The thing is, we're trying to be kind here.

You try and try so hard to look for the positive with these Mets, but they just refuse to provide the incentive to do so.

If the Mets were just capable of blinking correctly, they could've convinced a few folks that despite a plethora of injuries, they still went 77-85, so the future doesn't look so bad. They could've made the argument that with Wright returning with something to prove, with Santana scheduled to do the same thing, promise is on the horizon. Especially if they at least made an effort to keep Reyes.

"I always said I wanted to play there, but they didn't do anything to keep me there," Reyes deadpanned.

So now this is where they are, on a fast track to no-man's-land. And they have no one else to blame but themselves.

The Mets, a franchise in New York City, with more than 8 million people, a new ballpark and their own television network, still left matters to the likes of the Marlins and Los Angeles Angels to pursue the Reyeses, Prince Fielders and Albert Pujolses of the world.

So much for wondering what's wrong with this franchise. The problem is clear as day.

Before you can become a winner, you have to have the personnel, the vision and the pockets. One look at Fred and Jeff Wilpon these days tells us if they had it before, they don't anymore.

Recent history validates such claims. Imagine what the future holds.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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