Why do some baseball teams almost always occupy the top of the scale, while others are just swimming around the pond? Sometimes they backstroke to the top once in awhile to feed on the good stuff. We try to make sense of all the “could haves,” “should haves” and “what if’s” every season. We then spin it differently from year to year and are still left scratching our heads at what did or didn’t happen.
I’ve looked at so many things that may give a clue as to what went wrong and what went right for teams and found that there is never a clear cut answer.
Let’s take injuries. According to “Roster Resource” the Mets had the second most players in the major leagues on the DL this year. Therefore, some think that they had a legitimate excuse for having a disappointing season. Guess who was number three on that list? The Dodgers. Boston, Cleveland, the Yankees and Oakland were in the top 11 and the Brewers were just a few behind. If I am not mistaken, they all played above .500 and made the playoffs.
The difference to me with all of that is the fact that those winning teams either had great depth in their farm systems or made very good trades to solve their problems. In the case of the Mets, they have no depth nor any attractive trade chips (the Mets’ pitchers were not among those available to be dealt) to fill those spots of players on the DL. In all fairness to them, the timing to act on all those injuries was not right. The trading deadline and availability of the right replacements just didn’t come at the right time for them. Plus the competition for players that were available was intense and like other teams, in their situation, they just threw in the towel. I understand that. Lots of teams do that.
The one thing that still puzzles me is that it seems to be the same group of teams that quit and the same group of teams that work to fix things in season. We can talk about ownership being the culprit as they’re apt to tie a GM’s hands and keep him from spending money. Guess that could be one reason. Can’t always pin it on a GM as they come and go and owners seem to stay forever. Though not having as much money to spend to compete with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers hasn’t kept the Oakland A’s (perennial bottom four in attendance every year) from being competitive most of the time.
Tinkering with the way teams play the game always affects how it will do on the field. Whether it is the heavy use of analytics or getting back to basics like stealing bases and not swinging for the fences all the time with runners in scoring position, the latter being what has served the Red Sox well this season. Obviously there is no tried and true formula for winning because the game keeps changing.
Changes in the way of rules, players, ballparks, scheduling and free agency all have a hand in what can turn a team around, one way or the other. But it still doesn’t give us a clue as to why some teams most of the time are competitive year after year while others are always huffing and puffing through the season looking for excuses.
I’m not trying to pick on the Mets here, they just happen to be the the team many in New York are most frustrated with. Will they ever become one of these elite franchises? They’ve had some very good teams from time to time and that is ok but, part-time winning is not acceptable to their fan base. The Met fans want their team to be one of those elite organizations. Very good is fine, elite is better. Maybe we will see that one day. For now they’re still doing backstrokes in the pond.