I would prefer anticipating the countdown for pitchers and catchers and the start of spring training in four weeks. Instead, we are reporting about a huge gap in issues that need to be resolved between owners and players for a new CBA, which puts spring training in jeopardy.
This wide gap on the issues pertaining to service time, salary arbitration and thresholds of teams has put baseball in the dark as a lockout continues. It’s the millionaires versus the billionaires and the normal hot stove activity has been regulated to teams signing international prospects. Transactions are limited to minor league rosters because that is not a part of the CBA.
You ask, are the owners and players making progress towards a new collective bargaining agreement? I say your guess is as good as mine. Basically, one side will make a proposal and another will send it back to the table. More movement will come as spring training nears and the start of the season begins to feel threatened.
The result of an impending lockout five weeks ago caused a flurry of activity of free agent signings, trades, and teams plotting a course for transactions in place when and if this lockout concludes. The timing, from the conclusion of the World Series to December 1 resembled the baseball hot stove offseason.
At this juncture, the Mets have to be considered winners and how they cannot be with the acquisition of three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, along with outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha. Their infield got stronger with the signing of All-Star Eduardo Escobar.
Yes, money talks. Free spending owner Steve Cohen may have become an adversary with 29 other teams. Then again, he’s in this to win and fulfilling a commitment to a fan base that is starving for a winner. The Mets may have already made an offer to free agent infielder Kris Bryant who would obviously command third base which means more offense to their lineup.
The Mets to date have also won the offseason when they hired Buck Showalter as their new manager and GM Billy Eppler brings that experience and knowledge as the GM. So, with baseball shutdown and very little to report, I asked a few baseball insiders and experts their opinions on the Mets moves prior to the lockout.
The consensus is the Mets are the early winners on paper. And there could be more to come.
“It is interesting to navigate winning,” said a longtime NL executive. “It’s every team’s desire to be the last team standing each season. Each team has a plan and philosophy they feel will allow them to reach that goal. The foundation is scouting and player development. It’s trades and acquisitions that hopefully will complete the mix and that Mets have accomplished that.”
Though all winning teams have elite talent, winning is not complete without top of the rotation starting pitching and middle of the order bats. The Mets have that one two punch now with Jacob deGrom and the acquisition of Scherzer.
That executive also said a championship is never won without sufficient pitching no matter how potent a lineup and used examples of the ‘69 Mets and the ‘88 Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Obviously it takes balance, but always skewed towards pitching and the Mets have accomplished that.”
Though, you don’t win games on paper. Players must perform and the Mets did not do their part last season which led to an overhaul of their coaching staff and exit of manager Luis Rojas.
Another baseball executive informed me the most important component of a player that you want to sign goes beyond skills and requires the makeup of drive, focus, work ethic, and no fear. In other words, the Mets acquired four players that have the availability to adjust, execute, and become a teammate that puts the team first.
As I wrote in a previous column, “In Buck They Trust,” and the Mets have their leader in Buck Showalter.
“The team will usually reflect personality of the manager,” said a former MLB coach and one time manager with minor league affiliates. “The manager sets up the rules and structures of the club. I saw Joe Torre and Dusty Baker have the two best clubhouses during my baseball career. They both did it differently.”
“Torre delegated to his coaches and players and they were accountable. Baker was more hands on with his players, who always had his players’ back. Both demanded that their club be mentally and physically prepared to play 27 outs. There’s no one way to manage, but you can’t win without talent.”
The manager can only do so much. Buck Showalter, though, seems to have the talent for his players to prepare and play for those 27 outs.
So far, it’s all good. The Mets have won the offseason. But all of this won’t matter until this darn lockout concludes.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso