Do you remember the last time the New York Mets won 90 games, as GM Sandy Alderson recently set his expected win total for the 2014 team? I bet David Wright does. It was his first year as an All-Star, his second full year in the bigs, and he was second on the team in batting average (.311). Who was first?
Paul Lo Duca, the catcher, at .318.
The year was 2006 and the Mets won 97 games en route to the NLCS. 40-year-old Tom Glavine tied (with 35-year-old Steve Trachsel) for the team lead in wins with 15. Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez were next, with nine apiece. Combined with a shut-down bullpen featuring Billy Wagner (40 Saves), the staff that finished third in the National League in team ERA.
The offense also finished third in the NL in runs, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases. Led by Jose Reyes‘ 64, the 2006 Mets were also first in Steals.
Clearly, the team’s climate has changed around Wright.
The 2013 year was his ninth full season in MLB. He was again an All-Star (seventh selection), batted .307 and actually had a higher Wins Above Replacement than he did way back when (5.8 versus 4.1 in 2006). And the Mets around him won 74 games; they haven’t cracked 80 since 2008, the last year of Shea Stadium’s existence.
According to reports, when Alderson threw out the “90 wins” number, Mets owner Fred Wilpon quipped, “at least.” Las Vegas has the team pegged at 73.5.
Sigh. Now, I’m all for setting goals and having high expectations of one’s self. But setting realistic goals is important. And realistic doesn’t have to mean conservative.
Try this theoretical example on for size:
Reporter: Sandy, how many games do you think the Mets will win this year?
Sandy Alderson: Well, we don’t concern ourselves with numbers. Our goal as a team this year is to make the playoffs. However many wins it takes to get into the championship tournament is the number we’re aiming for. Next question.
By arbitrarily setting the bar of success at 90 wins, even in private, the Mets, as usual, miss the point. Ninety wins might not even get you to the postseason. Would you rather be buying NLDS tickets with 87 wins in your back pocket or buying Halloween decorations with the money those 90 wins and no playoffs just saved you?
Unless Alderson plans on retiring to become a bookie, the number of team wins should be of no concern at this point. There is nothing wrong with expecting the Mets play at the high end of their potential; yes, there is the possibility for this squad to win that many games. That’s the beauty of baseball.
But in baseball, you also have curses and jinxes and all kinds of fickle statements that might anger the Gods.
They are happy to appease the bold, but you’ve got to be smart about it. “One game at a time” and all that. What Anderson said was the opposite of smart. What he pretty much guaranteed was a repeat of that ’08 season – 89 wins and missing the playoffs by one game; or worse.
Always be careful what you wish for, as well as how you wish for it.