I get the impression that a lot of Mets fans are angry at Omar Minaya and the Wilpons for not doing anything very big by this point to improve the team. Of course the Zito thing is unresolved but it seems likely, from newspaper reports, that desperate Texas will outbid us.
Zito will sign for something close to $20m per year. Can the Mets afford that? You bet they can. The Wilpons have the money. The Mets will make massive amounts of money next year. Zito will probably pay for himself with what he will contribute to buzz, wins, rating points, and ticket sales. But if a merely above-average pitcher like Barry Zito signs for a salary like that, I will be glad that the Mets aren’t signing that paycheck. Why?
It’s not because merely above-average players don’t deserve money like that. They do. If they generate the revenue, they deserve the big paychecks. Even if they don’t generate the revenue, the player deserves that money if some owner is willing to gamble it on the possibility that they might generate the revenue. So it’s not because this is too much money for Zito.
I won’t want the Mets paying that amount because I don’t want them to get the competitive edge they need for next season just by signing a check for an amount larger than what all but five or six teams can sign for.
What sense does this make, you ask? None, to be honest. What about Beltran? What about trades like the one that brought us Delgado, which are essentially free-agent signings? What about the current size of the Mets’ payroll? How can I live with the privileges of wealth and not want to go to the logical next step of thinking that our wealth should not just make us competitive, it should make us super-competitive?
Forgive me. I don’t want to take that next step. I am what some of the sages on the mets.com discussion board would call a “loser” or a “wimp” or worse. I am already so bothered by the way in which the competitive balance in baseball can be determined by a team’s wealth and market size that I desperately want to continue to pretend that it can’t be. If the Mets pay $20 million for a merely above-average pitcher, I won’t be able to keep lying to myself for that much longer.
The Mets are my team. I want to root for them forever without feeling guilty about it. I will always keep my fingers crossed behind my back for teams like the Tigers, the A’s, the Twins, and even I hope someday, the Pirates and the Royals. But I want to continue to pretend that the Mets belong in that pack, fighting for their place. I don’t want to have to think about how they have that great big budget behind them. I don’t want them to get into the business of assuring fans who want victory at any price that they are not, themselves, losers.
Omar, you’ve shown us that you know what you are doing. I trust you.