If it wasn't for the Washington Nationals' horrid start, the New York Mets would be plunging deep into the cellar in the National League East. Injuries have ravaged the Mets more than any other team, but at the same time, team management is making poor decisions that may be more responsible for the team's ultimate failure to make the post-season.
On Friday, the Mets traded outfielder Ryan Church to division rival Atlanta for outfielder Jeff Francoeur. Both are exceptional defensive players, and Francoeur has been among the league leaders in outfield assists in recent years. However, if press accounts are to be believed, both men have been in the doghouse of their respective former clubs this season. Francoeur strikes out too much, offsetting the power numbers he'd put up since joining the Braves 3 years ago. Church has been plagued by injuries since coming to New York from Washington after the 2007 season, and if you believe the tabloid press, he supposedly wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with Met manager Jerry Manuel.
The trade has all the stink of a June 1977 deal that sent Hall of Fame-bound pitcher Tom Seaver to Cincinnati, alienating the Mets' loyal fan base, and villified then-GM M. Donald Grant. History has shown us that any player who leaves the Mets via trade or free agency tends to haunt the team down the road. Oh, yeah, and the Phillies, according to reports, have expressed interest in Pedro Martinez. Hmmmm.
One wonders what went into the thought process in trading Church, who had been one of the more consistent players for the Mets when healthy. All-Star third baseman David Wright has been hot & cold, and a case can be made that Wright more than anyone has been trying to overcompensate for the injuries that have sidelined Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, & Carlos Delgado, three of the Mets' most important players. Bringing in Francoeur isn't going to be a quick fix, however.
It is open knowledge that owner Fred Wilpon was one of the victims of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff. One wonders if Wilpon lost enough money such that he suddenly can't afford to pursue higher level players to fill all the holes. If that's the case, then the Mets have fallen all the way back to the dregs of the late 70's. It's a worst case scenario, but it's one that's becoming more realistic with each passing day. And that's the worst part about it.