March Madness in October Gives Hope

March Madness in October Gives Hope

March Madness in October Gives Hope

So you think your team’s cause is hopeless? Think again. The Cardinals are 3 wins away from another championship and once again proving that all you need to do is get to October and you have a chance. With the advent of a second Wild Card by 2013, teams should take note and try to keep as much of their core together, despite any flaws throughout the roster. This is actually a good sign for the Mets and others of their ilk, who could easily be the Cardinals at some point in the near future.

There are so many obvious flaws with St. Louis. Their rotation is average, closer uninspiring, and the middle relief is a collection of specialization arms. The offense is surprising good, as they led the National League, but most years it’s Albert Pujols and the gang. A rejuvenated Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday changed that this year, unlike many of Tony La Russa’s clubs the last decade. Of course, there is La Russa, who clearly is an advantage in any series. The point is the Cardinals players know their roles, play within themselves, and don’t make mistakes. That is a dangerous formula in a seven game series.

How does this relate to the Mets? Well, it’s not exactly like the Cards roster is loaded with stars. David Freese, Jon Jay, Octavio Dotel, and Jason Motte aren’t All Stars. If you find the right combination of role players around your core you can win. St. Louis proved that in 2006 and might do it against by next week.

There is part of me that would love Sandy Alderson to rip this thing apart and start it over. There is something about the hope of a fresh start that makes me embrace a roster sans Jose Reyes and David Wright. It’s Alderson’s responsibility to stay firm on his breaking point with Reyes, as overpaying him could come back to haunt the franchise later on, perhaps when they have some promising young arms reaching their prime. It’s also his responsibility to see what David Wright‘s value is on the open market. Everyone says you can’t get a “Mark Teixeira-like” return for Wright, but how do they know? Remember when everyone said that Carlos Beltran had no value? He only fetched the top pitching prospect in the Giants organization, and one of the best in baseball.

But then you watch St. Louis and wonder if a team with Reyes and Wright healthy and productive can make a run. Who knows, maybe Ike Davis makes it’s a trio of stars. There are complementary players that are promising like Murphy, Duda, Tejada, and Thole. The Mets starting rotation isn’t all that worse than St. Louis. If Johan Santana returns to 75% of his former self that is still a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. As for the bullpen, it’s a mess, but you can mix and match kids and veterans to find a winning combination.

Obviously, the key is Reyes. If they can bring him back without destroying future payroll flexibility it makes sense. If not, then perhaps this is a conversation for 2013 or beyond.

If they can find a way to afford Reyes, then why can’t the Mets be next year’s version of the Cardinals with the right offseason moves? Look at some of the team’s that have made surprising runs over the last decade: Anaheim in 2002, Chicago in 2005, St. Louis in 2006, and San Francisco last year. Each did it with a different formula. None of them were favorites the year before. Anaheim was a second division club.

With the structure of the playoffs and additional Wild Card there is hope for the Mets. There is hope for others as well. If you have some stars and the right complementary players you can compete in what has become the October version of March Madness.

By Mike Silva
Friday, 21 Oct 2011

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