Lupica: Yoenis Cespedes is Sandy Alderson’s winning move

By on January 24, 2016
Mike Lupica


Saturday, January 23, 2016, 11:59 PM

Sandy Alderson sets the Mets up to compete for a championship next season. Bryan R. Smith

Sandy Alderson sets the Mets up to compete for a championship next season. 

You always have to start with the economy of baseball, where you can hardly ever spend your way to the World Series despite the hysterical reaction every time your team doesn’t try to do that:

There is only one team, still, in baseball history that spent more than $ 200 million on baseball players and actually won the Series. That was the 2009 New York Yankees. Their payroll that year was around $ 210 million. They have spent more than $ 200 million a year for every year since that (the way they did for the five years before that), and haven’t won since. The season before last, they committed seven years to Jacoby Ellsbury and seven years to Masahiro Tanaka and more than $ 300 million in future financial commitments to the two of them.

The closest thing to a dynasty in baseball over the past several years are the San Francisco Giants, who have won three World Series in the last six seasons. The most money they spent in any of those years was when they were a little over $ 150 million. The Mets aren’t there now that Yoenis Cespedes is coming back, but they’re close enough. And maybe the people in charge aren’t the dumbest and cheapest in the world after all.

And the team that beat them in the World Series in a five-game series that looked and felt and even sounded a lot closer than that, the Royals, a team that has a batting order that is like barbed wire and enough pitching and plays a beautiful game of baseball, they were at $ 110 million in 2015 when they won their first World Series in three decades.

The Royals have also played two World Series in a row, something the Yankees last did in 2000 and 2001. The Royals came as close as you can come in Game 7 in 2014 against the Giants, with the tying run on third base in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7. Then came back better and stronger. The Mets didn’t come that close last fall. But they were a 9th inning away from at least pushing the thing back to Kansas City, and are now set up to finish the job this season the way the Royals did.

They pay Cespedes more for a season than they have ever paid anybody. They don’t sign him to a 10-year Alex Rodriguez contract, or an Ellsbury contract. They didn’t pay money to win the World Series a few years down the road, when they will start having to pay the best young pitchers in the sport. They give themselves their best chance to win this season, the only one that matters in sports.

So they didn’t squander all the goodwill they had earned with their fans by finally taking a season all the way to November. They bring back the hitter who was as dynamic and exciting and important as any they have had, at least until the World Series. They improve their bullpen. They get a terrific second baseman in Neil Walker to replace Daniel Murphy. They bring in a professional infielder in Asdrubal Cabrera.

You know how all this happens, all the way through the Cespedes signing? Because in Sandy Alderson they have a general manager who stands right in there against all the wonder-boy analytics boys. Alderson, even battling illness, is a baseball man who has set up his team to do it again.

The Cubs spent all that money, and are the latest team to win the baseball winter and be declared the champions of next season. The Nationals were that team one year ago. How did that work out for them? Now they go and get Murphy and threw money at Cespedes, who comes back to the Mets.

Here is what Tyler Kepner, the fine baseball columnist for the Times, wrote on Saturday:

“Can Mets fans finally trust that the stewards of their team might know a bit about how to run a franchise?”

So much bad happened to the Mets, both on and off the field, after Carlos Beltran took a called third strike in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series that it reads like some baseball version of reality television when you start listing it all. They lost games, money, trust, standing.

Then they started all over again with Alderson and his guys. Alderson didn’t do it all, and isn’t responsible for all of those big young arms. But he did most of it. He built through trades and he gave them a farm system again and finally he gave them as great a trade-deadline performance as any general manager has ever had, here or anywhere else. And in August and September the Mets were back, reminding you that the Yankees haven’t always owned baseball New York.

And now Cespedes is back. Maybe a year from now we go through another drama about whether he will go or stay, if he has stayed healthy and produced.

The Mets grab Yoenis Cespedes at a bargain for three seasons and won't be bogged down by a bad contract. Tom Uhlman/AP

The Mets grab Yoenis Cespedes at a bargain for three seasons and won’t be bogged down by a bad contract. 


For now, though, for now he comes back and the Mets do exactly what you are supposed to do for your fans: They try to win next year. They don’t try to win the World Series of 2018 or 2020. They try to win the next one. They try to finish the job the way the Royals finished the job, spending half as much money as the Yankees did last season, spending $ 160 million less than the Dodgers did in 2015.

The great myth of modern baseball, despite all the evidence, is that there’s only one way to win the World Series lottery, and that is by spending an insane amount of money. It doesn’t work that way anymore. An amazing thing has now happened with the Mets: Six months later, Sandy Alderson surprises you again with Yoenis Cespedes. Amazin’.

This tennis match-fixing matters, Larry’s Mustangs & Happy B-Day, Pops!

-You need to know, even if they haven’t figured this out in professional tennis yet, that these stories about gambling and alleged match fixing are a very big deal.

All that separates the sports people care about — and bet on — from professional wrestling is this:

The belief that what they are watching and we are watching and everybody is watching is on the level.

Certainly these are difficult things to investigate properly or prosecute, because this Tennis Integrity Unit that is supposed to police the sport doesn’t have subpoena power anymore more than George Mitchell had it in baseball or Ted Wells, bless his heart, had in with Deflategate.

It is why baseball’s prosecution was so brilliantly handled, the threat of lawsuits providing the kind of leverage that subpoenas do outside of sports.

By the way?

There is a difference between tanking and fixing in tennis.

Tanking has gone on since the beginning of time, not because there was any money in it, but because a player was tired or sick or just wanted to get to the next city and the next tournament.

But real-time betting is a clear and present danger now in tennis, and so are these mopes texting match information and trying to be faster than the internet.

So is the influence of the Russian mob, and if you don’t think that is a part of this story, talk to smart people in professional tennis.

In the end it all comes back to this:

We want to believe and have to believe that what we’re watching is real.

You want to know why track and field isn’t as big a deal in the Olympics as it once was, in a country like ours that has always been so fascinated with running and jumping?

Because drugs stole legitimacy from track and field the way drugs stole legitimacy from the baseball record books.

That’s why.

One more thing about this story:

You think the BBC would have broken it with BuzzFeed at the start of Wimbledon the way they did at the start of the Australian Open?

-In the language of my children, George Pelecanos — his new collection of stories is called “The Martini Shot” — is so good at writing it’s stupid.

Pelecanos is one of those guys who makes you remember an old Raymond Chandler line:

He’s good enough to make a bishop kick a hole in a church window.

-I have to keep asking this question:

Were we still supposed to have stormed the barricades because the Knicks took Porzingis instead of Justise Winslow?

I hope Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs end up 30-0 and the people’s champ of college basketball.

Nothing against Peyton Manning, but I want the Patriots to win today just because every time they do win another big game, it makes people outside of a six-state area lose their minds.

-Finally today:

Happy birthday to my Pops, Bene Lupica, who turns 92 years young on Wednesday, and who is the happiest person I have ever known.

My dad is happy, and he is good.

It doesn’t guarantee the kind of great life, and great American life, he’s had.

But it’s not a bad place to start.

yoenis cespedes ,
new york mets ,
mlb ,
sandy alderson ,
mlb transactions

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