Now that they're in the World Series, it's going to be tempting for every Tom, Dick, and Jon Morosi to claim that "owner Fred Wilpon's spending limitations—regardless of the cause—have created a tightly-knit, pitching-rich roster of players who are invested in one another's success. " It's a tempting narrative trap to fall into. We instinctively love "home grown" clubs and underdog stories. Other teams, according to Morosi are "busily studying the Mets' resurgence, for hints as to how they might engineer a similar revival."
There's an answer to that: The Mets failed. Between 2011 and 2012, the team's payroll fell by almost $50 million. From 2009-2014, the Mets finished 453-519, putting up a losing record every single year. They got older. They stopped signing expensive free agents. They refused to trade for stars. They dealt away stars of their own. They stockpiled the homegrown guys whose virtue Morosi extolls because they couldn't afford anybody to make their team better.
Yes, this team has been immensely successful in 2015. And for that we should sing the praises of Sandy Alderson, his scouts, his trainers, and his player development team, because the Mets would not be here without Jacob deGrom, or Matt Harvey, or Jonathan Niese, or Travis d'Arnaud, or Lucas Duda, or Daniel Murphy, or Noah Syndergaard, or Jeurys Familia. Those players are all fantastic evidence that Alderson still has it in him to put together a fantastic organization.
But they are also evidence of the five years of excrement through which Mets fans had to wade to get here. Was it worth it? Is it ever worth it? Are five years of underspending and demoralizing rosters redeemed by one season of success?
I don't think that it is, and I'm hesitant to call these Mets a midmarket success when that success is built on the rubble of so much failure. And I don't think you can laud an organization whose limited payroll required them to give an aging and brittle Michael Cuddyer a mid-range free agent deal, rather than pursue Nelson Cruz.
Yes, there is a story here about the amazingly talented homegrown players the Mets were forced to turn to leading them to 90 wins and the World Series. But the other side of that story is that the Mets' limited resources made their competitiveness in 2015 a total surprise, rather than a forgone conclusion. Yes, the Mets were able to use a good prospect like Michael Fulmer to acquire Yoenis Cespedes (as Morosi points out), but if the club had invested in a left fielder last winter, it wouldn't have had to give up anybody. Yes, Wilmer Flores has an .829 OPS this postseason and Ruben Tejada proved competent in the regular season, but the Mets also could have signed or traded for someone better if they'd had the flexibility.
The point is that the Mets are a very good team now precisely because they were a bad team for so long. And the limitations that prevented them from competing for so long are still in place. They very well may win the World Series in the next two weeks. But the bigger question is whether the Mets can build a stable, successful franchise over the long term. To do that, they're going to have to embrace the large market mentality that, by rights, they always should have had in the first place.