What’s wrong with Mets?

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - Inside - Steve Pop­per

If you’re won­der­ing who’s re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent mess, look at own­er­ship.

Look to the owner’s suite, where it is pre­sumed the Wilpons still re­side. You don’t see them much since the en­tire Bernie Mad­off episode be­gan, send­ing the fam­ily own­er­ship into dis­ar­ray. One for­mer Met said the Wilpons, while well-in­ten­tioned, have done the fran­chise no fa­vors by go­ing silent since then, through the ugly se­ries of rev­e­la­tions and law­suits, on to the set­tle­ment and the sale of shares of the fran­chise.

Mets fans are ac­cus­tomed to hard times, used to feel­ing like se­cond-class ci­ti­zens to the Yan­kees’ nearly 100-year dy­nasty in New York. Maybe the fans are even used to days such as June 24, when the Mets lost their sixth game in a row in par­tic­u­larly em­bar­rass­ing fash­ion, watch­ing a pro­ces­sion of re­liev­ers make their way to the mound while serv­ing up seven home runs.

The Wilpons don’t need to set un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions, don’t need to tell you that some­one such as Jerry Blevins, the starter June 24, is a great op­tion on the mound or that this sea­son can turn around, but tell the truth.

If that truth is that the fran­chise has to do things on the cheap, then say it. That might be an­swered with a re­al­is­tic an­swer from the fans: Sell the team if you can’t do busi­ness in New York the way the mar­ket de­mands.

The Mets pay­roll has lin­gered be­low the league av­er­age since the Mad­off scan­dal set the team into a fi­nan­cial spi­ral down­ward. They have jumped the pay­roll this sea­son, al­though part of the prob­lem is just how they chose to spend the money.

The Mets have $56 mil­lion in salaries among the 25 players on the ac­tive ros­ter and a stag­ger­ing $89 mil­lion on the dis­abled list — they do lead the ma­jors in spend­ing on the DL right now, so that’s some­thing.

“I un­der­stand the fan base’s frus­tra­tion,” chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Jeff Wilpon told the team’s beat re­porters in Jan­uary, break­ing a three-year si­lence. “We have the same frus­tra­tion — not only my­self, but the rest of the base­ball depart­ment and the rest of the staff here at the Mets. We cer­tainly want to win. There’s no­body go­ing out there try­ing to not win and not do their best to put us in the ab­so­lute best position to win.”

That might be true, but the Mets have shuf­fled the deck chairs for a decade and it has all looked very much the same. They have spent on free agent fail­ures, stayed out of the run­ning for the real tal­ent and, per­haps most alarm­ing, crafted a farm sys­tem that has lit­tle hope of pro­vid­ing help.

When the Mets reached the World Se­ries in 2015 it cov­ered up some of the is­sues but left a re­al­ity — that the bulk of that team’s suc­cess was made up of left­over as­sets from the pre­vi­ous front of­fice.

The “Five Aces” never panned out. Matt Har­vey shone briefly, and whether it was inju- ry or at­ti­tude, he was sent pack­ing. Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have spun their wheels try­ing to get their pro­duc­tion started. Noah Syn­der­gaard has been stuck on the dis­abled list for a month now, and only Ja­cob deGrom has ac­tu­ally seemed to move for­ward in his ca­reer.

The pieces with which gen­eral man­ager Sandy Alder­son has backed the start­ing pitch­ing, even when it’s a bet­ter op­tion than Blevins, have been hardly in­spir­ing, whether from free agency or the farm sys­tem.

Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes can make a dif­fer­ence in the lineup if he gets healthy, though even he spec­u­lated he couldn’t save this team.

Jay Bruce was signed rather than some of the young, more ath­letic and yes, more ex­pen­sive op­tions over the win­ter, and he’s on the DL, too.

David Wright and Jose Reyes are left as grim re­minders of what once was.

“I think as an in­dus­try, in­vest­ment in older players is di­min­ish­ing,” Alder­son said last week. “On the other hand, older players can present a real value and, from a per­for­mance stand­point, im­prove the team. But at the same time, you have to rec­og­nize that with age comes some ad­di­tional chal­lenges phys­i­cally. What we have to do, more im­por­tantly than any­thing else, is fig­ure out a way to ad­dress those is­sues as they arise or be­fore they arise.”

The Mets haven’t ex­actly moved quickly to ad­dress those is­sues, and that’s how they get to where they are now, lan­guish­ing among the bot­tom of the ma­jor leagues and just 2043 af­ter an 11-1 start to the sea­son.

Mov­ing one of their few star pieces could start the Mets back on track, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing pieces for a sys­tem in need of it.

If they did, would you be sure they’d get it right?

JAKE ROTH/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Mets gen­eral man­ager Sandy Alder­son has not been able to find the right bal­ance in New York.

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