Inbox: Playing role of general manager

Inbox: Playing role of general manager

A simple question: What would you have done this offseason if you were the Mets' general manager?
-- Russ J., Pequannock, N.J.

First I would have recognized that legitimately contending for a National League East championship in 2010 was unlikely, given the talent available in the free-agent market, the absence of a front-line catcher and questions involving Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. And I would have acted accordingly.

But if contention in 2010 were the objective, I would have signed Matt Capps to set up Frankie Rodriguez, signed Jason Bay and made an early determination about Carlos Delgado. I would have opted to let him walk. Considering scouts' projections and the money the free-agent pitchers were seeking, I would have tried to sign one starter. My preferences, in descending order: Joel Pineiro, John Lackey (overpriced for a team with a suspect offense), Jason Marquis, Jon Garland, Ben Sheets, John Smoltz and Chien-Ming Wang. I would have pursued Bengie Molina, offering an option for a second year.

And I would have pursued trades for athletic Minor League outfielders.

I'm not sure all those moves would have been enough.

What are the Mets trying to prove by signing mediocre players? Every move I see them making is for utility players or Minor League pitching. They lost out on Garland and Sheets, now they're looking at Smoltz. What are the odds they just clean house, trade Johan Santana and part of the core and start over?
-- Mark C., Bethpage, N.Y.

I think they feel a better plan is to afford the current core -- Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes -- at least one more chance with Santana at the top of the rotation and hope that Mike Pelfrey and John Maine perform at higher levels. There is a sense within the Mets that Daniel Murphy will develop into a special player and hit 40 doubles with 90-100 RBIs. If that happens, the team will have more left-handed-right-handed balance.

Why do you think Gil Hodges is not in the Hall of Fame?
-- Patrick B., Rochester Hills, Mich.

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My sense of it is that Hodges was a borderline candidate, and that other voters act as I do, i.e., there is no such thing as a borderline Hall of Famer. Arguments against him that I've heard were that he just didn't have the numbers to be considered one of the all-time great slugging first basemen. His 370 home runs now rank 67th all-time and come up short to some, at least partially, because he played in a small park, Ebbets Field, for 10 full seasons and then moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum that favored right-handed hitters for four seasons. His 1,274 RBIs rank 109th all time, but they ranked 25th when he retired in 1963.

Hodges was widely regarded as a premier first baseman. He won Gold Gloves from 1957-59, the first three years of the award. But defense doesn't matter much to the voters, it seems. Ozzie Smith was voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America. But Bill Mazeroski gained his election by the Veterans Committee.

The last four seasons of Hodges' career -- 25 home runs and 81 RBIs -- hurt his candidacy. His poor showing in his first two World Series -- he batted .106 with two RBIs in 38 at-bats -- didn't help. And that he placed in the top 10 in MVP balloting merely twice while the Dodgers were winning pennants didn't help, either. Roy Campanella (1951, '53, '55) and Don Newcombe ('56) were the Dodgers' MVPs in the 50's, and Jackie Robinson won in '49.

My first year voting was Hodges' final year on the ballot, 1983. I didn't vote for him. But his defense and RBIs were compelling factors in his favor. And the post-1942 committee considering players can take into consideration his achievements as a manager as factors in his candidacy. So the Mets' ascent in 1968 and '69 and their remarkable World Series championship in '69 can enhance his chances.

I think you and I must be brothers. I agree with almost every opinion you express in these Q&A forums. In a lot of cases, I have come to the conclusion before reading your ideas. The latest one was in you last Inbox when you said the Mets don't seem to get credit for signing Bay. And a few weeks ago, you said something like no one hates the Mets more than a Mets fan. Bashing the Mets seems to a favorite sports for the people who write to you.

The same day the Mets signed Bay, callers on WFAN ripped them for now doing more. Instead of thinking how Bay would make the middle of their lineup better, they said there was more to do. You can't satisfy these people.

Whatever happened to fans? People don't root as much anymore. They just complain and mock. I know you think it started with the screamers in talk radio. I agree, but now it's everywhere. And I get sick of it. You probably do, too. I've been reading your Mets articles for years (in Newsday before you switched jobs). And you've been fair most of the time. But now, I think people think you work for the Mets and that you aren't critical enough. But the other day, you predicted they were a third-place team. That's criticism in a way. You don't sugarcoat, you just say what you see. And people of my generation (I'm 60) appreciate your honest approach. Keep it up, brother.
-- Max S., Brooklyn, N.Y.

In the words of Alex Rodriguez, "Wow!" Yours was the fourth e-mail I opened today. The first three weren't so kind. I appreciate your thoughts, brother. You would qualify as a younger brother -- I'm 61. And from what I can see, "our generation" of baseball fans did root more than it complained. But we also watched the game and appreciated proper play. My uncle took me to my first game, at the Polo Grounds. I wanted to see Willie Mays hit a triple and have his cap fly off. My uncle said "No, watch the shortstop's feet. You'll learn more about the game." So I watched Pee Wee's feet -- until Willie batted.

From what I can see, we grew up watching the game in a different way and not demanding performance from the players or their clubs. Maybe, because we weren't armed with statistics -- batting with runners in scoring position and WHIP after a starter's 100th pitch -- we didn't think we knew it all. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. We watched, rooted, enjoyed and went home happy or disappointed, not angry.

I do hold talk radio primarily responsible for what I now see as an irreversible change. But all media has had a hand in changing how we view the games we watch.

People now want to be heard. Fifteen minutes no longer provide enough fame. So they turn up the volume and say something outrageous. Be provocative is the order of day. Put that together with the frustration Mets fans feel -- rightfully so after the shortfalls of 2006, '07 and '08 -- and Mets bashing becomes more understandable, though no less unpleasant to hear.

The Mets' last four seasons have fueled disappointment for their fans, no question. And I suspect the 2010 season won't be particularly satisfying. That's they way to say it, at this point. I don't need to scream it.

Thanks for the endorsement.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.