The Dangers of Complacency
There was a Buster Olney tweet today that left me pretty unsettled. Take a look for yourself:
@Buster_ESPN (Buster Olney) The Mets insisting on a top prospect for Carlos Beltran — but pressure on Giants to add a big bat decreasing, as their NL West lead grows.
The first part is nothing new–the Mets front office has operated under the delusion that someone out there wants to take on $18 million dollars of salary in exchange for a top prospect for awhile now. Whether or not that happens is another matter altogether. What unsettles me is the idea that as the Giants’ NL West lead increases they see no need to improve the offense. Need I remind everyone that on August 25th of 2010, the Padres had a 6.5 game lead and spent October on vacation instead of in the postseason. With a team hitting a collective .243/.310/.363, I think it’s safe to say that a 4.5 game lead in July is hardly a good reason to feel secure.
If you look at the other contenders in the National League that the would stand between the Giants and another World Series, it makes you realize how badly this team still needs hitting. Remember the NLDS last year, and how great it felt to face a lineup rife with Brooks Conrads and Melky Cabreras? That’s us this year unless things improve. Brandon Belt will be in the big leagues before August is out, that’s a given. But that alone isn’t enough. If the Mets are deluded as they seem about their demands for Beltran, then other options need to be explored.
This is of course easier said than done, as the need to keep the farm system intact is equally as imperative. Guys like Belt, Zack Wheeler, Gary Brown, and to a lesser degree Eric Surkamp are (or should be) untouchable. If teams start sensing an urgency in the front office, the price of a big hitter will be driven up; as the demand increases, the pricetag goes up too. That isn’t to say complacency is the solution though.
Unless this is all a clever marketing ploy by the front office to appear not quite as desperate as they should be, a few red flags need to be raised. Last year the Giants hit .257/.321/.408, with Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, and Aubrey Huff all healthy and all performing at or above expectations. This season, we have Posey out for the year, Burrell playing sporadically, Torres regressing, and Huff grounding out to second base like he has a mandate to do so from the Lord Himself. In the midst of this, the Giants are somehow managing to win pretty regularly, which is fantastic. What worries me is that the Padres seemed to manage this very same thing last year while hitting .246/.317/.371.
The one thing you should take from all this is that this winning isn’t sustainable given the current state of the offense; the Padres meltdown last year was as good an indicator as any of the truth behind this. Unless this offense sees at least some semblance of an upgrade, regression will strike hard and it will strike fast come last August/early September.
The worst the thing the guys in the front office can do right now is to sit on their collective laurels and insist that a division lead is evidence that an upgrade isn’t needed. Did the Rangers need Cliff Lee to win their division last year? No, because the AL West pretty much sucked for a better part of 2010. But there’s no doubt that Lee was a big reason they got to the World Series. Using an example a little closer to home, beating the Phillies would have been exceedingly more difficult without Cody Ross and his ownage of Roy Halladay. That being so, let the Padres be our cautionary tale for teams without offense hoping to make an extended playoff run.
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