It's bad enough that the Mets will have to face a powerhouse Phillies team the next few years. But what's even worse is that the Phillies have become the kind of team star players take less money to join.
Last year, Roy Halladay signed a three-year contract extension with Philadelphia for $60 million. Halladay could have been a free agent after the 2010 season. Imagine what his market would have been. But Halladay was willing to give up future tens of millions of dollars to go to the Phillies. Now Cliff Lee has also left tens of millions of dollars on the table for a chance to play with Shane Victorino.
Most free agents end up where the most money is. But one would hope that, the money being equal, some players would prefer the Mets over other clubs. Instead, the Mets have often had to overcome a star's reluctance to join them. Flushing was reportedly "Beirut" to Jason Bay. Carlos Beltran reportedly was willing to take less money to go the Yankees. Carlos Delgado turned down a chance to play for the Mets in 2005 before the Mets traded for him the following year.
Under the new regime, I have confidence that the Mets will soon become a place where stars want to play and that Sandy Alderson and company will spend money, but do so wisely. However, I still expect that the Mets, like just about every other team, will ultimately have to outbid other clubs to get the players they want.
But it's hard to imagine players taking less money to join the Mets.
Alderson may eventually close the talent gap with the Phillies, but now he must close the likeability gap as well. As with the Phillies, the Mets need to become the kind of club that players want to join for reasons besides money.
W.C. Fields must be turning over in his grave. Who would have thought that, on the whole, star pitchers would rather be in Philadelphia?