By Zach Gewelb
As the offseason progresses, Mets have continued their bold new strategy of doing sensible things to improve the organization.
Earlier in October, the Mets announced the purchase of the Syracuse Chiefs, a Triple-A franchise located in the heart of upstate New York. The move will take place after the 2018 season, when the Washington National’s lease with the team expires. The Mets will own the Chiefs through 2025.
It was about time the Mets made the move. It was only logical.
Since 2013, the Mets have called the Las Vegas 51’s their Triple-A affiliate, located on the other end of the country. Why the Mets thought having their Triple-A franchise over 2,500 miles away was a good idea is beyond me.
After all, the flight from Syracuse’s Hancock Airport to LaGuardia is under an hour. The flight from Vegas to Queens is about six hours.
But the Mets have righted that wrong with the purchase of the Chiefs.
Elected officials in New York, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, agree.
“With Syracuse’s rich history and love of baseball, the Mets purchasing the Syracuse Chiefs is a grand slam for the entire community,” Schumer said in October.
Cuomo, too, believes the move to Syracuse is one beneficial not only to the Mets, but to the franchise’s fans, as well.
“This is a home run that ensures the Chiefs stay right where they belong while the next generation of ‘amazin’ greats is fostered right here in Central New York,” Cuomo said.
The move makes sense on so many levels. To start, the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate will now play in the same state as the big league club. That makes it easier to recall players from the minors to the pros, either as a promotion or as an injury replacement.
During the 2017 season, the Mets dealt with their fair share of injuries, namely to their starting pitchers. And if an injury happened the night before a game, it would take a red-eye flight and little-to-no sleep to get a player activated as an injury replacement. It’s entirely possible that the difficult and lengthy travel conditions led to ineffectiveness in those scenarios, though the Mets would never admit it.
The move will also help draw more Mets fans out to see the team’s top minor league talent. Mets fans who lived in New York couldn’t really see players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith play in the upper level in the minors. With the move to Syracuse, fans have the opportunity to see the best prospects the Mets have to offer, as NBT Bank Stadium is within driving range from Queens.
“I think you’re going to see a draw from all across upstate,” Cuomo said. “I think you’re going to see from Buffalo to Albany coming into this stadium. I think it is really exciting, and I think it’s in keeping with everything that’s happening in Central New York. … So, Central New York is the place to be. The Mets are the team to see.”
Getting out of Las Vegas will also be beneficial to the Mets in terms of performance. Playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League made it difficult for the Mets to evaluate their own players. That issue goes away with the move to Syracuse.
With the move to Syracuse and restructuring of their coaching staff, the organization is finally taking the right steps to building a consistent winner. It’s about time.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe