April 11, 2011; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports

Easy There, Sandy

 

Sandy Alderson was a guest on a podcast for the New York Post last week.

In speaking about the current frustration of the team and its fan base, as well as the possibility of better times ahead, he had the following to say:

It’s as tough on us as it is on any fan. The fact that we have this longer-term perspective to help us through that doesn’t help as much as you would expect… It’s been a tough slog. But when we get there, it’s going to be very sweet. And I mean that for the fans. I personally get my biggest reward when knowing that the fans are happy and proud to be Mets supporters. We want to get to the point where that’s the case across the board. I think a lot of people have bought into what we do, but ultimately we have to get there. And when we do, there will be a lot of happy people and a lot of great times at Citi Field.

Sandy sounds very confident in this statement. And as fans, we appreciate the confidence of a General Manager. We understand that there is a plan. But when I read Sandy’s words, he sounded a bit over-confident to me. Let’s take a look at why Alderson may have been wise to measure his words a little more carefully.

First, Sandy Alderson has been a major-league GM for 23 seasons (16 with Oakland, 5 with San Diego, and 2 with the Mets). In his career, his teams have won 6 division titles, 3 pennants, and one World Series. Certainly, Alderson has enjoyed some success, but does his track record indicate that he has somehow developed an approach that ensures consistent winning? As Mets fans, should we implicitly trust that Alderson’s every move will bring the franchise one step closer to the type of success that the Braves experienced from 1991 to 2005? In addition, Alderson’s approach of “power first” may have worked in the different era of late 1980s and 1990s (when the As won three pennants in a row and one World Series), but will it work now? For example, when the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series, they were ninth in MLB with 162 team home runs. The 2011 World Champion Saint Louis Cardinals hit 159 home runs, seventeenth in MLB. Last year, the Giants hit 103 home runs, and were dead last in MLB, though they won the World Series. Should we question if Alderson’s approach to building a team is dated?

Next, in looking at the New York Mets, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that the team is several players away from contending. The good news is that the most important element in baseball success is coming into form, strong pitching. The Mets have solid, young starting pitching, and young power arms either in the bullpen, or very close to helping out in the major-league bullpen. However, the idea that 2013 is a transitional year, and that contention is immediately on the other side, is a curious one. From where will the offense come? The team needs three outfielders and a bench. That’s a lot. Yes, there will be money available after this season. But will there be quality free agents on whom to spend the money? Are the organization’s position-player prospects ready to step in and contribute? Will the Mets be able to use pitching depth to acquire offense? Maybe all of these things will happen to the Mets’ advantage. But maybe they will not. In any case, do you see any kind of lock for imminent contention?

Now there’s the other obstacle to overcome in order to compete, the competition. The Mets are in a tough division, a very tough division. The Nationals are young, and getting better. The Braves are also a young team, with very solid pitching (and a devastating bullpen). I don’t see either of these teams going away after 2013, when the Mets are expected to turn the corner toward success. Can the Braves and Nationals experience hard times? Of course they can. But again, this is not a weak division, ripe for the taking. The NL East appears to be strong and getting stronger. The Mets may be able to compete within the division, but is there any promise of the “sweet” success that Alderson discussed?

I’m not trying to throw cold water on is what is looking like the beginning of a resurgence for the Mets. I’m just wondering if Sandy Alderson should be a little less definitive about the prospects for continuous success. The New York fan base will remember his words. In fact, when Frank Cashen took over as GM in 1980, he discussed a five-year plan. Going into the 1984 season, the Mets had not done well under the new G.M., and Cashen was taken to task about his five-year plan, so much so that he said he would resign if the team did not compete in 1984. The same could happen to Alderson. If things don’t turn around in the next two years, Alderson’s words may come back to haunt him. The Mets are on the way to contention. But they have quite a bit more work to do. They need many things to go right for them. As a fan for more than 40 years, I hope everything does go right and “when we get there, it is very sweet.” But if I were Sandy Alderson, I may have been little more guarded in my words. This isn’t Oakland or San Diego.

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