A little while ago, Sandy Alderson was a guest of Mike Francesa on WFAN. Here are the highlights of the interview, during which Alderson discussed the Rick Ankiel signing, Zack Wheeler, the state of the coaching staff, and more…
On the Rick Ankiel signing:
What we’re trying to do is improve our outfield defense and at the same time provide some opportunity for offense…(echoed what Collins said regarding Ankiel starting against righties and Juan Lagares starting against lefties)…obviously there are reasons why he was available. He was released by Houston primarily to give some other players an option to play…we think this might be a nice bridge and ultimately…could be a nice acquisition. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We’re happy to have him.
…I found it comical that Alderson noted that Houston released Ankiel (a team going nowhere) so their youngsters could play, before turning around and picking him up for the Mets (a team likely going nowhere) at the expense of younger players.
How disappointed is he in Collin Cowgill?
We had high hopes that he would be a piece…it didn’t work out in the early part of the season, doesn’t mean he can’t come back. Certainly, even in a part time role, he wasn’t contributing after the first few days of the season.
…After the first few days, Cowgill was nailed to the bench. Yes, he struggled, but he also wasn’t given a fair shot. That’s on Terry Collins, though, not Alderson.
On Juan Lagares:
He’s a guy who likes to chase pitches out of the strike zone…he was improving to some extent in Las Vegas. That’s been underscored since he’s been with us at the major league level. It’s one of the reasons that we decided to sign [Rick] Ankiel. We won’t continue to keep Lagares at the major league level if he’s not able to contribute. What we need to assess is whether his defense is worth having his offense in the eight hole.
On conceding the season and/or potentially making changes:
I’m not sure that things can devolve any further… we’re looking at the waiver wire…this is not the time of year when clubs are making massive changes. In our case, we are watching what’s happening at the major league level…obviously we’re very sensitive to what’s going on. But we’re also watching the development of our younger players at the minor league level. What I’m hopeful of is that at some point in the season…if we are not performing well with the current group, we will see several of our young players. But our younger players have to be healthy and have to be performing. It’s great to give young guys opportunities, but they have to be ready to seize it.
…Sounds like it Travis d’Arnaud had remained healthy, he would’ve been here. If not by now, extremely soon.
On the players who have struggled and what can be done:
We’re not gonna make moves for moves sake. What we’re trying to do is make calculated moves that will give us a chance to improve while at the same time not preventing us from doing something later in the season in terms of our longer term investment in players…[Shaun] Marcum hasn’t pitched well so far, Marcum had virtually no spring training. It’s unfortunate, but we are going to see him pitch on several more occasions…the rotation (problems) aren’t a matter of one (guy not performing), they’re a matter of three or four.
…Alderson has to defend his signing (Marcum). However, if Marcum is unable to perform over his next few starts, he has to be removed from the rotation. If the Mets aren’t ready to promote Zack Wheeler, let Collin McHugh have a shot.
On Jordany Valdespin and the team not protecting him (Francesa went off a bit, accusing the Mets of not protecting their player):
I don’t necessarily agree with that. First of all, Valdespin knew that (the hit by pitch) was coming…he was gonna have to hit in one of the two days, otherwise he’s not an asset for us…I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody that that’s what transpired. I don’t think it’s fair to say that since we didn’t hit one of the Pittsburgh hitters that he doesn’t have a friend. Valdepsin’s a very interesting player, we all know that. I think you’re assuming that Jordany has been taken at face value…he’s part of the Mets, he’s part of our team, and we have a responsibility to the entire team to make sure that he can become the best player he can be. This is not an attempt that we’ve simply made over the last few weeks or few months, it (his behavior) is something that’s been going on for years. The notion that he was hung out to dry I think is a mistake. Everything that goes on is not verbalized or overt within the media…I’m not telling you he’s the most popular guy in the clubhouse…but I don’t think he was hung out to dry.
Is there any help coming to fortify the roster?
It’s tough for me to say Mets fans should be more patient. I’m not seeking that kind of dispensation. I’m not happy the way the team has played either…at this particular juncture there’s not a lot that’s availbale to us. Some of the players who aren’t playing well have to play better. We can start jettisoning some of those players…but we have to decide if that’s best for us and the player. Take Ike Davis (descibred last years turnaround). At least what we have is some indication that what happened last year remains a possibility this year. I’m not asking anybody to be patient…the reality Is we’re probably gonna have to be more patient with guys like Ike and we have to hope like hell they perform again.
…a simple “no” would’ve sufficed here from Sandy.
Is the team close to elevating any pitchers or position players from the minor league system in the next 7-10 days?
Probably not. [Matt]Den dekker’s still hurt…the same is true at other spots. [Travis] d’Arnaud isn’t even gonna see a doctor until later this week. Under those circumstances, we’ve got to grin and bear it at this point.
Did he think things would be better than they are?
Any time you’ve gone 6-17 (over the last stretch of games), you feel things should’ve been better. I suffer through these games too…we’re not sitting on our hands, but we’ve got to think through everything we’re doing and sort of questioning everything we have done and are thinking going forward. That continues on a daily basis.
Regarding when Zack Wheeler could be called up:
(Alderson took a very long pause before answering)…What we wanna do is what we did with [Matt] Harvey, and that is to create the right moment for him to begin his major league career and have success from the outset and go forward. That doesn’t mean bringing him up in July (meaning he’d be up sooner)…but we have to have a comfort level. There never is gonna be 100 percent comfort. At some point our needs will be a factor, but bringing Zack Wheeler up here, does that create a second day out of five where fans will have interest in watching us play? Yes, but (that interest) won’t continue if he doesn’t pitch well…(over his last three starts) he’s pitched great with solid command as well as overall success, so we continue to monitor that. I think it’s unfair to him to view him as a savior…we want to make sure that he has the best chance to succeed and he’s not viewed as the savior of the Mets. Ultimately he’s gonna be a great, we hope, part of a very successful team. This is not about Super Two status, I can assure you.
…First of all, I don’t buy the fact that keeping Wheeler down isn’t about Super Two status. Second, I think the fact that Alderson alluded to him not wanting to promote Wheeler and have him be viewed as the “savior” means he wants things to calm down a bit before the promotion. Meaning, he’d like the team to start playing a bit better so Wheeler isn’t viewed as the be-all end-all when he’s promoted.
On the coaches and Manager being safe:
The communication is excellent…it’s not as if players have rejected the coaches. They’re working hard…this is not about anybody giving up or quitting. The communication and the tone in the clubhouse…look, they’re down, they’re not playing that well but the tone continues to be constructive and that’s important.
…Alderson didn’t answer the question, nor did I expect him to. Giving the coaches and manager a vote of confidence at this point just doesn’t make sense.