The man in charge of bringing the Mets back to respectability is General Manager, Sandy Alderson. Alderson took the reigns from Omar Minaya in October of 2010, and spoke about running the team with transparency and integrity. More to come on that later. Alderson brought significant baseball experience with him to Queens. He became General Manager of the Oakland Athletics in 1981, at a time when the Athletics were referred to as the “boat people of baseball.” Alderson turned that franchise around, winning pennants in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and his only World Series in 1989. After an 8-year stint with Major League Baseball, Alderson took over the San Diego Padres, and won 2 division titles in 5 years. He then returned to Major League Baseball for a year, before joining the Mets.
Alderson has made some astute, future-oriented moves as Mets’ GM. He acquired Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran. It should be noted that Beltran has had two good years since being traded, and Wheeler has yet to throw a big-league pitch. However, all signs point to this being a good trade for New York. Sandy also seems to have fleeced the Blue Jays, getting four quality players for a struggling RA Dickey, and marginal major-leaguers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. Most of Alderson’s moves have centered on obtaining solid pitching. He has some very definite ideas about how to build an offense as well.
Alderson is very up front about his belief that the home run should be a primary offensive weapon. His successful Athletics teams rode that style of baseball to their success, with sluggers such as Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. After his first year as GM of the Mets, Alderson requested that Citi Field’s fences be brought in to allow for more home runs.
Opinion: The game is significantly different in 2013 than it was in 1988. In the late 1980s, baseball was entering its tainted era, when players, even some who had never shown such prowess before (Brady Anderson), were hitting home runs at record paces. Ballparks are bigger now, and recent champions (San Francisco, St. Louis) have not been close to leading their leagues in home runs. The pendulum seems to have shifted back to pitching. One is left to wonder if Alderson is applying an outdated philosophy to the current Mets. Terry Collins has expressed his opinion, that reliance on home runs leads to the alarming strikeout rate that the club is experiencing.
Let’s get back to transparency. Alderson has, with club support, done an outstanding job of connecting with the fans. He has joined the social media world, and done so with a sense of humor. The team does blogger events, during which Alderson interacts with bloggers and fans, answering questions and posing for pictures. Here is where Alderson becomes something of a salesman, a quintessential politician. He smiles, and tells people what they want to hear. Often, he may be finding ways to soft-sell difficult messages. However, this isn’t consistent with being transparent. Sophisticated fans figure this out, and then the salesman seems anything but transparent. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Late 2011, with Jose Reyes‘s free agency looming.
September 20, 2011: Alderson joins the broadcast booth during the Mets/Cardinals game. When asked about his off-season plans, he says signing Reyes is job one, two, and three. The next day Alderson is on WFAN with Mike Francesa, and reiterates his strong desire to re-sign Reyes. He calls October “the month of Reyes”. Earlier that season, after Reyes made it clear he would not negotiate in-season, Alderson states that he approached Reyes about a contract, and was rebuffed. After the 2011 season, Alderson never makes an offer to Reyes, and Reyes signs with the Marlins.
Opinion: Alderson never intended to sign Reyes. He made it seem that he did want to do so, to keep the fans quiet and attending games. He waited after the season, he waited a long time, until a team made an offer to Reyes. He then pointed to that offer and said it was too much. But how did he know what Reyes may have taken, since he never made an offer? Alderson sold the fans that he refused to over-pay for Reyes, when in reality, the organization knew Reyes did not fit the budget. Transparency?
Summer of 2012: The Mets are shocking the baseball world, at 6 games over .500. However, the bullpen is a severely weak spot, and the feeling is that if the bullpen can be shored up, the Mets could compete. Alderson says that he has “deployed his scouts to see what’s available”. He never makes a deal.
Opinion: This one is almost insulting. All teams have scouts all over baseball. Alderson knew who was available, but had no intention of investing a penny in the 2012 Mets. The “scout deployment” was a ruse to buy time, time for the Mets to fade. Alderson wanted the need to make a move fade away also. The Mets sadly accommodated. The fans were briefly silenced, and distracted by the crumbling team. But later, Alderson incurred some wrath, as people sensed that the organization didn’t believe in its own team. Transparency?
May 13th on WFAN, Alderson says that Wheeler’s arrival in New York will be the result of a “confluence of factors”. He indicates that “Super Two” status for Wheeler is a very minor factor.
Opinion: Also on May 13th, reports came out that several major-league sources say that the Mets will call Wheeler up in mid June to avoid Super Two status. I’m going with the major-league sources.
Turning to other current matters, Alderson is being called on the carpet for some curious moves. Here are two of them.
Mets recall Shaun Marcum in April.
Opinion: Marcum is not doing well, and Alderson and Collins point to Marcum’s lack of innings in spring training due to injury. Marcum is in spring training in the major leagues, in games that count. Why isn’t Marcum in Las Vegas or Binghampton, getting his innings there, while Collin McHugh, pitching well in Vegas, gets a shot in New York?
Juan Lagares is in the major leagues. Alderson says on WFAN that Lagares is not ready.
Opinion: Why is Lagares being allowed to struggle, and play part-time, in New York? Yes, Lagares can play defense. But he’s in over his head at the plate. What value is coming from watching him fail, when he could play in Vegas and work on his offensive skills? Collin Cowgill could be with the big club. Yes, he was not hitting, and was sent down. Lagares doesn’t hit either, and needs time to develop. Why does Alderson call up players who, by his own words, are not ready?
Alderson has to be given adequate time to rebuild this organization, as any GM would when rebuilding any organization. The usual time frame is 5 years, so Alderson is entitled to at least 2 more years. However, improvement needs to start soon, since the current version of the Mets is worse than the version he inherited. One thing is for sure, the fans are watching Alderson-and the clock.
Commentary from Danny Abriano:
I agree with the majority of the piece, but I have to chime in on two issues: the Reyes situation, and Alderson’s comments regarding Zack Wheeler and Super Two status.
As far as Reyes is concerned, it needs to be pointed out that although the Mets didn’t fax Reyes’ agents an official offer, Sandy Alderson made it known that the Mets were willing to give Reyes a guaranteed five year deal that would’ve approached $100 million if the sixth year option kicked in. Whether or not that offer was on paper is a matter of semantics. The Mets made it known what they were willing to offer and Reyes had no interest. There’s no reason to claim Alderson was lying during the season or being intentionally misleading. If you recall, the Mets were still in the middle of the Bernard Madoff mess when it was time to pony up for Reyes. So, even if Alderson wanted to outbid Miami, ownership would’ve likely vetoed it due to a lack of funds.
On the Zack Wheeler/Super Two stuff not being a factor regarding Wheeler’s promotion date, Alderson is probably full of it. However, stating that Super Two isn’t a factor is something he has to say. If Alderson intimated that the Mets were keeping Wheeler down because of financial reasons, the players uni0n would go insane.
Now, Alderson and the lieutenants he brought in have made a few tremendous trades (one for Wheeler, the other for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra). They’ve held on to their valuable minor league chips. They extended David Wright long term. Aside from that, the players they’ve brought in have been incredibly underwhelming and a collective disappointment. Beginning next year, Alderson and Co. will be judged. If there aren’t major strides made, it’ll be time to consider a change at the top.