Last night at Citi Field, Sandy Alderson and his top lieutenants held a Q & A with a group of season ticket holders. With all that was said, the most repeated and dissected quote was the one where Alderson stated that it was he (not Fred or Jeff Wilpon) who was fully responsible for the Mets’ lack of lavish spending this winter. Before we delve into that quote, let’s jump into the DeLorean and go back to late August.
On August 26th, Alderson attended another Q & A. Unlike last night’s event that was held in the Caesar’s club, the one in August was staged outside. I was in attendance. It was hot, incredibly muggy, and some fans didn’t hold back when quizzing Alderson on his plan and/or bashing him for what he’d yet to accomplish. Alderson was forthright, but nothing that he said that day led me to believe that the Mets were about to assemble an immediate contender.
August 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks about pitcher Johan Santana (not pictured) during a press conference before a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
That day, Alderson noted that the payroll for 2013 would likely be about the same (or a bit higher) than the payroll was in 2012. He spoke of the need to resolve the David Wright and R.A. Dickey situations before the season, and he let the fans have their say without getting defensive.
Fast forward to today. The payroll is around what it was last season, and will likely get higher with the potential addition of Brian Wilson or another late inning reliever, and/or Michael Bourn. The Wright and Dickey situations have been settled. Wright was signed to an extension, Dickey was dealt for high-end talent.
Alderson still has lots of work to do, and I’m not satisfied with the current state out the outfield. Still, I don’t think the absence of new faces in the outfield was for lack of trying. Alderson engaged Arizona in talks for Justin Upton, and the Diamondbacks refused to deal with the Mets without Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler being part of the package. He engaged the Royals in an attempt to obtain Wil Myers, but couldn’t reel him in. Alderson set out to improve the outfield, and he failed. I questioned his effort and desire to improve the club earlier in the offseason (before the Dickey trade), and was probably a bit hasty with that initial assessment. As things currently stand, I just don’t see his failure to improve the outfield as an indictment of his effort or his plan.
Some fans are angry simply because no medium or high profile outfielders have been brought in. Alderson tried the trade route and failed, so the outfielders the fans so crave would’ve arrived via free agency. Nevermind who those players would’ve been or the money they would’ve eaten up. The fans wanted new faces for the sake of it. That line of thinking is severely flawed, and is exactly what got the Mets into trouble in the first place. Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog addressed the issue earlier today, and I found this quote to be especially interesting:
"…why is he [Alderson] seemingly so against giving long-term deals to older, mid-level, role players, especially at time when he’s goofing on his own outfield? Cody Ross and Scott Hairston are not All Stars, but combined they could have been under contract for the next two to three years, earning a collective $10 to $12 million or so, and likely contributing three or four extra wins over the course of a year. They’re not the difference between a pennant race and a terrible season, but they would have at least bridged the gap to a better outfield, not to mention let Alderson save face by putting a complete, major-league team on the field. These guys would not have cost draft picks. They wouldn’t interfere with the long-term plan in a significant way. They didn’t cost huge money, especially when considering how much is coming off the books after next year. And, at the very least, Hairston and Ross could have shifted to the bench in the event better outfielders emerge down the road."
Cerrone first asked why Alderson was against giving out “long-term deals to older, mid-level role players.” I think the answer is apparent. Alderson wanted to improve the outfield through trade. He sought to add a young, high upside outfielder who could help in both 2013 and beyond. It didn’t happen.
Cerrone then mentioned both Scott Hairston and Cody Ross as players Alderson could have signed. Alderson made it clear a few weeks ago that the Mets were reluctant to sign Hairston because he viewed himself as an everyday player while the Mets did not. That settles that. Ross is a different story. Cerrone not only advocated bringing Ross in, but said the motive for doing so would’ve been partly for Alderson to “save face.” He went on to say that Ross could’ve been “shifted to the bench in the event better outfielders emerge down the road.”
I like Matt, I respect Matt, and I agree with him on a lot of Mets related topics. His thoughts on the Mets and Cody Ross, though, left me scratching my head.
First of all, any General Manager who acquires a player in an attempt to “save face” is doing their job incorrectly. Secondly, Cody Ross signed a 3 year deal worth $26 million dollars. You don’t hand out a contract of that magnitude if your goal is to find someone better and relegate the player you just signed to the bench. It makes no sense.
Here’s part of what Alderson said last night in response to the lack of free agent moves:
"“The reason we haven’t spent the money is not because of Fred Wilpon, it’s because of me.”"
Some fans saw that quote and immediately claimed that Alderson was falling on the sword for ownership. There’s two reasons why I don’t think the above assessment is accurate. For one, I simply don’t view Alderson as anyone’s pawn. If there were severe payroll restraints, he likely would’ve deflected the question instead of indicting himself in an attempt to direct the ire away from ownership. Secondly, the team is still pursuing Brian Wilson and Michael Bourn. I firmly believe that if the Mets are able to keep their first round pick (11th overall) that they’ll sign Bourn.
Here’s my position and my question to Mets fans:
In my opinion, it’s alright for Alderson to state that he’s unhappy with the current outfield situation without him getting attacked for not fixing it quickly enough. He had two options last night. The first was to look some of the most knowledgeable fans in baseball in the eye and lie through his teeth…to wax poetic about the unearthed potential of players like Collin Cowgill and Andrew Brown, and assure the fans that the situation was lovely. His second option, which he took, was to be honest and take the heat. In his comments, Alderson noted that he could’ve spent money on the outfield, but elected not to. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take honesty with a plan over a liar whose motive is to appease the fans at any cost.