Is Sandy Alderson Rebuilding Over A Sinkhole?


Three years into this construction project, either a close inspection reveals the new House of Wilpon has massive cracks in its foundation, or I’m just getting cranky and worn down by a lengthy rebuilding process.  With the end of another Mets season looming, I question whether Sandy Alderson’s continuing efforts are still being undermined by the previous administration.

Rewind just a bit and let us revisit former GM Omar Minaya’s original plan.  By and large, the big name contracts of Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and a host of other players, pitchers and stop-gap acquisitions were due to expire somewhere within the same two year window of each other.  By then, a new crop of home grown minor league prospects would have ideally been ready to step in.  Of the expiring veteran contracts, decisions would be made as to which the club would retain, and which to let go.  The new hybrid Mets would then move forward.

Aug 27, 2013; Flushing , NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks at a press conference before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

After the collapse of 2007, continuing failures, including ruinous injuries and ownership’s dire financial situation due to the Bernard Madoff mess, dramatically altered the plan and forced the organization’s hand.  However, in the midst of a rapidly deteriorating situation, Omar and Jeff Wilpon never dared to utter such a disconcerting word as rebuilding.  But that’s exactly where the Mets were headed entering the 2010 season.

What started as a drip with Mike Pelfrey in 2006/07 turned into a trickle by 2008 with the arrivals of Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and Jonathon Niese.  By 2010, the minor leaguers were being pressed into hasty mass production.  Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee and a few others were all thrust into major league service.  Only then did Sandy Alderson assume control of the organization and inherit a group of young players the Mets would be forced to continue forward with.

Two players are already gone from the equation.  Mike Pelfrey made his major league debut in 2006, but didn’t take root until the 2007 season.  Pelfrey was a frustrating underachiever, and in November of 2012 was granted free agency by Sandy Alderson.  Josh Thole broke in with the Mets in 2009, and with no competition, caught the majority of games over the next three years.  Back to back .300 seasons in the minors didn’t translate in the big leagues for him.  The inadequately light-hitting catcher was eventually included in the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto.

The others named are still here.  As such, the Mets have a major decision to make regarding Daniel Murphy‘s future.  In short time, he will be eligible to become a free agent.  He has no shortage of fans and supporters.  However,  Murphy continues to be somewhat of an offensive enigma.  His upcoming situation in particular revolves around money and the open market.  How much should the Mets realistically invest into a career .290 hitter who averages 10 home runs, 40 doubles and 70 runs batted in?  Despite missing a whole season to injury, Murphy has arguably been the most consistent player (listed here) Omar Minaya left behind.

After finally coming into his own this season as a closer, Bobby Parnell will be undergoing neck surgery to correct a herniated disk.  Previous auditions didn’t go smoothly for him.  Otherwise, leading up to this season, the eighth inning suited him very well.  He’s always had dynamite velocity, and this season finally honed his knuckle-curve.  Parnell is expected to be ready for spring training, but nothing is certain when it comes to recovery after surgery.

Jonathon Niese rounds out the short list of pre-2010 prospects to crack the Mets.  The club and fans, myself included, were expecting a breakout season from Niese.  Last year he posted a 13-9 record with a 3.40 ERA.  This year, the hopes were he’d improve to 15 wins with maybe a 3.25 ERA.  To some, he may not seem far off, but he isn’t there yet.  In fact, partly due to injury, this season was a step backwards.  For the moment, he owns a 6-7 record with a 3.86 ERA after 20 starts.  The left hander is one of the few Mets with a secure financial future, having recently signed a substantial multi-year contract.

The Class of 2010 has not fared as successfully.  They have posed numerous, as yet unanswered questions.  Chief among them are what to do with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.  The debate has raged all season and we still have no resolution.  If anything, the predicament regarding the two has worsened.  They were expected to be middle of the lineup hitters, and team leading sluggers by now.  At present, they are nothing of the kind.

Ruben Tejada, 23, is back at shortstop.  He was finally released from the doghouse Wednesday night against the Nationals, but the Eye of Alderson will continue to focus on him throughout the month.  To hear Sandy Alderson speak of his diminutive shortstop is to know how upset the organization is with Tejada’s work ethic, attitude, and lack of dedication to his craft.  He’ll apparently get a fair shake to dispel that profile, or find himself gone from the organization altogether.  It’s ponderous, that in the blink on an eye, he went from being a refreshing replacement for Jose Reyes to being put on notice by upper management.

In Jenrry Mejia‘s case, I feel he’s been partly the victim of organizational indecision.  Flip-flopping between starting and closing could have played a part in his eventual breakdown.  Mejia recently had minor surgery to clean out bone chips from his elbow.  There is no reason to believe he can not rebound effectively after rehab – same goes for Jeurys Familia who recently got back on the mound for Vegas.

Dillon Gee just turned 24, and this season reached double digit wins for the second time in his third full season as a starter.  Last season was cut short due to emergency surgery, but he has rebounded well.  For the purposes of this discussion, Dillon Gee has been a good pitcher.  Not great, but good.

The particular situations of Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, and Bobby Parnell at current, are not serving the Mets’ best interests.  Neither are Jeremy Hefner‘s surgery and Matt Harvey‘s potential surgery.  Drafted just prior to his departure, Matt Harvey was the final piece Omar Minaya left behind.  As if Sandy Alderson didn’t already have enough holes to fill, these lingering issues stand to slow his progress, in what has already been a long, methodical plan.

Does the old adage – If you want things done right, sometimes you have to do things yourself – apply to Sandy Alderson?  As someone who’s paid particularly close attention to the Mets minor leagues these past few seasons, I know well the transformation New York’s various affiliates have undergone under Alderson.  This season from Brooklyn to Las Vegas, every team was in competition for postseason play, while four advanced.  The Savannah Sand Gnats are currently vying for a league championship.  As an organization, Savannah, St. Lucie, Binghamton and Las Vegas all finished well over .500 this season.  These days, the minors are largely stacked with Alderson’s players now, with remnants of Minaya’s players still sprinkled in.

But it is not time for Alderson’s generation yet.  Technically, he’s still not finished expunging the last one.  Are some of the players mentioned here keepers?  Sure.  Unfortunately, injuries always foil the best laid plans.  Nevertheless, the post-traumatic stress revisionist history of Omar Minaya continues.

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