The feeling in Met Nation seems to be virtually unanimous—give the reigns to Sandy Alderson, let him hire a manager, get the Wilpons out of the room, and wait for the inevitable title.
Are we being a bit hasty?
Yes, the Oakland A’s from 1989-1991 were a great team. Three straight pennants, a World Series title, and publicity the Wilpons dream of.
But a close look at Alderson’s A’s tenure might be a bit illuminating.
He was the A’s GM from 1983-1997, a fifteen year period. The A’s had records over .500 in exactly five of those years, which included one fourth place finish amidst the four postseason appearances. In addition, those winning teams were led by the co-champions of steroid-inflated stats, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. How many other members of those great A’s teams were also using chemical enhancements?
Dave Stewart had been a mediocre journeyman pitcher who came alive at age 30 for four excellent years in Oakland from 1987-1990 and never did anything close to what he accomplished then before or after those four years. Those teams were undoubtedly loaded with talented players, but a close look shows that many of them had their best years during their time with the A’s, and often at advanced ages to be finally reaching their prime.
Does this mean they all were cheating? Absolutely not. But Canseco and McGwire were probably among the most successful cheaters in baseball’s steroid era, and much of what Canseco has said and written about those days—scoffed at at first—has turned out to be pretty accurate. Who knows how many others were also hiding in the bathroom stalls in Oakland Coliseum with syringes?
In addition, Alderson has not been an active GM since 1997. That’s a long time away from the game.
Would he be able to come right in, in a totally different era, and succeed? This is not Pat Gillick or Frank Cashen, who built more than one very successful team, and without the benefit of cheating stars.
The Mets have also been interviewing others, and a report this morning on Metsblog states that the Mets have asked permission to speak with Al Avila, Tigers Assistant GM, who was formerly with the Marlins’ scouting department. The Marlins’ scouting department? Hmmm. This man supposedly was responsible for drafting Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, and signing Miguel Cabrera.
A key figure from baseball’s best scouting department, coming to the Mets with their payroll and presence? To this writer, this sounds far more intriguing than asking Sandy Alderson to re-create success from over two decades ago, which was achieved in a far different sports world.
Another issue is the sabermetrics debate. Alderson is often credited with being at the forefront of the movement later championed by his successor Billy Beane, which wisely shifted some of the statistical focus of player evaluation. While this cannot be understated, it is also no longer a revolutionary movement or a secret; everyone uses OBP and SLG rather than simply BA and HR to judge players nowadays.
In addition to Avila, the Mets have interviewed Rick Hahn, currently the White Sox VP and Assistant GM, who is very highly regarded and has been named among the very best GM candidates in the game by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Hahn has diverse experience, as a contract negotiator, player evaluator, and statistician. He started as an agent, has studied advanced statistics, and fully understands sabermetrics and the most esoteric advanced stats used today.
Sandy Alderson clearly was a successful GM, a long time ago. He would be coming to the Mets with the clear endorsement of Bud Selig. Is this the right candidate?
It says here that the Mets should give very long, very serious consideration to men like Al Avila and Rick Hahn. As the people who scream for a GM and a manager with “experience” often easily forget, every single great MLB GM and manager at one time was in their very first job as an MLB GM or manager.
Let’s hope the Wilpons seriously consider what a man like Al Avila, from the best scouting department on the planet, could do if he was able to find another group like Beckett, AGonz, Cabrera and others and actually be able to keep them. Or what a universally highly regarded guy like Rick Hahn could do if given full control over a team with a large budget and huge resources.
Let’s not rush to judgment on Sandy Alderson due to his record of success with one team two long decades ago, which was clearly fueled at least in part by PEDs.