The hiring of Sandy Alderson is truly a moment for Met fans to rejoice.
While this space and others have questioned the seeming slam-dunk certainty of Alderson’s ability to repeat the successful period he had in Oakland two decades ago, this is far from the point today.
Alderson’s A’s teams, as has been pointed out, while winning three pennants and a title, only had five winning years in his fifteen year tenure as A’s GM. His draft record was far from spectacular. And the A’s were among the pioneers of the steroid/PED era of baseball.
Of course, Alderson did lead the team to three consecutive pennants, a rare feat in any era, and also was a leader in the revolutionizing of baseball statistical analysis.
Despite the heavy evidence on both sides of a reasonable argument as to whether Alderson is a great choice in terms of on-field issues, other concerns are more noteworthy at this juncture.
Many quarters have long lambasted Met ownership for being too “hands-on.” Of course, had we seen more than one playoff appearance in the last decade, this feeling would be significantly mollified. However, with one of the game’s largest payrolls in the Omar Minaya era, which resulted in one postseason appearance and one playoff series win, followed by two collapses, which were in turn followed by two disastrous losing years, the thought among many—if not most—fans is that it is time for the Wilpons to step back, hire a Frank Cashen, and wait for a title.
Perhaps we have seen just that.
Regardless of what Alderson achieves, optimism must be felt at his being selected.
First off, he clearly will be far from the least expensive choice. With his record, resume, and stature in the game, he surely demanded a healthy salary.
In addition, and perhaps most importantly, Alderson is not coming here to be overseen by the owner’s son.
Had the team wanted someone who could be overruled and heavily watched, they would not have chosen Alderson.
Sandy Alderson is an ex-Marine, a Vietnam Vet, and a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard Law School. Through his relationship with a colleague at his law firm, he became the A’s general counsel in 1981 and GM in 1983, serving for 15 seasons. When new ownership reduced payroll, Alderson helped pioneer the use of modern sabermetrics and was a key figure in modernizing baseball’s statistical analysis of players.
After leaving the A’s he worked in the office of the commissioner, and most recently was a lecturer at Cal Berkeley.
In short, an incredibly diverse and impressive resume. Not a man who is going to take orders from Jeff Wilpon, whose words and public persona generally support the idea that there is precisely one reason why he holds the position he has. Sandy Alderson is the diametric opposite of this kind of man.
The hiring of Sandy Alderson appears to finally put to rest the idea that the Wilpons will never step back and let a successful person of stature run the team independently. Surely this hiring means that the days of mysteriously wondering why a player like Oliver Perez is allowed to literally hold the team hostage are over. Surely this hiring means that an employee like Tony Bernazard will not be allowed to run amok and practically terrorize the team’s minor leaguers. Surely this hiring means that every aspect of the team’s horrifying record of training and recovery from injuries will be revamped totally. Surely this hiring means that the days of lax spring trainings and the team getting out of the gate like a horse dragging an anvil are a thing of the past.
The past four seasons’ results from a highly-paid team studded with veteran stars has bred a very understandable and stubborn streak of pessimism in Met Nation. It will take a sea change of attitude on the field and in the front office to alter this. However, the first step seems to be one which can be reasonably interpreted as the one every fan wanted to see the most—the Wilpons have hired the candidate who clearly represents independence and a break from the past.
All of the other candidates were younger and far less experienced. Maybe one of them becomes the next Cashen or the next Gillick. This is certainly what was hoped for when the team hired Omar Minaya.
Hiring Sandy Alderson can be debated in terms of his overall record with the A’s and his long time away from hands-on control of a team.
What cannot be debated is that the Wilpons made a bold and brave choice, which for the foreseeable future thankfully puts to rest the idea that they are not willing to spend and that they are not willing to relinquish control.
Here’s hoping that Alderson is able to bring tangible improvement on the field. His presence has already shown that the Wilpons are indeed willing to spend and to cede control. This is the ideal first step towards a return to contention.