AUTHOR’S NOTE: This piece was prepared for publication prior to the tragic news about Mr. Alderson’s father. All of us at TRDMB send our sincere condolences to the Alderson family. Every fan understands that baseball activities most certainly take a back seat to family issues at a time like this.
With apologies to Thomas Paine, the last four years have indeed been times that have tried Met fans’ souls.
The end of the 2006 NLCS was a time many viewed as similar to the end of 1984 or 1985, or even 1999—difficult moments to be sure, but times which clearly signaled better days ahead.
Without rehashing the last four years, we can surely agree that they have not been better times.
It now appears that the days in the baseball wilderness are over; a new sheriff and his impressive deputies are in town.
Sandy Alderson’s record, as this space has discussed, is mixed; but he did create a championship team, his overall resume is extremely impressive, and his moves thus far must be construed by even the most demanding fan as showing a man who, while firmly in charge, is clearly someone who is hugely self-confident and devoted to change.
Hiring two relatively young deputies who have both been GMs in Paul DePodesta and J.P.Ricciardi shows the trait many very successful people have—hire the best you can as assistants and don’t fear their ambition; use their expertise to better the organization you lead.
Jettisoning Takahashi after reports of his somewhat comical salary demands was a fine move. Yes, at first glance this may seem similar to Omar’s letting Oliver and Bradford go after 2006. But it’s not. This team is not truly ready to contend, and while the 2007 and 2008 teams surely could have used Oliver and Bradford, the 2011 team will not miss the postseason because of one less bullpen arm after KRod.
Letting deadwood like Santos and Hessman go also must be applauded. A team in this state does not need very marginal major leaguers stealing playing time from valuable youngsters in Binghamton or Buffalo.
Meetings with Beltran and Castillo appear to signal a hopeful reaching out to these players; aging, injury-prone veterans approaching the last years of their deals. Hopefully Alderson will make clear that this will now be a team with a dedication to team play. That if the team deems that Beltran should be in right, and if the team feels that Castillo should be a bench player—and should be ON the bench and findable when needed—that these will be the only acceptable courses of action. A team in the position of the Mets, after two straight disaster years with giant payrolls, has no room for the type of me-first whining exhibited by Castillo and Francoeur last season.
Firing Charlie Samuels also was an unfortunate, but necessary move. Like Tony Bernazard, it appears as though Samuels’ behavior—while ultimately not as destructive as Bernazard’s—may have merited his dismissal long ago. The new sheriff is clearing the decks and making people aware that a new, more demanding regime is in place.
All of this seems to make clear that we will not be seeing the pathologically selfish Oliver Perez virtually force the team to play with a 24-man roster any longer. Ollie’s recent winter ball outings appear to suggest that he is still facing the consequences of being a scatter-armed, undisciplined pitcher without serious secondary pitches whose fastball tops out at 89 mph. Ollie surely will have to somehow magically regain the ability to throw 93-94 pretty quickly, or he will be given the release fans have been demanding.
The managerial search has been educational as well. Alderson is taking his time, and doing the right thing. Interviewing all sorts: fan favorites like Backman; Melvin and Collins, both twice managers with some success; ex-Met Hurdle; holdovers Jauss and Hale; and more. Perhaps the speculation regarding Collins and Melvin shows that Alderson sees this underachieving group as needing an experienced taskmaster. After the issues ranging from pregame card-playing on a high-paid losing team, to the selfishness exhibited by Castillo, Perez, and others, to the general vibe of contentment with losing, this approach may indeed prove to be most wise and welcomed.
The feeling here is that we have a new regime which is experienced, confident, strong, patient, and determined not to be swayed by the fans or the parasites which make up the mainstream media. This is wonderful.
Alderson knows that in the short run the team is largely hamstrung by what the last regime left behind. The contracts of Beltran, Ollie, and Castillo must go before this team can seriously spend on new established players. It is fine to be “optimistic” but let’s face it, some observers probably would have picked the 1965 or 1980 teams to make playoff runs or insisted that the 2003 team was “a player away.”
Alderson realizes that this is a team in transition; this is a far better word than “rebuilding” to be sure. The trio of albatross contracts, when combined with the commitments to Johan, KRod, Bay, Wright, and Reyes, make the 2011 payroll $100 million plus for starters. In addition, the team simply must give promising kids like Thole, Ike, Niese, and Parnell all of 2011 to see what they truly are. In 2011 Pagan must show if he is June and July’s borderline all star, or August and September’s borderline major leaguer. The team also must see if Reyes is ready to again be the 2006—2008 Jose, or if he is now the 2010 Jose. Players like Mejia, Gee, Tejada, Duda, and Nieuwenhuis must be given another year to be correctly evaluated to see what sort of potential they have to be Mets or valuable trade chips.
Overall, this approach is not only reasonable, but should be applauded.
The team is not a player or two away; it is almost certainly a year or two away. We should be thankful that Alderson is experienced enough to see this. He clearly is not “giving up” on 2011, as fans who acknowledge the clear reality of the team’s current state often are accused of doing. He understands that the team last year—on and off the field—was a mediocre bunch in all ways. Arrogant, self-satisfied, lazy, and utterly resistant to change or improvement–this is all as important as WAR or UZR or OPS. He needs a year to evaluate what he has and to wait for payroll flexibility to re-emerge.
Surely if the trade deadline approaches and the team is in first place by 5 games, then Alderson will make deadline moves to shore up for a playoff push. But this is not likely.
What is likely is that the new sheriff and his impressive staff will carefully, patiently evaluate the entire organization, and see who is ready to play what will be the new brand of Met-style winning baseball, much as Frank Cashen did in the early 1980s. It took four years for Cashen to turn the mess he inherited into a winning, contending team. The feeling here is that it certainly won’t take that long this time, as Alderson inherits players like Johan Santana and David Wright, and players loaded with the potential to rebound to all-star form like Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. He also has possibly valuable trade pieces in Carlos Beltran and many minor leaguers. In addition, the team is blessed by wealthy ownership who, despite the inane criticism they receive on this front, indeed do spend a lot of money and surely will again when the trio of albatrosses fly away freeing up $35 million plus.
Hiring Alderson and letting him bring in two such high-profile assistants should quell the criticism of Wilpon meddling and commitment to winning for quite a while.
We have a managerial choice yet to critique, the winter meetings, the shape Ollie and Slappy report to Florida in and myriad other issues ahead of us to dissect and evaluate, but the early signs certainly seem to be bright for Met Nation (sorry Rusty!!)
We have a new sheriff in town – a strong, confident, patient, independent man who clearly is in it for the long haul, and appears most dedicated to surrounding himself with quality and strength; ready to remake a most colorful organization into the successful one it once was.