The word has gotten out and now everyone knows. When it comes to walks, Mets GM Sandy Alderson is a ball buster. To quote Mike Puma’s article in the NY Post: “After a spring training in which manager Terry Collins was ‘yelled at five times a day’ by front office personnel about the team’s offensive approach, according to a club source, the Mets are again showing the kind of selectivity at the plate that has been a hallmark of general manager Sandy Alderson’s career.”
Scene: A few hours before game time outside the Mets locker room. Sandy Alderson storms down the hallway, fuming. He sees the broad back of a player up ahead, and in a hoarse voice, shouts:
John Buck (stops walking — oh, the irony! — and turns): Oh, hi, Mr. Alderson. What’s up?
Alderson: I’ve been meaning to talk you about your play this season.
Buck (smiles): Just doing my job, trying to help the team —
Alderson: Help the team? HELP THE TEAM??!!
Buck (confused): Um, yeah —
Alderson: I know you’re new around here, Buck, so maybe you didn’t get the memo. The team philosophy is about taking pitches, working counts, getting bases on balls.
Buck (hangs head): I’m sorry, Mr. Alderson. It’s just when I see a fat pitch —
Alderson: DON’T BE A FOOL, BUCK!
Buck: There’s no reason to yell.
Alderson (waving paper): I’m staring at the stat sheet, buddy. And it’s time you GET WITH THE PROGRAM! You’ve gone up to the plate 51 times so far this season and only gotten one walk!
Buck (eyes light up): Yeah, but I’ve been pounding the baseball. Look at the stat sheet, sir. Six homers, nineteen ribbies. This is the best I’ve hit in my life!
Alderson (grits teeth, annoyed): Baseball is a game of walks! That’s the key to the cunundrum, my friend. Now riddle me this: You go up to the plate, first pitch, fastball down the middle. What do you do?
Buck: I mash?
Alderson: No, you take that pitch. It discombobulates the opposition! Look at Nieuwenhuis, you’ve got to take that pitch down the middle if it comes early in the count. So far the team is at 3.99 pitches per AB, the league average last season was 3.84. We’re up by .15. Eat that, Brian Sabean!
Buck: I’m not sure those are the numbers that count, sir.
Alderson: Another thing, Buck. You make too much contact! Only six strikeouts, that’s part of your problem. Do the math, if you strike out, that’s three pitches right there. One ball off the plate and you are a team leader! At the rate you’ve been going, we’ll never reach Dave Hudgens’ team goal of 150 pitches per game!
Buck (shakes head): I don’t know, I was thinking that if we got hits —
Alderson: You’re on the Mets now, got it? We want to lead the league in pitches seen per at bat.
Buck: That’s a real statistic?
Alderson: It’s why — we play — the game. Look at Ike Davis.
Buck: I know, poor Ike, hitting only .146. He’s been struggling.
Alderson: Struggling? He’s walked seven times already! He’s on pace for 84 walks. Fifth in the NL in pitcher per plate appearance. Everyone in the organization is thrilled. HE’S EXTENDING INNINGS!
Buck: So when that fat pitch comes, you want me to just stand there?
Alderson: You aren’t JUST standing there, Buck, you are exhausting the pitcher. You are making him work! You are wearing him down to a FRAZZLE! Look at Mike Baxter in the second inning of yesterday’s game against Jon Garland. He took five pitches in a row, the bat never left his shoulder — that’s what I’m talking about!
Buck: He struck out looking.
Alderson: Are you thick in the head, Buck? Take more pitches!
Buck: I’m not a stat guy, but don’t hitters do worse when they are behind in the count?
Alderson: Are you questioning me? Look at all the great teams in history? High pitch counts! I’ve been yelling at Terry Collins on this subject five times a day, every day!
Buck: I know, he’s a little shell shocked. Terry’s been blinking a lot lately.
Alderson: It’s his own damn fault! I gave him the players, NOW I WANT RESULTS!
Buck: Poor, Terry. He just wants to be loved.
Alderson: You know what I love, Buck? WALKS!
Buck: What about — um, I was wondering if — did you ever consider that maybe DEFENSE was important?
Alderson: Defense? What the hell?!
Buck: Yeah, you know, like guys catching the ball? Does that ever come up in your conversations?
Alderson: Listen to me, Buck. I’ll sick J.P. Ricciardi on you. He’s a goddamn attack dog.
Buck (sighs): Okay, sir. Swing less. I’ll try.
Alderson: I’m watching you, Buck, and believe me, get those walks up or I’m trading you out of here before you can spell d-A-R-N-A-U-D.
Buck: Isn’t he injured?
Alderson: He’s in a walking boot. Hear me? WALKING . . . BOOT. Emphasis on WALKING.
Buck: Noted, sir. But it’s hard when I see those juicy pitches, the ones that flutter in like balloons over the plate, and I just want to mash, you know, just freaking kill that ball — pulverize it to dust –
Alderson: You’re a sick individual, Buck. I’m worried about your attitude.
Buck: I’ll try to do better, Mr. Alderson. But if I start taking too many pitches, worrying about getting yelled at for swinging, it might not help me as a hitter. Look at Kirk! The kid is afraid to swing. He goes up there trembling. Now he takes balls down the pipe, every at bat he’s in a hole. He’s dead meat for those major league pitchers.
Alderson: Kirk is fine, right up there with the team leaders in pitches per AB. Why, he walked just the other day.
Buck: Um, he had three hits all of Spring Training. He’s messed up.
Alderson: Messed up? You’re the one who is messed up, Buck. One walk! YOU’RE KILLING THE TEAM. Get with the program, Buck, or we’re bringing Thole back. Now there’s a guy who could keep the bat on his shoulder!
[Terry Collins steps into the hall, his head swivels to see Alderson. Collins immediately blanches, visibly shrinks, cowers and covers his face with his hands like a young child “hiding” in a game of hide-and-seek.]
Alderson (points a finger, rushes forward): Collins! COLLINS!!! I CAN SEE YOU HIDING THERE!!!!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT MURPHY? He ranks 88th in the National League with only 3.36 pitches per at-bat! He’s killing us . . .
Collins (bleats): He’s hitting .352, slugging over .600, it seems like —
Alderson: You need to drink some SHUT-UP JUICE, Mister!