Okay, Mike. Maybe this is too broad a category, but let’s look at the “5 Best Things That Sandy Alderson Has Done for the Mets So Far.”
I don’t think there’s been a total of 5 transactions, so broader concepts such as “Improve the Farm System” or “Patience” or “Provide Stability” should apply.
Hell, I think “Have a Plan” should be in the discussion. In the sense that, like it or not, the Mets are establishing an identity, not only on the field but also in the management group.
A year and a half ago, we ranked the “10 Best Trades in Mets History.” In doing so, we intentionally left out the Wheeler, Syndergaard/d’Arnaud, and Herrera/Black transactions as too soon, the results still unknown. I think for this conversation, those trades are strong candidates.
Let’s just talk about some things, then carve up a list down at the bottom.
One thing he proved is he is a willing and able tap dancer. In fact, Sandy has been remarkably light on his feet for a man of his age. When Alderson took over, all hell had already broken loose financially for the teams owners. They had massive debt, a high payroll, and had lost a ton of capital to Bernie Madoff. Given the situation, winning baseball games was not the priority of Sandy’s employers, it was financial survival. Here is a quote from Rick Hahn, alluding to it all when he was bypassed for the job in October of 2010:
“All things considered — including several factors unique to the Mets current situation — I certainly understand the decision to go in another direction.”
Yet Sandy gamely portrayed the ongoing situation as nothing more than a normal baseball rebuild and for a long time many people believed this to be true. As aggravating as the verbal sleight of hand might be to some of us, it allowed Fred, Saul, and Jeff valuable time to rebuild some of their balance sheet. Better yet, due to his association to the Billy Beane mythology, many fans believed the 2010 – 2012 Mets might compete for the playoffs against all odds, with faith that our new front office could overcome any budgetary obstacles that might be in the way. Because of all this, attendance and ratings did not crater quickly, as it was not yet understood that star players such as Jose Reyes had no chance of remaining Mets. Sandy works for the Wilpons, and he delivered on this big time for them.
Shrug. Okay, you are correct about that, but I think he’s accomplished more substantive things than that. Unlike many others, I’ve never been one to give him credit for fiscal responsibility, since he never had a choice in the matter. You can’t spend what you don’t have. I look at the Mets today, late in 2014, as being on the cusp as a legitimate playoff contender. Alderson has added, through trade, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. It’s not hard to imagine those boys winning playoffs games. Folks are raving about the farm system. If there is a way to win at under $90 million a year, I think this is the way. He deserves credit for that.
The team is developing successful pitchers at a rate that we have not seen since the days of Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, and Ryan. I have reminded people from time-to-time that Sandy didn’t draft or sign any of these players, but acquiring young pitchers is only one step. Harvey, Wheeler, Familia, Mejia, and now deGrom have all been brought along during Sandy’s tenure. The cupboard does not appear bare yet, either, with Syndergaard, Montero, and Matz all pitching very well in the high minors.
Yes, many of those names originated from Omar’s time. Even acquiring d’Arnaud and Syndergaard was a direct result from Omar’s prescient signing R. A. Dickey, just as the big money contract on Beltran helped bring Zack Wheeler to the Mets. But we are also beginning to see signs of actual strength with position players, and these are guys that Sandy has directly acquired: Smith at 1B, Herrera at 2B, Rosario at SS, Plawecki at C, Nimmo and Conforto in the OF. We know full well that prospects falter and fail at a stunning rate, but every one of those names looks like a potential full-time ML regular.
And I have to say, damn, if he did not turn Marlon Byrd and John Buck into Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. Yes, the jury is still out on those guys, but Herrera is a very young player at AA and he’s killing it. Black might not last, and at the same time, he could become an important piece of the Mets bullpen for the next 3-4 years. Almost every move, it seems, has been at the expense of today in favor of a future tomorrow. Well, don’t look now, but it seems like the sun is beginning to rise on the horizon.
What about the biggest financial deal Sandy made since he’s been here? That’s correct, signing David Wright. Where does that fit into his list of accomplishments?
I think that is a major one. Reyes and Wright were sold to the fanbase as the absolute cornerstones of this franchise, yet due to Madoff, Reyes was not retained. As this rebuild is going on the team still needs to operate and sell tickets and jerseys, and give people a reason to watch SNY. Keeping David was as close to mandatory as any signing ever was. Despite this, Sandy negotiated a very good deal. When you look at what players signed for this offseason when Wright would have hit the market, Alderson did well.
Okay, here’s a list of potential choices for our Top Five.
- Trading for Syndergaard/d’Arnaud/Buccera.
- Trading for Herrera/Black.
- Signing David Wright
- Tap Dancing
- Trading for Zack Wheeler
- Implementing and Sticking with “The Plan”
- Building the Farm System
- Thinking Long Range
- Stabilizing the Franchise
- Properly Building a Bullpen
- Implementing a System-Wide Approach to Hitting
- Giving the Mets an Identity
There are probably others. So, what do you think? Do you have a Top Five?
I would pick the two I mentioned above for sure, the Tap Dancing, and Wright. I know you shrugged at the first one, and I get that. Nothing about that is appealing to us as fans. But he did make his bosses money those first two years as it took a lot of people that long to figure out what the hell was going on. It wasn’t just that he didn’t spend, yes, that was easy. It was how good a job he did of convincing people he would, that spending was right around the corner. The guy could be a politician. It’s a skill, and not many people possess it. I don’t think Omar could have pulled it off.
I’m also pleased with how he has built the bullpen around young, hard-throwing pitchers. That’s three. I would combine his dump trades into one category, and call it “Effective Divestitures.” It has been a consistent strength. A big strength, by the way, if I’m ordering this list it goes to the top.
My fifth would be a play on “Sticking with the Plan.” My name would be “Unwavering Courage of Convictions.” Sandy is the Honey Badger of GMs. He just doesn’t give a shit.
Sandy does what he wants. He doesn’t care what the media thinks, he certainly doesn’t care what the fans think. He believes he has the answers. There is good in that. It’s obvious everyone connected with the team knows who is in charge.
The military background feels like a key to understanding Alderson’s methods. He’s tough-minded, willful, regimented. That whole idea of “acceptable losses.” He always understood that it would suck for a while, and no matter how awful it got, no matter how empty the stadium, he never vacillated. For a period there, I wondered if he might be engineering a Pyrrhic victory. You know, where the high cost of winning is tantamount to defeat. The Mets may finally make the playoffs, but only after so much blood and loss. Like that existential tree in the forest. If a team clinches the playoffs, but there’s no one in the stands to see it . . . But actually, at this point, I don’t think that’s a concern. The Mets need to become a little more exciting on the offensive end, and the fans will forgive, forget, and come again.
They probably will, as long as things go well. It’s an enormous market. But as to whether the totality of his methods are proved a success, well, the longer you drag out the process the greater the payoff needs to be. I gave credit earlier for Sandy conning fans and the media for a while, which kept some money flowing in for Saul, Fred, and Jeff. Likewise then, I have to hold him responsible for the pace of this rebuild. The ballpark is a graveyard, and those empty seats hurt his bosses bottom line. That is real serious money being left on the table. But for today, the topic is positives, and sure it could all work out. The overall payoff will be the key.
If someone looks back twenty years from now and the Mets only have a couple of wildcard appearances to look back on for all this losing, it is not the same as if it leads to five or six 90-plus win years. Or, of course, one magic World Championship. The cost/benefit on this era will reveal itself over time. The early results are brutal, but the game is not over. And I’m rooting hard for Sandy.
Not that he cares!