TWO GUYS TALKING: Guilty By Association, Sandy Alderson’s Reputation Takes a Hit

CraterJimmy:

Would the Mets have been better off if they cratered during Sandy’s first year?

Mike:

The Mets never had the stomach to do a full rebuild, instead of tearing the team apart quickly we sat around and went for mediocrity for three years and running. Now here we are, into the fourth year since Sandy Alderson took over, and he admits there is not one real impact position player in the farm system that can help the 2014 team. And the mediocre teams we have fielded have not excited the fanbase at all, attendance plummeted as if the Mets were a 100 loss team. So what was accomplished? I don’t see how much worse it would have been if we had been more aggressive in the demolition phase. This was a huge opportunity lost, and a big reason why we still have so many holes.

Jimmy:

For the first time, I’m coming across more comments that dangle “2016” as the carrot on the stick. If that’s true, should they just punt in 2014?

Mike:

I don’t know how this GM and staff can be kept to do that. It’s year four. All that is left now is to make minor moves and hope they have a fantastic hit rate. The good news is it could happen, but the bad news is it is not likely. My goal is that when April comes I can convince myself there are scenarios where we can win in 2014. I will be very surprised if they are reasonable enough to make me want to go to Vegas and bet money on them.

Or buy season tickets.

Jimmy:

After every World Series, folks look at the winner and declare, “Eureka! The magic formula!” Mickey the SorcererUnfortunately with the Red Sox, a lot of the conclusions folks have been drawing have been wildly misguided. I’ve seen folks say, “See, we need to sign more character guys like Shane Victorino and David Ross!”

Mike:

Way back when, about a week into our blog, I suggested the Mets only path to the playoffs in 2013 would be “for everything to go right.”  In many ways, I feel the Red Sox were that lucky team. They got huge bounceback years from Bucholz and Lester. Lackey came back from the dead. Uehara pitched out of his mind. I do think it was a magic formula that is hard to duplicate. Magic can be hard to find.

It all started, by the way, with the Red Sox having the courage to blow things up quickly in 2012. How could they have signed those guys if they had still been waiting out the Beckett and Crawford contracts?

Jimmy:

Right, the move that folks tend to ignore while they are busy praising the winning roster — was the blockbuster trade with Los Angeles.

Mike:

That was the big move that made everything else possible.

Jimmy:

That brings us back to my question up top. Sandy never did that. I’d argue that he lacked the courage or the conviction to make the necessary moves from the outset. Imagine if he linked Reyes and Bay in a trade, 60 days into the job. The same way the Sox linked Crawford’s bad contract to Gonzalez’ big production. What if Sandy flushed out the mistakes of the past, knowing full well that the money was not going to be there to sign Reyes anyway?

Mike:

Even Wright could have been on the table when he took over. I never understand when people say Mets fans do not have the patience for rebuilding. Who knows? This has not been a full rebuild. We have been stalling for years, mumbling about waiting for contracts to expire.

And then when they do, the money is never fully reinvested.

Jimmy:

Another thing is, Mets fans are also Knicks fans, Ranger fans, Jets fans, and so on. It’s not like Gutterwe’ve never seen a rebuild before. We’ve certainly seen the gutter. And we also understand the value of high draft picks. As you’ve pointed out before, we’ve been drafting 9th, 10th, 12th. We haven’t been getting the top guys, which is another way teams like the Nationals, Rays, Pirates, and Astros build up the farm system.

Mike:

The only time we have moved players is when we had no choice, when they were on the verge of free agency. And, of course, not even in all of those situations. I do think we got very good returns on the trades we made, better than average. On one hand I salute that, but I always wonder is that a cause for the snail-like pace of things. Are we afraid to make a solid, but unspectacular trade?

Jimmy:

At this point, I’m actually starting to feel bad for Sandy Alderson. If the spending budget for this offseason is accurate at $25 million, there’s no way he could succeed this year. The Wilpons have tied his hands.

Mike:

Make no mistake, Alderson is forced to operate as a small market GM. Despite Citi Field’s zip code, it is more obvious than ever that the owners of the New York Mets either can’t or won’t Zip Codesput real money into the team. I’ve seen no indication that will ever change again, it’s time to understand that this is the new normal around here. Look at the Cano thing. It is not that we should have wanted him, or not. But the very idea that the New York Mets could sign a premium free agent was considered laughable. This team is small time, and I don’t see that changing as long as Fred and Saul are breathing.

Unless Sandy is extremely successful and lucky between now and Opening Day, we will be looking at another boring team that projects to a win total in the 70’s.

Jimmy:

Sandy Alderson’s reputation has taken a hit through his association with the Wilpons. I wonder how much longer he can be the front man for these losers. How long can he stay the good soldier? He’s an incredibly disciplined man. The ex-marine in him, I guess. There must be a part of Sandy that wants to stand up, point a finger, and say, “It’s not my fault!” You almost sense it bubbling under the surface in some of his comments and jokes. I’d like to see him walk away from the sham.

Mike:

Sandy was in the Marines, but he is also a lawyer. That is the side of him that I have always felt attracted him to this job. He is a guy willingly fronting for shady clients for pay. A lot of pay.

Now, he has made a ton of money since signing on, for himself and his cronies, Ricciardi and DePodesta. More and more he sounds like a guy who is getting sick of taking the heat that comes with being a hired gun. Well, if you can’t take the heat….

Sandy knew who he was going to work for when he took the job. I imagine his bosses have lied and misled him since Day One.

To that I say, “Get in line.”

 

 

 

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23 comments

  1. Eraff says:

    First, I’ll confront a MYTH: Mediocrity. It hasn’t been a GOAL or a Constraint…and it CERTAINLY has NOT been an Outcome!!!! 77, 74, 74— That SUCKS! Mediocrity is an Aspiration from Here!

    The next MYTH–“IT’s EARLY”… I addressed this recently and I’ll address it again. It’s MONDAY…. That’s all…MONDAY. There is no imetus for signing aq fixture player or trading for a fixture player. All of the decisions are “out there”— They are waiting for WHAT? Money? Young Players? Thnere is no time table. Things will happen as they happen. They will not CAUSE an event or a circumstance. They seem to have NO movement toward adding a building block guy. They are adding SAND BAGS— SANDY BAGS?

    I won’t bemoan players who are signing as if they are “getting away”…I’m not sure who I “want”….I am sure that Sandy and Crew don’t WANT. Other teams are targeting needs…next year and beyond. The recent Young signing is good…a small good sign that AT LEAST they recognize a need for SANDY BAGS—but, still, No Bricks…No Mortar.

    The influx of cash should allow them to PLAN to be an 83-85 win team…and That provides a chance to Get Lucky…to make a run…to reward your fans. They have not pursued The Lucky Zone for 3 years…I’m waiting.

    As for Early or Late….they aren’t even on the Clock!…..

  2. RAFF says:

    I’m starting to wonder if there’s a “second-shooter” scenario developing here. Clearly, the Mets don’t have the resources or the Testicular fortitude to get a high-priced marquis guy right now- and, factually – there’s only a couple of those guys left on the “board”. How much heat does Sandy take if he just keeps his powder dry, let’s the others take their shot with the free agents, and waits it out in order to cherry pick some good players from teams over the course of the season, once those teams come to the realization that their dreams aren’t happening in 2014? Maybe “Second-Shooter” is the wrong choice of words— How about MAGIC BULLET? I think my wife roofied my coffee

  3. Brian Joura says:

    I don’t think Reyes had a ton of trade value when Alderson came aboard. He began 2010 on the DL with the thyroid condition, couldn’t play in the AS game due to injury and then in late August came down with an oblique strain. And this was after playing just 33 games the year before. Plus, what little trade value he had would have been killed by handcuffing him to Bay.

    As for Alderson himself – I believe he understood the situation he was walking into completely. Overall, I’m still happy with the job he’s done. I look at Frank Cashen as the Mets’ gold standard and Cashen oversaw the bottoming out that you’re suggesting

    In his first four years the Mets went 241-358 and played at a .409 clip.

    The Mets have been better the first three years under Alderson (.463 winning percentage) and it’s still on the table that they can be a fun team in year five, much like Cashen’s 1984 squad.

    Hopefully Alderson can make a few more key additions and avoid the next Gavin Cecchini. But Cashen took Terry Blocker and Eddie Williams with the fourth overall pick and Shawn Abner with the first overall pick – so it’s not like he always hit the jackpot, either.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      Bay was coming off one year, in which he actually was not nearly as terrible as made out. His HRs were down but nevertheless but for a horrific stint post all-star break before his concussion, he was actually playing okay.

      The same can be said for Reyes who after being rushed back into play in early 2010, from June on was essentially as .800 ops player from SS.

      Moreover, by early July 2011 he had CLEARLY risen his game and could have been moved. The Red Sox attached both Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Adrian Gonzales, who was not exactly tearing it up in Boston in 2012. Basically, if the Mets had the “creativity” we always heard would come from this front office, I think they could have likely found a dance partner. I mean what about attached Bay to Beltran and sending more money to San Francisco and getting another prospect or some bodies that did not fit in San Francisco’s scheme?

      Comping Cashen to Alderson is nice in the sense that they were both GMs both for the Mets, but they each played under vastly different rules and the financial network of the game was nowhere near what it is today.

      To begin with, Cashen did not start his reign with any assets of any significance. The Mets were entirely barren. Alderson walked in to David Wright, Reyes, Beltran and an exiting pool of prospects that he, his hand chosen manager and his two lieutenants were glowing about.

      Cashen was GM in era in which the Kansas City Royals could keep arguably one of the best players in the game in uniform his entire career.

      That is perhaps the problem, that Mike and James have alluded to previously. Alderson is a GM whose notion of the game and how to work the system to ones advantage has long passed by.

      The Mets are employing a bottom out strategy in an era that calls for long term planning across many years. The Mets new buzz phrase dujour on the budget is wanting to “space out contracts” to expire with flexibility year to year. Hard to do when you sign NO ONE from 2011 to 2013.

      I can give the Mets a modest pass on 2011 in that I think reasonably they needed to see would Reyes and Wright get healthy together, could Beltran play, and was Ike Davis ready to emerge. But perhaps they should have been more aggressive pending what their actual long term strategy would be.

  4. Eraff says:

    Brian…. I don’t believe LONG rebuild plans are as obvious and constraining as they were 30-35 years ago, when Frank Cashen first made the Mets scene. The player acquisition “routes” are so much more open and include many tools that Cashen did not have.

    Here’s the deal on the comps to Cashen….. they’re BOGUS. Lot’s of guys preside over losing teams as GM’s, as Cashen did. That’s NOT the basis of the leap to “he’s like Cashen”.

    Frank Cashen was a GM WITHIN his times….he came with a Championship resume. His activity was complete…EXHAUSTIVE… he was a NO STONES UNTURNED GM. He took strong positions via his ACTIONS. he did EVERYTHING available to find players and build his teams—everything. He Failed a lot…he succeeded MORE.

    Cashen did not keep an open and running teaser dialogue with his fan base…granted, different world. However, he acted…relentlessly. He was curiously similar to another “Baltimore Guy”:: George Young of YOUR NY Giants.

    Sandy is in a boat FLOATING….once in a while he sticks an oar in the water—JUST ONE. He is NOT using all tools at his disposal in 2013….2013! His track record is PALE….I believe it’s Fictitious!…and I confess that I may be unfair with that, but I feel he’s a MYTH.

    Frank Cashen WAS a Baseball Man…. this continued “analogizing” and justifying of Sandy-Cashen reveals very little appreciation, much less RESPECT, for a GREAT Baseball Man in Frank Cashen….and it is curious that THIS would be the understanding of a baseball fan/analyst/blogger with an aspiration of providing INSIGHT and appreciation for the fine points of the game.

  5. Brian Joura says:

    I offer the following with 100% respect and sincerity:

    I cannot take anything you say seriously with your complete disregard for the rules of capitalization.

  6. RAFF says:

    What are the “rules of capitalization” you are referring to?

  7. Eraff says:

    hahaha… that IS Funny!…VERY funny!

  8. RAFF says:

    Sorry, Brian – I thought you were referring to financial capitalization – Never mind. I guess you’re not an ee cummings guy, either?

  9. Michael Geus says:

    I’ve never seen much in common with Cashen and Alderson. But they were not hired to do the same jobs.

    A new deep pocketed owner, Doubleday, hired Frank Cashen to build a team, and backed him financially.

    Somebody (Wilpon or Selig?) hired Alderson to be a corporate front man for failing owners who are not attempting to build anything other than a mall next to Citi Field.

    I think Cashen did his job well, and I think Sandy is doing his well too. He takes the heat well. I don’t see that anything real is being built, and more than ever think we might not be a playoff team this decade. But that has not been a priority for the owners, and Sandy works for them.

    It’s fun as fans to compare the current situation to the 1980s because we were bad then and then we became real good. But by 1984 we had an actual deep farm system, Alderson himself said that right now he can’t find one position player worth a damn.

    As far as winning, as far as sustained success, I can’t see that coming for the life of me. But building has not been the goal, treading water was the goal. And the Wilpons have not drowned.

    Good for Sandy, I guess, he is proving he is an effective humans shield.

    • Well said. I’ve never seen anything to merit a comparison to Frank Cashen. I certainly don’t recall Frank telling his players how to bat.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      The system as it is built today basically requires that teams at worst, at absolute WORST invest in their own core players, but moreover that they at least go into the secondary market of free agent players, sort of like Josh Johnson to San Diego. That along the way you have to constantly be working at adding pieces and parts to the final goal. Can’t wait for the prospects to arrive all at once, or the perfect offseason of free agents or trades.

      Cashen actually operated better in a totally different environment doing just that 30 years ago. He added Keith Hernandez BEFORE the talent arrived to help.

  10. RAFF says:

    I don’t see how comparing Alderson to Cashen in the manner of implying that since the Mets record during the first 4 years of each man’s tenure is equally dismal – and Sandy’s “pace” is about the same as Cashen’s- The Mets are on the right track, holds much water.

  11. James Preller says:

    Buy that logic, you could compare any unsuccessful GM to Frank Cashen, 1980-82. The subtext here is that Alderson’s method will usher in the greatest stretch in Mets history. I don’t think he’s earned that massive assumption.

  12. RAFF says:

    Exactly my point, Jimmy.

  13. Eraff says:

    Between my Disregard for Capitalization and Standard Grammer (and my resistance to putting the Toilet seat “back Down”–the CDC is gonna come around to my view on THAT!), and your run on sentences, we may as well be trees falling in an empty forest.

  14. Eraff says:

    Stephen drew— 4 years, 57 million … DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Alan K. says:

    Sandy is a smart guy, smart enough to know deep down inside that 1. his plan can’t work with financial support from ownership and 2. he’s not going to get that financial support because ownership is buried in debt. I do think that he’s spending at least as much time plotting his exit strategy as he is trying improve the team (as best as one can with one hand tied behind his back) I’m surprise he let himself get involved in this mess at this stage of his life.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      I have to agree. The way things have played out have been odd at best.

      I had hoped this was the year/off season the chickens finally came to roost on the Sterling Mets ownership.

      Something is wholly rotten in Denmark. The actions and words have not matched up.

      Whether it be from Howard Megdal or Mark Healey or Sandimor from the Times, I’ve been trying to understand the back room of what goes on with the Mets operations the last few years. And while much of it is connecting the dots work some things seem to be getting nearer.

      The Mets owners have made zero progress toward paying down their debt. Obviously back in 2008 pre financial bust and Madoff being outed the plan was two-fold, get kick backs on their kick backs and continue to put a product on the field that sells tickets and draws eyeballs. The latter with a new park, selling exorbitant ticket prices along the way.

      Once 2010 came along, it would seem by that fall, the plan likely altered to, if Sandy can get your baseball operation in order perhaps you can make that profitable in a way to pay down your debt. If this is a plausible case that anyone thought that was possible in a position of knowledge (Fred Wilpon, Sandy Alderson, Bud Selig) is frighteningly naive. The debt is so high that I simply can’t see the path.

      But consider, this team was going to sell a 20% stake just two years ago, under all these pre-baked notions of retaining control (probably born of the knowledge of how Fred went from next to nothing to 50% to 100%).

      Instead they got some friends and or suckers to fit the bill for that cash infusion.

      In that time, there is no indication that Sterling equities financial situation outside the Mets or within the Mets has improved. And frankly the latter has so clearly and obviously not.

      Perhaps the code word for 2014 was not simply about contracts coming off the books and really just all roads leading to Flushing.

      Maybe the Sterling group wanted to survive just long enough to secure their paw prints on Willets Point project.

  16. Dave says:

    As noted by Michael above, the biggest difference between Cashen and Alderson is that Cashen was brought on board by energetic new owners committed to success. The Mets payroll more than tripled between 1982 and 1986. Some big salary acquisitions failed (Foster), while others added value (Carter, Hernandez). However, as fans, we could see that ownership was ready to pay for talented players.

    The current ownership only seems committed to over-achieving, i.e., trying to do more with less. This rarely works. GM success in the MLB has always been part business acumen, part baseball knowledge, part alchemy. However, ownership commitment (read financial commitment) is usually the essential ingredient. Alderson is limited to the budget he is given. He is a careful wordsmith, but we can already see that incremental improvements are all we can hope for this off season. I’m not letting Sandy off the hook, but ownership is making his job very hard.

    • By 1983, the Mets minor league organization was ranked by Topps and Baseball America as baseball’s “Organization of the Year.”

      They repeated that in 1984, a year in which three clubs (Jackson, Lynchburg, and Little Falls) won league championships.

      Cashen built a great farm system.

      Sandy just talks about it.

      Thanks to trades that have allowed him to infuse the system with players drafted and developed elsewhere — Wheeler, Syndergaard, d’Arnaud — Baseball America ranked the Mets farm system at tied for 11th by the end of Sandy’s 3rd full season.

      The difference between what Cashen accomplished and what Alderson has accomplished is night and day. Night and day.

      That said, your point about the financial commitment of owners is valid. But as you pointed out, Mets payroll under Cashen did not begin to rise until after they started to win.

      My point remains that Alderson wants to build a strong farm system. He goes to the draft every year and does okay, not great. Some years, poor. He talks the talk and, yes, it’s a commendable goal. But saying is not doing. He has not earned the comparison.

  17. Dave says:

    To be fair, good trades count as much as good draft picks, so Alderson gets credit for Wheeler, Snydergaard, etc., just as Cashen (deservedly) got credit for the Darling/Terrell trade. Those two pitchers logged a collective 420 innings in 1984 when the team started winning. The Mets payroll jump began in 82-83 when Foster (82), Hernandez, Seaver (83) were added. The team was still terrible, but you could sense the Doubleday group was fully committed to winning. It is easier to be a successful GM when you can build from the top (free agency and expensive trades) as well as the bottom (draft/minor league trades). Again, I’m not saying Alderson is blameless, but the Mets have an ownership problem that dwarfs the GM problem.

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