When Sandy Alderson’s name was first floated about for the Mets GM position, my initial reaction was, “Isn’t he like, retired? Shouldn’t the Mets be looking at young, hungry rising stars, guys with stellar scouting creds who are itching to prove they are ready for primetime. Well, the Wilpons did take a close look at a few of those guys — Rick, Hahn, Logan White, Josh Byrnes. But once the prospect of Alderson filling the hot seat in Flushing gained traction — helped in no small part by the enthusiastic endorsement of Bud Selig — it seemed the Mets were just giving lip service to all the other candidates. If you bring Sandy Alderson in for an interview, and you’re convinced he’s had his fill of cleaning up the messy situation in the Dominican Republic and is ready to jump into the powder-keg at Citi Field, then all bets are off. The job is his. Everyone else, thank you for coming and drive home safely.
The Alderson move has grown on me quickly. The Mets do need an experienced, successful and very firm hand. I think back fondly to Frank Cashen who tunred out to be pretty good hire all those years ago. Alderson pioneered the money ball philosophy, which has maybe lost some steam or been bastardized in recent years, but if any team could use a strong dose of this highly analytical, structured approach to player development, it’s the Mets. Under Omar Minaya, and his predecessors dating back to Joe McIlvaine, the Mets have been inclined, more often than not, to throw money at their problems. That was their version of money ball. It worked in some cases, it did not in most. I know Alderson will have more than a little of the Wilpon’s money to play with, at least after next season, but I believe he’ll take a more patient, methodical and thoughtful approach to rebuilding this team than we Mets fans are used to. That’s a good thing.
Am I concerned that Alderson has not been in this role since leaving the Oakland A’s in the late 90’s? True, he ran the Padres, with fair success, more recently and did serve as COO under Bud Selig. And of late, he helped MLB tackle the corrupt talent pipeline in Dominican baseball — a job that might make the Mets’ challenges seem tame by comparison. But can he still build a strong scouting and player development foundation — which will be his number one priority in Flushing? He won’t be around forever, and regardless of whether he brings a World Series to Queens, at the very least I expect him to leave the Mets farm system fertile and vibrant for years to come. I think he can and I think he will.
As far his choice of manager, which is no small decision, my head is starting to spin. A few weeks ago, I figured the field was limited, regardless of who the new GM would be. Wally Backman, if you want a popular, fiery, inexpensive option with strong ties to the Mets. Or Bobby Valentine, if you want a popular, fiery, expensive option with strong ties to the Mets. But now? Valentine is off the list, seemingly too costly and too independent (translation: uncontrollable) for a structured organization man like Alderson. Backman? He may also be perceived as a guy who’ll wander too far off the range. Now you have two camps being tossed about: guys (other than Backman and Valentine) with connections to the Mets — Chip Hale, Lee Mazzilli, Clint Hurdle. And guys who fit the mold of the organizational man — like Pete Mackanin, the Phillies bench coach who really should update his Myspace page. I’d be fine with Backman, but I can understand why he and Alderson may not be a match made in heaven. The last thing the Mets need now is disharmony between their manager and GM. Some teams can survive that dynamic. Not the Mets. Not now. As for someone else with a link to the Mets? If the Wilpons crave this, as many scribes have noted, I would suggest that they reconsider. Mets DNA should be low priority for the next manager. It means nothing. Clint Hurdle? He played a few forgettable years for the Mets in the early 80’s. And except for a one amazing four-week run in 2007, he never really distinguished himself in the dugout. Lee Mazzilli? Fuhgettabout it! Chip Hale? The players supposedly like him (probably a bad reason) and he seems to fit Alderson’s mold, but he’s unproven and would not be a popular choice with fans. And he was Jerry Manuel’s bench coach. I would prefer Charlie Manuel’s bench coach — Mackanin. He seems like the smart, analytical type that would adapt to Alderson. Boring yes, but agood fit for the new GM, nonetheless.
Honestly I won’t sweat too much about Alderson’s choice for skipper — as long as it’s not one of his previous hires in Oakland, Art Howe. I also won’t lose sleep over how he handles the toxic contracts and personalities of Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo. I expect he’ll get rid of them, get as much or little as he can in return and eat as much or little of their contracts as he must. That’s kid’s play and the media should stop harping on it. I’m much more concerned about who he brings in to run scouting because that person should have more of a long-term impact on this franchise. Someone like a J.P. Ricciardi, an Alderson protegé who seems destined for Flushing.
By Opening Day, I believe I’ll know if Sandy Alderson has a long-term plan for this team. I sure hope he does because I’d hate to think I finally became patient and understanding for nothing.