Monday, October 11, 2010

Buyer Beware

  • Hiring Sandy Alderson would take the Mets places...

...but it may not be places they want to go.

Amid all the talk and promotion of Sandy Alderson as the man to navigate the Mets through the wilderness of disorganization and borderline ineptitude are the facts. Facts are easy to bury; they're elusive and transferable based on an agenda.

Anyone can twist facts into that which they hope to convey.

Alderson has a stellar resume; but there are aspects of his tenure as a GM with the Oakland Athletics; as team president of the San Diego Padres; and in his work with Major League Baseball that have to be examined with a cold-blooded ruthlessness and aboveboard honesty to truly get a gauge on his suitability as the Mets organizational czar.

If you read between the lines of Moneyball, it wouldn’t be the story of how Billy Beane wins so many games with such a minimalist payroll, but it would be how Sandy Alderson heroically, courageously and with a Nostradamus-like gift for foresight put Beane into a position in which he could implement the strategies that Alderson knew would work, but never got around to putting into practice.

Much of the positive and negative preconceptions about Alderson come from the way he came off in Moneyball. Part of that is due to Michael Lewis and part of that is due to Alderson himself saying things that may have been better kept to himself.

For all the arrogance and self-congratulations that Sandy Alderson doled upon himself in Moneyball, it has to be understood that the pride Alderson takes in not having been brought up in a baseball background yielded an executive that was an overt failure in every possible metric except for the years he spent with a "middle-manager" who happened to be a baseball genius in Tony La Russa.

Every team that Alderson had a hand in putting together was a loser until he hooked up with La Russa. His entire entrance into baseball at all was a result of the dumb luck of being a nondescript corporate lawyer whose boss, Roy Eisenhardt, happened to have a father-in-law who bought the Oakland A’s and brought Alderson along with him as general counsel. That was in 1981. Alderson became the club’s GM in 1983, hired La Russa in 1986 and then the A’s finally started winning.

In fact, the penny-pincher that Alderson eventually became as he tried to put Moneyball tenets into practice had nothing to do with the A’s success when he was GM in the late 80s and early 90s; it had to do with spending, spending and spending some more under owner Walter Haas. There was no science involved; there were no calculations. One of the biggest misnomers of the "Alderson as brilliant executive" nonsense is that he was doing something differently from what the other big money teams were. The truth is that Alderson was acquiring the types of players his manager wanted to compete and win; when the finances changed in the mid-90s, Steve Schott bought the club and didn’t want to spend a load of money. La Russa left and Alderson presided over the club’s collapse.

Billy Beane's ascendance started with Alderson hiring him to be an advanced scout, a position (along with any other position not his own) that was denigrated in its importance to the success of a major league baseball team. Alderson's exact quote regarding the hiring of Beane was he "didn’t think an advanced scout did anything".

Has anyone really looked deeply into Alderson’s resume as an executive? A resume that has been nothing but a failure in the years where he had a manager other than Tony La Russa or had yet to trash the San Diego Padres?

In short, the idea that Alderson is some brilliant and successful baseball executive is little more than (to use a favored Bill James term) a straw man. A straw man is a weak argument that is easily refuted. Like a scarecrow, it’s there for the purpose of subterfuge and those that don’t think or aren’t bright enough to realize its unreality are held to the whims of the assertions of others.

Sandy Alderson took over as the Athletics GM in 1983. His record as their GM in those years, until he hired La Russa in 1986, was 259-310. With La Russa, the A’s were 798-673. Added into this record is the way the A's collapsed after the team stopped spending big money to field a competitive team while owned by the Haas family. When Steve Schott and partners took over, they had little interest in competing with the Yankees of the world and things got worse and worse until Beane implemented his statistical based approach. What Alderson had to do with that other than in his own mind is unclear.

The Oakland Athletics were built in a way that Tony La Russa wanted them built. He had a powerful offense, a group of starting pitchers who were mostly picked up off the scrapheap, and a deep, well-organized bullpen. The work that La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan did in reconfiguring the motion and mindset of a talented underachiever like Dave Stewart and convincing Dennis Eckersley to agree to a move to the bullpen were more responsible to the A's success than Alderson. Other additions that benefited Alderson, but had little to do with anything he specifically did, were Bob Welch and Mike Moore.

Even the smart trades that Alderson made pretty much fell into his lap. As the Athletics reacquired Rickey Henderson from the Yankees at mid-season in 1989, the Yankees were essentially functioning like a group of chickens with their heads chopped off; he was able to get Henderson for the forgettable trio of Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk and Luis Polonia. I’m not diminishing what the A's did during those years, but to credit Alderson for the success that was more of a result of the manager and his pitching coach is designed to provide credit to someone who doesn't fully deserve it.

Those Athletics teams and their success were a byproduct of having the best manager of his generation and possibly the best pitching coach ever; and a large payroll. Once the money was no longer free for Alderson to buy the best the market had to offer, the Athletics dynasty fell apart; and once La Russa and Duncan took off for St. Louis, the A’s were a bottom rung team with no hope and no money.

Alderson, shamelessly inserting himself into the Moneyball narrative, had little-to-nothing to do with the way the A’s become a force under Beane. He claimed to have introduced Beane to the Bill James abstracts and claims to essentially be the "father" of the Moneyball implementation in Oakland, but what good does it do to "know" that something is going to work, but not having the courage to put it into action. It was only when Moneyball came out and attention was paid to the Athletics success that Alderson jumped forward with a “wait a minute, I’m not getting enough credit here” and revised history to perpetuate the fallacy that it was he who helped set the new age into motion.

Alderson’s drafts as Athletics GM were never anything to write home about. Whether or not he the baseball men in the organization----Grady Fuson, Walt Jocketty or Karl Kuehl----were the ones who were making the bulk of the decisions is irrelevant; if Alderson is taking the credit for the A's success in the 80s and 90s and is living off of his supposed management acumen, then he’s the one who takes the blame when things didn’t work.

From the time he ascended to the GM seat until he left in 1997, the notable Athletics draftees went as follows:



1983: Terry Steinbach, Greg Cadaret
1984: Mark McGwire, Todd Burns
1985: Walt Weiss, Wally Whitehurst
1986: Dave Veres, Kevin Tapani, Rod Beck, Bret Barberie
1987: Lee Tinsley, Scott Livingstone, Ron Coomer, Scott Brosius
1988: Joe Slusarski, Rod Correia, Darren Lewis
1989: Craig Paquette, Kurt Abbott, Matt Mieske
1990: Todd Van Poppel, Kirk Dressendorfer, Ernie Young, Tanyon Sturtze
1991: Brent Gates
1992: Jason Giambi, Steve Cox, Robert Fick
1993: John Wasdin, Jason McDonald, Scott Spiezio
1994: Ben Grieve, Emil Brown, Tim Hudson
1995: Mark Bellhorn, Jeff DaVanon
1996: Eric Chavez, A.J. Hinch, Kevin Gregg
1997: Tim Hudson, Adam Piatt


The names that are notable aren’t only as such because of their on-field success. McGwire (however he achieved his heights) was still one of the premier power hitters of this generation. Steinbach was the everyday catcher on the championship teams; Burns was a useful reliever for awhile; Cadaret had value because his trade brought back Rickey Henderson; Weiss was a Rookie of the Year at shortstop; Van Poppel was a disaster.

Then there were the trades Alderson made. How many of them were of the "another Athletics steal" variety? The larger deals he made were for the likes of Bob Welch, who turned out to be very good, but he gave up Kevin Tapani in the deal. He dumped Jose Canseco because Canseco had become impossible to deal with and brought back journeymen Bobby Witt, Ruben Sierra and Jeff Russell. He acquired Ron Darling and Darling, who had appeared shot, regained some semblance of effectiveness under La Russa and Duncan. The Eckersley, Stewart, Moore acquisitions were scrapheap fliers that worked out great, but don’t let anyone try and convince you Alderson was expecting a four-time 20-game winner and post-season horse in Stewart; a Hall of Fame closer in Eckersley; or a consistent innings-eating winner in Moore.

The Athletics payrolls during the La Russa years of success were as follows:



1987: Payroll-$12 million; ranked 11th in the big leagues.
1988: Payroll-$11.6 million; ranked 16th in the big leagues.
1989: Payroll-$17.7 million; ranked 5th in the big leagues.
1990: Payroll-$22.6 million; ranked 3rd in big leagues.
1991: Payroll-$39.1 million; ranked 1st in the big leagues.
1992: Payroll-$48 million; ranked 2nd in the big leagues.
1993: Payroll-$35.3 million; ranked 13th in the big leagues.
1994: Payroll-$34.5 million; ranked 12th in the big leagues.
1995: Payroll-$33.3 million; ranked 17th in the big leagues.


In that time, the A’s won three four AL West championships, three pennants and one World Series. Then, as the payroll declined, so did the A's. La Russa left after the 1995 season for St. Louis and Alderson hired Art Howe.


1996: Payroll-$22.5 million; 22nd in the big leagues and a 78-84 record.
1997: Payroll-$12.9 million; last in the big leagues and a 67-95 record.


Alderson left the A's after that year.

According to Alderson's storyline, he was deferring to the success under La Russa when he didn't take control of the way the A's procured players and spent money. So what happened after La Russa left? Or in the three years before La Russa left and the team got progressively worse? Why didn’t he stop everything, grab his Bill James Baseball Abstracts and make the sabermetric changes himself? Why didn’t the new age take hold while Alderson was still there if the book was accurate and it was indeed Alderson who introduced the value of the walk and the home run to Beane?

The bulk of the credit for those teams went to La Russa, who took the Alderson success with him when he went to St. Louis. Alderson’s Moneyball claim of "deferring to success" as an excuse as to why he didn’t take charge and tell La Russa what to do is a hindsight reaction to the club’s collapse post-La Russa. If you’d like to see what would’ve happened had Alderson exerted his will on La Russa, all you have to do is look at the fall of the A’s dynasty and what happened the Padres when Alderson joined their front office as CEO after spending seven years in MLB's front office.

Taking these factors into account, Alderson’s historical failures as a GM, his self-congratulatory attempts to insert himself squarely in the middle of the Moneyball narrative and goal of being credited as the brains of Billy Beane and the A's, is it any surprise that the Padres under Alderson devolved into what it did on and off the field?

The Padres organization has always been somewhat star-crossed. They can’t be classified as hapless----they’ve made it to two World Series. They've made it to the playoffs five times, all within the last 25 years, yet have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter. They had one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball in Tony Gwynn, but he sat through two separate teardowns as every star surrounding him was traded away in a financial downsizing.

Padres owner John Moores was a respectable owner after he bought the club from Tom Werner in 1994. Moores, an admirable man in many ways for his charity work and generosity with military families, and coming from a background of computers and making his money in software, spent enough to keep the club competitive while not going overboard and entering the realm of the big boys such as the Yankees and Red Sox. The club's payroll was always around the middle of the pack and they had success on the field, winning a division title in 1996 and losing in the division series; and a pennant in 1998, losing the 114-game-winning Yankees in the World Series. The team rebuilt after letting such stars as Kevin Brown leave via free agency after the 1998 World Series appearance and was only returning to respectability when Alderson was hired. Having won 87 games in 2004, the team was teetering on a return to contention.

On some level, it’s understandable why Moores hired Alderson. Moneyball was still considered to be a viable way to run a franchise; it was only two years after the book’s publication that Alderson joined the club as CEO. Billy Beane’s power and illusion of success was still at its height; Paul DePodesta had only been on the job for the Dodgers for a year and, despite his ill-thought-out trades, the club had won the NL West in 2004 and was riding high in April of 2005 when Alderson was hired by the Padres. His military background made him a palatable and popular choice in San Diego, a town with a heavy military population, and his success as Athletics GM made him a solid choice to oversee the Padres.

Had Moores really looked deeply into Alderson's "success" as the A’s GM; the reality behind Moneyball; that he’d been out of the game as a team executive for seven years and hadn’t won anything at all with the A’s as the club’s finances grew more and more sparse since 1992, he might’ve looked elsewhere for a CEO or new GM.

The tipping point of Moores’s decision was said to be the drafting of shortstop Matt Bush with the first pick in the 2004 draft. Bush was a high schooler from the San Diego area who wasn’t as talented as a number one pick in the draft dictates, but was chosen because he was cheaper than the other highly rated prospects. The club bypassed Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver, Yovani Gallardo and Dustin Pedroia in taking Bush and Bush turned out to be a nightmare as a player and in his personal conduct on and off the field and never made it to the big leagues.

If the club was going to start drafting players who were more affordable, why not turn to someone who knew how to find unpolished gems? Why not bring in a CEO who neatly portrayed himself as the brains behind Billy Beane and Moneyball? And that he was an Ivy League-educated lawyer who’d been a Marine made him all the more attractive for Moores and for San Diego.

Hiring someone on outside factors instead of success is always a bad idea. At the very least, Moores could’ve expanded his search to include Gerry Hunsicker, who’d built the Astros into an annual contender and had recently stepped down as their GM; Larry Beinfest, who’d won a World Series with the Marlins a year-and-a-half earlier, was a recognized talent-evaluator who knew how to stretch a dollar and was from Encino, two hours away from San Diego; or Pat Gillick, who grew up in Southern California, went to USC and had a habit of “retiring” only to return to baseball a short time later, as he did with the Phillies later that year. Moores might still have decided on Alderson, but at least he would’ve performed his due diligence before making a mistake (sort of like the Mets should do now).

One the surface, a reasonable person could look at the Padres under Alderson and say, "Hey, the club made it to the playoffs in 2005 and 2006, should’ve made it in 2007 if not for a late-season collapse and only fell apart in 2008, how could you say that Alderson did such a bad job with that success level under a moderate payroll?" This is only accurate if you don’t look at the underlying issues of the Padres front office.

The Alderson persona of the "man behind the scenes" a la Dick Cheney only exacerbated the factional disputes between the stat-oriented and the scouting-oriented in the organization. No one knew which front office entity----GM Kevin Towers, VP of scouting Grady Fuson, Alderson personal assistant Paul DePodesta (who was hired by Alderson after the Dodgers dumped him at the end of 2005)----was running things. It appeared that Alderson wasn’t just allowing this to go on, but was actually encouraging and fomenting the discord to keep everyone beholden to him and to keep him informed as to what was going on. An army of spies is a great way to build distrust and create the dysfunction that ultimately undid the Padres in a span of three years.

It’s not a situation where every move that the Padres made after Alderson’s arrival went wrong. In fact, the Padres did make a series of very smart, savvy acquisitions like the following:



The Padres acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, right handed pitcher Chris Young and outfielder Terrmel Sledge from the Texas Rangers for right handed pitchers Akinori Otsuka and Adam Eaton and a minor leaguer.

They signed veteran catcher Mike Piazza to an incentive-laden one-year contract.

They acquired right handed reliever Cla Meredith and catcher Josh Bard from the Red Sox in their desperate and ill-thought out re-acquisition of catcher Doug Mirabelli.

They acquired right handed reliever Heath Bell and left handed reliever Royce Ring from the New York Mets for outfielder Ben Johnson and right handed pitcher Jon Adkins.

They acquired outfielder Scott Hairston from the Arizona Diamondbacks for right handed pitcher Leo Rosales.


These smart moves aren't the issue with the Padres. What is the issue is that Alderson was brought in to improve on the disturbingly bad track record that Towers had in the draft. Alderson’s heavy-handed and overbearing management style created a culture of mistrust among the factions that had formed in the Padres front office. Once DePodesta arrived as the assistant to Alderson, no one knew whether DePodesta, who was peering over the shoulders of everyone in the organization, was running back to Alderson and telling tales out of school to create more dissension within the ranks. If an organization is going to have one voice that’s leading the way, that voice has to create harmony amongst the underlings; Alderson appeared to be trying to create the factional disputes to weed out information from all sides.

Going back to the years 2000 through 2004, Towers's drafts weren't very good and it was said that upper management was interfering with what he wanted to do. The players Towers drafted and saw make it to the majors are as follows:


2000: Xavier Nady, Jon Huber, Justin Germano, J.J. Furmaniak, Jack Cassel, Chad Cordero and Kevin Reese.
2001: Josh Barfield, David Pauley, Jason Bartlett
2002: Khalil Greene, Paul McAnulty, Jared Wells, Drew Macias
2003: Tim Stauffer, Colt Morton, Dirk Hayhurst, Leo Rosales, Eddie Bonine
2004: Matt Bush, Sean Kazmar, Michael Ekstrom


Of the above players, the only notable names are Nady, whom they traded to the Mets to get Mike Cameron; Barfield, who they traded to the Indians to get Kevin Kouzmanoff; and Khalil Greene, who is the epitome of a non-Moneyball player with his horrible on base percentage and moderate power.

Others are of note for negative reasons.

Matt Bush was a local prospect who was selected because he would cost less in terms of a signing bonus. A talented shortstop who wasn’t good enough to be drafted that highly, let alone as the first player taken the entire draft, had nothing but trouble upon turning pro. He had off-field discipline issues with driving under the influence and didn’t play well when he did play. To make matters worse, the Padres passed over Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Yovani Gallardo and Dustin Pedroia to get Bush. It was the decision to draft Bush that precipitated the hiring of Alderson.

Alderson and his crew didn’t do much better in their drafts. In addition to dumping major league talented arms such as Jose Ceda and Joakim Soria for nothing, the Padres drafts under Alderson yielded the following results:


2005: Chase Headley (2nd round); Josh Geer (3rd round); Wil Venable (7th round)----they drafted 17 high schoolers and 35 college players and passed on Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Michael Bowden, Yunel Escobar, Kevin Slowey, Micah Owings, Mat Gamel, Gaby Sanchez, Bobby Parnell and John Lannan.


2006: Matt Antonelli (1st round), Wade LeBlanc (2nd round)----they drafted 16 high schoolers and 31 college players. They passed on Joba Chamberlain, Justin Masterson and Chris Davis.


No players from the Padres 2007 and 2008 drafts have made any significant contribution in the big leagues as of yet. They passed on Rick Porcello in 2007.


If an organization is going to rely on stats and on finding cheap alternatives to the big money, tools players that many organizations choose to draft and is reluctant to spend a load of money on players at the big league level, they’d better be right in finding those unpolished gems that Moneyball takes such glee in pointing out as available for little to no money.

The Padres insisted on spending money on the types of veterans who were willing (or had little choice) but to take the incentive laden, short term contracts that would even make it possible for the Padres to land them as in the case with Piazza. In 2008, the worst year under Alderson by far, the Padres took this tack with veteran pitcher Greg Maddux and infielder Tad Iguchi. They also traded for veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds.

By the time he got to San Diego, Maddux was good for 80 pitches and was either going to get shelled or baffle the opponents with his control and array of breaking pitches. He was traded to the Dodgers for a couple of minor leaguers as the season came apart. Edmonds looked shot in San Diego. His range was diminished and he didn’t hit at all. The Padres released him and after the Cubs picked him up, he started hitting again. Iguchi got hurt and was also released.

Then there are the players who did sign long term contracts to stay in San Diego. One tenet of the Moneyball theory is that no executive wants to tie his own hands by giving a player a no-trade clause in his contract, but that’s exactly what the Padres did with two players who were risky. Brian Giles lost his power when the Padres moved into spacious Petco Park and, despite playing solid defense and getting on base, the aging Giles blocked a proposed trade to the Red Sox as the team spiraled into last place. Jake Peavy, when he’s healthy, is one of the top five pitchers in baseball; he also has an all-out stressful motion, is a small-town person who had no interest in going to any team but the short list he gave to Towers and Alderson when they tried to deal him; eventually he agreed to be traded to the White Sox to escape the sinking Padres ship.

The treatment of loyal Padres who’d been with the organization forever also led something to be desired in terms of being a human being on the part of Alderson. Like his behavior during the umpiring labor dispute in which Alderson reacted as a buffoon by taking the umpires threats to resign as inspiration to say obnoxious things like: is that a promise or a threat?

When you run a team this way and have such a narrow window to get the expected production and combine that with the lack of reinforcements available through the farm system and are reluctant to spend money, if things don’t go exactly according to the plan, then it doesn’t take long for the downward plummet to begin and that’s what happened from the time that the Padres missed the playoffs in 2007, losing the one game playoff to the Rockies and the 99-loss season in 2008. The dearth of money available had nothing at all to do with what happened in 2008. The problems of the Padres were so deep and diverse that it can’t be pinned on one single thing, but on a combination of gaffes that resulted from the decision to hire Alderson in the first place.

It wasn’t simply the players personnel decisions that Alderson's management style affected negatively. The Padres collapse has been related to the Alderson willingness to let longtime and loyal Padres employees interview for jobs with other clubs, adding to the implication that that consolidating his power and installing cheaper puppets to do his bidding was more important than the on-field product. How else does one explain Alderson allowing both GM Kevin Towers and manager Bruce Bochy to interview for jobs elsewhere while they were still under contract to the Padres?

Alderson took over as CEO in April of 2005 and by the conclusion of the season, Towers was interviewing with the Diamondbacks to take over as their GM. Towers’s track record as Padres GM has been documented earlier, but it wasn’t the job he’d done that led Alderson to try and get rid of him without having to pay off his contract and firing him. For Towers, the running of the Padres was the question that caused him to look for a job in which he wouldn’t have someone looking over his shoulder and trying to get him to change the way he operated.

Presumably, Alderson would’ve installed Paul DePodesta as his new GM and run the club from behind the scenes with DePodesta and Alderson "on the same page". Towers was the top candidate for the Diamondbacks job and was widely expected to receive an offer, but they chose to hire Red Sox assistant Josh Byrnes. After that, Towers was faced with the choice of leaving the Padres and hoping to get another job, or returning to San Diego and following the edicts of Alderson and having DePodesta running interference as a shadow GM. Towers returned to San Diego and began going along to get along; keeping his job; doing as he was expected under the new boss and running his team in a different manner than he had for his entire tenure.

Next in Alderson’s bullseye was manager Bruce Bochy and it wouldn’t be as easy a problem to solve as was the case of Towers.

Bruce Bochy had been a member of the Padres organization since 1983. First as a light-hitting backup catcher under manager Dick Williams; then as a minor league manager until 1993 when he returned to the big leagues as then-Padres manager Jim Riggleman’s third base coach. In 1995 he was named manager. Bochy won the Manager of the Year in 1996, leading the Padres to the first of four division titles in his 12 years at the helm. His Padres won the NL pennant in 1998 before losing to the 114-win Yankees in the World Series. Whenever the Padres had the players to contend and were in a playoff race, Bochy got them to the playoffs.

Respected throughout baseball by players, coaches, opposing managers and front office people alike, Bochy was strategically adept and popular with his players. One thing the Padres never had to worry about with Bochy was missing out on players because they didn’t want to play for the manager. Having sat quietly through the Padres' teardown after the 1998 season and overseeing a retooling process, the Padres were contending again when Alderson arrived in 2005. Bochy’s contract was up after that season, but Alderson allowed Bochy to be granted a contract extension through the 2007 season. After the Padres lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS in both 2005 and 2006, it became clear that Bochy was not going to get a contract extension past the 2007 season. It was also clear that Alderson wanted to bring in another manager who fit more neatly into his organizational structure.

Much as he did with Towers after the 2005 season, Alderson allowed Bochy to interview to become manager of the San Francisco Giants. Alderson, who is lauded for his "no BS style" of management issued the following statement regarding the possibility of Bochy leaving to manage the Giants, a division rival no less:


"My approach is to put everything on the table. If somebody wants to pursue another opportunity, as long as it is legitimate, my policy is to allow somebody to do that(...) He may very well not go to San Francisco. If he doesn't and comes back to the Padres, my hope is we have a happier, more content and more motivated Padres employee than we would have otherwise. There is only one way to [prove] to somebody that the grass is not greener, and that's to allow somebody to roll around it a little while."


You can feel free to believe this crap if you choose to, but what executive in his right mind is going to let his manager leave: A) while he’s under contract; and B) to go to a division rival if he had any interest in keeping him?

When any CEO allows his contracted employees to interview for other jobs, clearly they’re no longer wanted. Alderson wanted Bochy out because Bochy was making too much money for Alderson's frugal tastes ($1.9 million); was unwilling to do as he was told by upper management in regards to strategy; and wasn’t going to get a contract extension to remain with the Padres. Rather than firing him and having to pay the salary, Alderson did Bochy something of a favor by allowing him to interview and eventually get the Giants job and the long term contract he wanted. This freed Alderson to do as he wanted in finding a new manager.

Bochy had been the manager of the Padres for too long, was too well-liked and respected, and had been too successful to sit by as upper management exerted the strong hand that is inherent in the Moneyball strategy. Naturally, Bochy was going to complain about the way he was being marginalized and his lack of a long term deal. Between Alderson and Bochy, who do you think was going to win a PR war if things got really out of hand? The popular old-school manager with the grumbly way of talking and bushy black mustache eerily similar to those worn by the barnstorming teams from the turn of the century that we see in grainy black and white films? Or the justifications of the pompous and condescending Ivy Leaguers that were slowly taking over the Padres front office like a latter day Invasion of the Body Snatchers as they held Bochy’s longtime cohort Towers as a hostage? If anything sealed Bochy’s decision to leave San Diego despite his history as a member of the organization, it had to be in 2006 when one of the stat zombies in Alderson's remade front office suggested that he bat pitcher Woody Williams in the number two hole. (Don’t ask me why.) After Bochy left, Alderson and Towers hired the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels, Bud Black.

Bud Black was a solid left-handed starting pitcher for numerous teams during his big league career and had blossomed into a well-regarded pitching coach. Black was always accommodating with the media, well-spoken and a solid baseball guy. Angels manager Mike Scioscia thought so highly of his pitching coach that he regarded him as second bench coach. Black was a sought after managerial candidate by the Red Sox after they fired Grady Little and, ironically, the Giants before they hired Bochy. Somewhat admirably, Black preferred to stay on the West Coast when the Red Sox opportunity was floated as a possibility because he wanted his daughters to be able to finish school first.

When Black took the Padres job, it seemed like a perfect fit. In retrospect, there were red flags that could’ve been seen beforehand:


He had no managerial experience.



No matter how many voices express the opinion that a good coach who knows the game will be able to handle managing, it is very, very difficult for any manager to take over a big league club and navigate everything inherent with managing if he’s never done it before. We’ve seen it time and time again with managers like Willie Randolph, Joe Girardi and Buck Martinez. None of them had managerial experience; all had extensive game experience and had their issues when they took over. It wasn’t just strategic. As mentioned earlier, managing is more than just writing the lineup card. There are aspects that can’t be understood until they’re experienced and any manager who’s going to walk in without that experience from managing somewhere at some point isn’t going to have an automatic reaction to those issues.


He was taking the job as it became common knowledge of the way Moneyball teams treated their managers.


Players are always looking to take advantage in some way. If they know there’s a weakness, they’re going to try and exploit it no matter how much they like him personally. With a new manager making short money and having never managed before, was Black going to be able to cope if the season wore down and there wasn’t time for him to get instructions from the front office on what to do?


The Padres construction always left them vulnerable to a sudden collapse.


The Padres were never built to handle adversity. With veteran players who were inexpensive; young players who just weren’t that good; and little in regard to replacement in case of injuries, the Padres were a good bet to fall apart if one small crack appeared in the foundation. And once that crack did appear, Black had neither the experience nor the skills to be able to manage the team as anything other than the figurehead that Alderson wanted when he made the decision to hire Black.


As I've repeatedly discussed, it was Black's inexperience as a manager that exacerbated the Padres stumble from sure playoff participant in 2007 to a 99-game loser in 2008.

Alderson left the Padres after Jeff Moorad purchased the club from Moores and took over in running the clean-up of the baseball-mad Dominican Republic. The DR has been rife with shady agents, payoffs and PEDs. The Padres have been rejuvenated based on the decisions made by Towers and the new front office.

Now, he's openly campaigning for the job to run the Mets.

Which Alderson would the Mets be getting?

Would it be the Athletics' Alderson who worked hand-in-hand with a great manager and crafted a powerhouse (backed up by money)? Or is it the caricature from Moneyball? The man who had far too much power and ego for his own good with the Padres?

All due respect to Alderson's military service, I fail to see what the oft-repeated "Marine lawyer, educated at Dartmouth" has to do with turning around the Mets.

I go by facts; I go by results; and I'm reluctant to see a team in such desperate need of competent leadership to acquiesce to the demands of the media based on little more than the demands of the media. The media is not running the Mets (and if they did, we'd see the logical conclusion of such an event----most of the reporters covering baseball know absolutely nothing about baseball to begin with); it's a circular, self-fulfilling prophecy.

When a groundswell of support for a candidate is based on promotion and at such a fever pitch that the decisionmaker may be unduly influenced by outsiders, this can lead to said decisionmakers doing what's safe rather than what's right.

The Mets are smart to interview Alderson. They've shown rare assertiveness (for the Mets) in having the sheer audacity to ask the Marlins for permission to speak to Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill; they're performing aforementioned due diligence in interviewing Josh Byrnes and considering making a move on Jon Daniels. But for them to decide to hire Alderson because he: A) has made his interest clear; B) has had his resume is taken out of context without proper dissection; and C) the media wants him, would compound the prior mistakes the club has made out of desperation and concern about public perception.

If Alderson drills the interview and the Wilpons feel comfortable with him running the show, then fine; but he shouldn't be hired for any reason other than that. If the Mets cave to pressure again, they could be a making an error that will set them back even further and they'll be in a worse position three years from now than they are today.

I was a guest with Sal at Sportsfan Buzz last Monday talking about the post-season; the firings; and Ichiro. Click to listen directly here. Or at Sal's site here and get it on I-Tunes.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

Wow.

That's all I can say.

She-Fan said...

I'm with Jeff, although I was going with "Yikes."

I do have to add that I got a really nice laugh when I read the names Greg Caderet, Eric Plunk and Luis Polonia. Hadn't thought of them in a LONG time.

Gabriel said...

Is there a way we can put this on the Wikipedia entry for Sandy Alderson?

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

And so, in the end, things boil down to Jeff Wilpon's ability or inability to be a competent "Baseball Man" and everything that entails. What scares me about the Mets' situation is, by his own admission, Jeff said he has no preconceived model for a GM. Jeff is willing to be sold on a plan.

That was a most excellent undressing of Sir Money Ivy Balls. This was like the Crystal Caves discovery; Hot, Deep and a Gem. (no innuendos...please)

mike

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