Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life Under A New Ruler

  • I hardly think that's any of your business:

First email I opened this morning was from the Mets and said the following:

Before realizing it was a link to a video from new GM Sandy Alderson, I was under the brief and mistaken impression that Alderson's first order of business was to contact everyone on the club mailing list and demand to know their credit score.

Was it a way of weeding out undesirables who were leveraged to the hilt? Are the Mets----under the new regime----going to demand to have the social security number and vital statistics of each and every fan who dares even try to indulge in the new era of the Mets? Will nary a day go by without some exertion of Alderson's authority to make it certain that each and every person under his auspices knows who's in charge----even if sacrifices are made and non-key fanbase personnel are dispatched simply to set an example?*

*Doubtful I'd be among their number; the Mets need me and I think they know it; but as a possible candidate for punishment due to the crime of sedition? Yeah, I'd better bolster my protection.

All kidding aside, it was a video link and it was educational; in fact, it was impressive; but not as impressive as Alderson's appearance with Mike Francesa on WFAN's Mike'd Up. Here's the link to Francesa's site to listen.

Although I've vowed to enter the Alderson era with an open mind and no preconceived notions one way or the other----wait and see and it were----Alderson's case was compelling, The explanation of the past; eloquence; obvious enthusiasm for the job; honesty; and, most importantly, plans for the future of the Mets made me believe that he's at least going to implement a code of conduct and systematic approach rather than throwing stuff at the wall with the usual chaos that has accompanied the Mets regardless of who's been in charge for most of their existence.

At least there's someone at the top now; someone who has a clear vision that----whether it succeeds or fails----will be able to point to a reason for why he did what he did. After the way the would-be empire crumbled since the 2007 collapse, that's a far better place to be than where the club was before.

As for the interview itself, Alderson had all the answers to the questions I'd asked in my posting wondering whether he was the right man for the job.

As mentioned earlier, he discussed his past with the leadership principles he learned in the Marines and organization from being a lawyer. While these attributes weren't of great interest to me as final tenets for Alderson being the man to turn around the Mets (as others have asserted), they do give him a breadth of experience as parts of the overall qualities he's going to need running the Mets.

He told of what happened in both Oakland and San Diego as he ran the Athletics and Padres. Both teams whose payroll issues hindered what could and couldn't be done; what could and couldn't be accomplished. Like a chess match----without a long-term cognizance of how each move affected every other move----he had to eschew certain "wants" in the moment for long-term "needs" in the future in order to survive.

No one will ever accuse Sandy Alderson of not being able to express himself----in his press conference and interviews, he sounded calm, relaxed, energized and ready to take on the task. His intention to hire people with whom he's familiar bodes well for a the chain of command and deferring to those who can handle different aspects of doing their jobs, people he can trust to do things the way he wants them with continuity.

Two of the larger concerns (one I had; one others paid far too much attention to) were the idea that he wanted a puppet as a manager to implement front office edicts; and the other was the allegation that Alderson turned a blind eye to the rampant steroid use that appeared to begin with Jose Canseco and the Bash Brothers Athletics of the late 1980s-early 1990s.

I never saw the steroid issue as something that could have fallen at Alderson's desk. As he explained to Francesa, what was he supposed to do about it? He's not stupid and he did strongly suspect that Canseco was using; I believe him when it comes to denying he thought Mark McGwire was using; but, as he said, the drugs weren't illegal back then; nor were they banned by baseball. Combining those factors with the strength of the MLB Players Association, there wasn't much he could do about it even if he'd caught the players shooting the stuff into themselves in the clubhouse.

In fact, they could've done it in his office and he couldn't have responded adequately aside from getting rid of them; and by the time the mid-1990s rolled around, all he conceivably would've been able to do was to trade the players, concede the competitive disadvantage by acquiring players who looked clean, or simply acquire a different player who was also using PEDs.

As per the manager as "middle-manager" ideal, much of that stemmed from Moneyball and the way Alderson was quoted and perceived after the book came out. Having worked with a decided individual who did things his own way (and with whom he's still close friends) Tony La Russa, there was no allusion that Alderson was ordering La Russa around; but when he hired Art Howe to manage the A's and, as was said in Moneyball, Howe was hired to do as he was told by the front office, the monster grew to monumental proportions and fed the circular firing squad of non-fans of Moneyball (of which I am the self-appointed leader of the sect).

While his actions with the Athletics and Padres somewhat validated the Moneyball nonsense in which a manager was little more than a faceless automaton whose sole purpose was to do as he was told, Alderson provided a different face to what he wants in a manager now that he's taken over the Mets; he's looking for someone who can lead on the field and work in conjunction with the front office to best utilize the players that are brought in.

That is a not-so-subtle change from the hiring of Howe; the statements in Moneyball; and the way in which Bruce Bochy was allowed to leave the Padres in favor of the cheaper and more pliable Bud Black.

It's an important deviation from the way I (accurately judging from the book and his actions) saw Alderson and what he might or might not do with the Mets.

With all of that, I think the Mets are now on the right track. The talk that this team is pretty much as is aside from a few needed subtractions like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, doesn't necessarily mean that they can't vault into contention next year.

With a strong foundation and a few smart maneuvers, is a team that has Ike Davis playing first base for the entire year rather than starting the season with Mike Jacobs; with Angel Pagan in center field and Carlos Beltran in right (you can bet that's going to happen) and Beltran playing the entire season; with more organized bullpen management; better behavior; Jason Bay and Jose Reyes healthy; and a more inviting atmosphere for players to want to join rather than signing with the Mets because they had no other choice----are they a 98-win team? No. But could they get a break here and there and get to 86-90 wins and make a Wild Card run? Why not?

As I've continually preached caution with the new GM, I'm going to to say, "we'll see" ad nauseam; but that "we'll see" can't help but be happy with the way the new GM began his tenure. I'm a hard man to impress; but I was impressed by Sandy Alderson yesterday as he spent his first few hours as the architect of the Mets.

  • Bullying:

In the same interview with Alderson, Francesa tried his usual "I'm Mr. Big Shot" routine with familiar bullying. One such case was when he talked about the steroid issue; the other was when he mentioned the Mets being in competition with the Yankees, he again went into ignorant Yankee-fan mode in which he takes open shots at the Mets, undermines his own credibility (such as it is), and essentially behaves as one of his less-intelligent callers who turns every statement of the Yankees into a fest of "we're the best and you're all nothin'!!"

First, with the steroid issue, Francesa came up with his "step into my minefield" query/statement of the "when did you stop beating your wife?" variety as he wondered how someone as sharp as Alderson didn't catch on to the PED use; Alderson responded with a half-humorous, but message-sending, "(how could) someone some omniscient; so all-knowing" miss such a thing? (It's about 15:30 into the interview.)

Francesa backed off.

As for the Yankees-Mets stuff, are the Mets in competition with the Yankees?


In spite of Francesa's "'da Yankees are 'da standahd" and the familiar bloviating, looking at it realistically, how many people are sitting with Yankees tickets and Mets tickets as their option for a season-long commitment or a night out and debating whether to get one or the other? Mets fans are Mets fans; Yankees fans are Yankees fans. They're not in competition with one another to garner fans; it just "is".

Are the teams in competition on the field?

Only for six games a year. They're not in the same division; they're not in the same league. There's no direct competition between the two other than for the backpages of the newspapers. In recent years, the Mets have made their way onto the backpage because of repeated disasters on the field; and to the front of the papers for humiliating incidents with high-profile players. It's a matter of context. People forget that the Mets ruled New York in the 1980s and the Yankees----simply put and factually accurate----were a laughingstock.

The teams can battle directly for free agents; but no one can match the financial might and cachet of the Yankees. The Mets aren't going to get into a bidding war for Cliff Lee because it doesn't make sense for them now; for years, the Mets had to deal with the fact that Carlos Beltran offered his services to the Yankees for less money and years than he demanded from the Mets; a player like Roy Oswalt was less likely to want to enter into an anarchy-laced club as the Mets were rightly viewed in recent years; with Alderson that won't be as much of a thought for players, but the state of the ballclub will be. Once the Mets are good, the competition won't be based on anything other than money and the on-field state of the respective organizations.

Frankly, I don't want to hear such silliness because it's got nothing to do with reporting; it has to do with egotistical domineering, which I don't tolerate. Judging from him giving as good as he got from a pure bully like Francesa, neither will Sandy Alderson.

  • Sunday Lightning Preview:

Game 3 of the World Series is tonight; also, I have some more stuff to say about Moneyball; I'll talk about the rumored discussions of a trade between the White Sox and Marlins where manager Ozzie Guillen would've been dealt (it's been denied); also Joe Girardi's contract extension; plus the mail.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.

You are unwise to lower your defenses.


Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Now you've gone too far! With the hiring of Sandy Alderson, it's quite obvious Jeff Wilpon will have less to do with Baseball Ops and more to do with traditional C.O.O. responsibilities to include re-applying himself within the company books. If the Mets start asking for my credit score and SSN because you planted that seed into the mind of Jeff Wilpon as he suddenly finds himself with more time on his hands to read your blog to find good ideas will have to be muffled. (Anonymous Capo from NoWhere) ; /

This is the best decision the post-Doubleday Mets have made...Period. The "best" descriptive invites a different conversation.

She-Fan said...

I love that you got an email from "Sandy!" I see a budding friendship there. LOL. From everything I've read about his day yesterday, he was very impressive. Classy, well spoken, knowledgeable, hard working. Honestly, I don't know how the Mets could have done better.