I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up. Wednesday, the New York Mets handed embattled general manager Sandy Alderson a two-year extension.
Despite reports that Jay Bruce is turning his attention away from the Mets and, according to his agent, would be “thrilled” to play for the Giants in San Francisco, the Wilpons have found enough money to cough up for Alderson’s extension.
Mets announce officially that they've extended Sandy Alderson's contract, though they didn't say for how long. “I feel that we have some unfinished business,” Alderson said.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) December 21, 2017
Team sources tell Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that the extension is for two years.
On the same day, ESPN reported that the Nationals have agreed to one-year worth about $4 million with first baseman Matt Adams. $4 million measly dollars the Mets couldn’t find for a player who hit .271 with 19 homers in 100 games with Atlanta.
And, on the same day, Alderson parachuted safely to Citi Field, reports continue to swirl that the Mets are still going gaga about the possibility they could sign an over-the-hill Adrian Gonzalez to a minimum-wage deal to play first base in 2018.
Juxtapose all this against Alderson’s unbelievable statement from last season to SNY:
And yet, the Mets, in the name of Sandy Alderson—let’s face it, he is the Mets—found time yesterday to add insult to injury by damning the Mets‘ faithful to another two years of ineptitude, lack of foresight, and deception by re-crowning Alderson.
In the New York Post, George A. King III quotes directly from the statement released by the Mets:
“I’m excited that Sandy will continue to lead the organization,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. … “I feel that we have some unfinished business,” said Alderson, Baseball America’s Executive of the Year in 2015. “Spring training is around the corner and our quest to return to the postseason will continue.”
The trouble is, of course, that Jeff Wilpon may be the only person on the planet who is “excited” about the development with Alderson. Alderson’s deadpan (or at least I hope it is) that “we have some unfinished business” interestingly contains the pronoun “we” instead of “I,” which it should be.
There’s no “we” for Brian Cashman (Yankees), Theo Epstein (Cubs), or Dave Dombrowski (Red Sox). These guys do it themselves, for better or worse. They make moves after doing their homework, and they do not stray from the reservation, with the understanding that ownership has the right (and the obligation) of giving them financial parameters to work around and within.
And therein lies the crux of the problem with the Mets. As Marc Carig detailed so eloquently a few days ago for Newsday, Sandy Alderson is steering a ship with no rudder. No one, perhaps even the Wilpons themselves, have a “financial playbook” to go by. The only operative directive coming from ownership seems to be “don’t spend.”
Which leaves Alderson in the unenviable position of having to beg and plead with the Wilpons anytime he’s got something cooking. So it’s no wonder that Alderson is knocking down doors to sign Gonzalez. It’s easy, and he doesn’t need to go begging.
Let’s not forget Alderson was once the master of his craft and widely acclaimed as a respected general manager when he was with the Oakland A’s. Putting aside for a moment that time was in the last millennium, consider this quote from Michael Lewis‘s well-known Moneyball, via Athletics Nation:
“Sandy didn’t know shit about baseball,” says Harvey Dorfman, the baseball psychologist Alderson more or less invented. “He was a neophyte. But he was a progressive thinker. And he wanted to understand how the game worked. He also had the capacity to instill fear in others.”
In the same article that appeared on Athletics Nation back in 2013, D.L. Nelson went on to add even more revealing detail about Alderson.
“‘Alderson hadn’t started out to reexamine the premises of professional baseball, but he wound up doing it anyway.’ Michael Lewis wrote. Through analysis of historical baseball data, Alderson was the one who discovered runs scored correlated more closely to on-base and slugging percentage, not team batting average. By testing various hypotheses, Alderson proved that, in many instances, bunting, stealing, and the hit-and-run were pointless exercises, even destructive. “I figured out that managers do all this shit because it is safe,” Alderson said to Lewis. “They don’t get criticized for it.”
That was Alderson, now 70, then. A man of foresight, integrity, and balls. What happened in the interim leading us to where we sit currently?
My best guess is to simply say Alderson is burned out. He has lost the drive to be competitive, and he’s found a way to stay in touch with baseball under the auspices of an equally non-competitive team of owners in the Wilpons.
And the managers he criticized decades ago for doing the “safe” thing has now morphed into Alderson himself. It’s also safe to say if Alderson were the GM for any team but the Mets, he would have been put out to pasture long ago.
The Mets are tiered with complexities most other teams don’t have to deal with. Nearly all stems from ownership and trickles on down to the lonely Mets fan who has nothing left but to dream about the days of future passed.
That the Mets are stuck in a quagmire from which there is no apparent route of escape in the near future is a sad commentary, especially for a team that plays in the capital of major league baseball, New York City.