Seeing as it was all but a foregone conclusion for quite a while that the Mets would hire Sandy Alderson as their new general manager on Friday, I had some time to chew on it.
Throughout, there was something oddly unsettling about the euphoria Alderson’s inevitable hiring elicited from my fellow Mets fans, not to mention the universal acclaim from pundits. This is not to say that I’m necessarily opposed to Alderson coming to Queens, because that’s not the case. I think, in many respects, he fits the bill quite nicely.
But it was hard for me to feel too strongly either way, frankly, and I’ve finally settled on why this is: Alderson, for all there is to like about what his resume indicates he might bring to the Mets, is a relic whose last stint as a roster-assembling executive predates the debuts of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. Yes, that’s a pretty long time ago. Which is to say, I don’t rightly know what Alderson is anymore, and it’s even more difficult to predict how that will play out through trades, free agency, on the farm, and ultimately, on the field.
And that is a very real concern about this hire, because although it has furnished the Amazin’s with some much-needed short-term credibility — the value of which can’t be understated after they went off the rails in ’09 and ’10 — there are fair questions about it as a viable long-term strategy.
What we like about Alderson is that he built those wildly successful A’s teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s — the ones boasting 20-game winners and 40-homer threats. What we like perhaps even more than that is that we finally have the cult of personality on our side, what with Alderson having been immortalized in Moneyball as Yoda to Billy Beane’s Luke Skywalker.
Indeed, history has been quite kind to Alderson, as have the Padres and Major League Baseball, both of which provided him employment following his departure from the A’s in 1997. Bud Selig vouched heartily for the guy, which probably doesn’t carry much weight in these parts, but hey, he (Alderson) is a Marine, as was Gil Hodges, and we all know how that ended.
It’s almost as if the Alderson hire is one about which no faction can complain, and it sort of feels as if it were made with that mind. He ascribes to the wonderful tenets of advanced analysis, but he’s no statgeek — he can kick your ass if it comes down to it, which will come in handy the next time Jeff Wilpon grows antsy and deems it necessary to meddle.
Certainly, these things don’t portend poorly for Alderson as he endeavors to rectify the Mets, which is no small task. What we must concede, though, is that like any gamble, it has its risks.
The business of Alderson’s being charged with grooming his successor, John Ricco, is disconcerting at best, seeing as it indicates the Wilpons remain steadfast in their unwillingness to cede total control of baseball operations to an executive and whichever underlings he’d like to bring in. What, exactly, is the basis for their Ricco fetish, I can’t rightly say, but they really like something about him.
In one regard, it’s commendable that the Mets are trying to lay the framework for for long-term success. The gripe, though, is that I think the mentor-apprentice model is hardly a sure thing, which says nothing of the potential conflict between a previous-regime holdover and the new guy. Conceding that’s not a problem, which is not a given, if the Mets are anticipating Ricco becoming the next Beane under Alderson, well, they could be setting themselves up for disappointment.
As for Alderson’s reanimation after such a lengthy layoff, I can’t help but to recall Joe Gibbs’ return to the Redskins after 11 years out of football in 2004. He was more of a legend then than Alderson is now, and he was an overwhelming sentimental favorite to reclaim the reins, as is Alderson. Unfortunately, Gibbs’ second stint was so-so at best, as it was painfully apparent that the game had completely passed him by in a very short time.
Football and baseball are different sports, obviously, not to mention that Alderson and Gibbs are entirely different people, but is it so hard to imagine a guy who was once ahead of every curve suddenly isn’t so hip? And just as Gibbs stockpiled top-tier coordinators for his Redskins staff, it appears Alderson will bring in a who’s who of former execs to run the Mets. This mish-mosh — an All-Star team of front-office types — sounds great in theory, but doesn’t it kind of smack of too many chefs spoiling the proverbial soup?
As I said above, I like the Alderson hire because it stabilizes a franchise that’s been hemorrhaging dignity for several years. I’m just not sure that this deus ex machina isn’t too good to be true with some curious long-term edicts having already been handed down. And though I’ve apparently been pegged as a Mets-hating hysteric, I think the team’s recent track record warrants more than a free pass on any and all matters, especially one as important as hiring a new general manager.
With a gun to my head, Jon Daniels is my new Mets GM. All he’s done is turn a dormant franchise into a World Series entrant. Oh, and he’s done it recently. And he’s a Mets fan.