A Blogger Chat With Sandy Alderson

This evening a selection of bloggers had a second conference call with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.  The first one took place in December. There were a lot of great questions asked, and I’m sure there will be a full recap around the blogosphere.  For now, the response to my question, followed by links to the other bloggers’ write-ups that I will update as I see them.



I asked Alderson how active he would be with transactions this season, in particular with regards to the second base or bullpen candidates that “just missed” making the team.

He explained that once these final decisions are made in Spring Training, a lot of that possible depth in the bullpen goes away.  Guys may have to be offered back if they’re rule 5 picks, or they may choose to opt out of their contracts or just retire.  The depth in the bullpen would most likely be Igarashi, although the Mets are pretty deep at second base.  He stressed the importance of making sure guys are given a chance to perform and not go into every game like it could be their last.  I feel like this is a big upgrade from last year; despite the ultimate results, I didn’t think it was fair for guys like John Maine and Oliver Perez to have it constantly held over their head that they were pitching for their careers to the point that Jerry Manuel actually publicly contemplated removing Maine from the rotation without ever mentioning it to him.

This is a good philosophy to have, but I wonder if it may be a little naive.  After all, it’s not usually the manager and GM that are holding the axe over a players head, it’s the fans and sports radio.  Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto only got 28 and 26 plate appearances  respectively before being cast away, and it seems like the fans were calling for their heads long before that.  Obviously the first base position took a rough turn when Murphy got hit with an injury days before the Opener, but what amounts to seven or eight games is hardly a telling sample size.  Ultimately getting Ike Davis on the Mets, particularly when Murphy experienced a setback in recovery, was a good move but that doesn’t mean Jacobs or Catalanotto got a real fair shot to contribute.

Two quick things I took note of during the call.  One is that there is still a chance Nick Evans makes this team, regardless of what happens with Beltran.  The other is it seemed like Sandy’s biggest test for Jose Reyes is his on base percentage, and that if he can raise that, he’ll be resigned.  I’m confident both will happen.

Transcript Courtesy of Michael Baron

Mets Blog

On The Black

Faith and Fear in Flushing

Mets Police

Amazin’ Avenue

The Real Dirty Mets Blog

NJ.com’s Matthew Artus

Mets Today

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Will You Second Guess Sandy Alderson?

The general consensus about the Mets new general manager is that he’s a great hire and going to do great things for the franchise.  That he’s capable of advanced analysis and really understands the game.  Sure, some fans are skeptical, but for the most part we’re happy that he’s leading this club.

He’s already joked that the honeymoon is over, but how long will we truly give him until we second guess his decisions?  Will we ever give him the benefit of the doubt or will we insist we know better if he chooses someone for the roster we disagree with?

Specifically, if Sandy Alderson watches Oliver Perez throughout Spring Training and determines that he can add value to this team by being on the roster, will we be okay with it?

I doubt it.  A recent poll on Metsblog suggested that more fans would rather Perez fail than succeed.  I find this disturbing.  Oliver Perez is on the Mets, and when players on the Mets do good, the Mets do good. The Mets doing good is what matters the most.

So while I certainly have favorite players and guys I would like to see make the club like Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy, ultimately what I want is the best 25 guys that will lead to the Mets having the best possible club to start the season.  If that means Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, or even Jose Canseco, I’ll root for them to do well.

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Blogger Conference Call with Sandy Alderson

This evening Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson took the time to have a conference call with many of our favorite Mets blogs, including this one.  Everyone asked great questions, and Alderson’s answers were very enlightening and thought out.  Michael Baron wrote up a lot of it here. The Mets tweeted some of the conversation as well.

(You can follow me on Twitter too!) Sandy is doing a live webcast on Monday, so if there is still a question you’d like to see answered, go ask it!

As a representative of the optimistic fan base, or what still exists of it, I asked a suitably optimistic question of Sandy:  “You’ve mentioned being somewhat restricted in what you can spend this offseason, but if things go well and the Mets are in contention around the All-Star Break, what type of flexibility do you have to add a player or two to improve the club and keep them there?”

His response was positive.  He didn’t laugh at the idea of the Mets being in contention or talk about focusing on the future.  He said that that is the position they want to be in, and he would have to ability to add the pieces they need. He also suggested that if the Mets were in that position he would expect the attendance to reflect that.

In essence, he’s going to do the best he can to put the best team on the field and he hopes we’ll be prompted to go out and enjoy the games.  He ended the call saying we should do this again, and the entire experience left me feeling good about the Mets, and anxious for the season.

I’ll try to update this post with links to other write-ups as I see them, although you should know where to look by now. Mets Merized Online wins the award for speed, at least of what I’ve seen.

On the Black

The Eddie Kranepool Society

Mets Police

Very good transcript at Amazin’ Avenue

Matthew Artus
Faith and Fear in Flushing

Mets Today

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Sandy Alderson’s First Mets Test

Sandy Alderson has arrived at the baseball winter meetings, and with it comes his first real test as Mets GM. So far the only thing he’s done this year is talk and deal with some expiring contracts and options.  With most of that out of the way it’s time to start building the team for 2011, and he’s suggested he’ll return from Orlando with some new players when the Winter Meetings are over.

Jeff Francis Climbing the Coors Field Steps
Jeff Francis Climbing the Coors Field Steps

Reports on what type of money and players Sandy will be looking for vary, but reading between the lines seems to suggest that he’s looking for short contracts and isn’t looking to overpay anyone, particularly if they’re not a given to help out. So with the Mets needing at least two starting pitchers (Under the assumption that Santana won’t be ready for Opening Day, Oliver Perez is not getting a spot, and the prospects will be seasoning in Buffalo) it looks like Sandy is looking for that pitcher shrouded in doubt, and possibly coming off an njury, to bring in.  They’ve already been linked to Chris Young and Jeff Francis, so it does appear Sandy is on the right track.

Based on what’s leaked this coming week, who the Mets are linked to, who Sandy talks to and who he signs to be a New York Met next year will be the first thing we really get to judge our new general manager on.  First impressions are pretty important and Mets fans are likely to be peeved if the guy Alderson brings back is someone like Bruce Chen.  Scrolling through the free agent list does turn up some interesting names with various degrees of set-backs, and it’ll be interesting to see who the Mets feel can contribute in the future.

Despite the nature of the fans to overreact to a signing Alderson may or may not make during the Winter Meetings, what is important is that it contributes to winning.  Many of the same people that wanted Omar Minaya fired on the spot for giving a minor league deal to R.A. Dickey are now talking about giving Dickey an extension. Hopefully Sandy takes a good hard look at what’s available, opens a dialogue with a half dozen different agents, and sets the stage for the Mets to have an excellent rotation, and team, in 2011.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

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Join The Club

There are posts and comments all over the Metsosphere about being excited and optimistic for the future.  All centered on the Mets “Big 3” in Alderson, Ricciardi, and DePodesta.  (What’s with Sandy hiring Pauls?  Any of the managerial candidates named Paul?) To that I say, “Join the Club”.  Maybe my optimism has been a little misguided over the years, but I believe this team has underperformed and still has the talent to have a shot at the post season in 2011.  Once these three guys get going in the front office, I believe the Mets position will only be strengthened.

So if you’re ready to put aside all the negative Mets stereotypes, ready to stop expecting the worst, and ready to look at the reasons the Mets can succeed versus doubting that they will then welcome aboard.

To compliment this post, and this blog, I’ve created an Optimistic Mets Fan Club Google group.  The group has no purpose, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join.  I’ve also created a Facebook group.  If you don’t like it, the terrorists Phillies win.

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Do You Trust Sandy Alderson?

It seems most of us do. Sandy is a smart guy, and he’s a lot closer to the process than we are. I understand that second guessing the team is almost as much fun as actually watching them play, but it’s time to take a little step back and trust in our newly hired general manager and his front office.

The idea is that just because we think something is obvious, that a decision HAS TO happen, doesn’t mean it does. We are not the general managers of this team, we are fans. As fans, the number one thing we want to see is the Mets to play winning baseball on the way to the World Series. We do not know how to achieve this, and we certainly don’t have a better idea of it than Sandy Alderson.

It’s time to stop demanding that Oliver Perez has to go. We do not know better than Alderson on whether or not Luis Castillo can contribute to the 2011 Mets. We don’t know that Backman/Valentine/Mazilli/Stengel is the absolute perfect fit to manage this team. We don’t know how attainable certain free agents are, how much we can afford to give them, or what the best fit for the team is.

I’m not saying we can’t talk about it. It can be fun to debate free agents acquisitions, it’s an interesting exercise to write up mock 2011 batting orders. Digging into advanced statistics to look for bargain pitchers can be a great learning experience about the game. It makes sense to doubt that Oliver Perez will get his fastball back up or be a contributing pitcher.

Last year nearly every free agent signing or trade was met with comments from Mets fans along the lines of “Why didn’t we at least offer X?”, “That guy would’ve been perfect at Citi Field!”, “Henry Blanco? Well gee, the World Series is a lock now!” Many of these comments were unfair last year, and the same holds true today. Sandy has a plan, and we’re going to have to trust in him to execute it. Trust in him not to put losing players on the field, and to start building a roster that can compete year after year.

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The Mets’ Wheel of Time Turns

The Wheel of Time turns, and Mets seasons come and pass, leaving games that become legend. Legends fade to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called 2010, an Age yet to come, an age long past, a press conference started in Flushing. The conference was not the beginning. But it was a beginning.

Okay, the quote barely makes sense, but the cyclical nature of the Mets history reminded me of Robert Jordan’s epic series. The Mets are again faced with a reboot of sorts, shedding some dead weight and redirected the franchise that has run off course.

Shea Goodbye
Shea Goodbye

So far I feel Fred and Jeff Wilpon said the right things.   I’m sure some of it’s probably saying what we want to hear, but they’ve given the right answers and seem to have the right goals and motivation.  I’ll take it.  Words are all we have right now, until after the World Series when we can start signing guys, and even that’s nothing until we play, and win, some games.

This season wsn’t a total waste for me.  The Mets made a lot of strides in appeasing and interfacing  with fans and bloggers. They created a Twitter account and started interacting. They invited a group of bloggers ‘into the fold’ and gave us an opportunity to stand on the field and talk to players during batting practice. They’re aware that there are a lot of intelligent people that spend a lot of time focusing on the Mets and thinking about them in detail.  Giving us that opportunity this year was an amazing thrill and one I’m extremely thankful for. It also gave me a chance to meet some of the fellow bloggers that I’ve been interacting with for a while.

You may have noticed, or not, that I’ve been posted a lot less.  It’s not the Mets, although them being mostly irrelevant for a month didn’t hurt, but me.  I’m getting married this weekend and things have been rather hectic.  The Mets did not reward me with a wedding present of a NLDS game to miss, and David Wright did not respond to my wedding invitation . I probably won’t be updating much over the next couple of weeks, but I suspect once things settle down I’ll get right back into it.  I’ve got some stuff planned in the offseason including some sabermetric debates that I’ve been putting off as well as some trying to match up the title of the blog with the 2011 season and the direction of the team.  In other words, a couple of spin posts trying to justify believing the Mets can and will win the World Series in 2011. (Hey, it’s more fun than predicting doom and gloom. Aren’t you tired of that?)

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Omar Could Stay For 2011

There have been signs that the Mets were never going to go all-in in 2010. As far back as the offseason, the Mets appeared to have a plan of not overpaying for mediocre players. They considered John Lackey, considered the top pitcher on the market, but ultimately decided that he was going to get more years and commitment than they felt was wise. They resisted Bengie Molina’s demands for a second year, something we’d all be screaming about for 2011 had they given it to him. Joel Pineiro had a contract offer from the Mets, but played chicken with them hoping for more money or another year, something the Mets felt was not in their best interests and didn’t budge on. We’ll likely never know if this was due to some budget constraints, or due to a philosophy of not giving out bad contracts. Outside of budget issues, Omar also resisted trading away prospects for rentals or other pieces during the season. It’s impossible to know if there was one guy that would’ve turned the season around, or gotten them to the playoffs. It certainly doesn’t seem like it based on where they’ve ended up, but hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe there was a creative solution that could’ve gotten the Mets a contributing second baseman, or a solid right fielder when Castillo was sidelined with the injury and Jeff Francoeur settled back to his sub-par career norm. However, Omar’s resistance to trading prospects this season has helped bolster the farm system and has created more options going forward.

I think this plan reflects well on Omar. He seems to have conducted business in 2010 according to this preset plan likely put in place with his agreement or from the owners. While it’s possible it was set in motion to keep Omar from sacrificing the Mets under bad long term contracts or gutting the farm system for a outside shot at success this year, it seems more likely that he executed the organizational plan very well in 2010 and it’d be surprising for them to fire him as a result of that. It’s never an easy thing to evaluate a GM. We don’t know what decisions were solely his, and what decisions of his were vetoed by either the owners or the other people involved in making decisions. We also don’t know what decisions Omar may have vetoed that would’ve worked out, or that he just couldn’t get done. There are rumors and hints at both positive and negative budget issues and it’s unlikely we’ll ever know exactly what the financials are, or were, for the Mets.

The Mets are even more aware of the risk of long term contracts with Johan Santana’s recent torn capsule in his shoulder casting doubt on the productivity of the back end of his contract. Johan was and is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it’s looking like even that may not have been worth the money and years. I think this only accentuates why the Mets won’t, and shouldn’t, go after Cliff Lee in the offseason. Having one long term, high priced, contract for a pitcher is risky, two could be catastrophic. Investing over $40 million dollars a year on two pitchers who will be on the field less than 40% of all Mets games may be irresponsible. This subject will probably be debated back and forth all offseason anyway though.

I wish the Mets had given 2010 a better shot than they did, although I consent that part of it was the underperforming Bay, Beltran’s slow recovery, Maine’s un-fixed injury, Murphy’s injury and even Castillo’s bone bruise that kept 2B production down from his usually OBP and subjected us to Cora and Tejada for too long. I don’t dislike the Mets plan. It’s often possible to find a cheap option that will approximate, if not better, the performance you’d get by signing a guy an average free agent like Jason Marquis or Joel Pineiro with a lot less commitment for the future. R.A. Dickey did as well as any free agent pitcher on the market, including John Lackey. The Mets trusted in Niese and were rewarded. Josh Thole certainly looks very solid, both defensively and offensively, and i’m so glad Omar didn’t give Bengie that second year.

Not trading prospects will end up being a boon as well. Ike Davis hasn’t been much better than Daniel Murphy was in his “rookie” 2009 season, but he’s well above average defensively, and has more power. Niese has grown up, Thole is here, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee may be outside shots at contributing next year. Ruben Tejada has looked pretty good defensively. There are others in the minors as well. This doesn’t mean the Mets are set for 2011, but they have a lot more options going forward. Knowing more about these prospects and having them close to Major League ready gives the 2011 Mets a lot of possibilities in terms of getting production for cheap from Ike Davis, or maybe trading a guy that doesn’t fit as well for a different piece of the puzzle.

Omar is still here right now. There’s no doubt that the Mets have a lot of things they need to accomplish this offseason, and I can see how a head start on getting to know what’s needed on the team could help that. What real reason is there to keep Omar around for September when the Mets are out of the playoff race? The biggest decisions he’s making right now are which rookies to promote to the Mets, and using that major league exposure to determine the holes and needs of the Mets for 2011. Chances are the ownership group is involved in which players are getting looks too, and isn’t this something a new GM could do as part of his (or her, though that seems unlikely) process? The Mets are going to have a lot to do this offseason, including picking new coaches and a manager and improving the team on the field. Wouldn’t it make sense to reassign or fire Omar sooner rather than later and get a head start on the administrative changes?

So based on all this, it does appear that Omar has been doing a good enough job to warrant not getting fired. Does that mean he keeps his job? One concern with the team is that they may stick with a guy too long, or make a decision based on what happened last year versus what will happen next year. It’s the front office’s job to pay a guy on what he’ll do in 2011, not reward him for what he did in 2010. This can apply to the GM as well. Omar may well have done a good job creating a 2011 Mets puzzle that looks promising, but will he do a good job putting together those pieces so that the end result is a 2011 Mets World Championship? That is the difficult question here, and one the Wilpons need to think long and hard about. If it was up to me, I think I’d look long and hard at other options, but I think if Omar can and does lay out a fully thought out and complete plan for 2011, and beyond, that he could return.

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