Tag Archive for Sandy Alderson

Retirement Community

So congrats to Terry Collins for becoming the Mets longest-tenured manager ever. I never would have predicted that back in 2010 when he was my fifth choice among the so-called “final four” candidates of the incoming Alderson Administration.

I don’t believe he was ever meant to last this long, either. I think they had hoped to have progressed enough by the end of his initial 2-year hitch to pass the torch onto a “win now” skipper but the putridness of the club in 2011 and 2012 actually saved Terry. And once they got good again his charm with the writers (who adore him) and players (who appear not to have tuned him out – yet) kept him going. That and the idea that you can’t whack a World Series manager. I have my disagreements with Terry and more often than I’d like I feel like his team is unprepared, but I don’t think he’s giving away much strategically to the other guy managing most nights and their clubs make mistakes too. Ultimately that’s what matters to me as a watcher of games.

All that said, I think we’re approaching a fairly substantial Changing of the Guard. No, they’re not going to fire Terry but his contract is due at the end of the year, he’s 67 years old, his place in Mets history is assured and he has turned rotten-looking clubs into contenders twice already. Alderson is 69, he’s dealt with a cancer incident, and he’s nearing a point at which he can expect to see at least two of his farm-fresh position players (Rosario and Smith) take on big-league jobs to join the pitching ranks developed or acquired under his watch. (I’d argue for more, to see Cecchini at 2nd and Zimmo! in center, even though I know it’s still early for that). Dan Warthen will be 65 later this year. 9th-String Catcher’s remarks in the below post got me thinking about him and whether he can effect the changes in approach many of his charges seem to need. While I think Warthen would be quickly scooped up were he to be set free, Terry and Sandy, as in the Springsteen songs that use their names, are going to escape this rat-trap town by the end of this LP. And then there’s David Wright.

The Mets’ promotional calendar is full every weekend day but for Saturday, Sept. 9 which is marked “TBD.” My friend who pointed this out to me noted the club took the same strategy a year ago before revealing it would be “Mike Piazza Jersey Retirement Day,” and suggested it could be David Wright Retirement Day. It surely could, but I think that’s only part of it.

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Just Our Luck

13Don’t look now but Jerry Blevins may be wearing No. 13 after all.

An article in Sunday’s NY Post says as much, which would conflict with some published rosters (listing the lefty wearing 39) and Blevins own tweets, which suggested Asdrubal Cabrera — a 13 for most his career with the Indians and Rays who signed ahead of the free agent Blevins — had the right to the number before him. In fact, the only time Cabrera hasn’t worn 13 was in 2014: When he was teammates with Blevins in Washington.

This also is another reminder why we shouldn’t put too much stock in what’s said and done in the offseason.

The same paper by the way has a terrific Q&A with Sandy Alderson in which the GM confesses to a taste for the dramatic, in the context of good timing. One of the many things I admire about Alderson is that so often there’s a undercurrent of orchestration to the things the club does. Without putting too fine a point on it, he’s really a storyteller.

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Hit or Miss

Another rough stretch, another few victims, another media crisis, more angry fans in a panic.

51So it goes for the Mets, who unexpectedly whacked hitting coach Dave Hudgens — and predictably cashiered gasbag reliever Jose Valverde — following a disheartening Memorial Day debacle. It wasn’t long after Hudgens took leave that his opinions concerning the effect of fans booing and criticisms from team broadcasters were speeding around the circuit, and he followed that up this afternoon by remarking on the team’s “purse strings” — a fresh serving of red meat for stimulated fans who’d somehow convinced themselves that Sandy Alderson hasn’t been deftly splitting hairs for years now when he’s asked about financial constraints governing the ongoing turnaround.

57That all the issues — the booing, the Keith, the money, the hitting, the bullpen — are at some level related is the story of the season so far and the burden the Mets are dragging around everywhere. And there was certainly a whiff of Wilponian sneakiness to the Hudgens affair. He was quite obviously one of Sandy’s pet hirings, and replaced by a guy, Lamar Johnson, who’d been hanging around Mettown for a decade. On the other hand, maybe parting with Hudgens was Sandy’s offering to the bloodlusters — dopes in the press eager to link the offensive struggles to the organizational hitting strategy as part of an ongoing effort to bring down Sabermetics and prove the Earth is flat — and an acknowledgement that despite the process, the results called for a change.

So Lamar Johnson is here, the first No. 57 since Johan Santana — and Hudgens has turned in No. 51. Valverde has turned in 47. Elsewhere we’ve seen the return of Matt den Dekker in No. 6 and Josh Edgin in 66, and Vic Black, still No. 38.

 

 

 

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Nothin from Nothin Leaves Nothin

You gotta have somethin if you wanna be with me.

0So, so long, Omar Quintanilla, and thanks for being the first No. Zero in 14 years. Your frequent and repeated DFAs have made you a kind of Nelson Figueroa of Met position players, and I fully expect we’ll see you again, especially if and/or when this whole Wilmer Flores-to-shortstop experiment ends in a failure or injury.

4Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m glad the Mets are trying this. Flores has a nice record as a minor league hitter, and he’s still very young, and the Mets need young position players who can hit. And Ruben Tejada just isn’t getting it done offensively, the Mets aren’t good enough hitters otherwise to carry a bat like that, as though the last batch of games hadn’t illustrated that.

That this move will also likely test the limits of what we can accept defensively from a major league shortstop will be interesting in and of itself. Flores last time wore No. 4 and we’d expect to see that again tonight.

Elsewhere, I’m troubled to see the spate of recent articles and fan sentiment hovering around this absurd notion that the nascent organizational turnaround under Sandy Alderson is some kind of setback from the Omar Minaya Era, in which the Mets appeared to possess no ovearching philosophy other than to create the illusion they were headed in the right direction by paying full retail for other team’s players.

Joel Sherman, whom I usually like, today is trying to sell the idea that Alderson has failed because Omar-acquired ballplayers remain at the heart of his club, conveniently leaving out the idea that the even bigger disasters of Alderson’s years until now were even more influenced by Minaya, and that any administration’s third year will still include rubble from the prior occupant’s closet (he may as well have argued Minaya’s ineffectiveness given the benefits he derived from Steve Phillips’ charges like Wright and Reyes). In reality though, several Minaya legacies have failed Alderson badly (Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada) and/or were foolishly traded (Carlos Gomez, Joe Smith) and/or handicapped him with lardy contracts (Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez) and/or aren’t around to help when he could use them (Bobby Parnell, Matt Harvey). I’m not trying to bury Omar Minaya, whom I believe did his best despite being frequently overmatched at the trading and negotiating tables and too easily interfered with by the Wilpons and the press, but painting him as even a comparative success vs. the current administration is, um, bullshit.

In the meantime, what was basically a gut-renovation of the system by Alderson is turning around opinions and results on the minor league level already, and other than it turning out to be an inviting target for lazy critics and columnists, there ought to be nothing wrong with acting in a manner of a club that’s going to win 90 games if that is indeed the goal. If it were easy to rebuild a club while slashing payroll by 35% in an inflationary market, everyone would be doing it.

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Let’s Build Something This Summer

38Garrett Olson was assigned No. 38 during Spring Training and with those digits still unassigned, its a good bet that’s the number the Mets call on when they need to retire a lefthanded hitter this week. Olson is expected to join the Mets Tuesday after the club revealed the shoulder injury to Tim Byrdak was more serious than they expected. Like, Johan Santana serious.

This is not official but it is expected the corresponding move will be to demote Elvin Ramirez again. Byrdak went onto the disabled list over the weekend whgen closer Frank Francisco returned from the DL. Also back now from injury is Mike Baxter, with Kirk Niuewenhuis mercifully returned to Buffalo.

That’s not quite the flurry of moves many expected this year at the trading deadline but after stewing for a bit over the seeming pointlessness of retaining Byrdak, Scott Hairston and Jon Rauch, I came around the Sandy Alderson’s so-many-words point that there might be some value in finishing third rather than last for a change. We Mets way too often go hell-bent for one or the other.

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So This is Christmas

There’s been more notable departures than arrivals at LaGuardia this offseason. A look at the Mets roster reveals plenty of empty spaces where the numbers belong, a theme that is likely to be repeated with regards to seats at CitiField while the Mets flounder under an ownership group that at this point has surpassed the DeRoulets for historical incompetance. As I’ve said for some time, the Mets certainly look like an organization headed for (and deserving of) a punishing stay in Chapter 11. Until it gets there, it’s up to the beleaguered, lender-appointed general manager Sandy Alderson to preserve whatever dignity the team can maintain amid the non-offers, layoffs, minor-league shut-downs and salary-dumping trade rumors you can’t necessarily dismiss.

That they’ve added a bunch of players without assigning any of them a uniform number yet is a small indication of where they are. In some ways, they remind me of the Bad News Bears, where Buttermaker is late with the uniforms because he can’t find a sponsor. So on this Christmas Eve, here’s wishing the 12 players and four coaches newly added to the organization and/or its 40-man roster receive numbers in their stockings.

To Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Ryota Igarashi, Ronny Paulino, Nick Evans, Chris Capuano, Jason Pridie, Dale Thayer, Pat Misch: Good luck and success (but not too much success) in 2012.

To Mookie Wilson, Chip Hale, Ken Oberkfell, Jon Debus: Thanks for trying.

To Tom Goodwin, Tim Teufel, Bob Geren, Ricky Bones: Good luck and numbers in the 50s.

To David Wright, Jason Bay: Pokes at a reasonable fence.

To R.A. Dickey: A best-seller.

To Pedro Beato, Lucas Duda, Josh Stinson, Dillon Gee, et al: No sophomore slumps.

To my friends here at MBTN and in the Mets’ fan community: Thanks for reading and a happy holidays!

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Chapter ’11

I think the Mets are in for a better season than the Wilpons, though I wish them both the best.

11The change in the front office and the manager’s chair I think are all strongly for the good: Though he’ll surely wear out his welcome at some point, Terry Collins appears to have given the group the jolt of energy it needed after a sonambulent tenure under Jerry Manuel, and Collins remarks at least suggest we won’t be in for another season of 8th-inning fetishes, unexplained doghousing and first-inning bunts. In the meantime, Sandy Alderson and his crew appear to have made some pretty good personnel decisions against a limited budget: The bullpen (churn!) looks very promising, and I like the new bench players, particularly Scott Hairston. They may have stretched out the Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez storylines longer than I had a stomach for but I think the decisions on them were correct. I don’t think we can predict what Chris Young or Chris Capuano will do, but both are looking like good selections for a team on a budget.

I worry, as always, about the offense. I’d almost forgiven Jason Bay for being such a kitten last season when his sudden injury this week reminded me he still owes us. I’m surprised to see Carlos Beltran make it to opening day and worry that continued health struggles will suck the energy out of the team again. On the other hand, I quite like Angel Pagan, David Wright, Josh Thole and Ike Davis, who I think can do some real damage in 162 games. And if Jose Reyes shows he’s the kind of player worth agonizong over a long-term contract for, then we’ll probably be having a good year. Brad Emaus could be could be a rookie of the year. He might not either, but it’s not like he’s taking an MVP from Castillo. All upside there.

The Wilpons I think , are facing some real trouble. Not necessarily as a result of the clawback lawsuit, but that they, like a lot of troubled companies today, borrowed heavily upon assumptions that the economy would continue to sizzle at its mid-90s pace (and also, that certain investments would continue delivering 12% returns). The Mets are certainly exhibiting behaviors of businesses headed toward a crisis: They’re deep in debt, revenues are falling, and they are haunted by high legacy costs. They’ve exhausted their credit with an untraditional lender (MLB) which appears to have insisted the club appoint a turnaround management firm. That’s how it happens.

I don’t think a bankruptcy would necessarily be a bad thing for the Mets. It would likely cost the Wilpons control of the team but provide the opportunity for the next owner (there’s evidently no shortage of interest) to restructure the balance sheet to better compete in an economy without magic returns and $500 seats. We never asked for that.

In number news: Rule 5 reliever Pedro Beato has requested he be outfitted in No. 27. He’s been wearing No. 70 this spring. Here’s the cool thing: Adam Rubin of ESPN reports Beato requested it because he wants to honor Juan Marichal.

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Clearing the Hurdle

13Clint Hurdle was a one-time “Phenom” of the Kansas City Royals but inconsistent play, insufficient power and probably, a few too many beers (read the extraordinary SI article for details), relegated him to journeyman status by age 25 when he hooked up with the Mets. Hurdle appeared with the Mets in 1983 (wearing No. 33), 1985 (when he wore No. 13) and 1987 (wearing No. 7). Although his contributions with the Mets were modest, the Mets and manager Davey Johnson liked him quite a bit: when he was lost to the Cardinals on a Rule 5 pick in ’86, Johnson was so upset he reportedly cried. The Mets in fact liked Hurdle so much they got him started on the road to managership shortly after he retired: He managed Met farm clubs for 6 years then was hired by the expansion Rockies, for whom he became manager in 2002.

Aside from an extraordinary 21-1 run that vaulted the Rockies all the way to the 2007 World Series, Hurdle’s career in Colorado was remarkable mainly for its length. He is the only manager in major league history to begin his career with five consecutive losing seasons and not get fired. His ability to hang on, many say, was due to a willingness to take bullets for the front office, and for his personal charm. I’ve always enjoyed his guest turns on Mets Extra when the Rockies visited. He wore No. 13 throughout his tenure in Denver.

Those who’ve studied his managerial tendencies have not been impressed, noting an adherance character-building but ultimately witless strategies like the sacrifice bunt. Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times suggests Hurdle’s most striking tendency as manager “is that he has arguably done the worst job picking batters for the No. 1 slot of any manager in the last half century where the data exist.” After enduring five years of bunt-happy, passive baseball under Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph, I am sure a change would be welcome.

But if Hurdle’s malleability and charisma can trump his tendency to botch strategy, he might not be a bad choice for the Alderson-led Mets. He evidently is among the finalists.

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“I’m Bald, and I Live with My Parents”

Isn’t just like the Mets that they needed to be the dumbest team in baseball for five years before they realized they might need to be the smartest? They’re like George Costanza, author of the above title line, upon the realization that his own instincts had become so untrustworthy he needed to openly defy them by doing just the opposite of what they favored. The Mets have a long history of such behavior, whether it’s sitting on their hands whille the bullpen burned to the ground in 2008 then spending the offseason stuffing the roster with high-profile relievers; responding criticism of moves like the Scott Kazmir trade by aggressively promoting 19-year-old hard throwers to the majors; answering their near-complete tone deafness to the will of fans with regards to the new park by inviting bloggers to share a warm chat with executive Dave Howard. Of course they didn’t ask me.

And now it’s replacing the street-smart but improvisational front office of Minaya and Bernazard with the Harvard egghead set of Alderson, DePodesta and Ricciardi. Don’t get me wrong — I like the move and even I liked Omar — but at this time last year we could only hope to get through the offseason before a regrettably dumb move got made. This year, there’s reason to believe we will get through the offseason in better shape than we entered simply because the new guys will apply some discipline and processes designed to get the team pulling together for that purpose. If there’s one thing the previous administration didn’t do, it’s that. Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Mets had realized this when it was time to replace Steve Phillips?

What this all means to the ongoing managerial search remains a mystery although many seem to think it helps Terry Collins‘ candidacy: He’s reportedly admired by Paul DePodesta, got good reviews for his work with the Mets’ minor leaguers last year (he was the opposite of Tony Bernazard, natch), and has been compared favorably to Bobby Valentine for his energy, enthusiasm and international experience (ironically, Collins’ first managerial job was to replace the placid Art Howe in Houston). He was a finalist the last time the Mets interviewed for managers in the dawn of the Omar Era in 2005. On the downside, the veterans in Houston and Anaheim eventually tuned him out, he lacks any real Mets heritage and he’s unlike to excite the fanbase all by himself (but the support of the New Holy Trinity would say something).

Sartorially, Collins wore No. 2 while managing the Astros from 1994-96 and No. 1 for the Angels during their Disney period.

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As Good As Yours

Realized the other day that I can’t remember a period during which I’ve had any less idea about what happens next with the Mets as I do right at this moment. And it’s a strange feeling.

53We were all pretty certain that Jerry Manuel wasn’t coming back, and fairly sure Omar would go too, but even back then you were assured by the press that Wally Backman would be next in line, given the Mets’ financial situation, and that maybe for budgetary purposes and tradition they hand it over to John Ricco and a team of bickering advisors but that doesn’t seem all that likely anymore. For one, there’s the idea out there that Sandy Alderson can take the GM job if he wants it, and that would mean neither Backman (who might be fun) nor Bobby Valentine (good and fun!) would be his choice to mange. Well who then? Joe Torre?

And will it matter anyway, now that we’ve seen the accounts of Jon Daniels’ inability to hide interest in the gig? Or will Rick Hahn’s Wolverine background carry the day? If you asked me two weeks ago I’d have said Terry Ryan gets the GM chair. Maybe not now.

Today (Friday the 15th, if anyone asks) my bizarre hunch is that Alderson gets the GM job and names Wally Backman the manager … of Class AA Binghamton. Lee Mazzilli in an upset gets the Mets’ managing job and his No. 13 back. Sorry, Mike Nickeas, that’s just how I see it, today.

What do you guys think?

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