The New York Mets are an excellent comparison to the United States voter population in the 2008 Presidential Race. Whether you voted for one or the other, you know as well as I do that the theme of that race was “change.” Not only was it the theme then, but it’s the theme now with elections being held in about two weeks. Everybody wants to see “change,” because in one way or the other they are tired of seeing the same old routine in Washington.
That too can be said with a fan of the New York Mets can it not? Ignore the last two-three years, and only count them when looking at the bigger picture. The Mets are not hiring a new General Manager to fix 2007. They are hiring a new General Manager to fix the franchise.
You can deny it or accept it, the Mets franchise is not one of the most highly thought of franchises among fans, players or executives. Are they the Pirates? No of course not. But when you consider the upper-payroll capable franchises who else but the Mets have a worse reputation? Maybe the Cubs? But you know, the Cubs still have that romantic allure to their franchise. Nobody dreams of playing for the Mets or at one time walking through the tunnel at Shea Stadium. They just don’t.
The Mets have also never really seemed to have a plan when it comes to the building of their current and future rosters. Sure, they have prospects but their prospects don’t ever seem to fit the mold of a franchise. You hear about different players with different talents, but why are they in the Mets system? Do they fit the type of team the Mets hope to have in the future or are they just good prospects that the Mets hope will fall into place?
For me, I’ve noticed the latter. It always seems like we’re waiting for a good prospect with hype, but not a prospect who fits a specific type of need. We need a C, so Thole comes around. That’s great and I love Thole but it seems like he was hyped because we just simply need a Catcher, not because we need a defensive minded catcher who can get on base and has doubles potential.
Have you ever noticed that it always seems like whenever the Mets go up against a young starting pitcher who has yet to make a name for themselves, they do their best to make sure that kid has a bright career? Granted it’s not every single time, but more often than not if you’re a gambler and the Mets are going up against a kid with just a handful of career starts maximum, I’d say take the opponent. Why is that? Well it has to be in some ways a discredit to scouting right?
We all know that Citi Field is a palace compared to Shea Stadium, but we also know that the Mets organization dropped the ball when it came to the construction of the facility. Why did we as Mets fans have to actually complain that there was no sense of Mets history in the stadium? Why did we have to request some sort of Hall of Fame and for the Championship banners to NOT be placed behind the bullpen?
I mean really, I would’ve loved to have sat in the meeting where somebody asked “should the banners go in left or right field?” and somebody said “How about behind the bullpen?” followed by a response of “Brilliant!”
Or when the Mets decided it made sense to have their Shea Stadium ceremony AFTER the final regular season game, rather than before…if you have the right players, a ceremony before can pump them up. You think the current Yankees don’t get inspired when they see guys like Yogi Berra get introduced before the game?
Should the wall and the seats be blue? Probably…that isn’t the worst thing in the world, but just another example of how the franchise drops the ball every chance it gets. Please don’t think this is about Omar Minaya. If you think the organization gave Minaya any power in the last say, two years, you’re kidding yourself.
There is something wrong with the organization as a whole. The Wilpon’s are not going anywhere, but if you want change you have to recognize that the General Manager of the New York Mets needs to run the franchise.
Sure, John Byrnes, Jon Daniels, or anybody else are nice. I have no problems with really anybody I’ve seen discussed by media, fans or the Mets except the idea of Bobby Valentine as recently questioned by some.
However, if you want a new look to the Mets, a General Manager who won’t allow ownership to dictate how the organization is run then you need to look no further than Sandy Alderson.
I’m sure some of this has been read or written before, but I wanted to put it all together and present the case in terms of what YOU the fan should be looking for out of your new General Manager.
I decided to re-read Moneyball on a recent plane ride and what caught my eye was Chapter 3 “The Enlightenment.” Now, I know some of you get freakishly scared when the word “Moneyball,” is even whispered. First, if you haven’t read it, then I can’t listen to your view on the book. Second, if you haven’t read it, just try it. It’s likely not about what you think it’s about.
How does Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane etc fit into the book? They asked questions and try to go deeper into building a team than most have in the past. A great quote from Beane to sum up how they run their organization was in the Boston Herald in January of 2003. “We’re going to run the organization from the top down. We’re controlling player personnel. That’s our job. I don’t apologize for that. There’s this belief that a baseball team starts with the manager first. It doesn’t.”
Now turn your attention to Alderson. First, if Alderson is the GM you can likely forget about any “big name” Manager being hired. You may think Alderson enjoyed working with LaRussa, but as detailed in the book, he did not. LaRussa wanted to manage the player, and Alderson wants his Manager to manage the game.
Alderson was a baseball outsider, he was a lawyer and a former Marine Corps officer and his ideas when it came to running a baseball organization was to gather actual evidence rather than opinions of people who have just been around the game.
Also, Alderson’s approach to the farm system mirrored his approach to his time in the Marine Corps. He gave less attention to individual stars and more to the overall organization. His system for hitters had three rules as documented in Moneyball.
1. “Every batter needs to behave like a leadoff man, and adopt as his main goal getting on base.”
2. “Every batter should also possess the power to hit home runs, in part because home run power forced opposing pitchers to pitch more cautiously, and led to walks, and high on-base percentages.”
3. To anyone with the natural gifts to become a professional baseball player, hitting was less a physical than a mental skill. Or, at any rate, the aspects of hitting that could be taught were mental.”
The main reason he preached OBP in the minors is because a minor league player usually has a love affair with hacking away. If you could teach strike zone judgment in the minors, it will carry over to the big leagues.
Alderson had expectations that every one of their minor league team should lead the league in Base on Balls. There’s an example in the book of the AA team not drawing walks at a pace that matched the other affiliates and Alderson called the Manager to let him know that if they don’t go up, he would be fired…and they went up…quickly.
When LaRussa finally could not be afforded by the franchise, Alderson gladly let him walk. LaRussa was the exception to the rule for Alderson. Alderson controlled the minor leagues but LaRussa had already a built-in power with the big league club. So the lessons being taught in the minor leagues were actually abandoned by LaRussa once they reached the big leagues. That’s why they hired Art Howe after, because Howe would implement the organization’s ideas and not his own like LaRussa had done.
This is the guy this franchise needs. Is he a 100% lock to guiding the Mets to a World Series? Absolutely not. Nobody is. What he is, is a lock to change the image of this franchise and to leave no doubt in a fans mind that he is the one in charge. If he’s hired, it’s because an agreement has been made with the Wilpon’s that they will simply write the checks. If he’s hired, it’s because he is hiring the Manager which means hiring Wally Backman only makes sense if Backman can play by Alderson’s rules. That is why I think if the Mets announce Alderson as the GM, you can forget about Bobby Valentine.
In the world of “Moneyball,” type General Managers, there are 3 that are as well respected as anybody in the business. Alderson, Beane and Epstein. Those 3 are the ones that have nothing to prove when it comes to people within baseball, and to have 1 of them leading your franchise gives you instant credibility. No longer is it the “same old Mets” calling to make a deal, now its Sandy Alderson representing the Mets.
The change for the Mets has got to come from the top all the way down to the way the minor leagues are handled. The other GM’s are fine candidates but only one has the reputation, the plan, and the respect needed to turn this franchise around.
It’s not just about 25 men in uniform for 162 games. It’s about the image of the New York Mets within the sport.
It won’t be a quick fix, and we will have to be patient, but there is only one General Manager who can turn the franchise around right now, and that is Sandy Alderson.