To Boldly Go Where No GM Has Gone Before: Why the Mets Will Never Win with Alderson
A couple of nights ago I’m on Facebook checking out a page for fellow Mets fans. We’re all rejoicing in the Yankees misery. I, too, add a few comments and threw in a joke about ‘A-Roid.’ Someone else commented about us playing spoiler and knocking the Nats further back. Then, it hit me. This is what we’ve become.
We have nothing hopeful to cheer for, so yet again this season, we are reduced to the role of spoiler. (Of course, we don’t even do that well since Washington swept us). And while we celebrate the failures of the Yankees, do you think they even care about us? They’ve got more important things to worry about. We’re not even a (blue and orange) fly on the ass of a (pinstriped) cow.
The 2013 Mets will finish under 500 for the fifth straight year, something this club hasn’t done since the early 1990’s. And despite Sandy Alderson’s (ahem) “plan,” he is now weeks away from completing his third season as Mets GM and each year, our win total has gone down. We own the worst home record in baseball, 7th worst overall.
Remember just a few years back when we were laughing at small market clubs like Pittsburgh and Kansas City?
When our Mets were resurrected from Grant’s Tomb, ownership and GM Frank Cashen provided hope. Things improved, albeit slowly. We signed slugger George Foster, one of the most prolific home run hitters in the game, we reacquired Dave Kingman for power and to excite the fan base, brought back Tom Terrific. Sure, a lot of these plans failed, but we had hope, we had excitement and we had promise that a brighter future was on the horizon. After three years of the Alderson regime, are you more or less optimistic? Do you think this team is heading in the right direction? To steal a line from past presidential elections, are the Mets better off now than they were three years ago?
Our decreasing win total and plummeting attendance show the direction we’re heading.
Alderson’s big accomplishment—and really his only one—was getting Zack Wheeler. And while Wheeler has turned into our de facto ace due to the injury to the Minaya-acquired Matt Harvey, Carlos Beltran’s bat would sure help right now. During 2012 and thus far in 2013, Beltran has clobbered 55 HR’s, knocked in 173 and hit .288. One fact that gets overlooked is that Alderson also handed over $4 million to San Francisco along with Beltran for Wheeler.
Frank Cashen knew about building a winner. He turned the Orioles into a perennial contender in the late 60’s and kept them relevant through the entire next decade. He did the same upon arriving in NY. Alderson, however, has never re-built a team. I’m not faulting him. He’s just in over his head.
In 1984 while GM of Oakland, Alderson traded 25 year old Rickey Henderson who was just coming into his prime. In exchange for dealing the greatest lead-off hitter in history, Alderson got back five players. The only one of substance was Jose Rijo. However, just as Rijo was maturing and developing, Alderson turned around and traded him away for a 37 year-old Dave Parker. Rijo would go on to guide Cincinnati to a World Series, become a NL All-Star and lead the league in strikeouts. And that Rickey Henderson guy? He did okay, too.
Still have faith in…(insert dramatic music)…The Plan?
Alderson has persistently maintained that he will build a winner from within and not rely on signing players. Many Mets fans initially agree. After all, we’re not the Yankees. We don’t buy pennants. We build from our own talent, just like we did in 86 and 69, right? Wrong!!!
No team, not even our Amazins, has ever won solely on homegrown talent. It helps and sure, it’s rewarding to win with guys from your farm system. But it’s never been done exclusively. As Mr. Spock would say, “Illogical.” To win, you need that perfect blend of rookies AND veterans, of your own youngsters AND proven winners.
In the 80’s, Darryl Strawberry was the best offensive prospect the Mets ever brought up. And Doc? Well, Doc broke more records than were shattered during Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979. In spite of the fact these two seemed a lock for Cooperstown, Cashen realized he needed more. He traded for Keith Hernandez, a World Champion, former MVP and proven winner. He added Gary Carter who had an unquenchable thirst to win. He obtained fiery Ray Knight. And while Gooden, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez were solid, Cashen acquired Bobby Ojeda from Boston, whose 18 wins would lead the staff in 1986.
Can anyone picture the Mets winning in ’86 without Keith, Gary, Ray and Bobby?
Can anyone out there envision Alderson bringing that caliber of player to New York?
When the Mets won the pennant in ’73 and came within one hit of winning it all, sure, we had Tug and Cleon and Buddy. But the player who led the team in hits and batting average that season was Felix Millan, a second baseman acquired from Atlanta. Rusty Staub came in a trade from Montreal and was the team leader in RBI’s. And the pitcher with the best winning percentage was not Seaver, Koosman or Matlack, but rather George Stone, yet another player obtained via a trade. Stone was 9 games over 500 for a team that finished just 3 games over 500. Take away Millan, Staub and Stone—players acquired through trade—and there’s no pennant.
The same holds true going back to 1969 when trades were rare and largely unheard of. Buddy Harrelson stated that when the Mets acquired Donn Clendenon that June, the players began to believe. Clink was a legitimate home run threat. And as Seaver won his first Cy Young Award and Cleon hit .340, it was ex-White Sox and former Rookie of the Year Tommie Agee who was the team leader in homers and runs scored.
Anyone out there holding their breath that Alderson will obtain a former Rookie of the Year?
In addition to Alderson’s long history of never making a blockbuster trade—and I won’t even mention about getting losing of a batting champion one winter followed by getting rid of a Cy Young winner the next – his decisions when it comes to managers is even more baffling. It is evident that Wally Backman will be gone soon, discarded by the front office after years of loyalty (and years of winning) as if he was an old rosin bag. Wally does not fit in with the Mets plan. He’s too abrasive, too demanding, too hard. He battles the front office too much. So, instead of promoting a proven winner, we’ll stick with Terry Collins and his .459 winning percentage.
No Mets manager ever butted heads with his GM more than Davey Johnson did with Cashen. And Cashen knew that ahead of time. He was Baltimore’s GM in the 1960’s when Davey was their second baseman. Cashen was fully aware of the tinderbox he was creating by hiring Davey. But Davey had won in the minors, Davey knew his team and the young players—Gooden, Strawberry, Dykstra—were loyal to him. Cashen overlooked his own feelings for the good of the team. He didn’t care about the clash of personality. He accepted the challenge because he had the smarts to realize that Davey Johnson, like Wally, was a proven winner. This is an area where Alderson is plainly deficient.
While GM in Oakland, although his skipper was successful, Alderson let him get away. The brash, unorthodox and outspoken Tony LaRussa took his baseball experience and acumen to St. Louis where he guided the Cardinals to 10 post-seasons in 15 years, including three pennants and two championships. During Alderson’s later stint with the Padres, he had no qualms about letting Bruce Bochy slip through his fingers. Bochy headed north to San Francisco where he brought the Giants their first title since moving to the west coast in 1958. Two years later, Bochy brought them another one.
“This is a wait and see season, here just to be survived by fans until the real fixing can be done. We knew this year would be painful.”
I thought the above quote I discovered was poignant. And also, ironic. It appeared on a website on May 25, 2011, three seasons ago. Since then, the Mets have lost 228 games. Seems like not much has changed.
So, we’ll continue to wait…and wait…and wait some more for Alderson’s “plan” to magically take hold. He makes promises, losses pile up, players get injured, and the future looks no brighter…but we continue waiting. We’ve now waited 27 years for a championship. We’ll keep waiting. We’ll watch other teams play into October, we’ll hope Alderson shores up the bullpen this winter, signs a couple of bats, we’ll look for updates on Matt Harvey—and I’m sure we’ll get a few funny jokes via Twitter from our GM while the Red Sox or Pirates or Tigers get fitted for World Series rings. He may not know how to win, how to improve a team, how to rebuild a franchise…but, hey, he’s funny. So, at least we’ll laugh while we wait…and wait…
Once upon a time there was a baseball team. They were good, very good. Solid, well-balanced. They had three players with over 80 RBI’s. Two of their starters won 20 games and had ERA’s under 3.00. Of the eight position players, five hit over 300, including the catcher who hit .344. This team won 100 games, enough to capture the NL pennant. They went to the World Series where they fell short, losing to Detroit in six games.
This team was the 1935 Cubs. And although it had been 27 years since their last World Championship in 1908, I’m sure they felt optimistic about their future, too. Granted, 27 years was a long time to wait, they must have thought, but “I’m sure we’ll win soon. We must have some sort of plan.”
About the Author: Rob Silverman
It was 1973 when my dad introduced this 7 year old kid to Baseball and the Mets. It's been a love and passion that has lasted for 40 years, much longer than my first marriage. Since I was little, there've been 2 things I've always dreamed of: 1) Being a successful author and 2) playing right field for the Mets after Rusty Staub retired. Although 4 decades have passed and based on the current condition of the Mets, I have not given up on either dream
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