The Sandy Alderson Improvement Plan

It was the stuff of Candid Camera.

It has since become known as the “Marshmallow Experiment.” In 1960, Stamford Professor Walter Mischel, wanted to find out whether delayed gratification, having to wait before attaining a satisfying outcome, was healthy for people. Mischel devised a study to find out.


Mischel brought together a group of young children in a test study. Each child was taken into a room where they were presented with a marshmallow. The youngsters were told they could eat the marshmallow whenever they wanted. They were also told if they waited without eating the marshmallow they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow treat.

Mischel left the room and didn’t return for 15 minutes. The children were taped. Some gobbled their marshmallow almost before Mischel could get out the door. Others waiting in agony fighting off the temptation to consume their prize wanting a second marshmallow.

In a testimony to his ability to delay gratification, Mischel, studied the youngsters for years after the experiment recording data about different facets of their lives. The results were astonishing. In almost every category, the youngsters who were capable of delaying the need to instantly consume their marshmallow outperformed those who could not. Those who showed an early ability to delay gratification had fewer behavior problems, lower stress, developed stronger friendships and social networks, and performed better academically, including SAT results.

Yale researches have also studied the topic concluding that people demonstrating delayed gratification provided more stimulation to a particular part of the brain. The Yale researchers proved a link between intelligence and delayed gratification and self-control.

This should be great news for Mets fans. Over the last three seasons, Met fans have received a more than healthy opportunity to test our delayed gratification capabilities. For many of us, that means around the corner, sometime in the future when the Mets return to respectability, we should have less of a likelihood to get into trouble, experience less stress, stop whining and complaining and maintain more friends, and, by heavens, we’re already smarter.

In his Sunday “Shooting from the LIP” column, New York Daily News sportswriter Mike Lupica signaled the days of delayed gratification for Met fans could soon be over. Lupica claims the reality for Met fans is that a three-year Sandy Alderson Cleanup, like the end of the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico after BP, is ending. I like Lupica’s analogy but advise caution. The negative effects of the BP spill are still being felt in the Gulf.

Not to be outdone, Mark Hale of the New York Post wrote that Alderson, when meeting with season’s ticket holders, had unveiled a six-month plan. Alderson’s message to Met fans: the team will soon be adding substantial pieces to the roster and the need for patience (delayed gratification) is almost over. “I believe in the next six months or so, we’ll be in the position to make some significant acquisitions, either by free agency or trade,” Sandy told the big spending Met faithful.

There has been a lot of discussion over the last six months about Sandy Alderson’s plan to bring the Mets back to baseball respectability. I’ve always believe the Met General Manager has had a plan and that the plan would someday prove positive. I still maintain the faith.

Having said that I wish Sandy would use concise and exact language to outline the key points of his plan for Met fans. I think in some ways his meeting with the season ticket holders was a start. Still, I’m looking for an Improvement Plan Brief sent directly to fans, maybe through MetsMerized. It might be a four-point plan, a five-point plan, whatever, with each point explained simply, perhaps like this.

The Sandy Alderson Improvement Plan

Point 1 – Revamp and improve the minor league system.

Point 2 – Use the draft and an upgrade scouting and player development system to stockpile young talent, especially strong pitching arms, to build a infrastructure for future success.

Point 3 – Cleanup the roster bringing salary spending within affordable parameters while shedding unproductive salary costs.

Point 4 – Evaluate current roster and minor league prospects closest to playing in Flushing to determine the viability of a future role with the organization.

Point 5 – Strategically add substantial pieces to the roster to fill greatest priority needs.

A clear and precise list of points or indicators making up the foundation of the plan could then be evaluated more fairly. Has Alderson revamped the Mets minor league system? That would be a point of fair debate. I believe the answer is an overwhelming yes, and I feel there is good evidence to support that claim. The fact the Met minor league teams have winning records at every level this season might be one indicator. Minor league evaluations by different baseball research groups showing huge leaps in progress for the Met minor leagues might be another.

The same process can be used to evaluate each point of Alderson’s plan. Remember, this is MY summary of the points I believe are included in the Met Improvement Plan. I’m wishing the Mets would provide fans specified points and their own evaluation.

By the way, point five of my example, adding substantial roster pieces through trade or free agency was recently marketed by Sandy as something new that will occur over the next six months. For the past two years, I’ve considered it part of the plan. It only makes sense that when the Santana and Bay salary commitments concluded a cash strapped franchise desperately needing roster upgrades will seek trades and free agent acquisitions at strategic positions to improve baseball results.

The tough pill to swallow is the enormity of that task. At the conclusion of last season you could make a decent argument that Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis, and maybe Lucas Duda could be seriously considered as future roster pieces. At the moment, those assumptions would seriously challenged.

Forged and fortified by years of delayed gratification and bolstered by an Improvement Plan, Met fans are ready to rock. Even though we don’t feel smarter, are certainly not less stressed, and might be having trouble maintaining friendships, our patience is wearing thin. Come on, Front Office, how about specifying your Improvement Plan with some simple clarifying points we could then evaluate, up or down, and gauge the progress you’re making and the likelihood the Mets could be winning at least half their games next season.

About John Bernhardt 164 Articles
MMO Minor League Analyst John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.