Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Sandy Alderson doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Mets’ demise

At first, many Mets supporters found the news that general manager Sandy Alderson was resigning genuinely sad and confusing. Would the team’s downtrodden days, which had come in devastating waves of injuries, coming in the wake of the 2015 World Series upset, finally come to an end with the arrival of a new front office? Would the year-after-year of curses finally come to an end? The notion didn’t add up.

But then reality set in.

Alderson had been the Mets’ GM for 17 years. This was his fourth head coaching role. At his age, Alderson had been confined to getting the club to the World Series. Twice in his three years at the helm, the Mets barely missed it; once in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2016 NLDS, knocking them out; and once in the World Series against the Cubs, in part because their pitching staff blew it in October. In an era when baseball teams stay the course as they achieve a relatively high degree of success, the Mets’ “stand and fight” runs just didn’t make sense.

There was a split of Mets fans, of course. Many fans are as negative about Alderson’s plans as they are about Mickey Callaway or Noah Syndergaard or the rising Dwight Gooden. But fans naturally have their own ways of viewing the club and the organization. Alderson being ousted by new management was akin to Callaway being gone after one or two games.

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Yet, in some cases, fans have managed to reconcile their views of their team with an appreciation for a high degree of managerial sophistication and talent evaluative acumen. Many fans, you see, consider a year like the Mets’ last season — a 45-win team with a miserable .568 winning percentage — insufficient. And although management would typically put forward a full case for missing the playoffs, you could generally picture Alderson saying, “If only we won 75 games.” In the Mets’ case, that was a fair selling point.

The loss of Alderson is a bit more complicated. It’s clear that firing a baseball lifer is likely to breed a short-term boost in emotion. You could easily argue that the next guy could turn the Mets’ fortunes around (if only they could stop winning the World Series). But one could also argue that no man is irreplaceable. A baseball lifer is certainly more circumspect than somebody with an MBA, which Alderson surely enjoyed; he isn’t quite so indulgent of managers. But isn’t it equally reasonable to ask that a baseball lifer should leave behind a baseball pedigree?

Alderson, who’s more of a home-brew cicerone and sportswriter than he is a front-office wizard, was never the guy who set trades. He was the guy who helped locate talent, likely in the development category, rather than the trade category. Perhaps Alderson leaves the organization with a clear sense that the skill sets that succeed in the Mets’ tough-nosed system aren’t ones that are easily transferable to another system.

Of course, an organization would probably like to find a manager with a bit more polish in the game-planning and game-management department, so that Alderson could stay in the mix. The Mets may be able to preserve a good relationship with Alderson, who has left an indelible mark on the organization, as long as they convey to him that he still has a fundamental say in personnel decisions.

The Mets may never really be able to decide between the men they bring in (or a couple in two or three years) to replace Alderson, because the possibilities are truly endless.

Noah Syndergaard is a giant, and a long shot at best to return this season. David Wright is incurable, and perhaps can be asked to play some by now. Jason Vargas is out indefinitely with a blood clot. Todd Frazier has an expiring contract, and might just return on a one-year deal. Zack Wheeler remains a notable appetizer, with maybe 1-2 good seasons. Michael Conforto might return this season, and, at 26, his talents may be past peak.

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