Sandy Alderson is proud of his Marine heritage. He enlisted in 1969 during the height of the Vietnam Conflict, and served eight months over in Southeast Asia.
But even with his distinguished service to his country, the 62 year-old new general manager of the New York Mets does not subscribe to the “Once a Marine, Always A Marine” philosophy, rather the Marine code needs to be proven in everything they do.
And now, Alderson will need to prove it again in maybe what is his trickiest baseball job, taking reigns as the troubled franchise in Queens.
“I view the job as general manager of the New York Mets,” Alderson stated, “as the best job available in baseball. It’s an iconic franchise in a great city – a city that inspires all of us to dream big.”
The Mets are hoping that when they signed Alderson to a four-year deal to take over for Omar Minaya. The man who built the Oakland A’s into a powerhouse and also was the godfather of the Moneyball era in baseball now brings his skills to Queens where the club badly needs leadership, as well as someone with a steady hand to give the team a long term direction.
Under Minaya, the club philosophy was the band-aid approach where Minaya would go out and fill what seemed to be the biggest gaping hole in the roster, hoping that would energize the fan base, while also making the club a contender.
Unfortunately, though, those Met teams were built upon a weak foundation, and much like an old car you keep putting money into, once you fix one problem, others arise. The Mets found that out over the last two years.
In 2009, everyone swore the team would contend because the biggest problem – the bullpen – was filled with Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Ultimately though, Minaya didn’t address the aging roster, which broke down during the season.
And then last year they did the same thing with Jason Bay, and chalked up 2009 to injuries, rather than a sign of a weak foundation.
Alderson will change that by building a club with payroll flexibility. He said he plans on being involved with the free agent market every single year, but at the same time wants to build a young roster of homegrown talent. CEO Fred Wilpon described what can be characterized as a laddered bond portfolio of contracts where only a few will come due each year, thus not hamstringing the club.
That may take a couple of years, and Alderson is not ready to throw away 2011, where he feels the club can “compete.” And the Wilpons both said they would be willing to eat the contracts of certain players (Read: Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo) if Alderson asked to do so.
But first things first, as the new head honcho needs to build his staff and of course pick the manager. Alderson is reportedly looking to bring in former Oakland executives Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi to the Mets and will begin the search for a manager next week.
As for the manager, unlike what has been published in Moneyball, Alderson took a softened approach. Instead of a just a middle manager, Alderson wants to see the field boss not only to be an extension of the front office, but also an extension of the fans.
“I do believe a manager needs to reflect the general philosophy of the organization to have some sense of consistency,” he said. “At the same time the manager is very critical of the overall leadership structure of the organization. His job is very different from mine and there are certain qualities he has to bring.
“In my years I have worked with managers ranging from Tony LaRussa to Billy Martin. I can appreciate a fiery manager. He is quite desirable. A manager is representing the fans in frustrating situations and acts as a proxy for the feeling at the time.”
With that, Wally Backman still should be considered a candidate, while also looking for any qualified candidates. Already the Mets have a short list of about eight candidates, and interviews will last in the 30 day timetable.
But as for today, it’s a good start. The Wilpons look good for going with Alderson’s experience over Josh Byrnes youth, but Alderson makes Fred and Jeff look smart because of the media suaveness of their new employee.
And it also showed Alderson still is a solid Marine, proving it every day.