(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Just days before baseball participates in their version of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was named Baseball America’s Exec of the Year.
The honor was well-deserved, after a season well-documented that now reads like a roadmap to the World Series – make deals by the trade deadline to bring in bats and arms to reinforce the troops, call up the right rookies at the right time from the system, and keep dealing even after the deadline to fine tune the orchestra.
The pieces fit. The pieces worked. And the results were the first trip to the Fall Classic for the organization in 15 years.
The actual award will be presented to Alderson at the Baseball America Awards Gala on Dec. 8 at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. He will be feted along with the Pittsburgh Pirates as the Organization of the Year (I know, huh? Pittsburgh?), Bryce Harper as Player of the Year, and Kris Bryant as Rookie of the Year.
To better explain Pittsburgh’s selection, remember that Baseball America is a publication that focuses on the minor leagues, so this recognition really acknowledges a well-run farm system with good prospects.
In the five years Alderson has been on the job in Flushing (he came aboard in October of 2010), the ex-Marine has done a good job of building up a solid Mets farm system, trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler in July 2011, and the deal that was implemental in creating a World Series competitor in 2015 by bartering Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud after the 2012 season. Alderson also gets credit for drafting Michael Conforto in 2014 (give Area Supervisor Scout Jim Reeves a pat on the back as well for that selection).
Alderson, 68, laid more groundstones last year when he brought in Curtis Granderson with a four-year deal, and the ageless Bartolo Colon with a two-year deal. Both paid handsome dividends this past season and in the postseason.
The GM was pro-active at last year’s winter meetings, when he quickly signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year deal. Results are still mixed for the batting champ from 2013 (.259, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 117 games in 2015), but he did provide veteran leadership when David Wright went down for an extended period with what was first a strained right hamstring last April, and eventually a debilitating back injury.
Alderson also deserves kudos for recognizing that Lucas Duda was the first baseman to keep while Ike Davis was the first sacker to deal (Vic Black and Dilson Hererra still looks like a positive transaction). The former Athletics GM also signed a few, ahem, mistakes (see John Mayberry, Jr.), and confounded Mets fans by not addressing the perceived void at shortstop, but his faith in Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores was rewarded at crucial times.
But Flores will forever be beloved by Mets fans for his emotional outburst at the thought of being traded, and that eternal Met moment in July will always be acknowledged as the turning point in the Mets’ season.
Alderson had a Flores and Wheeler deal in place with Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez, but Mets doctors saw the charts and said, um, no thanks. Alderson then turned his attention to San Diego and was targeting Justin Upton, but the Padres held firm for a boatload of players and Sandy said, um, no thanks.
The third choice turned out to be the best choice, and Alderson made the epoch deal with Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes. It was the deal that allowed famed Mets fan and comedian Jerry Seinfeld to be acknowledged with the Esurance Best Social Media Post of the Year, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe I can actually say this, but it is true that there is now a Cespedis (sic) for the rest of us.”
Alderson actually gave up two very good young pitchers, Luis Cessa and Michael Fullmer, so we’ll see where those two careers end up in a few years, but the bottom line is that Cespedes was a MAJOR factor (yes, in all caps!) in the race to the NL East Division Championship. Without Cespedes, “the rest of us” would still be wondering when the next time the Mets make it to the postseason will occur. No doubt about it.
Which leads to a quick aside. If the Mets don’t re-sign Cespedes – and there is no evidence they will – and they don’t find a bat equal to his power output (meaning a consistent, not streaky, 40/100+ threat), then all the good pitching in the world will mean nothing if they don’t score any runs (see July, 2015).
Alderson also hit the right buttons bringing in Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from Atlanta, Tyler Clippard from Oakland, and Addison Reed from Arizona. All of these contributors were functional factors down the stretch.
Even the return of Eric Young, Jr. to Citi Field, in a small cash deal with Atlanta in late August had an impact. EY, as he is known in the clubhouse, had zero hits in September – he was 0 for 8 – yet he scored nine runs (how’s that for a quirky stat) and had three stolen bases (caught twice). Yes, he was inserted as a pinch-runner on most of those occasions.
All of this – and great pitching from the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Colon, Jeurys Familia, et al – added up to a 90-72 record this past season, and a great postseason run to Game 5 of the Fall Classic.
“We hope it’s sustainable,” Alderson told the media. “You never know from year to year. We certainly have the strength of our team in starting pitching, which ought to be with us for some period of time. We’ve always had discipline over the five years that I’ve been here. I suspect we will continue to have discipline in how we make decisions. At the same time, we’re at a higher level now. We believe we can sustain this over a period of time. And now we have to go out and prove it, which is the difficult part.”
The next chance to prove it with new ideas comes within days at the winter meetings. Have fun shopping, Sandy.
In the days to come, Baseball America will also announce their choice for Major League Baseball’s Manager of the Year and other awards, so Mets skipper Terry Collins has another shot at being recognized for the job he did at the helm in 2015. Collins came in a distant third in the writer’s vote for manager of the Year, finishing behind Chicago’s Joe Maddon and St. Louis’ Mike Matheny.
CORECTION NOTICE: Apologies for neglecting to include the Florida/Miami Marlins in a recent article about expansion clubs which have won two World Championships.