NY Sports Day
Andy Esposito

Esposito: Alderson Leaves to Battle Big C Again

Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire

It was the great John Wayne, of all people, who actually gave cancer its ominous nickname, the Big C.

So from the legendary actor who played so many great Marines on the big screen, the Mets are now a collective concerned family for one of their own, a very tough former real life former Marine, GM Sandy Alderson, who announced yesterday that his cancer, which had been in remission, had been diagnosed again, and is choosing to take an extensive leave of absence to battle its affects with surgery and an undisclosed period of hopeful recovery.

“The prognosis is good,” Alderson predicted, although again, as before, when he was first diagnosed in 2015, his form of cancer, and its percentage of survival, was not disclosed. And in good taste, no one in the media which gathered in shock and awe at the announcement pressed for that answer. For whatever reason, his type of cancer remains a personal choice of admission, a secret everyone respects, and everyone wishes for a healthy return to a lengthy life.

“None of us writes his or her script,” Alderson bravely declared. “You deal with circumstances as they arise, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here, all the opportunities I’ve had in the game, and for whatever opportunities may arise in the future. This isn’t DisneyWorld, and we have to deal with life as it presents itself. And I’m okay with that.”

It was revealed that Alderson had been dealing with his recurrence of cancer since “late April, early May,” and had not been taking road trips with the team. Amazingly, the revelation was even kept secret from Manager Mickey Callaway and the team, so as it should not become any sort of distraction to their efforts in trying to win ballgames, although that practice had been greatly hampered in recent weeks, and actually, months.

Callaway was clearly emotional and devastated by the announcement.

“Coming into this job, I had heard a lot about Sandy, the leader he was, how bright, how selfless…I experienced all those things first hand and he lived up to those qualities. Now what he went through, he’s a badass Marine. That’s all I can say.”

The team collectively learned first hand just minutes before the public announcement in an address Alderson made to the team in the locker room.

“Jaws hit the floor,” said team Captain David Wright. They were equally devastated, and responded in the only way they could with the news. They gave him a standing ovation at its conclusion.

“It definitely puts life in perspective,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who was Alderson’s first draft pick after getting the job in the 2011 amateur draft. “Something like this definitely reminds you that baseball is a game, and life and family are much more important right now.”

From a Mets perspective, Alderson was intentionally vague about a possible return to the team. Even with hopefully a full recovery in his future, Alderson essentially fired himself, or effectively issued a resignation when he declared, “with respect to the future, I would say, one, my health is an uncertainty going forward, and secondly, if I were to look at it on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted.”

Reporters tried to get Mets COO Jeff Wilpon to reveal if Alderson remains in the team’s plans, but he deflected those questions by properly placing priorities. “I think Sandy’s health and his family is first and foremost.”

Alderson will not have any decision making authority going forward, although he indicated he wouldn’t mind being consulted from time to time. Instead, that leaves the Mets in an awkward position of now possessing a three-headed team of GMs – John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi, and Omar Minaya.

All former GMs, or at least Asst. GMs, Ricco has been handling much of the duties of GM since earlier this year and has been “endorsed” by Alderson as his successor.

This also places Jeff Wilpon almost as a de facto GM as he declared that any or all three should run just about any ideas through him for approval.

The question now remains, as the July 31 trading deadline looms with the possibility of improving this team’s future – certainly the present is a disaster – whom should another team’s GM ask for when he makes the call with a trade offer?

There is a football axiom that when you have three quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks.

Can you apply that theory here? Perhaps, perhaps not. While Ricco appears to be the lead voice going forward, there’s about five weeks til the deadline, and his actions will indicate the team’s direction. If you start hearing Ricciardi being quoted more frequently, then you’ll know his status has been upgraded. Minaya appears to be content in the development and scouting department, and you can thank the team’s former GM for any of the choices in the recent June draft.

This is not the place to debate whether or not to trade pitchers Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard in order to upgrade the team’s prospect list or farm system on general, but this fan votes no for either option.

While it’s still a debate, teams spend generations trying to find Aces the calibre of deGrom or Syndergaard, so why dispatch them because other departments have been weakened by injuries or lack of production. The minute you discard one, you’ll only be spending a great deal of time trying to find another of their ilk. So find another way to improve the team, even if it takes a pinch longer to do so.

If deGrom is this generation’s Tom Seaver, and Syndergaard is this generation’s Nolan Ryan – and this fan believes they are – the feeling is it certainly would disappoint many Mets fans to see them flourish in other uniforms perhaps for a decade or greater, despite whomever is acquired in return, and whether or not the incoming players can equal their talents or contributions. In most cases, the prospects acquired do not generate the same or greater abilities.

Yes, there are examples where teams improved, but the batting average is low. The Yankees situation of a couple of years ago is vastly different. They had two pitchers – which they had acquired from other organizations in the first place – who were highly sought by other clubs and they flipped them for a haul of good prospects.

The Alderson legacy can essentially now be determined. His basically eight-year tenure resulted in at least a trip to the World Series, two years in the postseason, and a handful of good players drafted along the way, including Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. Signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year deal must also be graded with an A for his contributions and leadership abilities in the clubhouse.

Asdrubal Cabrera has been a good signing. Getting Jerry Blevins for Matt den Dekker was a good deal – until this season! Even getting Jose Reyes back for what was essentially rookie money the last two years was a good deal, regardless of a slow start this year.

His trades acquiring Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnauld for R.A. Dickey in Dec. 2012, and getting Yoenis Cespedes for Michael Fullmer and Luis Cessa in 2105 were instrumental in getting to that Fall Classic.

Acquiring Zak Wheeler for Carlos Beltran in 2011 will always be logged on the positive side of the ledger as well.

His pitfalls, however, might be perceived by many as a legacy in the negative direction. Certainly giving Wright an eight-year deal worth $122 million in 2012 seemed like a good deal at the time, based on what Wright had contributed to the team, and the market in that year.

Is it Alderson’s fault Wright’s back developed spinal stenosis? No.

Everyone was patting Alderson on the back for getting Cespedes and signing the slugging outfielder to a four year worth $110 mil. So is it Alderson’s fault Ces can’t stay healthy and on the field? No.

And it turned out to be a mistake letting Daniel Murphy go, but that’s in hindsight. The Mets did make that qualifying offer to Murphy for over $17 mil, which he turned down, and he ended up signing for about $12 mil a year in that three-year deal with Washington. Had he taken that qualifying offer, and had the season he had in 2016, he likely would have remained a Met for another three/four years at a decent rate. Or could have gone to another club for even bigger bucks. So he ended up cheating himself out of a few dollars.

And you’ll recall that teams were not lined up begging Murphy to join their team at the start of free agency. He signed late with Washington, after others considered and chose a different direction.

Alderson turned the Mets into one of the leaders in acquiring free agents over the winter, picking up Jason Vargas, Anthony Swarzak, Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, and re-signing Jay Bruce.

Yes, some call those bargain moves, but who knew Vargas would go from winning 18 games to having a hard time getting 18 outs in each start. Swarzak has spent more games on the DL than in the bullpen, and even when called upon, it’s now a crapshoot when he takes the mound.

Frazier has been a pepper-grinder in the clubhouse and on the field, despite his anemic batting average. Gonzo is gone-zo, but in his one-third of the season, he punched up six home runs and 26 RBIs. Project that for the season, he may have accumulated 18 homers and 78 RBIs. It remains to be seen if his replacements will equal that output.

And as for Bruce, he’s back on the DL, literally with a bad back and a troublesome foot, but as former skipper Terry Collins last year said about Jose Reyes, you could almost plagiarize the same line for the disabled outfielder, “We’ve got the FBI out looking for the real Jay Bruce.”

Who knew Bruce would go from 36 home runs and over 100 RBIs to almost invisible production? He’s on pace for a big nine home runs and 51 RBIs. Will the real Jay Bruce stand up when he comes back from the DL and prove that signing him to a three-year $39 million dollar deal was worth the contract.

Let’s close with another prayer for a speedy and healthy recovery for Alderson, and hope that the three-headed GM running the Mets come up with a healthy plan to improve the team without weakening the team in the long run.


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