Sandy Going Over Slot

On Friday during a blogger-only conference call I had the opportunity to pose a question to Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

My question:
You hired a new field coordinator and a new scouting director. Do you bring any kind of special philosophy in terms of scouting amateur talent and developing it through the minor league system?

Sandy Alderson’s answer:

Good question. We have hired a new scouting director. Chad MacDonald is not somebody that I knew before; Paul interviewed several candidates and decided on Chad. I talked with him, and I think he’s going to be excellent for us. He comes from not only a domestic scouting background but also an international background. I don’t think he himself is wedded to any college versus high school, high-ceiling versus predictability, pitchability versus velocity. I think we’re going to approach it from a wide-open and non-doctrinal point of view. We want the best players. I do think it’s important when you’re scouting and signing players that you think of both your domestic draft and your international signings in the aggregate, in terms of the types of players that you’re getting, the youth of those players, the development timeline and so-forth. I don’t expect us to be focused predominantly on college players, for example. I think we’re going to go for the best player.

I do believe we’ll be over-slot, maybe more than occasionally. I think that a big-market club such as the Mets can only dominate through a successful player-development system. Nobody can sign 25 players for 150 million dollars over six or seven years. We need to take advantage of our resources in all areas of player acquisition, including amateur scouting. As far as the field coordinator is concerned, there are some basic philosophies, especially on the hitting side but also in other areas, that we want to make consistent throughout the entire organization, including the major leagues. So one of the things about the field coordinator is it is important for him to be not only sound on the field but also sound administratively, because we need to maintain a standard of excellence across the entire system. I think that’s really important.

We need consistency among our teams, not only in terms of how we do cutoffs and relays, but also in how we approach pitching, approach hitting, so that the expectations from level-to-level are roughly the same, and the accountability is the same, so there are no surprises as you move up the chain, particularly as you jump from player development to the major leagues, where the pressure is the greatest and the foundation needs to be the strongest. I’ve been in places where that jump is made, and the approach is very different at the major league level than it is anywhere at the minor league level, and it really does not do justice to the players. Because inevitably young players are challenged at the major league level, and if they don’t have some foundation, some basic approaches to fall back on, it’s easy to fail. With respect to the field coordinator and all our player development system, it’s important for us to approach things consistently from top to bottom. To help with that, not just quality people, we’ll have a field manual, we’ll have other things that make it clear how exactly the Mets intend to approach things.

(Huge thanks to James K at Amazin’ Avenue for transcribing the call. My phone line dropped halfway through Sandy’s answer to me so I didn’t actually hear all of it.)

So there you go — Sandy Alderson intends on spending over-slot in the draft, which is interesting considering that he had been working for Bud Selig and MLB only a few months ago. I guess you don’t necessarily have to agree with the company’s line to work for the company. I didn’t have the nerve to follow-up his reply with, “You’re going over slot? Did you discuss this with the Wilpons?”

Though, I’m still not convinced that going or not going over-slot changes a team’s farm system significantly — and I don’t believe the inability of the Mets to develop young players had much to do with cheaping out in the draft. You still need to have great scouts to find the raw talent, great evaluators inside the system to figure out how best to develop that talent, and great instructors and coaches to actually develop the ballplayers. With the hiring of a new scouting director and field coordinator, I imagine that the entire system will be assessed and hirings / firings will in turn take place.

Interesting, also, to hear that the team would be drafting the best players, rather than focusing on college players — which was a tenet of the Moneyball-driven Oakland A’s. Though there is much more risk in projecting the talent of high school kids, there also can be much more upside and potential for finding and developing superstars. For example, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and David Wright were all drafted out of high school. Then again, so were Steve Chilcott and Shawn Abner.

I did like hearing that Alderson would be implementing a consistent message from the low minors through the Major League club. That’s nothing new; Branch Rickey started the concept in the 1920s with the Cardinals, and really drove it home later with the Dodgers (to this day, Tommy Lasorda talks about “the Dodger Way”); the Orioles did the same from the 1960s-1980s (the “Orioles Way”). Today, we’ve seen the same with the Braves, the Twins, and many other organizations. I’m sure there was supposed to be some kind of a “Mets Way” over the years, but I’m not sure it was clear or if it was adhered to at all levels. The last time we heard anything about the minor leaguers following some kind of standard principles was when Rick Peterson was the Mets pitching coach, and he started implementing specific teaching methods and throwing programs back in the early part of this millennium.

All this talk about the Mets starting from the ground-up, overhauling the entire organization, and following the model of the Braves / Twins / etc., is not new, either. We’ve heard it before, many times — all we can do is wait, to see if indeed, THIS TIME, there will be follow-through on the promise.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. hart December 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm
    Thanks for sharing this — more encouraging comments from the new regime. You may be right that we’ve heard some of this talk before, but if you close your eyes can you really picture Omar saying any of this???
    Oh, and glad you didn’t waste your one question on the Jose Canseco “suggestion”!
    • Joe Janish December 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm
      The Canseco question was a late scratch; I figured I’d throw Sandy a softball during our first call together — have to build
      some trust first.

      No I can’t picture Omar saying many of these things. But he had plenty of optimistic things to say back in the fall of ’04. And we’ve been hearing the “build from within” mantra from the Wilpons since Steve Phillips was fired.

      Does anyone remember Minaya was hired specifically because he was supposedly so great at talent evaluation? And he was going to find and sign tons of fantastic athletes to develop in the farm system and in turn build a “young and athletic” team around David Wright and Jose Reyes?

      The more things change ….