Trusting SandySpeak

From “DaveSchneck” in the MetsToday comments section on Sunday:

On the matter of finding starters for this week, I am very very confused. I heard Alderson in his own voice this week state that the Mets’ top pitching prospects’ development and promotions to the show would be determined independent of need. Now, Harvey gets battered last night in AAA (ironically right after Wheeler got battered the night before at AA) and gets promoted to the bigs (ironically right after Santana comes down with and ankle injury right after he was battered Friday night). WTF? Please help me understand what is going on. Joe, is it me or is it just more from Mets administration saying one thing and doing something else?

Funny, the exact same thought entered my mind when I heard that Matt Harvey would be starting on Thursday. As a PR person in real life, I learned to appreciate Sandy Alderson’s ability to spin stories, temper expectations, make elusive statements, and otherwise work the media. To this point he’s done an outstanding job of being the figurehead and spokesperson of the Mets, and selling the idea that the organization is in a good place and going in the right direction. Alderson’s deftness in calming the natives with measured, thoughtful rhetoric is the fundamental difference separating him from Omar Minaya. And that’s exactly what the Mets have always needed, being in the media hotbed of New York. We don’t really know what’s happening behind the closed doors of the Mets front office, and we won’t see whether what they’re doing works until 2-3 years from now, so in the meantime, we need a public face appearing to assure us that there’s a plan, they’re sticking to it, and it’s going to result in success.

However, the Matt Harvey promotion pokes a hole in the veil of confidence hung by the Alderson administration.

Looking at the Mets’ current situation objectively, it makes absolutely perfect sense to bring up Harvey right now. The team is sinking in quicksand, and the starting rotation is in shambles. The club is in dire need of a starting pitcher for the simple, practical reason that one is required to begin a ballgame, and they also could use a spark — say, from an up and coming phenom from the farm? Harvey is the most logical answer, even if he’s “not ready” to pitch in the bigs.

However, Alderson painted himself into a corner with his consistent message alluded to by “DaveSchneck” above. Had Alderson not been so adamant, so clear, and so decisive about his stance on Harvey (and Wheeler), this promotion wouldn’t be controversial. But now that the Mets are deviating from their publicly stated plan, it raises questions. Is there really a plan? Who’s in charge? Was this an Alderson decision, or a Jeff Wilpon decision? Was it really based on the team’s on-field need, or the need to put fannies in the seats? Is it the best move for Harvey, when Alderson has been telling us all along that it wouldn’t be?

From this point forward, every public message coming from the Mets is going to be put under a microscope. For over a year, that wasn’t necessarily the case — the media and a large portion of the Mets fan base was quick to accept whatever Alderson was expressing, even if his answers were vague and evasive. He had a free pass, but now, it might be revoked.

For example, two days ago, Alderson responded with this when asked whether the Mets would be buyers or sellers:

“It’s not a question of what we need to see on the field to make us buyers, it’s what we see on the field that causes us not to be buyers,” Alderson said. “The presumption here is that we’re buyers, and it has been. Realistically, the next seven, eight, 10 games become important for us.”

Three days ago, that doublespeak was acceptable. The Mets are buyers until they’re not buyers, is the gist. Had Omar Minaya said this, he’d have been basted in the blogs and by the beat writers. After all, the Mets are spinning out of control, in desperate need of a starting pitcher, bullpen help, and a righthanded bat — at minimum — and the GM’s answer is to wait and see if the team will turn into non-buyers ten days from now? Seriously? The Mets need holes filled ASAP yesterday, not on July 31. By the deadline, the season’s fate will be established.

There’s one way Alderson can get get through this: by Harvey pitching well. If Matt Harvey throws seven shutout innings on Thursday, and follows it up with another strong start in San Francisco, most will glaze over this glaring misstep in messaging. But the questions will remain on the other side of the now-pierced veil.

What’s your thought on this matter? If you had confidence in Sandy Alderson’s regime, has it been shaken at all by this about-face? Do you agree with the Harvey promotion? Do you believe that Alderson is truly running the show? Post your opinion in the comments.

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. MikeT July 23, 2012 at 9:55 am
    I wanted to read this and fire back and say in the end he had no better option. However, you stated your case well, and ultimately I will not argue you are being unreasonable or jumping to conclusions. Well done.

    My opinion is that he should not have said that Harvey would only be promoted on merit. Circumstances have dictated otherwise and it is pie in the face for Sandy. I do think his team has a firm grasp on what is best for the organization. That they even resisted the first time with Harvey shows this; they will not make decisions based on popular opinion, but instead on what they believe is best for the player/team long term. By observing the minor leagues over the past year plus I know what they are doing, and while it takes time to show at the big league level and to the general public, it is a worthy endeavor. So one media gaffe is not enough to change my opinion of who is in charge, even if Fred stuck his hand into matters this one time. Mostly because it was such a close call in my own opinion that I could have supported it either way. I think the message was sent to Harvey: you are not ready to dominate up here, you need to work hard and understand that you will not succeed like you think you can. I think that is a good message to anyone: do not be satisfied with your work, strive to be better everyday.

  2. Izzy July 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm
    Sandy Alderson is a very easy read. He comes to the table with an aura of false superiority. He truly believes he can say anything he wants to get by the day, and it will be forgotten when it is proven to be a lie. What he’s done is to once again turn off a fan base who was really hoping that this team would be more than anyone ever expected. Like Minaya/Wilpon two years ago when they took an overachieving team and added the damaged Oliver Perez to the roster, this Alderson/Wilpon group did even worse. It slept. But sleeping thru trade season is par for the course. for this team. Anyone, willing to bite that bad apple again????
  3. Steve July 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm
    The fact that the Mets seem comfortable and willing to sit on their fannies at the deadline, given the horrid post All-Star break W/L records the past few years, in my mind, speaks VOLUMES about where the organization is. They are collectively out of touch with their fan base, losing more ticket sales as CitiField begins to grow spider webs and mold. Teams in worse shape have already made deals. Sandy can spit out all the garbled double-speak he wants; the fact is that the Wilpons are breathing sighs of relief that the team has nose-dived yet again, relieving them of any obligation to improve the team for August and September.

    “MEANINGFUL GAMES”???? Remember that nonsense, Fred?????

  4. derek July 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm
    we can blame sandy for not making a trade…but we barely have any prospects to trade….so i believe its wilpons fault for not investing money..only way we get anything of value in a trade is to spend money…our top pitching prospects will be in bigs next yr so not smart to trade them…our best pos players are at the lower levels…so for us to get any value in a trade return is to spend money…that isnt sandy call that is a wilpon call….

    as far as sandy spin goes what else is he supp to say…he wks for the wilpons he isnt gonna throw them under the bus and say..oh well fred isnt ready to write a ck…sandy is doing best he can under the circumstances…all these people talking about trades please give me examples of what u would have given up for brett myers?!? who is on his last leg…he is just as good as the crap we got now.

  5. argonbunnies July 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm
    Short-term smart, long-term stupid is exactly what got this franchise into a mess.

    Sandy’s platform since his hire has been “We won’t do that anymore.”

    And now they do it. They do what the big league club needs right this second, despite the very long list of ways it could be bad for the future.

    Credibility: GONE.

    Let’s start the arbitration clock on a kid who needs to be practicing skills instead of battling in games that count, risking his development and confidence and making him more expensive once he’s actually good, because a team that probably isn’t playoff-bound doesn’t have enough starting pitching. Even if it works out, this was not an intelligent strategic move.

  6. NormE July 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm
    I pretty much agree with Derek. The major league squad has very few assets coveted by other teams. If they were to trade Wright, Tejada or Dickey the fans would desert the sinking ship. Who else on the team would bring back anything of value?
    Any real talent down on the farm shouldn’t be traded. Thus, the answer is either the Wilpons won’t spend the money, as Derek says, or the front office knows that this team vastly over-achieved in the first half and there aren’t enough band-aids to keep them competitive.
    Alderson may be a spinmeister, but he is no fool. He didn’t drink the kool-aid that led many of the team’s followers to believe that this team could be a serious competitor for the playoffs.
  7. MIKW S. July 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm
    Met management has been glaringly deceptive since the no-no was pitched with a medically restored pitcher who pitched beyond his limitations. The team was sacrificed for the sake of the individual record and the results were simply horrible. A pitching rotation which was flowing along erupted into a race to the disable list and the relievers traveled the highway between CitiField and Rochester on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Mets management decision to bring up Harvey after 2 terrible games in the minor leagues is a contradiction to their public utterances. The season is over. Better to let a 41yeaar old pitcher continue to pitch than bring up a pitcher whose learning curve is incomplete. The Mets need Harvey for next season and if he is to be introduced to the Major Leagues this season, let his pitching record reflect some good current Minor League performances.
  8. Steven July 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm
    Me thinks you are all being far too hard. Different facts lead to different decisions. Had Batista pitched 6 innings of even three run ball on Saturday, we would not be seeing harvey. But Harvey is the best alternative for that spot, and it is not a poor move under any interpretation. Promoting Zack Wheeler would have been stupid, but for Harvey there is not too much to lose on promoting him now vs. September. In fact this promotion shows that they are not only thinking dollars and cents since they now lose a year of control by bringing him up now.
  9. TMS71 July 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm
    Everyone once in a while I check in here to see what kind of nonsense Joe is spewing. It never disappoints. He’s worried that bringing up Harvey is somewhat contradictory to something Alderson said earlier and that that fanbase is going to lose confidence in his plan. Oh this is precious. Joe, maybe you should start a celebrity gossip site or a be a politcal prognosticator because your focus is so often on this type of foolishness. No fan is going to lose confidence in Alderson because he’s bringing up Harvey in a pinch. Talk about much ado about nothing.
    • Joe Janish July 24, 2012 at 8:41 am
      1. Thank you — SO MUCH — for once again adding absolutely nothing to the conversation. You do realize this is a conversation happening here, right?

      2. Glad to have met your expectations. Imagine if I wasn’t spewing nonsense — you might not ever come back to check in. Whew!

      3. Don’t be silly — if I started a celebrity gossip site, then I’d have to give up MetsToday. And then where would you go to find your nonsense?

      4. If you read the post, then you know that the discussion topic came directly from someone other than myself. So, there is at least one fan spoiling your “no fan” prediction.

  10. DaveSchneck July 24, 2012 at 9:17 am
    Your blog did an excellent job of explaining my point, which wasn’t focused on whether or not Harvey should be promoted. Despite the dissent, the management style and “trust” of ownership does matter to a portion of the fan base, and the recent history has alienated a portion of “paying customers”. It ultimately comes down to wins and losses, but the Izzys are not alone, I know the Wilpon style has angered many and Alderson has contributed to this sentiment more than he may realize or admit. Thanks.
    • Joe Janish July 24, 2012 at 9:51 am
      No Dave, thank YOU.

      Anyone who disagrees with the theory that fans can lose confidence / trust in a team’s management need only go to Citi Field and see all the empty seats on a beautiful summer evening. The 2012 Mets exceeded all expectations in the first half, did a lot of winning, spent plenty of time only a few games out of first place, and yet ticket sales continued spiraling downward. Winning is supposed to cure everything, but it didn’t help the Mets. Yes, there are many factors contributing to empty seats, but at least one is that portion of the fan base to which you refer.

      • Gary S. July 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm
        Excellent point Joe.Bringing back Acosta is a crime against the fan base.Wait till Alderson sees all the fans that come disguised as empty seats the rest of the year.Another August and September where the shriinking season ticket holders can use their overpriced tickets to line the cat litt box.