Sandy Alderson: GM or Caretaker?
So, are the Mets expecting to contend for a playoff spot this year? I can’t fathom why they’d hold on to pieces like Tim Byrdak, Scott Hairston and Chris Young if they thought otherwise. We heard from one source that Sandy Alderson “monitored” the list of available players, while another source claimed he “had his finger on the pulse” of the trade market.
So what is he, a civil war ironclad? Or a physician’s assistant? He certainly isn’t acting like a GM. In actuality, he and his three brainy helpers (DePodesta, Ricco and Ricciardi) seem to be little more than caretakers for the increasingly moribund Wilpon Estate. Managing the day-to-day operations with a petty cash fund appears to be all that they can do (or are entrusted with).
I was not expecting Alderson to spin Byrdak, Hairston or Young into a top prospect, the way he did with the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal last year. Nor did I want a swap for AAAA filler that would only clog up 40-man roster spots. I accept the fact that no one wants Jason Bay and I am opposed to moving Daniel Murphy or Ike Davis for middle-inning relief help.
What I was hoping for was a little creativity: a bundle of say Hairston and Young for one or two B/B+ prospects. In this way, something is built from nothing. Hairston, Young and Byrdak all signed as Free Agents and didn’t cost the Mets anything in terms of players or draft picks. By dealing them, Alderson could have added a little fuel to his bargaining power; building depth for the deals he will inevitably have to make to improve the 25-man roster. This may be derided in some circles as “small market philosophy,” because the Kansas City Royals do it, but it has also been effective in building winning teams in places like Minnesota, Oakland, San Francisco and Washington. You may recall circa 1998-2000 and Steve Phillips being unable to acquire either Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, mainly because he had already drained the cupboard bare in acquiring Al Leiter and Mike Piazza and didn’t have the equivalent of an a Carl Pavano or an Omar Daal left in prospects that Boston and Arizona respectively, had to offer.
Then there is the entertainment factor. Player moves are an important part of baseball’s appeal. Fans eat up trades and rumors of trades. Trade talk sells papers and builds traffic on websites. To stand pat during the trade deadline while your team is floundering only serves to further diminish the allure of your product. This comes after a winter of inactivity and the very likely prospect of another uneventful off-season ahead. Teams can get a lot of mileage out of deals and not just in terms of player production. Trades generate some free publicity and (sometimes) improved ticket sales. A move or two would have served as a gesture of goodwill to a discouraged and frustrated fan base that the front office feels the same way and is finally willing to do more than just talk about it. For a team having a poor season like the Mets are, the July trade deadline deals can offer a topic-changer and possibly keeps them from dropping entirely off the radar screen after football camps open.
Instead, the club is clinging stubbornly to the status quo: the final third of the 2012 Mets’ season will be done playing out the string with a mixture of semi-prospects trying to establish themselves as Major Leaguers, a few star players looking for an exit and some marginal veterans as roster filler. Meanwhile they will continue to talk out of both sides of their mouths. Yes we are building for the future and no; we aren’t giving up on this season. So please buy tickets and merchandise. In reality they aren’t doing much of either. (But they do want you to spend your money). If they planned on contending, why didn’t they add a piece or two? If they are playing for 2013 and beyond, why not move some vets for chips?
This has become distressingly familiar ground for us. I had hoped that the arrival of Alderson and his associates meant the dawn of a new age for the Mets. Instead, it’s Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss…