Sandy Alderson recently spoke with the media for the first time since it was revealed he had a form of cancer and had some very interesting things to say. As usual, and depending on your current mood with team, some of those things were a bit provocative in nature. It’s likely that Alderson doesn’t mean to incite any kind of negative reaction with his comments and that these are simply genuine answers from a man who is incredibly calculative with both his words and actions. Still, his comments sometimes have a tendency to stir the Mets masses with how tone-deaf they appear to be on the surface.
Case in point, when talking about adding impactful players Alderson had this to say about finding the right player and not “trying to fit a square peg into a round hole:”
“For two months or three months it may make sense. For five years, six years, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to do that. If we had the right healthy player in the right position, it might be a different story for us. This isn’t about inching up on team improvement. This is trying to be more thoughtful about it, but also realistic.”
This is clearly in reference to a player like Yoenis Cespedes, a player many fans and media-types still think the Mets should sign to bolster the middle of their lineup. In fact, he correlates the team’s perceived lack of overall spending with the team specifically not signing Cespedes to a large contract.
This appears disingenuous for three reasons.
First, Mets fans have watched the team shove players out of position many, many times recently. Most notably, we’ve watched Daniel Murphy play out of position for more than half a decade. Second, most of those who would like to see the Mets retain Cespedes have no delusions that he’s worth a five year contract or that the Mets should sign him for that long. Finally, Curtis Granderson‘s contract is up in two years and it’s highly unlikely the team would resign him, thereby sliding Cespedes to one of the corners when there’s a likelihood that his defense in center goes from pretty bad to potentially disastrous. Additionally, and according to the Post’s Mike Puma, “industry sources” have stated that the Mets have “left the door open a crack for Cespedes’ return.”
This indicates that the team sees the value he would provide on the right deal. Again, inconsistent with the “square peg round hole narrative.” Just tell it like it is: if his price comes down of course we’d like to bring him back regardless of compromising an up-the-middle defense we’ve clearly not prioritized with most of our moves.
In defense of accusations that the Mets are not spending like many feel a team in their market should, he cites the fact that the team’s payroll has gone up since 2014. That’s literally true, but we need to keep the context in mind. He notes that the payroll in 2014 was at $85 million and will be somewhere between $115 million and $120 million in 2016. “That is a $35 million increase in just two years,” he said.
The Mets’ 2014 payroll was seen as a low point and they were summarily blasted for having such a low payroll even after adding the salaries of Granderson, Bartolo Colon, and Chris Young. That 2014 payroll, which actually ended up being closer to $90 million as Spring Training rolled around, was 22nd highest in the league. It was just a hair higher than the Chicago Cubs, whose 2016 payroll is currently projected to be around $155 million.
It’s unclear whether Alderson purposely means to be condescending towards fans and media when he makes these kinds of statements, but the optimistic view is that he is simply trying to manage expectations. It can’t be that he believes the rest of us to be incompetents who didn’t notice that the team attempted to throw money at 34-year-old Ben Zobrist. The problem seems to be that they want to sign who they want, when they want, and only on their terms. That’s not really in line with reality.
Look, we all know that a high payroll doesn’t always equal success. Mets fans probably know that more personally than most fans. The idea isn’t to spend money just to spend money, but it also isn’t to make your team marginally better when the opportunity appears to be there to make it significantly better. You have to be smart, but you have to take risks and compromise sometimes as well. It just doesn’t seem that this front office, and ownership for that matter, is willing to do that. The off-season isn’t over and there are still impact free agents out there, so things may change before Spring Training. Do you think that probable, though?