The watchword under Alderson: Calm | Mets360

The watchword under Alderson: Calm

December 16, 2010
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Seems to me…

…there’s something missing in the Mets’ front office these days: panic.

It’s beyond refreshing to have another team in the division – our arch-rival, even, if you will – make a big, splashy move and have the reaction from Flushing be…well…nothing. The Phillies, of all teams, signed Cliff Lee to a contract lesser in years and smaller in funds than he’d been offered by Texas or the Yankees. Apparently, he loves Philly JUST. THAT. MUCH. Whatever. “De gustibus non desputandum est,” in my high-school Latin for “No accounting for taste.”

The quote from Sandy Alderson — amid the clamor and clanging of sports talk radio and the yarn-heads in the mainstream media — was as honest, forthright and bullet-like as could be. “Honestly, I don’t think it affects our long-term thinking as much as you might expect,” he said. What’s that? A flat-out declaration that we have a plan & we’re sticking to it? No promises to the fans that the front office will make you feel better right away? Wow. And hurrah!

You see, there is a looooooooong history of panicky reactions when some team or other stings us with a big-time signing. The mentality goes back to the early-‘90s, the waning days of the Frank Cashen regime – and in the first case, it was in direct response to losing the big player.

Darryl Strawberry bolted Queens to join his hometown team, the Dodgers. The Mets – never believing he’d actually, y’know, LEAVE – threw a wheelbarrow of money at long-time nemesis Vince Coleman. Coleman was a whole different kind of outfielder – and human being, as it turned out. Coleman was fast, very fast. As soon as he came into the league in 1985, he set NL stolen-base records in St. Louis. That’s about it. He didn’t hit much, had no power and his OBP hovered between .300 and .340.

How the Mets’ figured to replace Strawberry’s 1985-90 bWAR of 32.2 with Coleman’s b9.69 over the same time span is beyond rational thought, especially when there were far better options out there. Some 1991 free agent outfielders and their respective 1985-90 bWARs:

Brett Butler 25.8
Willie McGee 18.1
George Bell 17.0
Phil Bradley 15.3

But Coleman had some key steals when the Cards beat out the Mets for the NL East in ’85 & ’87, so there’s…um…gimme a minute…Nope, it STILL boggles the mind.

If we fast-forward 10 years, the Mets are on the heels of another success cycle, fresh off an NL pennant. One of their big pitchers, NLCS MVP Mike Hampton has departed for the snow-capped school systems of Colorado. The top free agent is Mike Mussina, late of Baltimore, who did some outstanding post-season pitching back when the Orioles known for that sort of thing.

Mussina – while being wooed by nearly everyone, including the Mets, hard — wasted little time in finding his new home: the Yankees. With a front office and fan base still smarting from a World Series loss to those very Yankees, this came as a blow. It didn’t help when Mr. Mussina rubbed in a little salt at his introductory press conference, saying, in effect, “If you’re going to play in New York, why would you EVER choose the Mets?” Ouch.

Reeling, the Mets turned around and signed Kevin Appier – in their view the next best thing in an admittedly weak crop of free agent starting pitchers. Now that’s fine. Appier had a pretty good track record and pitched okay for the Mets – just okay: a 117 ERA+ — but the contract GM Steve Phillips bestowed on him was absolutely ludicrous. Three years, $29.5 million 2001 dollars. For Kevin Appier. Not Tom Seaver. Not Sandy Koufax. Not Christy Mathewson. Kevin Appier.

By the off-season, even Phillips was conscious of the ridicularity of the deal and sought to unload Appier at the earliest possible convenience. Enter the Angels with Mo Vaughn and his bloated…contract. A one-up swap of Appier for Vaughn netted the Mets the living symbol of their early-aughts futility, the poster boy for the Top Payroll/Bottom Lineup Mets we’re so familiar with this very day. These days, the examples are our very own Dynamic Duo, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.

So I’ll take Sandy Alderson’s “passive-aggressive” stance — his words –until we can be “aggressive-aggressive.”

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17 Responses to The watchword under Alderson: Calm

  1. December 16, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I’ve never seen so much praise heaped upon someone for doing nothing.

    • Brian Joura
      December 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      If the choice is a poor move or no move, it’s easy to understand why fans are cheering inactivity. Especially given that the last big move – signing power hitter Jason Bay to a $72.5 million deal once the option vests – produced 6 HR and a .749 OPS last year.

      • Jack Str
        December 19, 2010 at 3:14 am

        The flaw in the reasoning of this article is so basic I’m embarrassed to have to point it out. I wrote on AmazinAvenue that

        “the article [employs] what has become a standard false opposition
        in complimentary writing about Alderson. [The choices are obviously not limited to]

        a) an inappropriate Zenlike calm as the Phillies build a 98 win juggernaut that will dominate the NL for years

        versus

        b) insane overreaction (OMGZ is OLLIE PEREZ A FREE AGENT YET?!?!?!?)

        What I’m reading from Alderson is that he has a plan, and that he likes his plan, and won’t deviate much from his plan. It would be great to know what the hell that plan was, other than generic stuff we can hear from anyone.

        Bill James once wrote of a manager who said something similar to what Alderson is saying, that ‘We don’t compliment a pilot who flies the same way in foul weather as he does in fair weather.’ When your archrival just signed one of the best pitchers in baseball, simple common sense strongly suggests you alter your plan, the same way that being down 6-2 in the 7th inning calls for a different strategy than being down 4-2 in the 4th. [In any case] If Alderson’s plan is to assemble a 100 million dollar player development machine, or a team that takes dead aim at 95 wins a year, wouldn’t it be nice to know that? So far he’s been unfortunately vague. Theo Epstein along with the Red Sox ownership were much more forthcoming with information and details about the organization [and its aims] than Alderson and the Wilpons have been. The difference is palpable. I hope that changes.

        • Brian Joura
          December 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

          The goal of the GM is to put the best team on the field he possibly can. It should not matter what his rivals are doing. When you suggest that Alderson should react to the Lee signing, what you’re advocating for is a panic move.

          It would be nice to know more details of the plan. We do know that Alderson does not want to compromise the payroll flexibility of next offseason, which makes a panic move not impossible, but certainly much less likely.

          The moves we have seen Alderson make this offseason have been good ones, if on the minor scale. You want to see big moves. I understand your frustration but I disagree that is what Alderson should do given the current state of the Mets.

          Perhaps that changes come the trading deadline. We shall see.

    • brooklynlou
      December 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      Considering how the Mets have for years been running around like headless chickens, the fact that they a) have a head and b) not running around like idiots – is an improvement.

      • Jack Str
        December 19, 2010 at 5:17 am

        This is also the best people could say about Omar Minaya: at least he didn’t trade the farm away. At least he didn’t sign Barry Zito.

        What you’ve described is well within the capacity of 25 or 26 GMs. What you’ve described, what you’ve claimed, is the quintessential response of an absolutely shell-shocked fanbase. I’ve never seen this before–the fans of a Pythag 81-81 team with upside saying almost as one, ‘aw heck, I don’t really care whether the team improves much at all this season. We’ve got a name for a GM. If he doesn’t do anything for a year despite the fact that we gave the owners an $800m stadium in the largest market in baseball, that’s just all right with me.’

        • Stu Baron
          January 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm

          “we gave the owners an $800m stadium”

          Wrong, Jack. The city contributed $89.7 million in capital funds for infrastructure and the state granted $74.7 million in rent credits. The team spent approximately $550 million, the lion’s share of the cost.

  2. Gary C Baez
    December 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Charlie,
    Historically, the Phils go back to the 1880′s. A few years ago they set the record for all-time number of loses by any professional team in the known Universe. I remember awesome crowds of 1700 people at Connie Mack Stadium. If anything is refreshing, it is that Philadelphia baseball fans are enjoying a commitment by the front office to winning championships that hasn’t been seen since the days of Cornelius McGillicuddy and the Philadelphia Athletics.

    • December 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

      Gary,

      True, but a.) this is a Mets’ site. & 2.) The Phils may face a similar predicament as those MackMen of yore…

      • Gary C Baez
        December 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm

        Charlie,
        How can you ever forgive me? I am so sorry for writing a comment on a site that is publicly posted on Facebook. Should I pay some sort of Mets dues? Since it is a Mets site, am I allowed to read it???? What is your High School Latin for “Arrogance has no bounds”? Please accept this with the pure joy and sarcasm that I could muster.

        • December 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm

          Gary,

          Sorry if my –admittedly flip — first comment offended you. All I was saying, really was If you were looking for someplace to hear the Phillies’ front office praised, why would you come to a Mets site?

          Are we OK?

          • Gary C Baez
            December 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm

            Charlie , give me a big hug.

  3. Mike C.
    December 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I am not cheering the Mets’ inactivity. They have money to spend. The Wilpon’s are multi-millionaires. They don’t, however, have any immediate needs that can be addressed by any of the big name free agents. I’m hoping for a nice sign-and-trade at this point.

    • December 17, 2010 at 5:47 am

      Sure the Wilpons are multi-millionaires. How much are they spending on the team again? Closer to $150 million than not?

      They obviously have money, but many fans like to pretend the existing contracts can be ripped up at a whim. The team has lots of green tied up with several players and they don’t have much flexibility unless cut or traded.

      • Mike C.
        December 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm

        I will be a Mets fan regardless.

  4. Dan Stack
    December 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    It’s all about transition this year. The Mets WILL spend. But they will do it wisely and timely.

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