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Alderson Begins To Untangle Mets Mess

Posted By Brandon Marcus On Mar 21 2011 @ 1:40 pm In New York Mets | No Comments

Their owners are broke. In such despair they needed to borrow from the league. They may also need a substantial loan from the large banking institution whose name resides on their shiny young ballpark. They are looking for a minority owner to ease their burden, hoping to avoid being forced to relinquish control of the team.

These are the front page stories for the Mets.  Not the state of play on the field, but the state of their precarious finances.

The Mets embark on another season clouded by turmoil.

They’ve been free fallin’ for four years now.  Four long years ago they were a game from the World Series. They haven’t played a playoff game since. Alas, Omar Minaya’s reign of error is over. Ironically, now that Mets management is finally stable, their ownership is the furthest thing from it.

Sandy Alderson is a smart, competent executive who, much like the Knicks Donnie Walsh, puts a credible a face on a curious franchise. He did an admirable job patch-working the team, considering the calamitous state they find themselves in.  Even the most pessimistic of Met fans couldn’t have imagined this a few short months ago. And these are Met fans we’re talking about. Pessimism is a default disposition.

They say spring training is a time for hope and Alderson and Terry Collins preach that in excess.  They talk about health – Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes playing 150 games. They talk about staying in the mix until Johan Santana can return in a few months.

“I believe (the Mets are better) because there is talent here, both position-wise and in the starting rotation,” said Alderson. “We need to be healthy, just like most teams, which we haven’t been in the last two years when we couldn’t keep our experienced players on the field.”

“If we get this..and if he provides that”. Alderson expounds the virtues of motivated players in the last year of their contracts – Beltran and Reyes most notably. If Reyes can rebound to fulfill his potential as a 100 run, 50 stolen base guy. If Beltran can bat clean up and drive in 100 runs. Can Ike Davis take the next step and become a force in the middle of their lineup? Can Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and R.A Dickey give them consistent innings at the top of the rotation?

Beltran is already out coddling his wobbly knees, and is now a question mark for opening day. Thus far, R.A Dickey is yet to regain the craft of last season.

Alderson calls himself a “glass half full” guy, but for Met fans its hard drink to swallow. As team president, his team outlook is prudent, but improbable. His optimistic assertions are plausible; not persuasive.

The issue isn’t whether or not they have talent. They do.  Or even if they are capable of competing every day. They are. It is a lack of definable strengths across the board that limits their ceiling as ball club. Can we say unequivocally they are above average in any department? The lineup, maybe, if those key guys we talk about are healthy. There’s that if again. If we are being honest, this team hasn’t hit with runners in scoring position in three years. They’ve been allergic to clutch hitting.

Objectively speaking, without Santana, the starting rotation is scant and mediocre. With the departure of Feliciano and Takahashi, the bullpen is much the same, even if you’d like to argue Francisco Rodriguez will be tempered and effective; and Izzy is for real.

If the Phillies are the yard stick, the Mets are a ruler.  Who will be tasked with retiring Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in a critical spot? We take for granted how valuable Feliciano was in those late-inning situations. Am I also to be convinced that Chris Capuano will matchup favorably against Roy Oswalt or Cole Hamels at the bottom of the rotation. Bottom is a loose term when applied to the Phillies staff – there is no bottom. Just top and Joe Blanton.

So let’s be real. I don’t discount the possibility of winning 80-85 games. And I respect and trust Alderson. After Omar, it’s nice to have an executive who speaks lucidly. I like Terry Collins too, who looks like he can hold this team accountable for a change. A stark contrast to Jerry Manual, whose demeanor resembled a buddy of Cheech and Chong.

Alderson has to present his case for the 2011 Mets; he needs bodies in his ballpark. A legitimate concern.  But it won’t be long before his gaze is fixed on 2012, when significant money will melt off the books, and he can do some real work.

I don’t want to dash anybody’s hope, even if I have already, because I do believe that Alderson will get the job done here. Just like Donnie Walsh, I expect Alderson to put this team in position to compete year in and year out. But its going to take time. Time to remove the dead weight, and time to rebuild the system so they can deal from a position of strength – Phils, Sox and Yanks-like strength.

Dumping Ollie and Castillo was imperative start to the weeding-out process.

This shouldn’t be a lost season like the last two. Maybe they can sneak up on some teams for a change. Like you, Sandy and Terry, I, too, hope they can stay healthy;  not for delusions of post-season grandeur, but more than anything so we have a baseball team to watch this summer.

The good news is, for the first time in a while the Mets have sound leadership.

Let’s just hope that the Wilpon’s can make payroll.

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