It remains to be seen if Sandy Alderson will return the Mets to the glory days they once enjoyed after the hiring of Frank Cashen as general manager in January 1980. But after Friday's introduction at Citi Field, this much is certain: Alderson is a general manager unlike any other this troubled franchise has hired since Cashen, and he has a vision to fix the mess in Flushing.
"We are going to work hard," Alderson said during his opening remarks at the podium. "We're going to work smart, I think. We're going to try to exploit all of the ways that players can be acquired, developed, retained. We're going to strive for consistency. But above all, excellence."
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In that one breath, Alderson presented a broad approach to the daunting task ahead before being asked to chop it down to smaller, more specific increments. Just as Alderson offered a bullet-point list to describe himself during his interviews - "friendly but professional, analytical but innovative" - here's a rundown of his game plan.
Alderson dismissed the notion of "full autonomy" as GM of the Mets and sees himself as an executive who will work with ownership in decision-making. Still, because of Alderson's experience, principal owner Fred Wilpon described him as having more latitude in that role than anyone since Cashen.
"In some instances, I will make decisions," Alderson said. "In other instances, I will make recommendations. That's the way it should be. That's the way it's been everywhere; that's the way I expect it to be here. With respect to recommendations, whether it's player-related or otherwise, my responsibility is to make the best case. And my goal is that every one of my recommendations is accepted. But that's a burden on me."
On the question of manager, Alderson sounded as though he wouldn't be against hiring a "fiery" manager, but he also stressed the need for the manager to be "analytical" and "intuitive." Above all, Alderson added, the manager must carry out the organizational plan, so the two need to see eye-to-eye on things. The Mets have trimmed their list of managerial candidates to roughly a dozen, according to chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
"I think that we're looking for somebody that fits intellectual requirements, but also intuitive and emotional ones," Alderson said. "That manager may have experience. He may not have experience. We're very open-minded about it at this point."
As far as the Mets contending next season, Alderson refused to say this is a rebuilding situation, but he also said he is a "realist" about their short-term and long-term goals. He acknowledged that the Mets have very little payroll flexibility for 2011 and the Wilpons went as far as to say they're pretty much at the "maximum" right now, which is roughly $130 million. Though Alderson is "optimistic" about their chances, forget about any big-ticket free agents such as Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford this winter.
"We want to be in the market every year," Alderson said. "Will we be in the market this year aggressively? Unlikely."
Alderson didn't want to get into specifics about the future of any player with the Mets. But when asked if he will seek to cut loose some of the more expensive drains on the payroll, such as Oliver Perez ($12 million) and Luis Castillo ($6 million), he suggested it is possible if deemed necessary.
"That's certainly important from my standpoint, to know that they're open-minded in that regard," Alderson said. "Assuming that I could adequately demonstrate that [need], I'm not surprised that they would be open to that result."
On the topic of steroids, and whether he turned a blind eye to them as Athletics GM, Alderson did not duck the question. He said he suspected Jose Canseco but not Mark McGwire, and even considered his own drug-testing program before realizing it was not legal in California at that time and a violation of the sport's collective-bargaining agreement.
"If you go back and put all that in perspective, do I wish I had done more?" Alderson said. "I think that's almost always true with anything that we experience."