Alderson sculpts new face of the Mets

Shortstop Chin-lung Hu (R) poses for photos with Shortstop Chin-lung Hu (R) poses for photos with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson during a news conference. (Jan. 26, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The new face of the Mets couldn't be used to sell cars like David Wright and doesn't have a $137.5-million contract like Johan Santana. Chances are he wouldn't even draw a second glance on a Manhattan street, and he probably could enjoy dinner at a restaurant without interruption.

Make no mistake, however; the most important man employed by the Mets these days is Sandy Alderson, who is the main architect of the franchise's current reboot - and also its most vocal pitchman. For a brand that's worth more than $800 million, not including its SNY network, Alderson has been asked to be its jacket-and-tie savior.

"The only guy that's recognized me in New York since I got here was a TSA agent at LaGuardia," Alderson said earlier this month.

But after a busy winter - with the media, not in the free-agent market - Alderson's profile seems to be rising by the day. The New York Observer went so far as to publish the address of Alderson's new $4.2-million penthouse apartment, the kind of treatment usually reserved for the Wrights of the world.

That's a bit over the top for a GM. But given the amount of public scrutiny the Mets have been under lately, it feels like open season on the beaten-down franchise, and it is Alderson's job to change the negative perception that has dogged this team since 2006.

Though Alderson is not thrilled to be inheriting a bloated payroll that should be about $145 million on Opening Day, he does realize that a momentum shift is possible, even if he can't get the Mets to the playoffs in his first full season running the front office.

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"We want fans to be proud of the Mets," Alderson said. "I'm going to be on the No. 7 train myself; I take it home almost every night now and I expect I will after some games. I also expect I'll hear a host of comments during that time, some negative, some positive. But that's part of the contract with the fans. We have to earn their support."

Alderson is best known for his role in building the Athletics into world champions - though some wonder about the role of performance-enhancing substances during that period. He followed that with a less remarkable turn in the front office of the Padres, but he probably made his biggest impression working for Major League Baseball in a variety of jobs, most notably as a troubleshooter of sorts for the commissioner's office.

As for his connection to the Mets, there really isn't one, and Alderson went so far as to say he was "urged" by commissioner Bud Selig - a close friend of principal owner Fred Wilpon - to take the GM position. That only reinforced the suspicion that Alderson was recruited by the commissioner to fix the Mets, but Alderson has worked hard to create a bond with his new team.

In recounting the tragic death of his 87-year-old father, John, who was fatally struck by a motorist in November, Alderson said his dad was wearing two of his favorite things that night: the 1989 A's World Series ring and a Mets cap. Alderson said his father wore that ring for 20 years, but the new cap showed how much he had been looking forward to spring training with his son at the helm.

"It's one of the reasons I took this job, the excitement that he had," Alderson said. "He loved baseball."

Like his father, Alderson served in the military, but he left to pursue a law degree at Harvard. When asked if he had thought about spending his life in the military before reaching that pivotal point in his career, Alderson displayed some insight into how he intends to handle this next step with the Mets.

"I'm not somebody who plans all that far in advance," Alderson said. "I tell people whatever job you have now is the most important because it leads to something else. Never plan too far in advance. Focus on trying to do a good job and hope people notice at some point."

Once Alderson starts attracting more attention in New York, the Mets can only hope it's for the right reasons.

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