Firing might mean Sandy Alderson's rebuilding is up in smoke

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Sandy Alderson talks with the media at the

Sandy Alderson talks with the media at the annual baseball general managers meeting. (Nov. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.

About the time the Dave Hudgens Media Tour ended Tuesday, Sandy Alderson was standing in the tunnel next to the Mets dugout answering questions for the second straight day about his fired hitting coach.

Hudgens and Alderson go way back -- "decades," according to the general manager -- so this had to be a tough one.

"[Monday] was not the best of days for a variety of reasons," Alderson said.

If Hudgens was an "Alderson guy," does that mean his firing was actually a message from the Wilpons to Alderson? Were Fred, Jeff and Co. telling the former Marine he needs to ship up or shape out?

Uh, no. Unless something very unusual takes place, Alderson will decide how long he continues to run the Mets.

The guaranteed portion of Alderson's contract expires at the end of this season. The Mets hold an option for 2015.

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But really, the option of how long to continue this now 4-year-old rebuilding plan is up to Alderson. The only way it ends early is if the 66-year-old decides he's had enough of the day-to-day minutiae of running a big-market team with a small-market budget.

When I asked Alderson if he wanted the option to be picked up, his smile said more than the answer, which was, "That's up to somebody else."

No, Alderson is not sweating his own status. And he'll never bash the Wilpons, never even hint that he feels hamstrung by the club's empty coffers.

Hudgens, the previously anonymous coach who spoke to everyone except the ladies from "The View" before leaving town, suggested Alderson isn't getting a fair shake on "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN Radio.

"If they want a winner in that town, I would let the purse strings loose and let Sandy do what he wants to do," Hudgens said. "I know he'd put a winner in there."

Alderson, as he has for four years, refused to be drawn into a debate about payroll.

"We spent $85 million and we expected a little more at this point in the season than we've gotten," he said. "So I don't believe payroll is the issue."

Would Alderson break the bank if he could? Probably not. But chances are he'd want to spend more than the Royals ($92M) and Padres ($90M).

Alderson has a well-known aversion to huge-money contracts. Remember when he bashed the Nationals' signing of Jayson Werth to a $126-million deal?

"I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington," Alderson said at the time.

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That quip came from the halcyon days of 2010, when Alderson had just taken over from Omar Minaya. Alderson was supposed to bring "Moneyball with money," but instead the Mets seem to be running in (last) place with a fed-up fan base.

Alderson could probably skip back to a cushy job in the next commissioner's office. He was once Bud Selig's executive vice president of baseball operations -- Joe Torre's job now -- and Selig was said to be instrumental in the Wilpons bringing Alderson in at a crucial time in the club's history.

But the job is not done. Like Phil Jackson with the Knicks, Alderson was supposed to bring order to chaos. That Alderson felt compelled to fire his hand-picked hitting coach shows all has not gone according to plan.

The fans are antsy. The owners probably are, as well.

"I talk to ownership from time to time," Alderson said. "I talk to Fred, I talk to Jeff, and I have a sense of what they're thinking or what their frustrations might be."

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Jeff Wilpon did not return a call seeking comment on Alderson's contract. Instead, a team spokesman issued a statement that said, "We'll address this publicly at an appropriate time."

More likely, Alderson will.

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