Sandy Alderson did his best Monday to stabilize what has become a chaotic situation involving the Mets' financial issues, but he admitted to a "certain level of ambiguity" surrounding the club now that ownership is looking for a limited partner.
At this stage, it's impossible to assess the fallout from the Madoff investment scandal, with lawsuits still pending and legal damages as yet undetermined. Still, Alderson insisted that he has not been handcuffed by recent events and that his vision for the Mets will proceed unaffected by any moves at the ownership level.
"First of all, I want to emphasize that the plan that we have pursued over the last couple of months was limited by only one fact, and that is the level of the existing payroll," Alderson said. "Our payroll going into the season will be somewhere between 140 and 150 million [dollars].
"I think that's significantly higher than we'd like it to be on an annual basis, but a product of adding some additional players that we felt the roster needed, as well as some existing commitments. So the plan and the approach that I have taken over the last two months has not been affected at all by any other outside factors."
On a personal level, Alderson said he was not aware of the severity of the club's financial problems when he interviewed for the general manager's job in October. After a search that spanned nearly a month, Alderson was hired as GM on Oct. 27.
"When I interviewed and took this position, I of course was aware of the pre-existing involvement of the Wilpons and the Mets with Bernie Madoff," Alderson said. "I wasn't privy to all the detail, nor am I, or most of us at this point, privy to all that detail, and I wouldn't expect to be.
"It wasn't really discussed. I didn't raise it, and again, from my standpoint, I'm not surprised by this development just because the Madoff situation was a backdrop to the Mets, and a well-known backdrop. My enthusiasm and energy for this position and my confidence in the future of the Mets is undiminished."
The bigger question, however, is this: If he knew back then what he knows now, would Alderson have accepted the job?
"You're right to say that some circumstances have changed," Alderson said. "Would it have changed my position? I don't think so."
After a tumultuous weekend kicked off by Friday's announcement that the Wilpons are seeking to sell up to 25 percent of the Mets, Alderson spoke to reporters for the first time in a conference call that initially was scheduled for the signing of R.A. Dickey. The call itself lasted 20 minutes, but more than 14 of those minutes involved Alderson fielding questions about the Madoff mess.
In addition to this year's payroll, Alderson was asked if the Mets' apparent money shortage will make it impossible to re-sign Jose Reyes. The homegrown shortstop will become a free agent after this season, and if he stays healthy, he could command a deal similar to Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142- million contract with the Red Sox.
"Again, perhaps naively, I don't expect that this situation will be a hindrance in that regard," Alderson said. "I fully expect that that decision will be made as it would have been - in the best interest of the team on the field and in the best interest of the overall financial health, as well as baseball future of the Mets, as it would be with every other team."
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the Mets, Alderson did not sound worried during the conference call. He gave the impression that his main goal was to dispel the negativity building up around the team in recent days.
"The facts are as they currently exist," Alderson said. "To some extent, the decision to find a minority partner or some other source of recapitalizing the franchise is positive news, from my standpoint. If there was a financial problem before and it's being addressed, that can only be positive, from my standpoint."