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Alderson, Cashman able to see big picture

Sandy Alderson, left, is in his first year

Sandy Alderson, left, is in his first year with the Mets as general manager, while Brian Cashman enters his 14th year with the Yankees. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa (Alderson); Thomas A. Ferrara (Cashman)

'In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made'' Alicia Keys sings in Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind,'' "oh, there's nothing you can't do.''

Sure. Try selling that to Brian Cashman and Sandy Alderson.

We kick off the 2011 baseball season at an interesting juncture for the Yankees and the Mets, and with the pressure arguably greater than ever on the clubs' respective general managers. Cashman, in his 14th season running the Yankees, finally gets to see some games nearly four months after whiffing on top free-agent target Cliff Lee. Alderson, a rookie Mets GM, tries to piece together a contender with a limited budget, thanks to the chaos occurring at the ownership level and the mistakes made by his predecessor, Omar Minaya.

With such short-term uncertainty looming for the local nines, here's some free advice for those of you concerned you'll endure another parade-less season:

Enjoy the process.

"I think, fans, they want a game plan,'' Cashman told Newsday recently. "When the game plan gets disrupted, it takes a while for them to get on board.''

"People are passionate. They're demanding. They're opinionated,'' Alderson told Newsday. "They're intelligent baseball fans. I think all of that, the emotion side and the intellectual side of fans in New York, you have to respect it.''

If you're a Mets fan old enough to remember 1986, do you have fond recollections of the years building up to it? Of seeing Mookie Wilson arrive in 1980, then Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry in 1983, Davey Johnson and Dwight Gooden in 1984, and so on? There was a joy in seeing GM Frank Cashen operate with such savvy, even though he couldn't guarantee a World Series title.

Opening up our argument to a younger sector of the population, if you're a Yankees fan old enough to remember 1996, you probably remember the excitement of knowing -- from about 1992 onward -- that things were changing for the better. That Gene Michael and Buck Showalter served as positive agents of change.

Now join us back in the present. The Yankees are of course not rebuilding; they won it all in 2009 and fell short against the Rangers in last year's American League Championship Series. When Lee shocked the baseball world by signing with the Phillies, however, Cashman knew he would encounter much discontent.

"We prepared them with, 'Plan B is patience,' '' Cashman said, referring to the mantra he has repeated since Lee's decision. "We're going to do it slow, methodically.''

With the extremely notable exception of setup man Rafael Soriano, whom ownership signed over Cashman's objections, those words have held true regarding the starting rotation. Cashman hasn't overpaid for mediocrity, either on the trade market or in free agency. The result, however, is a rotation with major question marks.

The process has been solid. Even if it produces a one-year hiccup like 2008, when the Yankees missed the playoffs before winning it all the next year, Cashman has a track record you can trust.

As does Alderson, who built a World Series champion in Oakland and helped the Padres get through a transition period. If his player moves this past winter didn't excite you, perhaps you can at least appreciate that Alderson found value among the likes of Ronny Paulino, D.J. Carrasco and old friend Jason Isringhausen.

Granted, the uncertainty of the Wilpons' future as owners of the Mets casts doubt over whether Alderson will be able to see through his vision. You can drive yourself batty over that conundrum -- or you can watch Alderson do his thing and hope for the best.

Results trump all, and sometimes great process produces little besides great frustration. "Ultimately,'' Cashman said, "the bottom line is winning.''

But given that only one of 30 teams can experience true euphoria, there's something to be said for taking satisfaction in a well-run baseball operation. For channeling the sort of passion and intelligence Alderson referenced and steering it toward big-picture perspective.

Such front-office work may not inspire song lyrics. It does provide the best chance, though, of getting a parade of your own someday.

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