The most remarkable moment of an extraordinary pregame news conference on Tuesday came when Sandy Alderson — who is taking a leave of absence as Mets general manager because of a recurrence of an unspecified form of cancer — was asked if he planned to return to his job when his health permitted.
“If I were to look at it on the merits,” he said, “I’m not sure coming back is warranted.”
With that statement, Alderson basically fired himself.
If that news makes you happy, then please re-examine your life priorities. Yes, perhaps Alderson’s time as Mets general manager has run its course after eight years. I suggested as much in Tuesday’s newspaper.
But whether Alderson was fired because of the team’s poor season and uncertain future or stayed as GM for another eight years is a baseball situation. What the 70-year-old former Marine is going through now is a life situation.
Alderson is tough, tough as nails, but cancer has a way of bringing the toughest to tears. Alderson seemed to tear up at one point on Tuesday, and Mickey Callaway definitely did when he said of the man who hired him for his first managerial job: “Knowing he is going through what he’s going through, he’s a badass Marine. That’s all I can say.”
Alderson beat the disease in 2015 after finding out about it shortly after the Mets clinched the NL East title. Or at least he wrestled it to a draw. Sometimes that’s all we can do.
Alderson kept that diagnosis mostly to himself as the Mets validated his vision by making it to the World Series. He kept this one quiet, too, after he learned about it in April, and kept working. Callaway said he and the players found out about it 20 minutes before the announcement was made to the public.
Some scenes you never forget. After the Mets finished the 2015 NLCS sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the players and even owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon celebrated like little kids in the tiny visiting clubhouse.
As reporters filed outside to chronicle the part of the party that had spilled onto the field, a man sat alone in the stands, barely visible in the darkened seats. It was Alderson, who was watching what he created, knowing what only he and a few select others knew about his health.
It turned out that moment was the high point of Alderson’s tenure in Flushing. The Mets, as you know, lost the World Series to the Royals, played a single playoff game in 2016, suffered through a 92-loss 2017 and went into Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates on a seven-game losing streak and with the fewest wins in the NL.
Nearly everything Alderson did to try to get the Mets into contention this season backfired, as he admitted. They have a barren farm system, owners who would rather pinch pennies than spend dollars, and a rookie manager who may or not be overmatched.
Something tells us Alderson would have relished the chance to fix all that. Now, in typical dysfunctional Mets fashion, no single person was named as Alderson’s replacement, but a trio of executives (John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya) were appointed to run things. That’s going to work out great, right?
If not naming even an interim GM was intended as a gesture of respect for Alderson, it was made unnecessary when the man himself made it clear he didn’t expect to resume his position, as he did after he stepped back to undergo treatment in 2015.
“One difference between then and now is that that took place in the offseason,” Alderson said. “I had decision-making authority, basically, at that time. I will not have decision-making authority going forward.”
As someone who enjoyed talking baseball with Alderson and was also barked at by him twice for what he thought were stupid questions — he was 100 percent right the second time — it will be difficult to imagine him not in the game somewhere.
Alderson seemed to leave the door open to future employment when he said: ““I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here, all the opportunities I’ve had in the game, and for whatever opportunities may arise in the future.”
Alderson said the prognosis for his treatment — which he said will involve chemotherapy and surgery — is good. Thank goodness for that.
“I’m confident this will end up happily,” he said. Alderson was talking about the cancer. That’s all that matters today. Tomorrow we can talk about fixing the Mets, OK?