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Sandy Alderson has few answers for season-ticket holders

General Manager Sandy Alderson talks to reporters during

General Manager Sandy Alderson talks to reporters during spring training at Digital Domain stadium in Port St. Lucie. (Feb. 19, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Drink beer. Avoid Twitter.

That was Sandy Alderson's advice to a group of frustrated season-ticket holders during Saturday's Q & A with a Mets panel at Citi Field.

50 Cent after the game. Rodney Dangerfield before it.

As for the baseball in between, well, the Mets were held to two of the weakest hits you'll ever see in a 5-0 loss to the Padres. A skipping-stone up the middle by Ruben Tejada to start the bottom of the first and Lucas Duda's one-out rainmaker in the ninth inning that beat the shift by crash-landing on the leftfield foul line.

Different day, same problems. Alderson told his audience that fans should have faith in the players currently wearing Mets uniforms rather than obsessing about what the payroll should be.

Easy to say, but look at it from the fans' standpoint. Would you be happy paying BMW prices to putter around in a Ford Fiesta?

Alderson emphasized the money spent on Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson in the offseason but also stressed that constructing a winner is not as simple as writing bigger checks.

"It's not up to you to come and create a situation where we can improve our payroll," Alderson told the season-ticket holders. "We need to play better with what we have. And I don't define that in terms of payroll, but with the players that we have.

"I really do believe that we are close. So let's focus on what we have between now and the trade deadline. Let's see where we are."

The Mets are operating with a payroll of about $85 million, and it's far too early to predict what it will be in 2015. But sinking attendance figures and slipping revenue don't usually embolden teams to open their wallets.

Alderson wisely held off on making any promises for next season. How could he? His contract is up at the end of this year -- it includes a 2015 option -- so the general manager didn't look past this summer.

"If we're in a position that we're competing," Alderson said, "that we're vying for a wild-card spot or a division championship on July 31, I think we have the capacity to make a move."

Others in the Mets' clubhouse privately have expressed skepticism. In recent years, this team has traded away its most talented players -- Carlos Beltran, R.A. Dickey, even Marlon Byrd -- in what has felt like a hamster-wheel cycle of conserving dollars, collecting prospects and sitting home in October.

There is a time to rebuild, but Alderson's plan is in its fourth year and the Mets are on pace for yet another 70-something- win season. We don't see how that's going to change, either. Moving in the Citi Field fences another few feet, as one fan brought up again Saturday, is not going to magically transform the Mets into a contender.

"Changing the ballpark is not a panacea for not hitting with men in scoring position," Alderson said. "So when I suggest we look at the dimensions of the ballpark, that doesn't mean that I think that's the solution. It's just part of the equation."

That equation seems to be getting more confusing over the years, not less, and this week was another example of how the Mets keep getting bogged down by off-the-field matters. Both Alderson and Terry Collins had to spend time defusing speculation about the manager's job being in danger. Alderson also explained why the Mets pumped the brakes on Matt Harvey's rehab only minutes after the pitcher himself questioned the decision.

Harvey wasn't done. A few days later, he said he would buzz opposing hitters to protect David Wright, implying that the Mets had neglected to do so. Never mind that Harvey isn't expected to pitch in the majors at all this season. Collins was forced to come to the defense of his pitching staff anyway.

With the Mets, it's always something. And that's why a question to Alderson about possibly trading Daniel Murphy wound up with him telling fans to put down the iPhone and crack open a cold one.

"Do what I do," Alderson said. "Ignore Twitter and try to ignore the blogosphere. Have a beer when you go home . . . "

Don't forget to pick up a newspaper, we might add. And when you're done reading, it's good for covering your eyes for those Chris Young at-bats.

New York Sports