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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Sandy Alderson's double talk a tad off-base

Mets team president Sandy Alderson speaks to reporters

Mets team president Sandy Alderson speaks to reporters before a game against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on Wednesday, Sep. 29, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Sandy Alderson spoke for roughly 50 minutes Wednesday in what was designed to be a 2021 post-mortem as well as a discussion about the uncertain winter that awaits the Mets.

How did it go?

Remember that excitement you felt last November about the mega-billionaire Steve Cohen buying the franchise? The culture change? The pledge of building a World Series winner in Flushing within three to five years?

This wasn’t that.

In fact, these New Mets are starting to give me a very Old Mets vibe, and it’s not at all what I anticipated.

Maybe it’s Alderson spending too much time at the podium, giving us flashbacks, as the clock winds down on the acting-soon-to-be-terminated GM Zack Scott, who remains on administrative leave for his DWI arrest. Maybe it’s Alderson saying they haven’t reached out yet to any potential candidates for president of baseball operations. Maybe it’s the unsettling prospect of the current front office -- minus Scott -- staying in place to make a bunch of key roster decisions before their new boss is hired.

The great part about Cohen taking over the Mets was his $14-billion fortune and the idea he wouldn’t be handcuffed by money concerns like his predecessors, the Wilpons. That’s still true. But Cohen and Alderson also sold us a vision for this franchise that has yet to materialize, and this stalled season on the field played a lot like the same flawed product the Mets have pitched us too much over the past three decades.

This was Cohen’s rookie season, so he’s allowed some growing pains as a first-time MLB owner. The job isn’t as easy as it looks, especially in New York. But we were expecting a transformative winter for the Mets, led by a dynamic new baseball mind running the show, and Alderson didn’t really instill a ton of confidence that big changes were coming on the decision-making front.

Alderson insisted again the Mets will be an attractive lure, and we don’t disagree with his assessment. We’re just losing faith in their ability to hire the right architect for a team that requires some skilled retooling. Alderson claimed that he failed last year because of the late start and his top choices being under contract.

That wouldn’t be a problem this time with someone like Theo Epstein, or maybe even Alderson’s protege, Billy Beane, who presumably could buy his way out of Oakland. But Brewers owner Mark Attanasio emphasized to reporters last week that their own baseball ops prez David Stearns is signed for another year and he’s very happy with the performance of the former Mets intern (translation: buzz off Sandy).

Alderson wouldn’t mention specific names, but suggested the Mets were compiling a list with the help of an outside consulting firm. He didn’t view recruitment as an issue.

"I’m selling Steve Cohen, I’m selling New York, I’m selling the opportunity to realize the potential of -- I think I used this term a year ago -- a storied but not yet iconic franchise. I think there’s a tremendous amount to offer someone coming to the Mets.

"Is it a set piece? Is it something that doesn’t require a certain amount of work? No. That’s where the real enjoyment comes in -- creating something."

Alderson is off in one regard: the Mets are an iconic brand, just for the wrong reasons lately. But if he finds the next Frank Cashen, anyone who’s watched "Once Upon a Time in Queens" can tell you this franchise is a sleeping giant. Before long, however, this pathologically loyal fan base is going to get anxious about dreams unrealized, which is why Alderson must hand the keys over to an experienced, proven architect ASAP.

Until then, Alderson said this front office will be rendering the final verdict on manager Luis Rojas and the coaching staff. Reading between the lines, it could be a housecleaning next week, as someone has to be held responsible for a first-place team absolutely cratering after being atop the NL East for more than 100 days.

Beyond that, the Mets also have decisions to make on potential qualifying offers to Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard, with Alderson saying he’d expect his present staff to make those calls, too.

It’s all sounding a bit too familiar. And after the dashed hopes of a season that began with such promise, Cohen and Alderson are facing a defining moment of their early stewardship. We don’t want to see Uncle Steve crowd-sourcing this one on Twitter, either.

"I’m optimistic that we will end up in the right place," Alderson said. "How exactly we get there, and with whom, is up for grabs."

No knock on Alderson, but the Mets need to get there fast, in a big way.

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