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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Final month of Mets' season may be last stand for Sandy Alderson

Mets acting general manager Zack Scott looks on

Mets acting general manager Zack Scott looks on during batting practice before a game against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on Friday, June 11, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

When Sandy Alderson stepped down as the Mets’ general manager nearly three months into the 2018 season, his words carried a tone of finality. He was in the midst of waging a successful battle against cancer, but when asked about a potential return to his front-office post, Alderson hinted there might have been other factors at play.

"If I were to look at it on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted," Alderson said at the time, with the Mets en route to a 77-win season.

Of course, Alderson did rejoin the Mets last November, at the behest of new owner Steve Cohen, who elevated him to the role of team president. But 10 months later, through a series of humiliating events linked by varying degrees to his own performance, Alderson basically got demoted Thursday when acting GM Zack Scott was placed on what the team described as "administrative leave."

From a practical standpoint, consider Scott half out the door, as this current state of limbo amounts to a PR move until his likely dismissal at season’s end, which officially concludes on Oct. 3 -- four days before his next court date in White Plains for the DWI arrest. And Scott’s removal now makes Alderson the acting acting GM, flanked by the two existing assistants -- his son, Bryn and Ian Levin.

 

Considering all that’s happened under Alderson’s tumultuous reign as president, slipping back into the GM’s role for the final month won’t have much bearing on his future here. Either Cohen has decided to give him a first-year pass for the failed hirings of the two GMs who preceded him -- Scott and Jared Porter -- or a total housecleaning of the front office is on tap anyway.

Alderson was honest enough back in 2018 to realize when the job became too much to handle, and if he were to closely scrutinize the "merits" of what’s transpired this season, under his purview as president, he has a lot to answer for. One of his GMs was banned by baseball, the other essentially banned by the Mets, both in the span of nine months.

Porter lasted five weeks as GM before he was fired for sending a barrage of unsolicited, inappropriate texts to a female reporter while employed by the Cubs, then exiled by MLB. Scott -- still auditioning to have the "acting" title removed -- exercised incredibly poor judgment by allegedly driving drunk and getting picked up by the police while passed out at a traffic light at 4:17 a.m.

If Scott was more established within the Mets’ organization, or the team wasn’t dealing with an embarrassing image problem as of late, maybe the DWI could be forgiven as a dumb, irresponsible mistake. Fortunately, no one else was hurt by his actions. But Scott was trying to earn the full-time GM gig with the Mets, and this lapse in character just further convinces Cohen he’s part of the problem, not the solution.

Obviously, the 73-year-old Alderson is no newbie, but this has been a novel week for him as well, even by the Mets’ bizarre standards. On Sunday night, Alderson was compelled to issue a lengthy statement to defuse the uproar from his players symbolically booing their own fans with a "thumbs-down" gesture earlier that same afternoon -- ironically in a 9-4 victory over the Nationals at Citi Field.

"Mets fans are understandably frustrated over the team’s recent performance," Alderson said in the statement. "The players and the organization are equally frustrated, but fans at Citi Field have every right to express their own disappointment ... The Mets will not tolerate any player gesture that is unprofessional in its meaning or is directed in a negative way toward our fans."

The Mets have an uncanny knack for head-scratching behavior, but the front office warring with its own players? Scott lit the fuse earlier in the month by publicly calling out the clubhouse for accountability issues, and Alderson doubled down strongly in order to stave off a full-blown revolt by the team’s paying customers.

Despite all of that, the Mets extended their winning streak to five games with Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Marlins, thanks to Jonathan Villar’s 17th homer and Dominic Smith’s pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning. Alderson’s first act as GM Thursday was a waiver-claim pickup of Brad Hand, a previous Mets’ target who had a 7.27 ERA in 11 appearances for the Blue Jays, and he huddled with Luis Rojas as well as the rest of the clubhouse staff to let them know the front-office plan going forward.

"He did say he would be more present now," Rojas said.

Chalk it up to Alderson being one of the few high-ranking officials left in the building.

New York Sports