8:44 am Jan. 18, 2013
It is hardly news anymore when a caller on the air at WFAN expresses disappointment over the state of the New York Mets.
After all, the Mets won 74 games last season. And their offseason has consisted of trading R.A. Dickey, the 2012 Cy Young winner, along with ... that's about it.
But what was remarkable about the guy who called in Thursday to vent dissatisfaction over the team's offseason inertia was his identity. That would be Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, ostensibly on the air to help sell four-packs of tickets, and someone you'd like to think could do something about it if he's unhappy with the team's 2013 roster.
"I’m not happy where we are in preparation for 2013,” Alderson said to WFAN's Mike Francesa Thursday afternoon. "I can assure you that where we are now is not where we want to be opening spring training. I mean, it’s conceivable we could be in the same position, but it’s not where we want to be."
I mean, points for honesty, at least. Alderson was unsparing about his team's weaknesses. He repeatedly stressed that some time remained until spring training, but really, that's a non-point. Most of the options to improve this winter are gone; teams have made free-agent signings and trades, and little is left to be acquired. Time left matters little when inventory is so low.
Regarding the outfield, Alderson described it as "not a strength at this point. There’s no question about that. There’s a need, I think, for an upgrade at virtually every one of those positions."
Of course, that was equally true last August, when Alderson told Francesa the Mets needed "to get better. And not incrementally."
Alderson described an outfield addition as "a realistic expectation, but it may not happen."
And if it doesn't?
Well, the Mets have Lucas Duda in left field. "We could see Lucas Duda improve substantially, defensively and offensively," Alderson said, as if Duda, likely finished developing and coming off of three seasons in which he ranked among the worst defensive outfielders in baseball (not to mention offseason wrist surgery), could improve by Alderson conjuring it over the radio.
In center field, the Mets have Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose struggles to control the strike zone and inability to hit left-handed pitching doesn't bode well for his future as an everyday player, and Collin Cowgill, whose career O.P.S. of .631 was only marginally bested by his 2012 Triple-A O.P.S. of .685.
As for right field?
"Right field, at this point, we’ve got," Alderson paused, trying to remember who his right fielder was. Then, as if remembering it's nobody, he continued, "Um, um, a couple people there, but nobody that would be a headliner for us at this point."
For the record, the pairing is likely Mike Baxter and Andrew Brown, both with similar resumes to Cowgill and the others.
As for Scott Hairston, who was described as a key part of the 2012 team and kept with the hope he'd be part of the 2013 team as well, Alderson made it clear he doesn't view Hairston as an everyday player, and will only sign him if other, unspecified plans fall through. (That leads to the natural question of why he was only willing to deal Hairston for a top-three prospect last July, but never mind that now.)
The other area of major weakness for the Mets, the bullpen, has Alderson unhappy as well.
"How do I feel about the bullpen? Well, let’s say 'uneasy,’" Alderson said.
What was so bizarre about this entire interview was how disassociative it was. Alderson is the general manager of the New York Mets. The implicit assumption on the part of most of the media, even now, is if he wished to make a trade, or sign even one major league free agent to improve the team (as all 29 other major league teams have), he could.
But then, the Mets aren't like the 29 other teams, who have financially stable owners. As F. Scott Fitzgerald might have said, the rest of Major League Baseball is different than the Mets. They have more money. Implicit in every statement Alderson made expressing frustration over his own lack of action was that financial reality, and how little control he has over improving the Mets as a result.
"To say we've been patient is probably an understatement," Alderson said about the winter of inactivity.
Euphemism is more like it.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Iman Shumpert made a triumphant return in a 102-87 victory over the Detroit Pistons played in London, England.
John Itzik is reportedly the team's choice to be the next general manager.
The Red Bulls drafted some needed defensive midfield depth, getting Georgetown's Ian Christianson.