Sandy Alderson says there's nowhere to go but up, eventually
A day after New York Mets manager Terry Collins unveiled his take-it-or-leave-it lineup and approach, it was general manager Sandy Alderson's turn to take his best shot at repairing the roster and image of the decaying Mets, losers of 16 of their last 23 games entering Monday night's contest against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Alderson addressed the gaping holes in the roster by adding Rick Ankiel, an outfielder who was released last week by the Houston Astros, the worst team in baseball. The Astros hardly acted rashly; Ankiel struck out in more than half his plate appearances, 35 times in 65 trips up. His defense has been below average by most metrics. And he's 33. There's no long-term upside here.
For the Mets, however, he's apparently good enough to be one half of a center field platoon. So eager were the Mets to put their new acquisition into use that they started him Monday and batted him seventh.
While fans took in the new acquisition, Alderson went on Mike Francesa's radio program just before 6 p.m. to address the season to date. He resumed his oddly detached set of gripes about the state of the organization, one amply supported by the lack of realistic major league options to occupy most roster spots, but strange coming from the person who would be in a position to fix such things, if ownership could afford to.
"Obviously, there are reasons why he was available," Alderson said by way of selling his new addition, Ankiel. "He was released by the Astros, so they could let some younger players get a chance to play."
He paused, as if thinking about the fact that the Mets are in a position where they ought to do the same thing. "In our case, we are waiting for some of our center fielders to develop."
Alderson is right; the Mets really don't have major-league ready talent at the position. But this is not news to the man who coined the now-iconic November rejoinder "What outfield?" Alderson had made that harsh assessment at a time when many players more talented than those on the Mets were available via free agency. Alderson didn't add any of them, seemed angry about it, then made the implausible claim that he'd been given license to spend by ownership, but simply declined to do so.
And that leaves Alderson in the position of maintaining that there's no financial problem, no cause for alarm, and nowhere to go but up.
"I'm not asking anybody to be patient with the team," he said, immediately before also saying: "I think the reality is, we're going to need to be more patient with guys like Ike."
Or on the state of the team in general: "I'm not sure that things can devolve any further."
Buoyed by that inspiring message, the Mets took the field, and for six innings, stayed even with the Cardinals. Then, in the seventh, a catchable ball hit to center field by Ty Wigginton was dropped by Ankiel, who got a bad break, and recovered, only to see the ball bounce out of his glove. Well, not his glove. Jon Niese's glove. Ankiel's glove was still en route.
"I do think if I have my glove it stays in there," Ankiel told reporters after the game. "I'm the type of person, if I get a glove on it I feel I should have caught it. I didn't. It stinks."
The next batter, Matt Carpenter, hit a ball that riccocheted off pitcher Scott Rice's leg and into foul territory along the first base line. Wigginton never stopped running, Rice neglected to cover home as catcher John Buck retrieved the ball, and the Cardinals took the lead as Wigginton slid safely home.
The Mets summoned Scott Atchison, a pitcher who'd been effective early, but because of a lack of viable alternatives on the roster, had been used by Terry Collins in over half his games despite the twin red flags of being 37 years old and pitching with a torn ligament in his elbow that ended his 2012 season. Atchison gave up a two-run homer to Matt Holliday that put the game away. After the game, Atchison revealed that he couldn't feel the ball with his fingers, a sure sign his elbow ligament tear is acting up again.
The Mets dropped to 14-21. They have the fifth-worst record in baseball right now, and they might be overachieving. Really, only the Marlins and Astros have comparably thin rosters, in one case because of an owner engaged in a selloff, the other because of a virtually unprecedented attempt to strip a team of major league assets for a long-term rebuild.
And the Mets?
As Alderson told Francesa: "It's tough for me to say that the Mets fans have to be more patient. I know that's asking a tremendous amount. ... At this particular jucture, there's not a lot that's available to us. The players we have have to play better."
Or put another way, also by Alderson, the general manager who can't very well fix things without the basic funds to do so: "We've got to grin and bear it at this point. ... Look, I've got to suffer through these games, too."
Tickets are very much available at Mets.com.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Knicks face the Pacers in Game 4 Tuesday night in Indiana, battered and bruised.
With a doubleheader split Monday against Cleveland, the Yankees maintained a one-game lead in the American League East.