By Ed Coleman
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Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said he knew – he just didn’t know to what extent.
Alderson – speaking on a Monday conference call to discuss the signing of knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey – admitted that he was not aware of the full scope that the Madoff Mess was having or would be having on Mets ownership, but insisted that even if he did, it would not have prevented him from coming on board as GM.
Alderson stated – “You are right to say some circumstances have changed. Would it have changed my position? I don’t think so.”
So Alderson says he has no second thoughts. But that’s probably the Ivy League educated ex-Marine rather than the baseball GM talking. Nothing is going to take this man off-point.
Alderson said the plan has not changed and the approach has not been affected at all by any other outside factors – “When I took this position, I was of course aware of the pre-existing involvement of the Wilpons and the Mets with Bernie Madoff. I wasn’t privy to all of the detail, nor am I or most of us at this point privy to all that detail. And I wouldn’t expect to be. At the same time, none of that has affected what I have done over the last two months.”
What he has done is keep a tight lid on spending this off-season. When baseball Commissioner Bud Selig recommended Alderson to Mets’ ownership last fall, Alderson believed he’d be dealing with issues relating to a high payroll that had not produced commensurate results and dysfunction in the front office. And Alderson re-iterated on Monday that the team’s relatively minimal spending this winter had more to do with inheriting bad contracts from former G.M. Omar Minaya than issues related to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme – “I want to emphasize that the plan we have pursued the last couple of months was limited by only one fact, and that was the level of the existing payroll.”
This is a man who can obviously find rays of sunshine in a whiteout blizzard. Alderson stated – “There’s a certain level of ambiguity surrounding this news. The facts are as they currently exist. And to some extent, the decision to find a minority partner or some other source of recapitalizing the franchise is positive news from my standpoint.”
Time will tell. The Mets announced Monday that Dickey had signed a two-year (plus an option) deal worth $7.8 million, and that outfielder Angel Pagan was inked to a one-year contract for $3.5 million, wrapping up their arbitration-eligible players. But the first real test for the club may be how it handles negotiations with star shortstop Jose Reyes. Reyes will make $11 million in the walk-year of his contract. If he stays healthy and has a productive season, can the Mets shell out $75-90 million over 5 or 6 years to keep Reyes in New York?
Alderson answered this way – “Perhaps naively, I don’t expect that this situation (Madoff suit) will be a hindrance in that regard. I fully expect that decision will be made as it would have been, in the best interest of the team on the field, and the best interest of the overall sort of financial health as well as baseball future of the Mets. I go back to the notion that if a potential financial issue exists, ownership is proactively addressing it. And at this point, I don’t expect that any financial situation will inhibit negotiations with Jose.”
That being said, Alderson did raise a red flag with one statement he made. When talking about the payroll for the coming season and the perceived bargain-basement shopping during this off-season, he stated – “Our payroll going into the season will be somewhere between $140 million and $150 million. I THINK THAT IS SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN WE’D LIKE TO BE ON AN ANNUAL BASIS – a product of adding some additional players that we felt the roster needed as well as some existing obligations.”
It’s an ominous statement considering the circumstances, and what parameters “significantly higher” encompasses moving forward is anybody’s guess and remains to be seen.
One thing is very clear in a messy situation where everything appears very unclear. Sandy Alderson is the right man for this job – the point man, if you will, for this situation. If there’s a crisis – and this would definitely qualify – he’s the man you want up front. The Mets can at least take solace in that.
Can Alderson right the Mets’ ship in the midst of this Madoff mess? Sound off in the comments below…