By Rich Coutinho
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There is no denying that as a Met beat reporter I enjoyed dealing with Omar Minaya on a day in and day out basis. As a person, I do not know of anybody I respected more in this business. The issue with a certain NY reporter was completely overblown but that is a story for another day. But it is clear to me from what has occurred in the Met organization in the past few months that the Wilpons have an absolute gem in Sandy Alderson. He is impeccably smart, a shrewd trader, and not afraid to tweak his game plan based on the situation.

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I also like how he has cleaned up the leaks that seemed to abound in this organization. How do I know that? Nobody and I mean nobody expected K-Rod to be dealt to the Brewers this soon which means the Met GM kept it quiet, while at the same time, made the Brewers operate on his timetable. He knew K-Rod had just switched agents and maybe information would not be so forthcoming between the spurned agent and Scott Boras who steals more players than any other agent out there. The time was right and bottom line — he got the Wilpons out from under that $17.5 million debt providing financial flexibility for next year’s payroll.

Losing K-Rod will hurt this team in the standings but the temptation to have more money to play with in 2012 was just too much to pass up and the right thing to do. The Beltran issue is much more complicated because 5 or 6 teams have already inquired about him and Alderson has not engaged in any trade talk just yet. In this case, you are talking about the premier available offensive player and therefore a good prospect must come back the Mets way. In the meantime, the Mets can play out the next 2 weeks to see where they are in the Wild Card standings. I do think if Alderson can get an “A” prospect he might pull the trigger regardless of where the Mets are because, by that time, David Wright should be back and more importantly, long term it is the right thing to do.

So what has Sandy Alderson done in the past six months? He heard the Met fans who wanted Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo out and he got the Mets $17.5 million worth of “bail-out money” for practically nothing. And believe me he has heard the fans who want Reyes here for the long-term which I think will occur shortly after the season. He did that without trading David Wright. He hired a manager who has changed the culture of the clubhouse into a team in every sense of the word. Does he still have much work to do? Absolutely but there is a clear plan in place. Restock the minor league system, concentrate on developing your young arms like Gee, Niese, Parnell, and Beato while sprinkling in some heady veterans like Jason Isringhausen. And most importantly, keep his young core of David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Ike Davis intact. The likes of Daniel Murphy, Angel Pagan, Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada will provide the complimentary pieces that all winning teams possess.

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The fact that the Mets have played better than most anticipated has made the Mets tweak or even delay the long-term vision but also stay as true to it as possible. Alderson has surrounded himself with great baseball minds like JP Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta who are incredible talent evaluators which will not only help in the long-term in regards to the amateur draft but will also be so valuable when spotting talent on other teams’ rosters. That is the main reason why the Mets are waiting to request the 2 prospects in the K-Rod trade.

I know Met fans feel beaten down right now and it is real tough to be patient so I could certainly understand how you might buy into the negative feeding frenzy of the New York media. But Sandy Alderson is a solid baseball mind with a proven track record and 2 years from now, he will be the buyer at the deadline because he has played both the roles of buying and selling in his career. He has also impressed me with how he handles the NY media — he knows the game and respects what we do. But he simply can not tell us everything — that is the nature of the relationship.

Now nobody knows where the Met finances may go but my sense is they are in a much better place than they were 6 months ago and legal experts I speak to are split right down the middle whether the Mets will ever have to pay out serious money in the Madoff case. That being said, the Mets have the right man steering the ship because he has a tangible plan. He has been given the keys to Citi Field and is beginning to prepare the success of this organization by the first steps he has taken this year. And in the words of the great John Wooden, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

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Weigh in on Sandy Alderson in the comments below.