By Jason Keidel
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So Sandy Alderson will remain general manager of the Mets, and no one objects.
The media and the masses seem largely simpatico. But perhaps that speaks to the relaxed expectations we have for the Mets, where mediocrity is a victory. As long as they aren’t rancid, we see progress.
This slice of cyberspace isn’t where you expect to be drowned in stats. But what other metric measures a general manager? Alderson came in as a handyman, his GM tool belt parts baseball man, Marine, lawyer, and Harvard alum. And each block of his bio has been needed at some point to preserve his sanity. But not even the Dream Team brass of Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi, and Paul DiPodesta has make the Mets much more than relevant.
The Mets have gone 77-85, 74-88, 74-88, and are now 76-81, all but assured of another losing record. The team hasn’t finished above .500 since 2008. And this, evidently, warrants a reward. Alderson has kept the good ship Met afloat, barely, and to a Wilpon that gets you a pat on the posterior.
And a de facto salute to Terry Collins, who has gone 301-341 since commandeering the dugout in 2011. Is that cause for applause? (It seems to be just enough to keep Wally Backman another year away from the dugout.) Again, it frames our overall apathy. If the Mets aren’t going to make the playoffs, just don’t embarrass the city.
But if you gaze hard enough, take a jeweler’s eye to any tenure, you can find a diamond here and there. Even the Mets have a few bright spots.
They are one of only six NL clubs with a positive run differential (+9), which is astonishing when you consider their offense is still offensive, 20th in MLB with 609 runs. Alderson has given fans no reason to believe that will change. But he has kept the Mets’ collective nostrils above water with very young men who throw the ball very hard.
Of course, if you’re going to get something right, it should be pitching. And Flushing is flush with arms. Mets fans are drooling at the prospect of a conga line of golden limbs taking turns on their mound next year. They can look forward to Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Jacob deGrom taking turns on the mound in 2015. Then they can deal the ace from their fertile deck — Matt Harvey. It’s only fair to point out that Omar Minaya picked Harvey, but Alderson has been deft with pitching.
Speaking of Alderson’s predecessor, we keenly recall that Minaya was felled by free agent bombs. Up to now, the Mets haven’t exactly owned the sport with fresh blood. They will have to do better than Curtis Granderson, much the way Minaya had to do better than Jason Bay. Fortunately, Alderson hasn’t summoned his equivalent of Ollie Perez.
And perhaps you can credit Alderson for dancing around the Wilpons’ newfound frugality. In 2010 the team’s payroll was $132,701,446. Their opening day payroll in 2014 was $89,051,75. So he’s kept the team a bit below average with an average payroll. And considering the cauldron the team was in after Bernie Madoff, this financial slight-of-hand is laudable.
But when you play in New York City, with the Yankees competing for eyes on the television and seats in the ballpark, you must do more than survive. New Yorkers won’t empty their wallets for 78-84 every year, even if their new, cozy park is nicer than the sterile corporate halls of Yankee Stadium.
Even this Bronx Bomber lover admits that the Mets got it right when they designed their place. There’s a difference between a ballpark and a stadium, between a ballgame and a corporate salute to the Abercrombie crowd. At least in Citi Field you will see baseball fans, not Biff and Skip sipping martinis in some roped-off cube, thumbing their iPhones, where they spend more time than in their actual seats. Going to a Mets game is just a better experience.
But only if you, the Mets fan, go. And the numbers suggest you are not.
The Mets drew 2,559,738 fans in 2010; 2,378,549 in 2011; 2,242,803 in 2012; 2,135,657 in 2013. So not only hasn’t there been a palpable bum in the teams record, but attendance has declined every year. They barely cracked the seal on 2 million this year, with attendance at 2,051,296 so far. The Yankees have averaged at least a million more fans per year over the same period.
We can all sense a shift in altitude and attitude among the teams and their fans, a pall over the Bronx and perk in the Seinfeld crowd. If any fan base deserves a pennant chase, it’s you, the Mets fan.
Are Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins the men to lead the Mets? You could do worse. But it’s time to stop seeing them in those tones, and thinking in those terms.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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