Keidel: Alderson Deserves Credit For Past, Now Faces White-Hot Glare

Does Mets GM Still Have A Keen Eye For Young Talent?

Jason Keidel
June 06, 2018 - 3:19 pm
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks to reportersat Citi Field on Aug. 1, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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In 2011, Theo Epstein was brought into a big baseball city to revive a forlorn franchise that hadn't won a World Series in a century. In 2016, he broke the billy goat's back. With patience, precision, and a jeweler's eye for talent, Epstein has loaded the Cubs into a perennial contender.

In 2010, Sandy Alderson was brought into a big baseball city to revive a forlorn franchise that hadn't won a World Series in a quarter-century. In 2015, he came within three wins of a world title. Since then, the team has plunged from prominence. There's no singular moment on which to hang your symbolic cap, no parade up Canyon of Heroes, and not much of a future.

The Cubs are so loaded they can let two pitching pillars from that '16 squad walk and not miss much of a beat. Aroldis Chapman and Jake Arrieta, two studs who were unbeatable at their apex, signed free agent deals with other clubs, and the Cubs are cool with it.

The Mets have two aces, a few variables, a gruesome bullpen, and a lineup that makes their fans cringe.

You may say it's unfair to compare anyone to Theo Epstein, who broke the two most daunting curses in the game. Fine. Look across the Harlem River, toward River Ave, and see the laughable surplus of young talent bubbling out of Yankee Stadium. For years, Brian Cashman was seen simply as the man who carried the pinstriped billfold, who just poached other teams of their prized free agents. Not anymore. The Yankees have so many good players in their early to mid-20s they are once again the singular envy of the sport. The Mets have no Judge, Sanchez, Torres or Andujar. No Frazier or Bird.

Give Alderson credit for making that 2015 run that essentiall ended with Matt Harvey on the Mound in Game 5 of the Fall Classic. And for pulling the strings on the trade for Yoenis Cespedes, who all but carried the Mets to that postseason with his Bunyanesque bat. Give Alderson credit for trading R.A. Dickey for Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. (Omar Minaya drafted Jacob deGrom.)

MORE: Cespedes May Be Ready For Mets-Yankees Series

But just as he gets credit for the past, Alderson gets a white-hot glare at the present. If the Cubs and Yanks are set for a while, what are the Mets? After an 11-1 start they've gone 16-30. The Mets (27-31) have lost five straight, eight of their last ten, and are falling fast down the rungs of the NL East. They've lost seven-straight home games and have scored two runs in their last 33 innings.

And there's no help on the way. Depending on your source, the Mets' farm system is buried near the bottom of baseball. Out of 30 teams, the Mets are ranked between 26th and 28th. And when you consider their minor league system was ranked as high as sixth in 2015 - the year they reached the World Series - you have to wonder what Alderson has done to help the club over the last three years. (He also hired manager Mickey Calloway, who, at the moment, looks overwhelmed inside America's media vortex.)

If the Mets look up in their division they'll see the Baby Braves in first place, with the top-ranked farm system in the sport. The Bronx Bombers are ranked No. 2. If that's not insulting enough, the Phillies' farm is No. 4. Washington has considerably more talent, leaving only the Marlins, carved hollow by Derek Jeter's reboot, as the only club in the NL East worse than the Mets.

You can't place the Mets' historical plague of injuries on Alderson. That kind of wicked karma predates his reign. But their cratered farm speaks directly to the GM. (As does the bullpen and woeful production off their offense.) You wonder what happened to Alderson's eye for teenage talent. Before the world knelt at the altar of Billy Beane, Alderson, who was a mentor to the Moneyball wunderkind, built the Oakland A's farm system that spawned three young players - Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Walt Weiss - who won AL Rookie of the Year.

Maybe a GM, like a coach or manager, loses the room, or the team, after a while. Maybe even the sharpest minds and men have an expiration date. Few folks are smarter than Alderson, who was an officer in the Marine Corps, graduated from Dartmouth, got his law degree from Harvard, and has poured his soul into baseball. Alderson even won Executive of the Year as recently as 2015.

It's hard to believe the Mets were that good three years ago. There's no doubting how bad they are now. Or who has to take much of the blame for it. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel