When Sandy Alderson took to the podium at Citi Field, the new General Manager of the Mets surveyed the media in attendance and quipped, "Today's gathering represents about 17 years of press coverage in Oakland," in reference to his 15-year tenure as the Athletics' GM. That comment drew laughter from everyone in attendance and set the tone for the press conference. Alderson showed himself to be witty, but also insightful.
"I view the position of the General Manager of the New York Mets as the best job available in baseball," said Alderson in his opening statement, "not only now but for the foreseeable future." He said the Mets are "an iconic franchise in a great city, a city that inspires all of us to dream big," which is one of the reasons why he took the position. He also said New York's "stable, caring ownership" and "committed, very passionate fans" were factors that made the Mets attractive.
Under his leadership, Alderson said, the Mets "will strive for consistency and, above all, excellence." But he is not strictly about business: "Baseball is a game. It's entertainment. We all ought to have fun in the process."
But the main topic today, understandably, was indeed business. "The baseball calendar waits for no one," Alderson said, which is why the team is eager to begin interviewing managerial candidates. He says that process will begin next week and he is "excited" about who might be available. Alderson wants a manager who will "reflect the general philosophy of the organization." He also desires a manager who is "somewhat analytical," but who can be "intuitive" when the situation calls for it.
The Mets also need to make some free-agency decisions soon, and Alderson said he is addressing the situation of left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi "at the moment."
Notably, Alderson said "I think a fiery manager is actually quite desirable," noting that the manager is often "a proxy" for fans who want to see their team succeed.
Alderson was bound to face questions about the current roster, and he indeed was asked how he planned to deal with the situations of underachieving, unhappy, overpaid veterans such as Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. "I'm certainly mindful of public opinion," Alderson said, "but from a personal and organizational standpoint, we have to be circumspect." Later, he added, "We need to be careful about writing off any player or asset we may have."
A key for Alderson is flexibility. "You need to be agile," he said, in listing what he looks for in an organization. But he probably won't enjoy that level of flexibility this season, however much he'd like to. "In the free-agent market, we want to be in the market every year. Will we be in the market this year? Unlikely."
However, Alderson made it clear that he takes 2011 very seriously; he is not biding his time until 2012. "I am by no means thinking past 2011. I'm very optimistic about 2011." Of importance to him this year is "to set up a situation where we're as active and aggressive as possible."
The Mets have their new GM, and he's already trying to change the organizational culture. We'll have to wait just a bit to see if his efforts will translate into more success on the field.