After collecting dust on a side table for the past several months, I finally powered through the last half of “Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets.”
The extended title explains why I found it hard to pick it up again — the book lionizes Alderson, fawning over him at every turn. Alderson has never made a bad move. Ever. It is the same style that turned me off to “Moneyball.” And as a Sandy Alderson critic, it was tough to read. Alderson has made plenty of mistakes during his tenure as Mets general manager. But you will not read about them here.
Author Steve Kettmann spends a lot of time writing about Alderson’s time in the Marines, explaining how it informed everything he has every done in his entire life, often straining to make the connection.
Kettmann outlines how Alderson brought analytical thinking to baseball, thus the “revolution” mentioned in the title. The “revived the Mets” part was a joke up until this season, when the Mets did indeed stage a revival. Alderson certainly deserves much of the credit. While putting it in the title was prescient, it also was a bit premature, in my opinion.
The highlights of the book have already been written about — how Alderson did not ask about the Madoff scandal during his job interview, how he was close to firing Terry Collins after the 2014 season, how the Mets were serious about pursuing Robinson Cano. No need to repeat them here.
But there was one quote from Alderson that I found particularly startling.
Later he talked about not wanting to bring Zack Wheeler along too quickly in part because fans love to believe in the future. “I’m not ready to wholly convert the myth into reality at this point, because these guys of mythical status are what’s carrying out plan in the minds of all of these fans out there,” he said that week in Florida. “It’s not just, ‘Are they going to be good enough?’ It’s, ‘OK, they’re good, they’re here, what’s next?’ So stretching it out has as much to do with maintaining that belief on the part of the fan base, but you can’t stretch it out unreasonably. People see right through that.”
So Alderson is admitting he keeps players down in the minors for as long as possible in part so fans will remain excited about them, and thus about his master plan.
What kind of way is that to run a baseball team? He did say you can’t stretch it out too much, but still. I wonder if that played into the decision not to promote Noah Syndergaard last year.
In any case, “Baseball Maverick” is a good read for Mets fans; it is a nice little history of the past few years. Just be prepared to feel like you are bowing down at the altar of Sandy Alderson.