New Mets GM Sandy Alderson Hopes to be Mr. Fix-It

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Omar Minaya era is over. And today at Citi Field, the Sandy Alderson era officially began. The 62 year old former Marine with a Harvard education met with the media today in Flushing.

    Sandy Alderson is ready to take on his latest role: Mr. Fix-it for the New York Mets.

    Better bring the entire toolbox.

    Alderson was introduced Friday as the 12th general manager in franchise history, taking over an underachieving team that's looking for a facelift but is loaded with question marks on and off the field. He agreed to a four-year contract with a club option for 2015.

    "Getting back to being a GM is something that I really wanted do — but under the right circumstances," he said. "It's the environment, it's the city, it's the resources, it's the potential that this franchise has. All of the things that would attract someone are here."

    Thanks to decades of experience, Alderson beat out former Arizona Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes to replace Omar Minaya, fired along with manager Jerry Manuel in a major shakeup following the Mets' fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth.

    The 62-year-old former Marine and Harvard Law School graduate returns to a job he hasn't held since 1997, when Alderson ended a long and successful tenure as Oakland Athletics general manager.

    First at-bat Friday, he swung and missed.

    "I view the position of general manager of the Oakland — excuse me, the New York Mets," he started, eliciting groans from the crowd.

    Alderson quickly regrouped, though. Thoughtful and articulate, he outlined his ideas about using statistical analysis, probability and a wealth of information to build a consistent winner. It's a philosophy he brought to Oakland, where protege Billy Beane became the subject of the best-selling book "Moneyball."

    Alderson wore a gold Mr. Met tie under his dark blue blazer during a 30-minute news conference, followed by group interviews in a packed restaurant perched high behind home plate at Citi Field.

    Alderson pointed out his family in the crowd and said he wants to establish more payroll flexibility for the Mets. He also said it's unlikely they'll be aggressive in the free-agent market this winter.

    "I'm a realist," he said.

    The new GM has plenty of work to do, however, after inheriting a high-priced roster beset by injuries to stars such as Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.

    "I think that we're going to be busy. But that's first and maybe ultimately only to assess the market," Alderson said. "We don't really know what's out there. So we need to be actively engaged in finding out what's available to us, who has interest in some of our players and just assess things as we develop more information. But right now it'd be hard to say how active we're going to be in actual transactions. "

    First up, finding the Mets' next manager.

    The club has narrowed a list of potential candidates to about a dozen, and Alderson said interviews probably will begin next week. Bob Melvin, Bobby Valentine and Wally Backman are among those who have been mentioned as possibilities.

    "I do think that a manager needs to reflect the general philosophy of an organization," Alderson said, referencing similar comments he made in "Moneyball." ''I can appreciate a fiery manager. I think in some cases a fiery manager is quite desirable. But I also think that it's important for a manager to be somewhat analytical."

    One of baseball's most respected executives, Alderson arrives with an impressive resume and staunch support from commissioner Bud Selig.

    Alderson built power-packed teams in Oakland that won three straight AL pennants from 1988-90 and a World Series title in '89. But he was questioned about steroid use on those squads now that "Bash Brothers" Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco have both admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.

    Alderson said he suspected Canseco at the time, but never McGwire.

    "You're talking about a time, late '80s, when this issue was emerging," Alderson said. "Certainly in a general sense and a personal sense there was a lack of awareness, a lack of knowledge and ultimately a lack of tools to deal with the problem.

    "We actually considered drug testing certain players. We acquired the specimen kits, identified a lab, but ultimately we decided that it would have been illegal in the state of California and also in violation of the collective bargaining agreement. So, you know, if you go back and sort of put all of that in perspective, do I wish I had done more? I think that's almost always true in retrospect of almost anything that we experience."

    Alderson also had success as chief executive officer of the San Diego Padres from April 2005 to March 2009. Before that, he served as executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office from 1998-05.

    To take over the Mets, Alderson is leaving his post heading up baseball's efforts to prevent identity fraud and performance-enhancing drug use by prospects in the Dominican Republic.

    His new job comes with challenges, too.

    Despite an opening-day payroll of $133 million, fifth-highest in the majors, the Mets finished fourth in the NL East at 79-83. It was their second straight losing season, both snarled by a string of injuries, following September collapses in 2007 and 2008.

    Several snags remain.

    Santana is expected to miss the start of next season following shoulder surgery. Bay, signed to a $66 million contract, provided little power at the plate before a season-ending concussion in late July. Oliver Perez ($12 million) and Luis Castillo ($6 million) each have one year left on unwieldy deals that hamstring the roster. Beltran, slowed by a bad knee, is owed $18.5 million in the final season of a seven-year deal.

    Controlling owner Fred Wilpon said if Alderson recommends that the club eat some hefty contracts, the Mets would "absolutely" do that.

    "He believes we can compete next year, depending on how things move around," said Jeff Wilpon, the owner's son and the club's chief operating officer. "He's never used the word 'rebuild.'"

    In the bullpen, Francisco Rodriguez will be coming off thumb surgery for an injury he sustained in a fight with his girlfriend's father outside the family lounge at Citi Field in August. The closer also has criminal charges pending against him.

    "We want our fans to be proud of what the Mets accomplish, but it's also important that they be proud of how we accomplish it," Alderson said.

    Furthermore, Jeff Wilpon has a reputation for meddling in baseball decisions. The farm system is far from flush and fans have grown restless — even uninterested.

    Attendance at pitcher-friendly Citi Field dropped considerably in the ballpark's second season.

    "As far as the system is concerned, generally right now I think it's probably middle of the pack," Alderson said. "In our situation, we should never be in the middle of the pack."

    But the Mets, only four years removed from a Game 7 loss in the 2006 NL championship series, have big-market money to spend and some key pieces already in place, including third baseman David Wright and pitcher Mike Pelfrey.

    Now, they begin a new era and turn to Alderson to build a blue-and-orange winner.