During the top of the third inning of the Mets' series-opener in St. Louis last night, Sandy Alderson joined Gary Cohen and Ron Darling in the SNY booth to talk about the organization's prospects, offseason plans, and potential changes to Citi Field.
Here's the full transcript of the interview:
Gary Cohen: What do you see right now from this team, as we head through the final nine games of the season, that you like, and what do you see that you don’t like?
Sandy Alderson: I think there are number of areas where we need to improve going into 2012, and most of those have been well-documented. I’m very happy that we had that excellent series in Atlanta after a very disappointing home stand, but we have to figure out a way to start winning at home. It’s important to not only take advantage of that home field but also that’s where most of our fans see us play. So we need to figure that out.
The team has played hard all year, almost every game, and I think Terry’s to be commended for that. And we need to carry on that hard work ethic, at the same time improving a number of areas of our club.
GC: Obviously the first thing that you’re going to have to do is figure out whether you can re-sign Jose Reyes. How deeply into the process of figuring out your strategy have you gotten at this point?
SA: We talk about it quite often. I certainly think about it most of the time. Somebody asked me today, ‘what are you going to do in the month of October?’ I said, ‘that’s Jose month.’ [laughter]
[Reyes walks] Nice at-bat there. October for me is going to be addressing that situation, which of course is paramount, and then spending a little time in instructional leagues, maybe Arizona. That’s what we look forward to, the first month of the season. We have to take advantage of that first month before free agency is actually established and see where we are.
Ron Darling: With the trade this summer of Beltran for Zack Wheeler, you’re starting to really get a good number of young arms down in Single-A ball. In your experience, what’s the most important thing in developing young pitchers in your own organization?
SA: I think one of the most important things is having a lot of candidates, given the fact that injuries can be so prevalent. You try to start from a large base of candidates and work your way through. But in terms of the number of innings they work, number of pitches they throw, the types of pitches. Obviously, You want to establish fastball command, and changing speeds, and then work on pitches that are going to complement that if they’re starters, and focus perhaps on two best pitches, maybe three if there guy’s going to be a reliever. It is nice that we have several, big-time prospects coming through the system, and should be available to us in the next year or two.
RD: There was a time when organizations would probably take more time than less time with their pitchers. Do you think you’ll do more of that? In today’s game they seem to, not rush the pitchers, but there’s immediacy for what you pay them and what you want from them as early as you can get it.
SA: We’re going to try not to rush anybody. One of the things that we faced this year was a real roster issue, and that comes from not moving the pitchers of anybody else along quickly enough. For example, we’ve got some players going into the offseason who need to be put on the major league roster, or at least are to be considered to the major league roster, who are playing in Pt. SL this year, may not even be able to play at Double-A next year, but are strong candidates for the roster because of their talent level. That can be a dilemma, too, but certainly we don’t want to rush anybody, and there are a lot of reasons for not doing it.
We want pitchers, and really any player, to be as game-ready as possible when they get here, try to overlook short-term needs and keep in mind the long-term. You don’t want to burn major-league service. There are just so many reasons for not rushing someone, but at the same time, you’ve got move along on a pace that provides value and is timely it’s time to be put on the major league roster.
I look at our bullpen, for example, as one indication. This year, we had a lot of trouble moving guys up and down because we didn’t have anybody, younger guy with options, we could move up and down from AAA. Next year, with Stinson, Beato, even Parnell, we’ll have more flexibility, and that’ll be helpful, too.
GC: You talk about the bullpen, and I know you’ve identified that as being a key concern going into next year. When you look at putting together a bullpen, I know it can be a very difficult thing to do because performance changes from year-to-year, but do you need to go into the offseason knowing who the anchor - the closer - is going to be, or is that something you feel you can work on when you get to spring training?
SA: I think it’s tough to work on it once you get to spring training. The closer role is too important, and that’s not to say you have to overspend on the closer role, but I think you’ve got to have somebody that you can reasonably depend on. It just takes too much out of a club to lose games late consistently. A blown save is a blown save, everybody has the, but it’s one thing to blow ten percent. It’s another thing to blow fifty percent. I actually think that’s what contributed to the 1-8 home stand. At some point, the blown saves accumulate and have at least a temporary effect on morale, including mine, by the way. [laughter]
GC: Do you feel as though your closer in the organization right now for next year, or do you feel as though you have to go outside?
SA: I’m not sure that our closer is in the organization at this time. It’s possible, but I’m not sure that it is.
GC: And if he’s not, and you don’t want to overspend, how do you then approach the market?
SA: I don’t think you have to necessarily have a closer who is totally established. I think you can assess what’s there, who has the opportunity to move up, what’s available in the trade market. There may be somebody who’s about to emerge at the major-league level, even, that one might identify as a stronger closer candidate than you might have available internally. I’m not, certainly, writing off anyone at this point. I think it’s an important role and something we have to concern ourselves with.
GC: As you look at the starting pitching going forward, obviously you’re going to get Johan Santana back next year. Other than that, do you see making changes in your starting rotation, or do you think you’ll have substantially the same pitchers back?
SA: At this point in time, I think we’ll probably have substantially the same pitchers back. We have to hope there’s some growth with Jonathon Niese, with Dillon Gee, some bounce back with Mike Pelfrey. The one thing that we have had, which is a real positive and I don’t think can be underestimated, is the value of guys going out every fifth day and pitching.
The number of innings that our five key guys have eaten is really significant. I was looking, actually just a few minutes ago; I think we have 150 starts out of five guys. You look around baseball, it’s very difficult to find that. Now, having succeeded on the quantitative level, we need to do something about the qualitative aspect of things, but I think there’s reason to believe that that will improve.
RD: As far as the everyday players, he’s not in there tonight because he’s not feeling well, Jason Bay, you have to be happy the way he’s kind of turned it around the last month.
SA: I’ll tell you, Jason’s, it’s a cliché, but he’s a real professional. I’ve seen players, I’m sure you have, Ron, Gary, that at some point go in the tank and give up. It’s human nature. You get to a certain point in the season, things are not going well, nothing you’ve tried has worked, and you basically cash it in, and he has never done that.
I think our players have seen that, too. In spite of his difficulties, he’s been a positive factor in the clubhouse, and so I’m very encouraged by the fact that he’s played well over the last x number of games and weeks, and it’s nice to see.
GC: The last time we had you on, we talked about Ruben Tejada. Tejada, at that point, was embarking on a pretty good stretch of games, because Reyes went down on the two separate occasions. We’ve gotten to see a lot of Ruben over the last two months. Have you seen enough to know what you’ve got here, and that should Reyes leave or should he stay, that you’ve got a guy who can be a starting big league player next year?
SA: I think the short answer is yes, and it’s not just my observation but the coaching staff, as well. I think everybody’s been impressed with his growth as a player. We talk a lot about his improved strength. He plays with a real confidence for somebody who’s 21-years-old. He’s played well defensively at both SS and 2B. He’s starting to work the count more. He doesn’t have a lot of pop, so his strength as an offensive player has to come from on-base percentage at this point.
GC: Let me ask you about Daniel Murphy because it’s a question we get all the time. What do you guys envision doing with Murph when he’s ready to play again?
SA: One of the things, the starting point with Murph is that he’s an outstanding hitter. The toughest thing in baseball is hitting, and if you’ve got somebody that can hit, you spend an extra amount of time figuring out how to use him if there are other shortcomings. I think, if you go back to our season and where things started to deteriorate, to me it really wasn’t about the Beltran trade as much as it was the day we lost both Jose and Daniel. I think Daniel was a force in the clubhouse, too. Not to say that he’s outspoken, articulate, what have you, but just his tenacity, his intensity in the clubhouse and on the field, I think transmitted to everyone else. We’ve got to find a spot for him.
RD: It’s nice in this inning, we’ve seen it in the first inning with Reyes, that first-to-third has to be something that’s almost automatic for this ball club moving forward, those are little areas that the team certainly can get better at.
SA: We were talking about this the other day, you take Reyes off our ball club and look at our team speed, and it almost doesn’t exist. We’ve got a lot of station-to-station types. You see it in a number of different situations, obviously, trying to get a guy in from second base on a base hit, first-to-third. Jose, in the first inning, I wasn’t sure he was going to go to third, and he just kicked it into another gear as he got to second base. Part of it was his speed, part of it was deking the right fielder, but it makes a big difference.
GC: Let’s parlay that question about team speed into the next question about the configuration of the ballpark. Do you see it changing appreciably next year?
SA: How do those relate, Gary? [laughter]
We’re certainly talking about it, and I think it’s conceivable that, yes, we will see some changes at Citi Field, but no final decisions have been made. We’re still looking at different possibilities. I think if we do something, it’s not likely to be subtle. I think it’s probably a decision that we’ll make sometime in October, as well. There’s no reason not to.
We’ve looked at a lot of possibilities, we’ve done at lot of analysis, none of which is all that precise. We haven’t done wind analyses, but those are a complete crapshoot. We’ve tried to do as much analysis as we possibly can, and I think we’ll have some recommendation in October.