On Tuesday afternoon, Sandy Alderson appeared on WFAN for an interview with Mike Francesa. You can listen to or download the audio of the interview here. Alderson touched upon many of the Mets' biggest issues: first base, shortstop, the outfield, and what's in store for the team this winter. Here's the full transcript.
Mike Francesa: You know, the last time we chatted was when things were right at the depth, when things were going very poorly. You talked about making changes, you’ve made a lot. A lot of players have been moved in and out, and things have gotten a lot better.
Sandy Alderson: Well, it’s nice to be here today because things have gotten a little better. Usually we are in one of those down periods when I show up. But we have played better over the last few weeks, and I think it has a lot to do with some of the personnel changes we made.
Francesa: Young was a guy that, obviously, you were releasing a guy, they were releasing a guy, it turned out to be a guy who has really kind of jump-started your offense for you.
Alderson: Yeah, he’s been great. We’ve had our eye on E-Y for really a couple of years, and we never made a hard push to try to acquire him, but when he was designated for assignment and we happened to have somebody designated at the time, we gave them a call, and it worked out for us.
Francesa: So, it wasn’t just, ‘hey, he’s there, maybe we’ll take a shot,’ you actually had had a little more of a plan and a desire for him; you actually had your eye on him for a while, so it wasn’t just that he was available? This is something that maybe you’ve had your eye on for a while.
Alderson: Well, somebody we’ve liked for a while and not necessarily as even an everyday player.
Francesa: Had you tried to trade for him at all?
Alderson: We had talked to them about it, yeah.
Francesa: Okay. So you’re not overly surprised, then, that he’s done this, right?
Alderson: Well, you’re always surprised when somebody comes in and ends up with a .400 on-base percentage, and does as well as he’s done and the win-loss record turns around as a result. But look, that’s why you acquire players. You throw them out there and see what they can do, and he’s proven that he can be a very valuable player if he plays on a regular basis.
Francesa: Last month, the games—you guys have played well over .500, I think it’s 17-11 for the last 28 games, which is solid baseball. A lot of reasons why: we mentioned Young, Marlon Byrd’s another. Speculation about him and how you will play this out; you know, you’re nine under .500, you clearly have made the statement before—and you’ve proven that—winning is important to you the rest of the season as you also look at players, so does that mean it would take a lot to pry Marlon Byrd away from you?
Alderson: Well, what I’ve said for time, succinctly, is what we’ve tried to do over the last several years is stockpile talent, clear payroll, and try to be as competitive as we can possibly be in the meantime, without compromising the talent or the payroll clearance. So if you look at it, a guy like Marlon, he’s not costing us a lot of money, there’s the question then of what kind of talent we might be able to get back, but it’s still very important for us to try to be competitive because, regardless of what happens, this has been about changing perception and about what people can anticipate going into the future. And if we can play well in the second half, which we haven’t done the last couple of years, I think that’ll be a pleasant change, and I think that’ll lead to some very positive anticipation going into next year.
Francesa: I think Harvey, obviously, who we’ll see tonight, Wheeler coming up and performing fairly well, and also the team playing better and the news of younger pitchers coming, who they saw this weekend. All of that adding up has left people with the idea that maybe this team has now, or is about to finally turn the corner. There is that sentiment, you can kind of sense that there’s—you know, they always look at the consumer index. It seems that your fan index is darting upward now. Your fans are kind of buying in, they have a little bounce to their step, they’re seeing some hope now with this thing. But with that, there’s still a lot of analysis of players here that is very important to the rest of the season. And I think it’s even been compounded. Because now, Gee has pitched very well since the Yankees series. Hefner has pitched very well. You have young pitchers coming, you also have some pitchers who are performing well who maybe you wouldn’t have even thought about in the past, so they’ve maybe actually complicated matters a little bit.
Alderson: Well, it’s a nice complication to have, because one of the things we've lacked over the last couple of years in any kind of depth, and I think that’s been reflected in our second-half performance. So, as we see more and more of our minor league players inch their way toward the major league level, we’re going to develop more and more depth. But at the same time, players emerge at the major league level. We’ve seen that with Hefner, we’ve seen that with Dillon the last couple of months, so one of the reasons I’m excited about next year is we’ve got so much depth in the starting pitching area, and it’s a function of guys pitching well at the major league level—in some cases surprisingly—and guys pitching extremely well at the minor league level and continuing to move up.
Francesa: And I do think it’s important, as we talk with Sandy Alderson about the rest of the season, I think it does matter, I think you guys have made it matter in the last month, but also that hanging futures of certain players and whether they’re going to be on the train moving forward when you try to make your move towards contention. And it’s still the same guys: Duda, we still don’t know, Tejada isn’t even here, Ike again. So we’re left with the same guys, and now with other players playing, it’s going to be even harder to analyze these players.
Alderson: Well, at some point, you’ve got to make a decision. You can’t analyze your one, your two, your three, your four. At some point, suddenly, you can’t analyze any longer. Why? Because the players in some cases have gotten more expensive than they’re worth, and so, if the jury is still out, in a sense the jury’s not still out. On the other hand, we don’t have to have nine all stars at each position. We need to have a quality core of players and then be able to build around them. And so as we go into next season, yes it’s important to be able to identify those players. But I remember just a month ago, when I was here with you, Tejada had just been sent down, Davis was down, everybody was saying, ‘well, what’s going on? The core is not really the core.’ So we’ll see where we are in a month from now, but part of what we’re doing is evaluating. But at some point, you have to make changes, and I think that’s what we’ve done over the last month or so.
Francesa: And guys who might be stopgaps can play themselves into larger roles. Now, Young might be doing that right in front of us. He’s not an old man. So he obviously could maybe have a career here. I mean, he could maybe become a very valuable player for you.
Alderson: Sure, I mean at some point, you say to yourself, ‘could somebody like Eric be one of your five or six outfielders?’ And once you’re in that group, then anything can happen. It’s a function of performance and playing time. So, very definitely, he’s brought something we haven’t had, and with that in mind, it’d be tough to give it up, and we’d want to explore it.
Francesa: What about, people saw Syndergaard, they saw Montero, here, they know the names now. Are those guys they might see later this season, or are those guys they won’t see until next season?
Alderson: I think it’s unlikely they’ll see them this season, and the very simple reason is they don’t have to be protected on the 40-man roster. One of the things that happened early this season is we got a little bit boxed in by our 40-man roster. We put some players on last year who were protectable players, but in some instances marginal. We’re in a position now where we need to have flexibility on the 40-man roster, and we’ve got a number of guys coming who probably will have to be protected on the roster. For example, a guy named deGrom, who’s moved up to Las Vegas. Now, he’s eligible for the [Rule 5] draft next year. Montero is not, Syndergaard is not, so we’re going to have to be careful about how we oversee that roster. But the other thing about Montero and Syndergaard—and I haven’t specifically looked in Syndergaard’s case—but, again Montero was signed in 2011. So he’s come pretty quickly, and he hasn’t accumulated that many innings. So the same issue we have had in the past with Harvey, we may have with Wheeler this year, may prevent a guy like Montero from pitching any further beyond August.
Francesa: Your catching situation, people had hoped to see d’Arnaud, maybe if not by now, maybe very soon. Where is he right now? Is he making progress, is he playing? What’s he doing?
Alderson: Yeah, he’s making progress. He’s not playing in games. He’s doing everything within the framework of his workouts. He’s going to be seen again on Monday, the 22nd, up here in New York, and we expect at that time he’ll get the green light to go full throttle. So he’s anxious, he’s feeling great, and he’s a little bit frustrated because he’s had to wait, but that’s the nature of the human body.
Francesa: Do you expect to see him here in September, is that your plan?
Alderson: I would hope to see him September, yeah. We’ll see what happens for him once he gets back. Hopefully he’ll be playing shortly after the 22nd and have several weeks to be able to play?
Francesa: How important is Ike Davis to your future? Is it important that you get some kind of resolution, or could you carry this kind of question mark into next season, even if it’s in a platoon situation—I mean, you don’t want to jettison him and have him turn into a star somewhere else, and that happens, we know it happens—so does he still pose a very, very complicated puzzle for you?
Alderson: Well, he could be a big part of our future. But that depends on his level of his performance, it depends on his consistency, it depends on what our other options are.
Francesa: I guess, is he running out of time, or is he not running out of time?
Alderson: Well, there’s less time remaining now than there was.
Francesa: Do you need to feel comfortable about that this year? Do you need to have that resolved in your head this year?
Alderson: I think we need to know, feel that we’ve given it a full run by the end of the season and be in a position in the offseason to make those decisions. I mean, look, he’s salary-arbitration eligible, et-cetera, et-cetera, so there a lot of things that will need to be decided between now and sometime this winter. But, I want to emphasize, we’re going to try to win as many games as we can in the second half. So if that means Josh Satin’s playing a little more, so be it.
Francesa: How about Tejada’s status? I mean, where is Tejada? You made a statement a month ago, you didn’t automatically consider him part of your core, that maybe he had to play himself into that. Do you still consider him your primary shortstop piece going forward, or has that changed, or are you wide open at shortstop?
Alderson: Well, I think right now that we have to be open-minded about that position. He’s never really had any power, there’s no question about that, so his value offensively was his on-base percentage. That’s declined each year over the last three years. Defensively, range maybe is not what it was. So I think we have to look at what we have, what’s available to us, and we’ll make that decision. But he’s certainly going to have to earn his way back to the major league level.
Francesa: And you have Nieuwenhuis, you have Duda out there, you have Lagares, so there are still some young players you need to look at here as you go forward. I mean, Young has had his right to play, Byrd’s clearly become a fixture on the team. There’s not as much room in the outfield as there was.
Alderson: That’s right. And center field, you know, Lagares did a nice job when we originally made the move to bring Lagares up, we needed better defense in center field. Ankiel was a short-term upgrade defensively over what we had from the left side. So now that Nieuwenhuis is back and doing a little bit offensively, he’s a nice compromise between Lagares and what we did have. But the outfield is actually now integral to the success we’ve had over the last four or five weeks.
Francesa: The two corners guys have been amazing. They’ve been a huge factor. That and Hefner’s performance have probably been the three biggest reasons why you’ve been winning.
Alderson: Well, Hefner’s done exceptionally well, and it just goes to show you what can happen with a pitcher with a little tweak here and a little tweak there. Sometimes it’s throwing another pitch, in his case maybe it’s a little more of a hip turn.
Francesa: How does the organization view that, thought? When you see a guy do this in front of you on the major league level, do you have to just throw out what's his past and just give him a clean page? How do you know—when do you judge when it’s not a hot streak, and it is the pitcher?
Alderson: I think you’re absolutely right: You judge that over time. I think we’re getting to the point where he’s done it consistently enough over a long enough period that you can begin to think, well, maybe this is a permanent improvement. But going back to the beginning of the season, we had a conversation, and I know Terry said, ‘look, among other things, you can’t give up home runs at the same rate that you are giving them up. You just can’t sustain that at the major league level.’ And he went out and figured out a way, I think with Dan Warthen, to improve his velocity and maybe his deception, and as a result, maybe keeping the ball down a little bit more, and as a result, he’s been great. What’s nice is that while Harvey and Wheeler have gotten all of the headlines, those two guys have generated a lot of the victories.
Francesa: They really have! And with Hefner at least you can pinpoint it. You can see that he’s come up with a way to gain velocity and maybe hide the baseball, so there’s a reason for it. Gee’s even, to me—I know Gee’s got his control back—but Gee’s strikeout binge that he went on was even more surprising to me because it just came out of nowhere. That game at Yankee Stadium was stunning that he pitched.
Alderson: Well, he’s always had a great change, and he’s gotten back to the level he was before he had that circulatory problem last year. So, the nice hting recently is that we’re throwing somebody out there every night who gives us a chance to win. And, you know, we had to use Carlos Torres the other night, and he did a nice job for us. The problem is that it shortens up our bullpen a little bit because he’s done a very nice job out of the pen. But, Jonathon Niese is throwing long toss in Florida right now, I think he was up to 120 feet today. So hopefully we’ll get him back in several weeks.
Francesa: And he’s lefty and at a very reasonable number, which is very important because he’s left-handed, and you don’t have a lot of.
Francesa: The problems have actually become of a positive nature, guys actually pushing and meriting playing time now more than, ‘gee, we don’t have anybody to play here, we have a hole here, we have a hole here.’ Now it’s actually all of a sudden Satin’s earned the chance to play, a lot of guys earning and meriting some playing time.
Alderson: That’s had an impact in a couple different ways. Obviously, we’ve been more competitive, more interesting on the field, and that’s been a plus. The other thing it’s done, when guys like Satin come up—some others; we don’t mention Josh Edgin—but since he’s been back, he’s been very good. What it does for us, too, in the front office is it gives up a little more confidence in bringing up the next guy and seeing what he can do. I think that if there’s a shift in mindset among the player and a more positive outlook, the same may be true in the front office. That there’s, at this point, less reluctance to making a change. And I’m not saying there was always a reluctance to do it. You have to give your guys coming your of spring training an opportunity to perform. I think we’re getting to the point now with these young players that you bring them up, and hey, see what they can do.
Francesa: If we see this team play along the vein that it has played for the last month and it goes into this offseason five, six games under .500, having played improved baseball and closed the gap from fifteen of sixteen games under .500 where it was, and posing some of these problems, is this offseason one where you look to make a quantum leap, or is it one where you look to be more subtle? Maybe the Red Sox thought this was more subtle, and look what it’s become.
Francesa: They’ve become as good as anybody in baseball. They’ve made some changes. Brought in Napoli, brought in Victorino, they brought in some guys. They’ve also gotten some good performances: Nava wakes up, Lackey comes back. You can see it, but they probably didn’t expect there to be this enormous move forward as they’ve had, but it came very quickly.
Alderson: Yeah, and I think in a tough division, where all of the preseason focus was on teams like Toronto or maybe even Baltimore, or what have you. But from our standpoint, are we looking to make an incremental improvement? No. We’re looking to make a significant improvement, and again, I think looking at what we’ve endured over the last two or three years, I think we’re in a very good position to be able to do that. Now, will it happen? Again, I think we’re developing a nucleus of a team—homegrown—that, particularly because of the emphasis on pitching, that can be competitive in a hurry if we’re able to improve our offense. And you know, the first half or all of 2011—if you go back to 2010 before I got here, the offense way was down, the pitching was good—in ‘11, it reversed. Our offense was really actually quite good. Run production, on-base percentage, and those things. Second half of last year, we got away from that. We’ve got to bring in the kind of players who bring us to that brand of baseball, and that’s where a guy like Josh Satin becomes important, as well. He’s one guy—obviously he’s not a superstar—but if you watch his at-bats, and you’re watching them from the dugout.
Francesa: Yes, he works pitchers, he knows what he’s doing, he reminds me a bit of Youkilis with his approach at the plate.
Alderson: So you put that together with David Wright, who essentially approaches things that way, now we start to change the mindset a little bit. We, over the last couple years, have ended up with probably too many players who were too aggressive and not really modeling the kind of performance we’re looking to establish.
Francesa: Also feast-or-famine guys like Lucas Duda and Ike Davis. They have those long, prolonged dry spells.
Alderson: Yeah. So anyway, I’m excited about what we’re seeing from a systemic point of view, as well as just performance on the field.
Francesa: No question. I think everybody feels it, and I think the biggest thing is—and maybe we start to take it for granted—when you have a piece that you can build on like Harvey, it makes everything else a lot easier. You have a foundation piece right now, you have maybe the best young pitcher in baseball. You have a rock to build upon.
Alderson: So there are other areas where, take the bullpen for example. We’ve essentially reworked the bullpen three times, and if you look at what we have in the bullpen right now, of the seven—well, we have eight now, but there will probably be seven by the weekend—of those seven, five are guys that we didn’t have before. And so what I’m hoping, as well, is that in areas where we haven’t been as strong, we’re going to start developing our own players from the system that will give us the kind of flexibility and numbers so that we won’t have to go to the market every year.
And the last thing is, with the payroll freeing up a little bit next year, we won’t be just at the bottom tier of the market. Not that we’re going to go after every top-tier player, but if we work our way up to the middle of the market, that’s a plus, as well. That’s where the Red Sox have been successful this year.
Francesa: Absolutely. With the Napolis, the Victorinos. They’ve gotten a lot out of Nava and Pedroia, too. Victorino’s been terrific from day one when he beat Sabathia all the way to Napoli, with his big at-bats, good RBI production guy. Can you lay this now on Harvey and Wheeler to be the guys to anchor your rotation as early as next year? Harvey, clearly, but Wheeler, can he be that guy? Is it too soon to put that on their shoulders next year?
Alderson: Well, I look at it this way: If you’re looking for a number one, a number two, a number three, a number four, a number five, it gets questionable. ‘Is this guy going to be your number one?’ I look at this way: If we have five solid threes and a couple of them rise up to one or two and a couple of them fall to four or five, we have five solid or more—six, seven, eight guys—that we figure can be number three starters, and we see what develops, we’re in good shape. I think we can be in that position.
Francesa: Well, you’ve got your one now, clearly. He’s pitching as well as anybody in the league. He’s showing exceptional stuff. Now, you clearly have that pipeline of players. We talked about this year, the idea of bringing in that guy in the second half who is a position player of magnitude who is here for the next three or four years to show everybody that you mean business. Are you still looking for that player this year?
Alderson: We’re certainly canvassing the market. We’ve already talked to one club about somebody who is under contract for next year, but at the same time, we have to measure that contribution against what we have to give up, and right now the prices are a little high.
Francesa: Well, everybody wants your pitching, which obviously you would expect, and you want somebody’s power. We know that to be case, but you are a guy who likes power, you are a guy who believes in power, so you want to have some power.
Alderson: Oh, yes.
Francesa: Now, how about the idea of this? I’m sure you’ve not only studied it but talked a lot about it. Your team has the third-best record in the league on the road. They’ve never played well in this building since they’ve come into this building. We’ve moved the walls in, we’ve fooled around—what about that, is that something that you have to say is the luck of the draw, or is there something to it?
Alderson: Well, I’m going back to ‘11 because I don’t have a history before that, but I think we actually played decently at home in 2011. But we certainly haven’t this year, and we didn’t play well here last year. One hope that I have is that the team as it’s currently configured really came together on the road. You know, it was Young played his first game for us in Atlanta, Wheeler came up in Atlanta, Satin may have come up in Atlanta. So we’ve actually had two road trips and one homestand since this group has played well and come together. That one homestand we were 3-4. We were 3-2, we lost the last two games to Arizona.
So I’ve got my fingers crossed. We’ll see what happens over the next homestand or so. As well as we’ve been playing on the road, it may not be just becuase we were on the road. It may be because the configuration we’ve come up with and the number of games we’ve played on the road since that time predominates and we’ll see if we can be better at home in the next couple of weeks.
Francesa: I asked Jeff, sitting in that chair yesterday, I said, ‘have you turned the corner?’ And he said, ‘maybe, but I don’t know if I want to declare it.’ Would you like to declare to your fans that you’ve turned the corner?
Alderson: Well, it’s hard to know when you’ve turned the corner. It’s like timing the stock market. When we were at a low ebb over a month ago, we had a season ticket holders meeting here. I was actually supposed to be at my college reunion that weekend, but for a variety of reasons I wasn’t able to go. So I showed up, and there were some tough questions, and what I asked people was, I said, ‘look, we’re getting to the end of this gestation period. And hang with us.’
I do believe that. I do believe we’re getting to the end. If for no reason other than $50 million worth of money with the two contracts comes off the books, and we’re going to have that kind of flexibility. We always knew that we had those obligations. We had hoped that we’d get a little more contribution from those two guys. It hasn’t worked out, with injuries and what have you. So in that sense, we’re just about at the end. Have we turned the corner? You know, I’m happy with what I’ve seen at the major league level, and what we’re seeing with our young players as they develop over the last month, two months. So I do think better days are ahead.
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