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The sad, unfair conclusion to the Sandy Alderson era

Thanks, Sandy. We wish you a full and speedy recovery.

MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In October 2010, the Mets hired the legendary Sandy Alderson as their new general manager. A beleaguered fan base rejoiced, and the baseball world took notice. Some said it would be “Moneyball with money.” Others said “the adults are finally in charge.” A certain Mets blog temporarily re-branded itself as “Alderson Avenue.”

Whatever one’s preferred rhetorical flourish, the news was greeted as a fresh start; it was a moment of clarity where there had been only aimlessness and confusion; and it was reasonable cause to hope for a bright future for the Mets.

We all know how the story unfolded, from the Wilpons’ financial implosion to the concordantly long and frustrating re-build, and from the incredible run to the World Series in 2015 to today, when it feels much like it did right before Alderson was hired—which is to say the Mets are bad and dysfunctional, and Omar Minaya is in the front office for some reason (spoiler: it’s the Wilpons).

Given how poorly the Mets have played this year thanks to the all-too-familiar concoction of injuries, lack of depth, under-performance, and a fetish for over-the-hill players no one else wants, it had seemed obvious for a while that Sandy Alderson’s days as Mets GM were likely numbered. I assumed Jeff Wilpon would fire him mid-season, if for no other reason than to try to distract from a seemingly growing awareness and consensus that the root cause of the Mets’ ills is, has been, and, for the foreseeable future, will be, the Wilpons.

As many readers undoubtedly know from personal experience, cancer lays waste to plans, to normalcy, and, all too often, to life itself. Cancer has a way of demanding, and then commanding, one’s attention despite all efforts to keep it tucked away in a tidy little box where it doesn’t get in the way.

That cancer is what ended up putting an end to Alderson’s tenure as Mets GM is tragic and unfair and infuriating; if Alderson’s time with the Mets was to come to an end, then the men who undermined it should have had to be the ones to do it. Cancer doesn’t give a shit about any of that, though—it has no space on its agenda for my petty grievances. And it isn’t about me, besides.

As we all digest this news, perhaps it can serve as a reminder that life is fragile and therefore worth appreciating while we’re here to appreciate it. Perhaps it can remind us that many of the things we imbue with meaning, like baseball, are at once silly, frivolous, and vitally, eternally important. The things we gather together around to argue about, to get mad at, to kvetch and complain over, and to celebrate when things occasionally go the way we want them to go are a microcosm of life itself, and a vehicle for connection with our fellow human animals.

Sandy Alderson has spent the bulk of his professional life in Major League Baseball. He was at or near the vanguard of a movement—a revolution, in its own way—that ushered in a new way of thinking about and evaluating the game and the players who play it. He and his various lieutenants oversaw drafts that launched the careers of countless players. Several times over, he assembled groups of athletes into teams that reached the pinnacle of the sport, thereby bringing real happiness into the lives of the people who emotionally invested in their success. And he undoubtedly forged countless friendships and relationships with people none of us will ever know or hear about.

It is the end of the Sandy Alderson era in Queens, and it isn’t fair. It went by impossibly fast, just like the promise it once held. While it didn’t yield perennial success, like I and many others, including Alderson himself, had once hoped, it did bring us players and moments that gave us the chance to bask in greatness, however fleetingly. I will always be grateful for that.

Like everything, it was all going to come to an end eventually—but it shouldn’t have been like this. I wish Alderson well in the journey ahead.