Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball And Revived The Mets
Welcome to my first book review here on DOI. Like Sean, I’m big into history (both American and sports) and enjoy reading books that fit this interest so with this book coming out just before the opening of the season, I thought it would be good to give you my thoughts.
If you’re a Mets fan, you’ve by now read all the reviews including, but not limited to Adam Rubin and Jon Heyman, where the overriding theme is the wonderment at the term “Revived” in the subtitle of author Steve Kettmann’s new book chronicling Mets GM, Sandy Alderson.
To be fair, I’ve often been accused of being a shill for the way Sandy Alderson has done business since taking over my favorite ballclub, but at first glance, even I took issue with the author saying the team was now revived. I mean, let’s be fair. As much as I love the Mets, you’d have to at least have a winning record for a few years before the team could be classified as “revived”, right? Well…kind of.
The book is an overwhelmingly positive account of Alderson’s time in baseball and how his usage of advanced analytics was a huge contribution to the game of baseball that eventually paved the way for “Moneyball” and all the other terms that people hear and either love or hate, usually with no in-between.
As someone who feels he has a pretty good sense of the pulse of the Mets fanbase, I know that this leads to some insane discussion of people who just want to shit on the job that Sandy’s done. I hear it all the time. “If he’s so brilliant, where are all those undervalued guys he’s supposed to know?” Stupid shit like that. Alderson may have been among the first to incorporate such statistics and studies into a major league front office and may have mentored Billy Beans in Oakland, but let’s get something straight here: Sandy Alderson is not Billy Beane.
Billy Beane is among the greatest general mangers in the history of baseball and, while he may have branched from the Alderson tree, he took what Sandy was doing and advanced it so far beyond what most people (probably even Alderson himself) believed was possible, that what he has accomplished with already-chewed bubble gum, $8 and a toilet bowl for a stadium in Oakland is almost fantasy. Sure, they haven’t won a World Series and I get that, but I’d kill for my team to be a consistent contender the way Beane seems to have the A’s in contention year after year.
With that being said, it’s not like Sandy Alderson’s not an idiot. Sandy made good use of the tools he had in Oakland, developed players, made some under the radar signings and built a powerhouse that, though only winning one World Series, was among the top teams in all of baseball.
The book gives time to Alderson’s stay in the military and through law school and how he eventually got into baseball, almost by accident as the law firm he was working for was handling the sale of the A’s to the Haas family. He was always a fan and played the game so it’s not like he was totally clueless coming in, but had to learn on the fly as to how the day to day operations of a major league franchise were handled.
When it comes to his handling of the Mets, the fanbase has been incredibly divided. A lot of people reference the Moneyball stuff or how he hasn’t added the big-ticket player. People get upset because Alderson running this club was supposed to be Moneyball with money. Which it surely is not. As mentioned in the book, Alderson wasn’t aware of just how bad the Madoff situation had left the team’s finances until he was actually in the position. He claims that he’d have taken the job anyway because he loves a challenge and I tend to believe that from what I’ve read about him both in this book and elsewhere.
We get some really cool and interesting stories about how some deals come together (the trade of Carlos Beltran to the Giants, for example, was very detailed), and how Sandy lives and dies each game like a fan does. Once again, it’s something I buy into because Beane is profiled similarly in “Moneyball” and it’s not hard to see where some of those traits come from.
As already stated, the author gives a very positive glow to the work Sandy has done as GM of the Mets and is even complimentary of the job Omar Minaya did before him. The book brings us up until this most recent offseason and discusses the Cuddyer signing as well as the state of the Mets’ shortstop situation which makes reading this book now topical and fun to lead into Opening Day.
It glosses over Sandy’s time with the Padres and makes it seem like nothing really noteworthy happened there (writer’s note: nothing noteworthy happened there) and covers his time with the A’s obviously as well as any rumblings of steroid use that may or may not have been hanging around those later-80s Oakland teams since Kettman, the author, was also the writer behind Jose Canseco’s “Juiced” as well as having been an A’s beat writer for period of time.
That’s all fine and good, but it’s the Mets stuff that makes this worth reading. You get a true sense for Alderson’s competitiveness and his absolute disdain for losing, but his understanding of the need to balance that by sticking to the process that has been laid out by him and assistants Paul DePodesta and JP Ricciardi (both former MLB GMs themselves) to not only bring the Mets back to contention, but to have a sustained period of success.
I don’t think this will change your opinion of Sandy Alderson as a general manager. If you already hate him because he didn’t trade for Troy Tulowitzki, this book is not going to change your mind. For those, like me, who are on board with the way Sandy’s been doing things and see light at the end of the tunnel, you’re not going to feel vindicated, but you finish the book with a real sense of excitement for the 2015 season and beyond.
So has Sandy Alderson “revived” the Mets? Maybe. Maybe not yet. But I will say that from watching this spring, reading this book and seeing the Mets play live in Texas Friday night and watching, not just the game, but the body language that I definitely think Alderson has revived the culture of the team and it’s no longer a collection of players just happy to be there. They’re not going to win 100 games this year, but these players have the look and feel of a group that wants to and thinks they should win. They will show up, play hard and be fun to watch. And, honestly, as a fan, that’s all you can ask for.
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