The best parts of Sandy Alderson's introduction as new Mets GM came after the televised press conference. Adam Rubin's list of talking points from the media's subsequent conversations with Alderson and the Wilpons has some great news regarding both eating contracts and the slotting system for the draft.
- Releasing players with guaranteed contracts. (Obviously, the reference was to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.) Ownership expressed a willingness to eat money.
"We sort of know who you're talking about," Jeff Wilpon said.
- Slotting system/draft. Major League Baseball recommends signing bonuses based on a prospect's draft position. The Mets try to be good MLB citizens and adhere to that system, but that appears as if it will change under Alderson and they will spend over the recommended amount to exploit the system, as other big-market clubs do.
The Yankees and Red Sox have better farm systems than the Mets because those clubs are willing to go over slot much more frequently. I wondered if Alderson would end up adhering to the slotting system because he has been working for Bud Selig and MLB. But Alderson spoke at length about developing homegrown talent, and if he's serious about that, the first thing he will do is put the Mets on equal footing with other big-market clubs.
Alderson also spoke of wanting to have a competitive team in 2011 rather than waiting until 2012, when tens of millions of dollars of payroll come off the books. If he's as serious about 2011 as he sounds, he won't have Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo on the roster.
I can't blame him if he has Ollie play winter ball in a last-ditch effort to establish some minimal value for him, since if Ollie gets cut, someone will pick him up just for his potential. But who is going to want Castillo, except maybe as a temporary fill-in if their second baseman is hurt? Alderson can make a nice splash right away by cutting Castillo now.
When I wrote the title of this piece, I was thinking not just of Springsteen, but of looking forward to a July Fourth when the Mets were once again in contention. Then I remembered that the Mets were in contention on July 4, 2010. They were 46-36, two games behind first-place Atlanta. They were three games ahead of the Phillies, though the Phillies had been besieged by injuries. The Mets were also 4 1/2 games in front of the 41-40 Giants, who are now halfway toward winning the World Series.
The Mets' collapse in the second half showed that they still have a ways to go. The one false note in Alderson's news conference was when he suggested that the Mets would have done better with another 800 at-bats from Jason Bay and others. If the Mets had several hundred more at-bats from the 2010 Bay, they might have done worse.
But the Mets' strong first half shows that there is a foundation to build on. Alderson seems like a guy who can find the spare pieces that winning teams like the Giants manage to obtain but generally eluded Omar Minaya.
After today, I'm not just looking forward to 2012, but 2011 as well, and a festive summer at Citi Field.
Will Sandy Alderson turn around the Mets? Tell us what you think.