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Book report: Sandy Alderson, 'Baseball Maverick'

3/18/2015

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A healthy percentage of New York Mets fans may get frustrated by "Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets" before opening the new book.

Revived the Mets?

After all, the organization has endured six straight losing seasons. Alderson has presided as general manager over the last four.

Alderson noted he is not the author. It was penned by friend Steve Kettmann, a former A's beat writer. Alderson did grant Kettmann more than 100 interviews spanning four years.

The book is still worth reading, despite its excessively positive tone.

It traces Alderson's entire life. He collected incoming cables from U.S. embassies while working in the CIA's basement after college. He studied Vietnamese for months while in the military and stationed in California, and successfully lobbied to be sent to the Vietnam War when his orders instead had him shipping out to a safe perch in Japan.

Passionate fans won't be surprised by much covering the Mets years. Yet there are enough details to satisfy:

• Amid reports manager Terry Collins' job was safe last August, Collins' chance of returning actually was 51 percent, according to Alderson, who told Kettmann at the time: "Frankly, for me, that percentage has been eroding."

Alderson was upset about a drop in walks.

"We can't just throw up our hands and say, 'We're not being selective at the plate anymore, so much for that,'" Alderson said.

A meeting with hitters saved Collins' job.

• Alderson vocally expresses frustration during games. Regarding reliever Gonzalez Germen, Alderson blurted: "How do you go on the DL with an abscess?"

• Kettmann writes that Alderson "accepted a nudge" from commissioner Bud Selig to take the Mets' job. "Fred Wilpon is an extremely close friend, and I told him, 'You'll never do better than Sandy Alderson,'" Selig said.

• Alderson was naive about the impact of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. "Madoff wasn't even a topic of conversation in my interview for the Mets job," Alderson said. "I didn't raise it. Maybe I should have. The bottom line is, I would have taken the job anyway. It just added to the challenge."

• Alderson approached Peter Greenberg, the agent for Jose Reyes, in June of Reyes' walk year, but the GM was rebuffed in extension talks. Alderson never made an official offer that winter, but informally indicated the Mets genuinely were prepared to bid $100 million.

"The sad thing is if we sign Jose, we're just maintaining the status quo. We're not improving the team," Alderson told Kettmann at the time.

• The Mets focused on the Brewers, Phillies, Red Sox, Rangers and Giants in trade talks involving Carlos Beltran in July 2011. Beltran initially only would consider Milwaukee and Philly.

Alderson labeled it a "baited hook" that Beltran flew with Giants personnel to the All-Star Game that year, because the publicity increased pressure on Giants GM Brian Sabean.

The Mets initially had insisted on Gary Brown, Brandon Belt or Zack Wheeler for Beltran. Belt was preferred.

During a lull in Mets-Giants talks, Alderson presumed Sabean was talking to another team. So Alderson pretended to be interested in Hunter Pence. He called Astros GM Ed Wade to see if Pence was available. Told Pence likely would go untraded, Alderson concluded Sabean lacked leverage.

Boston offered Chih-Hsien Chiang and Alex Wilson, plus one from a list of seven players, for Beltran.

Texas and the Mets agreed on Joe Wieland and Robbie Ross, but Alderson wanted a third player. Alderson asked for Mike Olt or Rougned Odor. Alderson indicated inclusion of either would seal the deal. The Rangers balked. Texas was surprised by Beltran's trade to San Francisco because the Rangers thought they had a deal with Alderson involving Wieland, Ross and a different third player.

• The Orioles "toyed" with the idea of giving up heralded Dylan Bundy for R.A. Dickey before the knuckleballer went to Toronto.

The Mets wanted Cody Buckel from Texas, which the Rangers wouldn't do, and which Alderson admits would have been a bust.

Ruben Tejada is one of the few criticized. "Gradually you come to the conclusion that Tejada is just a placeholder," Alderson said. "He's not a long-term guy for us."

• Alderson wanted to sign Robinson Cano. Alderson told one of Cano's agents: "Anything over $200 million, we're not there." When the agent didn't then dismiss the Mets, "that led me to believe something less than $200 million was feasible," Alderson said.

• Alderson explained the "90 wins" hullabaloo from last spring training to Kettmann as sensationalism. Alderson had googled "winning culture" and read articles before spring training.

Alderson then said to staff: "We shouldn't just try to be better. Let's have the mind-set that we're going to go out and win 90 games. When we wake up and look in the mirror, let's make our goal to play like we're trying to win 90 games."

Regarding the tabloid reaction after the comment leaked, Alderson said: "It was misleading. ... It was really a challenge to change the mind-set."