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NEW YORK -- The New York Mets know how to win a news conference, give them that. In the dead of winter, or in the middle of the World Series, they know how to put a man before a microphone and let him deal in the currency of hope.
Sandy Alderson just joined a parade of Omar Minayas and Pedro Martinezes and Billy Wagners and Johan Santanas and Carlos Beltrans. He botched his first line, declaring himself thrilled to be the new general manager of the Oakland ... no, make that the New York Mets, before filling Citi Field with the presence of a soldier and scholar with a clear plan to get from first base to third.
The Vietnam vet and Harvard law grad nailed the most impressive introduction to this market since Rex Ryan had everyone at hello. Alderson was thoughtful, firm and smart enough to acknowledge that the ruling Wilpons, Fred and Jeff, will likely swat some of his recommendations over the center-field wall.
|Sandy Alderson won the news conference on Friday. Now he needs to help the Mets win games.|
"The word 'autonomy,'" Jeff Wilpon said, "is sometimes misused."
Yeah, like the times Fred and Jeff misused it after hiring Minaya.
So here's the enduring thought of the day in Queens: Millions of Mets fans need this to be the real thing.
They desperately need Alderson to be the officer and gentleman and winner everyone is painting him to be.
They desperately need the new general manager of the Mets to have the kind of success being enjoyed by the not-so-new head coach of the Jets.
Of course, Alderson isn't about to boast and bluster his way through a baseball season the way Ryan is barreling through the NFL. At 62, Alderson projects a professional and professorial vibe while still maintaining a Marine's don't-push-your-luck intensity in his eye.
No, he wasn't about to guarantee an audience with President Obama sooner rather than later. Alderson was only guaranteeing he will do everything in his power "to constantly improve the probability of success."
In other words, make better decisions than the Mets have made the past three years, then hope for a lucky bounce or two.
Alderson called the Mets "an iconic franchise," his one wild pitch on an otherwise charmed opening day. But guess what? Mets fans deserve the opportunity to watch their team imitate an iconic franchise over the next four or five years. They deserve the chance to watch Alderson come up as big as the sign outside Citi Field welcoming him to the naked city.
"This is more than 17 years of press coverage in Oakland," Alderson said when he first surveyed all the notebooks and cameras and lights.
That coverage will get bigger if the Mets return to the World Series under Alderson's watch, and meaner if they don't.
From his time reaching three consecutive World Series with the A's, to his time working in the commissioner's office, to his time lording over the San Diego Padres, Alderson came to the conclusion that the manager should follow the general manager's lead.
He sees the manager as a mere apostle, as someone charged to spread the word and execute the mission. So if the Mets fail next year and beyond, Alderson should field most of the blame.
It will be his philosophy. His franchise. His team.
"He does not consider this a rebuilding job," Fred Wilpon said.
Good. That means Alderson's grace period should be short, especially since the Wilpons are willing to make the financial sacrifices necessary to cover his back.
Asked Friday if they would be willing to eat a couple of guarantee contracts -- namely Oliver Perez's and Luis Castillo's -- if Alderson recommends their removal, Fred Wilpon said, "Absolutely," and said it more than once.
The old man was giddy over Alderson's arrival, calling him the Mets' most credible front man since Frank Cashen, and describing him as an executive who would make for a fine partner in the Wilpons' real estate business.
If the Mets' owner had a debate team, he made it clear Alderson would be his captain. Minaya is a good, earnest man who nearly reached a World Series before it all went wrong, but public speaking is not a strength. Alderson? "It's nice to have articulation like that," Fred Wilpon said.
Alderson relied on his powers of articulation during his job interview when the Wilpons asked him about the steroid use among his Bash Brother A's. Friday, Alderson spoke of "a lack of awareness and a lack of knowledge and, ultimately, a lack of tools" in the bad old days, and conceded he should've done more to dismantle a steroid culture that was built in his own clubhouse.
Nobody has a perfect résumé, not even Alderson. But he called this "the best job available in baseball," Bud Selig notarized his candidacy, and the Wilpons made their move.
Fred Wilpon called the past two years the most difficult of his ownership career, and that's saying a mouthful. He hired Alderson to make his on-field troubles disappear.
Once upon a time, Alderson's predecessor was hired to do the same. "The first three years Omar was here," Fred said, "he could have been the mayor of New York."
Now millions of Mets fans need a mayor and a king and a savior rolled into one. After all the pain and suffering, they deserve this one little break:
Sandy Alderson proving to be the real thing.
Ian O'Connor is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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