Don’t Get Mad at a Poker Player

I have no doubt in my mind that I would lose to Sandy Alderson in a game of poker. He crunches numbers (a long with his uber-smart front office), he reads markets, and he is among the best in the sport at not tipping his hand. 

Raise your hand if you saw the Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers trade coming. (crickets)

Did most baseball pundits see Carlos Beltran being worth one of the best pitching prospects in baseball? Nope, but he sure was traded for one in Zack Wheeler. 

And currently, many of those same people point to Jose Reyes being a sure-fire goner. Hold your horses. Whether or not he does inevitably leave, give the front office a chance. 

Sure, the 2011 season was not overtly successful. The Mets lost more games than they won. But, it also gave me every reason to believe that Alderson knows exactly what he is doing and has a vision to bring this team to a point of long term sustainable success. And, just because he is not making headlines by being the most aggressive pursuer of Reyes, there is difference between being the aggressor and the winner.

But, if you read a variety of Mets columnists and beat writers, there is a prevailing sense of dissatisfaction among many (though to be clear, not all) of them. 

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York -  ”If the ultimate verdict with Reyes is a calculated baseball decision, so be it. But shame on the Mets if he departs and it is primarily  payroll-constraint induced.”

Joel Sherman, of the New York Post ”The Mets insist they want to retain Jose Reyes, but at their reasonable price, and well, they should really stop saying that.

It is akin to going into a Mercedes dealership, badly wanting a new model and telling a salesman you are willing to go as high as $5,000 to get one.” 

Matt Cerrone and Michael Baron at Mets Blog have been good at responding to these claims. For a good example, read this Mets Blog post by Cerrone. 

To me, the most frustrating part about the current complaints with the Mets pursuit of Reyes is that the gripes are impatient. What has Sandy Alderson done wrong to warrant the Hatorade cooler being dumped on his head? He has done nothing but sit down and let the market develop, without blindly calling before he sees the flop.

Unfortunately, people who avidly follow the Mets are used to this. As Mets fans, or people who cover the Mets, we have grown accustomed to the fact that every column by Kevin Rosenthal, Jon Heyman and Buster Olney will include the newest tidbit about what top-tier free agent the Mets are pursuing. Now, all of those columns are about what teams are pursuing the Mets’ top-tier free agent. 

A few years ago, with Omar Minaya as GM, it was a media inevitability that the Mets would sign Jason Bay OR Matt Holiday. Not if. Before that, we knew to expect big trades like for Johan Santana or Carlos Delgado. And, if the media perceived a hole in the team, whether it was in the lineup or bullpen, the Mets would surely fix it by signing Billy Wagner or Carlos Beltran. After all, the rumors said it was going to be happen. 

For those years, the Mets dominated the hot stove. The media knew what Minaya wanted, everybody knew he would spend money, and with enough money, he was skilled enough to get what he wanted. But, the fact that everybody knew this was what he wanted, and he was expected to get it, it inherently drove up the price.

Should Alderson apologize for avoiding that?

When he took over, I believe we all knew to expect something different. I think most people were fine with the wait-and-see approach of last off-season because we were eager for a change from the strategy of throwing big bucks at whoever people thought the team was supposed to show the money. 

Sherman likens this strategy that the Mets have employed with Reyes as trying to buy a new Mercedes for $5,000. Find me an article saying the Mets just offered Jose Reyes a two-year $20 million deal, and I’ll accept that the Mets are cheapskate low-ballers.

But, in fact, I think he is doing the opposite. Reyes knows he is in for a giant payday; any initial offer would be a low-ball. The front office is avoiding that because regardless of what the Mets offered at this point, I imagine Reyes would shop himself to other teams and figure out what he is worth. If there were only one Mercedes left in the dealership, Alderson is saying, let me know what the other four guys in the shop will pay for it, and I’ll talk it over with my wife and see if we think that’s most prudent for the family right now. 

More than anything — more than being a scout, or some type of numbers crunching SABR-slut — Alderson has a keen understanding of markets. He knows the value of what he has, what he should spend and what he wants. And, he keeps all of it close to his chest. He showed this, more than anything this year. 

Just look at the Beltran and K-Rod deals. 

The point is, there is this growing dissatisfaction with the front office because they aren’t going for some balls out pursuit of Reyes. And realistically, there is a good chance that he signs elsewhere. But, there is also a good chance he resigns with the Amazins. When all is set and done, I’d be surprised if after he tests the market and receives offers, the Mets do not get a chance to match or respond to whatever his highest offer is. This is not to say they will match it, but I think it makes sense for everybody involved to give the Mets that opportunity. It’s not as if the two parties had a falling out - he still lives with his family in New York, where his career started and he is loved. 

At least, I personally, am not going to write him or the front office off before the dust clears. Right now, there is just a giant fuss because the team isn’t kicking the dirt around in the way we’re used to as media and fans. 

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I have a Twitter. It’s cool. Follow @andrewlbeaton

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