Mets’ Alderson Excited For Possibilities in Syracuse
New York Mets' President Sandy Alderson had a busy week.
At 4:30 p.m. last Tuesday, Alderson waiting his turn to speak before an audience of both City of Syracuse and Onondaga County officials, was participating in dedication ceremonies of $25 million renovations of NBT Bank Stadium.
This in all likelihood wasn't his first or will this be Alderson's last appearance requiring he be handed gold-looking scissors, and to be among a group to cut a ribbon, and symbolically open a facility.
Reviewing his notes and adding to his soon to be delivered remarks, following Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, Alderson had much to think about. He was the Mets' general manager from 2010 to 2018, rejoining the organization when Steve Cohen purchased the club from the Wilpon family this past November.
Tuesday represented the rebirth of Triple-A baseball on Syracuse's North Side. Last season was erased due to COVID-19. Renovations at the ballpark continued on in the absence of balls and strikes being called.
The sun was shining and temperatures were climbing into the 60s.
Wearing a mask, and as thanks and congratulations are being distributed by politicians, Alderson continues to jot down last-minute remarks for his speech. To Alderson's left is John Ricco.
Ricco, a long-time lieutenant of Alderson's from his previous run with the organization, carries the title of senior vice president , senior strategy officer for the New York Mets. Also, among the Mets' ambassadors on hand is one of their all-time fan favorites (and former Syracuse Chief) Ed Kranepool. Tony DeFrancesco, who piloted Syracuse's inaugural Mets' club in 2019, and first base coach for the big club in Queens last summer, is back in town for the season's start. He is standing far right of Alderson.
The Mets' Phil Regan, senior advisor of pitching development, is also in the crowd.
It's clear from remarks being told to an invited audience of a few dozen gathered before the front steps of the stadium that lead to the concourse, the Mets are proud of the collaborative effort of Central New Yorkers who spiffed up the home of their future major leaguers.
As batting practice was going on in the background, there was a game to be played in two hours. The Mets were settling in for a six-game home stand with the visiting Scranton-Wilkes/Barre Railriders (New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate).
Syracuse is one of the three minor league affiliates owned by the Mets. St. Lucie (Low-A) and Brooklyn (High-A) are the other two, while the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Double-A) are independently owned.
With the Mets on the road, beginning a five-game stretch in St. Louis, Alderson remains focused on his Syracuse audience. He thanks all involved for their community-minded actions, and is as smooth, pithy, and eloquent as any seasoned politician.
Among the seriousness and sincerity of remarks delivered in his abbreviated talk, Alderson manages to sneak in a soft, entertaining comment directed for Syracuse's general manager Jason Smorol.
Smorol is sporting a beard that could win him accolades from barbers near and far.
"We're not the Yankees," Alderson says to Smorol who is posted among the numerous dignitaries - "and smiling, but...."
The Mets' president tells of his roots in Western New York; Lackawanna (just south of Buffalo). He offers hope, excitement, and promises a great partnership with Central New Yorkers for many years to come.
The commitment is solid.
With the players and coaching staff having begun to arrive in Syracuse for the past two days, many coming from the team's alternate site in Brooklyn, player development was once again up and running along Hiawatha Boulevard.
2,133 fans will shortly enter NBT Bank Stadium for the Mets' season opener.
But, for Alderson, after delivering his remarks to a friendly audience, he will be shifting his thoughts to issues that are surrounding the organization, from a big-league perspective.
As the crowd of movers and shakers in the region disperse, a half dozen local media members aim their questions, for the most part, on the New York Mets.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the organization relieved both of their hitting coaches on the major league level of their duties. Gone is Chili Davis and his assistant Tom Slater.
Francisco Lindor, the team's prize free agent acquisition over the winter, and who signed a mega $341 million deal, hadn't been hitting. The ugliness in the batter's box for Lindor reached a hitless streak of 26 at-bats, and a .157 average.
"It was a decision we felt we needed to make," Alderson said to Syracuse reporters. " It's unfortunate that you have to make a change of any sort during the season. I think we were more focused on the process and preparations, than on results. So, this was something we felt we needed to do".
As the Syracuse squad was prepping on the new turf laid this past fall, scheduled Mets starter Jordan Yamamoto was scratched. As Alderson was putting thought into questions being peppered at him, another story was brewing involving pitching in St. Louis.
Jacob deGrom, Mets' two-time Cy Young Award winner and multiple all-star, is scratched from his scheduled start against the Cardinals for what was labeled right lat inflammation.
It was later learned that Yamamoto had boarded a private jet, and was on his way to be with the big club in St. Louis, and take to the hill in deGrom's place in the rotation
With worries of the game's best pitcher's health occupying what is safe to say a significant part of Alderson' day, there was no side-stepping the phones pointed in his direction.
"We have an obligation to support our players and manager, and for them to get the most out of our team. There is some downtime risk associated with this (firing of Davis and Slater), any time you make a change," says Alderson, as Jerad Eickhoff is preparing to face the Railriders as Yamamoto's replacement in the line-up.
"Chili Davis and Tom Slater are both great people. ( firings) are not so much a reflection on them as it is on where we are as an organization, and where we want to be."
Lindor's anemic bat, two coaching changes, and the team's best arm needing a rest, Alderson carried himself like the former United States Marine that he is, when giving the locals his full, and undivided attention that has been earned.
Thus is the life of a major league executive - one part leader, one part juggler.
And the game went on.