Was on another Mets-arranged blogger conference call with Sandy Alderson tonight. Of course those are splendid opportunities for the likes of we who write about the Mets yet traditionally haven’t been considered Mets writers. Downside is you’re on the phone with 15, 20 other bloggers. They’re not downers by any means — to the contrary, they’re solid folks with solid blogs who ask very solid questions.
Too solid, maybe, for by the time I get to ask one question and one question only (per the rules), some questions that were burning a hole in my mind have already gotten asked. What fun is that? So when my turn came up, I scrapped my incisive queries on second base and Rule V in order to avoid redundancy. I went instead for the semi-philosophical, wondering aloud to the general manager of the New York Mets if he was feeling substantially less like an outsider than he did when he took the job and started answering questions from curious New York Mets writers, New York Mets fans and everybody else up here with a passion for the New York Mets.
Five months in, I’m still getting used to Sandy Alderson being the individual with his hands on the wheel of my fan fate. That’s not to say I miss Omar Minaya in any way, shape or form (you know what I’m sayin’?). It’s just that Sandy still has that new GM smell to me…not 100% Met, not quite broken in, not quite yet. Specifically, then, I wanted to know how much does he still feel like a stranger in a strange land — could there be any stranger land to a savvy baseball man than Metsopotamia? — or is the transition complete and are the New York Mets, for lack of a less dramatic term, Sandy Alderson’s team?
“There’s still a little getting-used-to-itness,” is how the general manager put it, going on to explain what a big help the concentrated nature of Spring Training is in melting away lingering unfamiliarity. The focus for six weeks is baseball, baseball and, as much as it can be when you’re talking about the Mets, nothing but baseball. Everybody’s together by necessity, thus it’s something of a de facto corporate retreat every day (my phrase, not his).
The major league staff is in one place. The PR staff is in one place. The training staff is in one place. Alderson gets to see more of the minor league staff than he will for the rest of he season. “Cross-fertilization” occurs and newness evolves into a comfort level. Everybody becomes “knit together” as a unit. This is all very positive to building an organization.
And, he added, it helps that in Port St. Lucie, “there’s not a lot to do.”
All these years, it never occurred to me the legendary dullness of what Marty Noble termed “Port St. Lonesome” was a Met asset. Maybe the problem was the Mets never treated it as one. Goodness knows clusters of Mets have found trouble hard by those swamps and pizza parlor parking lots. yet maybe Alderson and his lieutenants have unlocked a secret about the place where bowling is king when baseball is over. Maybe it’s great that the Mets are relatively isolated from the more intriguing aspects of civilization. Maybe they’re really getting to know each other and their craft that much better because that part of Florida has nothing much to recommend it.
This afternoon, the Mets pounded out 16 runs and 23 hits. Could it be an outgrowth of St. Lonesome’s godforsaken nature? Do they know each other’s tendencies extra well because few other interesting people cross their paths with distractions like lively conversation? Are they so bored from playing basically the same four teams that they’ve come to like and rely on each other more than the average team that plays in a hotbed of temptation like Kissimmee? What are they mixing into the shooters at Duffy’s and why has it given everybody a keener batting eye?
The chamber of commerce may not care for the characterization that there’s not a lot to do in St. Lucie, but Sandy Alderson’s endorsement may be the best advertisement I’ve ever heard for it.