Alderson: Settlement makes future 'brighter'
GM believes resolution will allow club to fully focus on baseball
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Sandy Alderson cannot place specifics on how Monday's court settlement will affect the Mets going forward. Though he knows it is good news for his team, Alderson cannot quantify the extent of it. All the Mets' general manager could do Tuesday was express his continued faith in ownership.
"It's totally misguided, this notion that the fans have about the Wilpons and their desire to win," Alderson said. "Until very recently, they were putting out top dollar for players. There's no reason to believe their passion for winning has changed significantly. I don't believe that."
A day after Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz settled their court case for $162 million with the trustee seeking to recover funds from Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, Alderson and others expressed pleasure that the proceedings ended as quickly and cleanly as they did.
Mostly, they spoke about closure.
"From an overall organization standpoint, the landscape today is a lot brighter than it was two to three days ago," Alderson said. "Obviously [I'm] very happy for Fred and Saul. Putting something behind us that has been an overhang for the franchise for a little over a year -- just about the time I arrived -- is a real plus."
How the settlement affects Alderson's future decisions as GM remains to be seen. Earlier this spring, Wilpon pinned the club's historic payroll drop -- from over $140 million at this time last year to around $91 million right now -- on Alderson, saying it was more of a baseball-operations decision than anything. And Alderson did not refute that Tuesday, instead reiterating that the payroll drop stemmed from a desire for roster flexibility.
Now, Alderson said, the Mets must simply wait for their young core of prospects to develop into Major Leaguers, at which point the payroll situation might change.
Though Wilpon's son Jeff was at Digital Domain Park on Tuesday and watched a portion of batting practice on the field, he did not comment on the settlement.
"I think the clouds are parting," said Alderson, who was introduced as GM in October 2010, less than two months before trustee Irving Picard sued Fred Wilpon and Katz. "But at the same time, we have to do a good job on the baseball side. I think our guys have done a great job of focusing on the baseball, but it's hard to ignore everything else entirely. We need to continue to focus on the game and put a good product back on the field. If that means it's a product with a $90 million payroll or something else, that remains to be seen. But we've got to give people a reason to come back to the ballpark, and that's our mission."
As far as specifics, there are no easy answers. How the court settlement affects third baseman David Wright's future in Flushing, for example, may not become clear for some time. How the Mets attack the free-agent and trade markets next winter will depend upon more than just available funds.
All the Mets can do for now is the same thing they've been doing all spring -- the same thing they've been doing for the better part of two years, really.
They can play baseball.
"There are probably very few people in here that follow it, and the people that do follow it probably don't understand fully what's going on," Wright said of the Madoff situation. "So there's no sense in trying to answer questions about something you have no idea about."
Added Wright: "You'd rather be talking about baseball than what's going on in courts in New York."
Though some players kept casual tabs on the Madoff situation, most -- as Wright noted -- did not. Even manager Terry Collins, who takes pride in regularly reading every local newspaper's Mets coverage, said he had not been paying close attention to the proceedings.
"I'm really happy for the Wilpons and Saul to get that done," Collins said. "But my focus has been on trying to get this team ready. I'm trying to get our guys on the field and get them at-bats and get them playing time and get them game-ready, because 16 days from now, we've got to go play baseball."
The main external issue, Alderson said, is that fans have colored their perceptions of the Mets through Madoff. That, the team hopes, will soon change.
"I don't think it solely falls on ownership," Wright said of the club's recent struggles. "I'm sure ownership will shoulder their fair share of the burden, down through the front office, and obviously the players and the coaches as well. When you have the types of seasons that we've had, you don't point the finger at one thing or even two things. Everybody is willing to shoulder what's gone wrong here."