Well, it's official. Sandy Alderson is the 12th General Manager of the New York Mets, bringing joy to the corners of the globe patrolled by stat-savvy Mets fans, and misery among those who heard Alderson say he won't be active in the free agent market this winter.
The legacy he'll be competing against - 49 seasons, just two world championships, despite the riches associated with the largest market in the country – is a decidedly mixed one. Let's rank his 11 predecessors.
1. Frank Cashen
Cashen easily holds the top spot in Mets history. His tenure lasted over a decade. He drafted Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. He traded for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez (the latter for a paltry Neil Allen). He made an unpopular decision at the time, dealing Lee Mazzilli for Ron Darling, that proved to be a wise move. He even traded Calvin Schiraldi in a deal for Bob Ojeda prior to the 1986 season; Ojeda went 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA for the Mets, while Schiraldi served up the go-ahead home run to Ray Knight in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Now that's a good trade!
2. Bing Devine
Devine came to the Mets thanks to an overreaction from Cardinals' owner Gussie Busch. With the 1964 Cardinals trailing the Phillies by 6.5 games in August 1964, Busch cleaned house. By the time the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant, then beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, Devine had been scooped up by the Mets.
Devine is responsible for putting most of the 1969 Mets together, from drafting Ken Boswell, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, to trading for Jerry Grote and bidding for Tom Seaver's services. Devine went home to St. Louis before the 1968 season, but his work led to the only other championship in Mets history.
3. Johnny Murphy
Murphy was integral in shaping the team's player development system from the very beginning of the New York Mets, as one of original GM George Weiss' hires. He also finished what Devine started in 1968-69, trading for manager Gil Hodges, World Series MVP Donn Clendennon, and center fielder Tommie Agee. Only his premature death in January 1970 kept him from ranking even higher on this list.
4. Joe McIlvaine
This may seem high for a GM who didn't preside over a single playoff appearance, but consider that McIlvane took over the Mets following a 59-103 season. By his final season, 1997, the Mets checked in at 88-74. He traded Alan Zinter for Rico Brogna. He drafted A.J. Burnett in the eighth round of the 1995 draft. He signed a minor league free agent named Rick Reed, who promptly became a frontline starter. And he acquired John Olerud for Robert Person.
Only the trade of Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza stands out as a significant error. A large portion of the teams that made the playoffs in 1999 and 2000 should be credited to McIlvane, not Steve Phillips.
5. Omar Minaya
The recently-departed Minaya earns the nod over Phillips, based mostly on the amount of major league talent he leaves behind. Sandy Alderson inherits mid-career David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, along with young players like Ike Davis, Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey. Even Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay offer opporttunities for significant bounceback 2011 seasons.
Still, Minaya must take the blame for failing to properly leverage that talent in 2007 or 2008. Nor did he build an organization to overcome injuries suffered in 2009, and to a lesser extent, 2010. The modest return he received on star players led to his demise.
6. Steve Phillips
Phillips has undeniable strengths and weaknesses in his record. He traded for Mike Piazza, but he dealt Carl Everett for John Hudek. He signed Robin Ventura, but he traded for Mo Vaughn. He acquired Mike Hampton, but he traded Jason Bay for Steve Reed. So clearly, there's fuel for either side of the debate.
The Mets reached the NLCS in 1999 and the World Series in 2000 under his watch, and some of those who follow him on the list lack the positives on his resume, so here he is. But considering he took over an 88-74 team, and left the Mets at 66-95 in 2003, he cannot be ranked higher.
7. George Weiss
This feels too low. Weiss, the mastermind behind the great Yankee teams of the 1940s and 1950s, ran the Mets from 1962-1966. Under his watch, a significant number of the 1969 Mets came to the organization. Weiss also mentored Johnny Murphy, who ranks above him.
Ultimately, Weiss doesn't get credit for his Yankee work in these rankings. And on the field, the Mets lost 100 games four times, climbing all the way up to 66-95 in his final season.
8. Al Harazin
Poor Al. He followed the legendary Cashen, taking over a team that had seen better days. He spent plenty of money trying to avoid a downward cycle, and thanks to Bob Klapisch's book, will be known forever as the GM of "The Worst Team Money Could Buy". The shame of it is, few of his moves look genuinely awful in a vacuum.
He signed Bobby Bonilla, who gave the Mets four seasons of terrific offense, including two All Star appearances. He signed Eddie Murray to a two-year deal, and Murray produced well in both seasons. He traded Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller for Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota. Saberhagen struggled with injuries as a Met, but also finished third in the 1994 Cy Young voting and pitched to a virtually identical ERA+ as he did in Kansas City.
But the 1992 Mets finished 72-90, the 1993 Mets 59-103. And his drafts were pretty uninspired – the three best players he drafted were Preston Wilson, Vance Wilson and Benny Agbayani. So let's not exaggerate – Harazin put together some poor teams.
9. Jim Duquette
The problem Duquette has isn't a laundry list of failures. But in his short tenure running the Mets, he has a few howlers, and very little to brag about on his record.
The three-year, $20.1MM contract to Kazuo Matsui - and the resulting shift of Jose Reyes to second base for the 2004 season – is one that Mets fans won't ever forget. The same goes for the trade of Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. That Kazmir, after four strong seasons, including two All-Star appearances, has cratered due to injury isn't the point. His production represented far more than the Mets received from Zambrano, who hit the disabled list three starts into his Met career, and never performed well. That kind of return for a top prospect like Kazmir is simply unacceptable.
10. Bob Scheffing
Scheffing and his successor, seen below, presided over the Mets from 1970-1979. Scheffing held the job through 1974; McDonald took them the rest of the way to bottom. Who gets the edge here? Scheffing, narrowly.
That is not to say he didn't make a strong bid for that bottom spot. His drafts were generally busts, with the notable exceptions of Craig Swan and Lee Mazzilli. He traded a 24-year-old Nolan Ryan and three other players for Jim Fregosi, coming off of a season when Fregosi hit .233 and battled injuries. In his first season with the Mets, Fregosi hit .232 and battled injuries.
What went right? The team won a NL pennant in 1973, but did so with an 82-79 regular-season record. That's enough to give Scheffing the edge over McDonald.
11. Joe McDonald
McDonald took over a team that had won two NL pennants in the previous five seasons, and turned it into a team that lost 96 games or more in each season from 1977-1979. His best draft picks were Jody Davis, Mike Scott and Wally Backman, with only Backman enjoying success as a Met. He traded an in-prime Rusty Staub for a washed-up Mickey Lolich. And worst of all, he traded The Franchise, Tom Seaver, receiving very little in return: Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry.
By the time Cashen replaced McDonald (precipitated by a change in ownership), the cupboard was bare. How much of that was McDonald's fault is difficult to say – Seaver, for instance, got traded after warring with the team over his salary. But McDonald certainly didn't do more with less.
Put another way: if Alderson's tenure turns out like McDonald's, it'll probably precipitate another sale of the team.