Dec 02

Sandy Alderson On If Jose Reyes Is A Franchise Player

Last night, Sandy Alderson hosted a conference call with a few Mets bloggers that was by far the best one I ever participated in. We had some great questions from everyone and Sandy, who was very cordial, took his time and answered all of our questions concisely and proficiently. The tone of the call was kind of upbeat and it was interesting to hear how passionate everyone was about their concerns. Amazin Avenue was good enough to transcribe the entire call which you can read here.

My question to Sandy was regarding Jose Reyes (of course), but it started out kind of funny when when he responded to Shannon of the Mets about Shannon of Mets Police just as I was introduced.

Shannon Forde, Mets Media Relations: Shannon [Shark] really wants to know if you watch the Walking Dead.

Alderson: The Walking Dead, by the way, was a Marine battalion in Vietnam, I don’t know what it’s referring to now, probably Vampires or something..

Joe DeCaro: Actually the Walking Dead is about zombies.

Sandy Alderson: Oh is that what it is? Zombies? Thanks. (laughing)

Joe DeCaro: When the season ended, you met with reporters at Citi Field, and at that time you said there would no preemptive offer to Jose Reyes and that you were going to let other teams set the market.

A few weeks later it was reported that you had an understanding with Jose that he would meet with you after he was done shopping and that you would have substantive negotiations with him at that time.

There’s been so much information and mis-information circulating about Jose Reyes that it’s become such a huge blur for Mets fans right now. I don’t know if you’ve kept up with the latest gossip, but apparently there’s a report generating some buzz about a potential Mets offer worth five years and $80 million for Jose Reyes.

Forget whether or not it’s fact or fiction — I’m leaning towards the latter — hypothetically speaking, if Jose Reyes came back to you with a five-year, $80 million offer from another team, could you and would you beat that offer if that’s what it took to re-sign him?

Also, does your front office consider Jose Reyes a franchise player?

Alderson: Let me start with your last question first: Do I consider him a franchise player? Yes. But a franchise player is only valuable as such if he is contributing to a winning franchise as opposed to simply acting as eye wash for a team that is not very good. So for me, franchise players are critically important — this goes back to the bonding that takes place with a handful of players on each team — you need those kinds of players to win. But ultimately, even a franchise player has to make a contribution to a winning team.

Now with respect to what we would do or not do with Jose, that’s hypothetical and it would be speculative for me to respond to that, and also very public, and I would prefer not to do that {laughing}. It’s fair to say that, in light of his status, at least in my mind, as a franchise player, that there’s a number that we would find acceptable. We’re very interested in retaining Jose.

As far as his coming back, it has never been my understanding that we would not negotiate until he had made all his rounds, until he got a good offer from somebody else, and then we got a chance to match it or get a discount from it. That’s never been my understanding. I do believe that if Jose really wants to be in New York after everything is said and done, he’ll talk to us. But I don’t know that we can rely on that. So our inactivity at this point, or the fact that we haven’t given him an offer, is not based on our confidence that when everything is said and done, he’s going to come back to us. I think it’s a combination of a lot of other things.

Right now, it’s not clear where his market will be. We’ve never wanted to be a stalking horse for somebody else. We’re sincere in our desire to have him back. But we’re just going to have to see what develops for him. Now the fact that nothing has materialized to date, doesn’t mean that something won’t tomorrow or the next day, I’m realistic enough to know that. But I also have a sense of what we can do and what would be beyond our ability to do.

And when I say beyond our ability, this doesn’t have anything to do with Bernie Madoff. This really has to do with our vision of where the team can be and what we need to be able to do over the next two-to-four years to create a sustainable, winning roster. I have said on many occasions, that what we need is some roster flexibility eventually that allows us the freedom from a roster standpoint to make some of these decisions that are going to be costly, but to be able to do them in a way that enables us to rationalize the overall roster and the overall payroll.

There’s so much that came out of my question I don’t know where to begin, but lets start with this and I’ll disect the rest of his reply to me throughout the day:

“A franchise player is only valuable as such if he is contributing to a winning franchise as opposed to simply acting as eye wash for a team that is not very good. “

Obviously I asked him whether Reyes was a franchise player based on the comment he made the day before while speaking to season ticket holders: “We want to have franchise players.”

Well first off, there was no hesitation when he said yes, that Reyes was a franchise player, but he didn’t stop there and threw in the eyewash line, which kind of reminds me of the old standby of “we didn’t win with him, so we can just as soon lose without him”.

What did you take out of his comment?

I’ve never been a proponent of that sort of argument because it hangs the blame for losing on one player – the best player – when losing and winning is actually a team effort. You can’t blame the star for being a star if all you surround him with is below average players and nobody to compliment him. Am I right or wrong here?

Don’t most championship caliber team build around their core players – by complimenting them with role players to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle?

Anyway, I’ll have more to say later on.

Other sites that participated and blogged about the call were On the Black, Mets Police, and MetsBlog. There were a few other blogs as well, but as of this writing they hadn’t yet posted on it. I’ll try to update this as they do.

Visit Joe D. at Mets Merized Online

Oct 05

My Question To Mets VP Dave Howard

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in a conference call with Mets Executive Vice President of Business Operations, Dave Howard. I was joined by Matt Cerrone, Ed Marcus, Shannon Shark and other notable Mets bloggers. There’s a link to the entire transcript at the end of this post.

I knew going in that the call was basically to discuss the new dynamic pricing the Mets announced on Tuesday as well as the new rescaled ticket pricing which you can read about here. But my bigger concern was not so much about the lower ticket prices and all the perks for season ticket holders, as it was about getting attendance up again by putting a better product on the field.

I know that this concept is lost on many, but consumers in any industry want value for their dollars, especially their discretionary and entertainment dollars. All baseball fans, particularly in this market – the grandest and most storied of them all, want to see a competitive product. At minimum, you want a better than 50/50 chance that you will see the team win that day – in other words a better than .500 club. That’s the minimum most fans will accept.

I used to manage a big box store in New York that had 12 million dollars in annual sales, but was bleeding cash badly. When I accepted the transfer to the store, after a few weeks I gave our front office my overall assessment and action plan for making one of the top stores in gross sales in our region profitable again. Most of them were shocked when my top recommendation was to increase payroll 15%. I explained that we needed to have people on the floor offering better customer service and that their increased presence on the sales floor would have the cumulative benefit of increasing security and reducing shoplifting, which I concluded was very high based on previous years inventory shrinks. I was willing to risk my career that this strategy of increasing payroll would not fail and I emphasized to them not to look at it as simply escalating our already high expenses, but as making a very smart investment in one of the company’s most valuable assets. In one year the store was number one in the region in net profit and I was off to fix another problem store in New Jersey the following January, along with a fat bonus envelope and a 15% raise.

That same principle could be applied to the Mets. Yes, the Mets had an extraordinarily high payroll going into this season, that much is certain, but it might have been more prudent to spend a little more to make the team more competitive and thereby keeping the fans engaged for a full season instead of a half season. And of course, the season-long fan interest would have led to higher revenues and increased profit margins… And maybe lucking into a Wild Card… That was the basis for my question.

Joe D: My question is, last offseason you rolled out Amazin’ Mets Perks as an incentive to increase ticket sales only to see attendance drop a reported 8% from 2010.

I’m of the belief that the longer a team stays in contention, the more the fans will continue go to the park, support the team and buy tickets.

I would imagine that these new reduced ticket prices, the Amazin’ Perks programs, and all the free tickets that were given away this season cost the organization a very significant amount of money.

In the grand scheme of things, might it have been better to simply invest an additional five-to-ten million in improving the roster so that we could’ve kept the season more relevant through September? Wouldn’t it have been more beneficial, and maybe profitable, to spend just a few more million at the front end in exchange for tens of millions more at the back end, even with the high payroll?

Dave Howard: Obviously, you can’t predict what’s going to happen before the season begins. Things played out as they did, Injuries played a significant role as well. If you looked how well Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy were performing, in particular, before their season-ending injuries. That’s something you can’t predict.

With regard to what we have done from a promotional standpoint, the Amazin’ Mets Perks program was intended to bring added value and benefits to our season ticket holders because they are so critical to the success of our business. We wanted to treat them sort of like we treat our major corporate sponsors, in a very special way, give them exclusive access, exclusive benefits. There was some cost there. I wouldn’t say the cost is extraordinary. The primary benefit of that program is, number one, to provide incentive to renew season tickets. That was effective, because we renewed last year at over 85%, which was a very good renewal given the performance of the team. From that standpoint, that was successful.

Obviously our payroll was high last year, at about $145 million. The value wasn’t there – we did have two players who were released in spring training in Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, we had Johan on the disabled list all year, so we didn’t get the full benefit of that high payroll. Again, I don’t think anyone can criticize our ownership for not supporting a high payroll. Perhaps you can criticize us for not spending the money wisely.

That’s where I’m very optimistic that Sandy Alderson and his team will be doing that much more effectively as we move forward. I think we have to balance everything and it’s very important for us to treat our fans, season ticket holders, and sponsors in a first-class way on the business side, and obviously baseball operations is charged with elevating the value of the team and getting appropriate value out of the money that we are spending on players.

* * * * * * *

I’m not sure that Mr. Howard grasped the totality of my point, but he did bring up some valuable points in his response and I thank him for the opportunity to engage him. Maybe someday we can both talk again so we can establish a clearer understanding of what I was trying to convey. By no means would I ever criticize the organization for not supporting a high payroll, in fact we may have the highest in the league if you tallied up the last ten years. His point on spending all that money more wisely is valid and of utmost importance, and may have avoided this quagmire we now find ourselves in.

Thanks to the guys at Amazin Avenue for transcribing the whole conference call which you can read here.