Sandy Alderson's comment about winning 90 games was never meant to be public, he said. It was a private statement to his staff. Yet, it became public, by way of a "leak," and it has been tied up and twisted in to a symbol of the opposite of Alderson's intention.
Alderson was asked by media yesterday to further explain the remark, which is now 35 days old.
"It's time for us to get better. What you can measure, you can improve. I can't really measure competitiveness," he said. "It wasn't a guarantee. It wasn't a prediction. It was a challenge, OK? A challenge to all of us internally: How do we get there?"
"It's important for us to change the conversation," he said. "This team is now about being successful. Being successful is not some nebulous concept about winning or being competitive or playing meaningful games some month later in the calendar. This is about concrete expectations about what we need to do. 90 wins is about challenge. I stand by the notion that we need to get better, and in doing so we need to set concrete goals for ourselves."
I like the general idea. I believe setting big goals and expectations is success. It's a good thing, and something that has been sorely missing from the Mets since the late '80s.
Here's the thing about expectations, though: fans have expectations too. I'm reasonable and patient. I understand that - despite what they want to call it - rebuilding an entire baseball organization from the ground up -- to nearly the top -- takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. I also agree that the way the Mets set expectations in the past, i.e., "competitiveness," is a loser's mentality. I want to see the Mets win 90 games one day. I don't think anyone expects it to happen in 2014, including Alderson. He, like me, expects to see it eventually. And that's the real issue: When and how?
I can expect to win $1 million in tonight's lottery, but it isn't going to happen if I don't buy a ticket. I can expect to win a marathon, but it's never going to happen if I don't train properly and educate myself on how to do it. In other words, it's hard to expect anything - let alone 90 wins - from a team with an improper first baseman, a mentally and physically weak shortstop, and a crap-shoot bullpen, and with their best pitcher watching from the sidelines.
My hunch is Alderson would agree, because it reads like a similar pessimism may be at the heart of his 90-win challenge to his staff.
He's essentially saying to them, "I'm frustrated and I expect better than this," and, "How are we going to eventually make it happen?"
Alderson is not alone, though. 43,000 people in Citi Field were thinking the exact same thing yesterday, while looking directly at him, his staff and his bosses.