Sandy Alderson Stepping Away From Mets for Cancer Treatment
Amid the Mets’ spiraling path to the bottom of the standings, their general manager, Sandy Alderson, announced on Tuesday that he would take a leave of absence, effective immediately, to address a recurrence of cancer. But it might be a permanent departure, he said, because of the current performance of the team he has assembled.
Alderson, 70, who presided over the team’s World Series run in 2015 and wild-card appearance in 2016 as well as its epic collapses this season and last, learned he had cancer in the fall of 2015. Last year, before spring training, he spoke optimistically about his treatment but cautioned that he was undergoing checkups every four months.
“The game continues and we have a season to play,” said Alderson, who fought back tears as he addressed reporters on Tuesday alongside Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer. “So in the best interests of the Mets and for my health, this is the right result.”
Asked about his desire to return after treatment, Alderson said, “If I were to look at it on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted.”
Alderson, who became the team’s G.M. in 2010, said he had a recurrence of an unspecified form of cancer nearly two months ago. His prognosis was good, he said, and he did not consider stepping down at the time. Since then, he has been quietly undergoing chemotherapy and was expected to have surgery later this summer.
In his place, the team will be led by three executives: John Ricco, the longtime assistant general manager; the special assistant J.P. Ricciardi, a former general manager in Toronto; and Omar Minaya, Alderson’s predecessor as general manager who is now a special assistant. They will guide a team that was once expected to compete for the playoffs but that now carries a 32-45 record after Tuesday’s 4-3, 10-inning win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Wilpon would not say when or if Alderson would return, saying his health was the priority. He said the committee of Ricco, Ricciardi and Minaya — not one person — would jointly run the team and come to him for a final say on any action.
“This is a results business,” Wilpon said. “We’re well below our expectations, from ownership on down.”
Alderson had not been traveling with the Mets as often as he used to. As the Mets’ season deteriorated after a promising start, Alderson was often absent, though multiple team officials insisted that he was fine and simply busy with his responsibilities.
Privately, Wilpon knew of Alderson’s change in health. And Alderson admitted on Tuesday that it had been hard to keep up with the pace of the job. Noting the wear and tear on Alderson, Wilpon said he had talked to Alderson about taking a break.
On Sunday, Wilpon said, Alderson met with him and told him of his decision to step away. Wilpon said he believe the team of Ricco, Riccardi and Minaya could provide fresh ideas on improving the team.
After 92 losses in the 2017 season, the Mets replaced their manager, Terry Collins, but Alderson was given a two-year extension to correct the team’s course. The Mets overhauled their medical staff and spent $89 million on six free agents, though all six were over 30 years old.
But now, three months into the season, the Mets have been derailed by injuries, poor performances by players young and old, and a weak farm system. Alderson blamed himself, too.
“I wouldn’t call those mistakes,” he said of the free agents. “But they certainly did not turn out as well as we had hoped.”
Alderson, a former lawyer and longtime baseball executive, is the oldest general manager in baseball.
He left the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office to lead the Mets in 2010 during their economic troubles brought on by the Bernard L. Madoff scandal. He guided the Mets to two straight winning seasons in 2015 and 2016 before they returned to losing the last two seasons.
Before he spoke to reporters, Alderson tearfully addressed the team’s players, who gave him a standing ovation after he finished speaking. And Mets Manager Mickey Callaway’s voice quivered as he talked about Alderson before Tuesday’s game.
“We’re going to be there for Sandy as much as Sandy’s been there for us,” David Wright, the team captain, said. “A lot of times he has taken the heat on our behalf.”
Steven Matz, who pitched seven innings on Tuesday, said the news both put the game against Pittsburgh into perspective and added some incentive. “That was just not news you want to hear,” he said after the game. “Obviously I’m here and we’re all here because he believed in us. I think for me personally, and especially now under these circumstances I want to prove that he was right. So there was definitely extra emotion out there.”
When discussing his cancer treatment during spring training last year, Alderson said that although he had regained 25 pounds he had lost during 20 weeks of chemotherapy and two surgeries, he was reluctant to declare himself healthy.
“That’s not a victory,” Alderson said. “It’s a temporary certification. A four-month deferral, perhaps.”
And on Tuesday, Alderson could not offer much insight into his future.
“None of us writes his or her script,” he said. “We deal with circumstances as they arise. And I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here and in the game, and for whatever opportunities may arise in the future. But this is a dizzy world.”