NEW YORK -- Sandy Alderson offered a brief verbal stumble at the outset of Friday's press conference to introduce him as the 12th general manager in New York Mets history. Then, the 62-year-old executive laughed off his misstatement and capably articulated a plan to return the organization to competitiveness.
Alderson signed a four-year contract with a club option for 2015 to oversee the baseball operations department.
"I view the position as general manager of the Oakland ... of the, excuse me, the New York Mets as really the best job available in baseball, not only now but for the foreseeable future," he said, laughing at his stumble.
Alderson served as general manger of the Oakland Athletics from 1983-97, a span that included three straight American League pennants and a 1990 World Series title. He more recently served as CEO of the San Diego Padres, and directly comes to the Mets from a role as a consultant for Major League Baseball addressing issues in Latin America.
"Did I ever think I would be back in this situation? Well, you never know" Alderson said. "Over the last year, just as an example, I've been working in Santo Domingo [in the Dominican Republic] two or three weeks a month. I've been teaching at Berkeley. I've been living in San Diego. I've been here [in New York]. I have a curiosity, No. 1, and probably the lack of a [life] plan, No. 2. But what I really enjoy about baseball -- when you boil it all down -- the fun part of the game is the game itself. And this was an opportunity to go back to that."
Alderson may have a difficult task in reshaping the Mets in the short term. With the organization already committed to about $130 million in payroll for 2011, he acknowledged it was "unlikely" the Mets would be aggressive free-agent spenders this offseason.
Still, he added: "I, by no means, am looking beyond 2011. Our job here is to put the best possible team on the field in 2011. And I think if we work at it, we should have every chance to be competitive."
Principal owner Fred Wilpon said commissioner Bud Selig advocated both GM finalists -- Alderson and former Arizona Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes. The difference between the candidates? Alderson is 22 years older than Byrnes, and therefore has 22 more years of experience.
"As I told Josh when I called him after we made the decision, nothing he did he could have done better, except maybe be born 20 years earlier," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said. "That 20 years that Sandy has on him was sort of the deciding factor."
Alderson's articulateness -- he has degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard -- was evident. At one point during his introductory press conference, he read a list of skills he believes he possesses. He said he offered the same list to the ownership group during his interviews for the job. Those qualities:
• Being friendly, but professional.
• Fostering a positive working environment.
• Encouraging collaboration and making front-office work a team effort.
• Being analytical and innovative. In essence, craving information, while not being overly reliant on statistics.
• Being bold, but also alert to risk and calculating probabilities of success/failure.
Alderson's work already has started. Jeff Wilpon indicated the group met Friday morning to narrow the list of managerial candidates to 12-15 names. Interviews should begin next week, with the first round potentially being conducted by phone.
"In a nutshell, I suspected Jose Canseco of using steroids. I never suspected Mark McGwire," Alderson said. "It was at a time as an organization we actually had begun to emphasize weight training as part of our regimen, which is now I think a very widespread commitment on the part of baseball. But, nonetheless, it was new at that time and may have inadvertently gotten us involved with that steroid aspect of weight training and bodybuilding. ...
"We, actually, considered drug testing certain players. We acquired the specimen kits. We identified a lab. But, ultimately, we decided it would have been illegal in the state of California and also would have been a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
"If you go back and sort of put all of that in perspective, do I wish I had done more? I think that's almost always true, in retrospect, with almost anything that we experience."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.