A biography of one of baseball’s leading front-office figures.
Raised in a military family, Sandy Alderson (b. 1947) attended Dartmouth, joined the Marines, served in Vietnam, and climbed the ranks in major league baseball, eventually becoming part of the brain trust for the Oakland A’s. He rose to become general manager of that team when they saw a run of success that included two World Series appearances and one win, in 1989. As GM of the A’s, he helped to revolutionize the game by introducing sophisticated statistical and computer analysis to the game. Indeed, Alderson deserves as much credit as Billy Beane, Alderson’s successor as A’s GM, who was featured in Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball and the award-winning film of the same name. From the A’s, Alderson went on to work for the MLB league office, the San Diego Padres, and the New York Mets, where he became GM in 2010. Prolific journalist Kettmann (One Day at Fenway: A Day in the Life of Baseball in America, 2004, etc.) convincingly argues for Alderson’s importance, but he spends more than half of the book on Alderson’s ongoing work with the Mets. As the subtitle indicates, Kettmann believes that Alderson is a central figure in “reviving” the franchise. Perhaps the Mets are poised to flourish in the years to come, but in Alderson’s four years at the helm, the Mets have never surpassed 80 wins in a 162-game regular season. In the five years prior to Alderson’s tenure, the Mets never won fewer than 70 games; in 2008, they won 89, and in 2006, they won 97 games and a playoff series.
Kettmann has written a worthy biography of a compelling figure, but the author’s desire to produce his own version of Moneyball has caused him to overstate his case.