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Mets’ GM Alderson Seeks Independent Thinker as New Team Manager

The New York Mets’ next manager must be an independent thinker, newly hired General Manager Sandy Alderson said yesterday in his team debut.

The Mets are narrowing their list of candidates and probably will begin interviewing them next week, Alderson said.

“I have in my time worked with a range of managers from Tony La Russa to Billy Martin,” he said at a Citi Field news conference. “I can appreciate a fiery manager and I think a fiery manager is actually quite desirable. I also think that it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical but at the same time occasionally, and sometimes often, intuitive.”

He stressed that the person he chooses as manager must reflect his philosophy and that of the Mets’ organization.

“Our goal is to constantly improve the probabilities of success to the point where we will have that success on a constant basis,” said Alderson, who was a pioneer in using statistics to identify undervalued players.

Alderson also said the team needs to improve its payroll flexibility and player-development system in order to be successful.

‘Payroll Flexibility’

“As far as the system is concerned generally right now, it’s probably middle of the pack,” Alderson said. “As far as the major league roster is concerned, there is a lot of payroll already committed. One of the things we want to achieve at some time very soon is payroll flexibility.”

Alderson, 62, signed a four-year contract and is charged with reshaping a team that went 79-83 last season -- its fourth straight without a trip to the playoffs --before jettisoning GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel.

An Ivy League-educated ex-Marine, Alderson was the GM for the Oakland Athletics from 1983 to 1997, has been chief executive officer of the San Diego Padres and worked as an executive for Major League Baseball.

Alderson said he won’t always be the final decision-maker on player-personnel moves, and he cautioned against prematurely judging Mets players who underachieved in 2010.

“We need to be careful about writing off any player or any other asset without thinking about it carefully,” Alderson said. “I think we want to be thoughtful about everything we do.”

Fans Flee

The Mets are coming off a season marked by injuries to key players such as Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana, legal problems for All-Star relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, and poor performance from players such as Jason Bay, a highly rated free-agent signing who batted .259 with six home runs.

There was also a sea of empty seats at the Mets’ two-year-old, $850 million Citi Field. Attendance this season totaled 2.6 million, down 600,000 from 2009. The team finished in fourth place in the National League East, 18 games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies despite having the fifth-highest payroll in baseball.

“I by no means am looking beyond 2011,” Alderson said. “My job is to put the best possible team on the field in 2011. If we work at it, we should have every chance to be competitive.”

Alderson said the Mets job was a “unique opportunity” and he wouldn’t have taken another GM position. He said his career has been driven by curiosity and the lack of a plan.

“What I’ve really enjoyed about baseball, when you boil it down, is the game itself,” he said. “This was an opportunity to go back to that.”

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