NEW YORK -- Stunned faces stared back at Sandy Alderson in the Mets' clubhouse on Tuesday, his last official day serving as general manager. Alderson arrived in New York in October 2010 during a time of organizational turmoil. He departed, at least temporarily, due to health reasons on Tuesday, forfeiting all decision-making responsibilities as he takes a leave of absence to undergo cancer treatment.
Choking back tears as he disclosed this to his players in the Citi Field clubhouse, Alderson looked back at wet eyes, at mouths agape.
Alderson, 70, originally received a cancer diagnosis in September 2015, days before the Mets began their run to the World Series. That offseason, he took a leave of absence but retained decision-making authority. Eventually, doctors pronounced him cancer-free.
But the disease returned at the end of April 2018, and Alderson has been undergoing chemotherapy since that time. He approached Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon on Sunday to tell him his plan to take a leave of absence. For as long as Alderson is away from the front office, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi will handle day-to-day operations, funneling all decisions through Wilpon.
"I'm just really concerned for Sandy's health," Wilpon said, "and that he's back with his family, and doing everything he can to make sure he weathers this storm the best he can."
Alderson's longer-term future with the organization remains cloudy, both because of his health -- he will undergo surgery later this summer -- and job performance. Asked about the possibility of returning to his old role, Alderson replied that "if I were to look at it on the merits, I'm not sure coming back is warranted." When pressed on this topic, Wilpon deferred to Alderson's health, sidestepping questions about his work as GM.
Over 7 1/2 years, Alderson's teams produced a 582-628 record, including a 31-45 mark entering Tuesday's play. His most significant moves included trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler in 2011; signing Wright to an eight-year, $138 million contract in 2012; trading Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in a deal for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud, also in 2012; trading for Yoenis Cespedes in 2015 and signing Cespedes to a pair of extensions that guarantee him $137.5 million through 2020. The retrospect quality of those transactions has varied.
For his entire tenure, Alderson was flanked by Ricco, the longest-tenured member of the Mets' baseball operations department. Ricco will now become the Mets' point man, receiving input from a pair of former GMs, Minaya and Ricciardi. Among that trio's most pressing duties will be deciding what to do at next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline, with the Mets sporting one of baseball's worst records.
"I feel badly that we've had the season that we have had to date," Alderson said. "I feel personally responsible for the results that we've had. At the same time, I have confidence in our manager, our coaching staff, our players, that this will change. John, Omar [and] J.P., I'm sure, will take a hard look at where we are, maybe take a fresh look at where we are. And I have every confidence that they will serve the franchise well over the next few months through the end of the season."
Through a team spokesman, those three declined comment on Tuesday, preferring to keep the focus on Alderson. Following consecutive fourth-place finishes in 2009-'10, and mired in the Bernard Madoff financial scandal, the Mets hired Alderson in October 2010 thanks to his sterling reputation as an executive with the A's, the Padres and Major League Baseball's Commissioner's Office. A graduate of both Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, Alderson was also a member of the United States Marine Corps, serving a tour of duty in Vietnam.
"Coming into this job, obviously I had heard a lot about Sandy Alderson and the leader he was," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said, choking up. "I experienced all those things first-hand, and he lived up to all of those qualities."
Despite the recurrence of cancer, Alderson said that his long-term health prognosis is positive. He became emotional at least twice in public quarters on Tuesday: once when discussing his history with the disease, and then when addressing his players in the clubhouse. Before Alderson departed, that group rose to give him a round of applause.
"It's been incredibly difficult, as it has been for most Mets fans, for those around the team who work here," Alderson said. "I'm really disappointed with where we are and disappointed to have left Mets fans in this situation. I've said many times, I really do this to make other people happy. When you're not making people happy, it's difficult."
Added Alderson: "None of us writes his or her script. You deal with circumstances as they arise. I am grateful for all the opportunities I've had here, all the opportunities I've had in the game, and for whatever opportunities may arise in the future. This isn't Disney World. We have to deal with life as it presents itself, and I'm OK with that."