NEW YORK — New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is taking a leave of absence because his cancer has returned, and he does not expect to return to the job.
With the team in a massive tailspin, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and the 70-year-old Alderson made the announcement before Tuesday night’s game against Pittsburgh.
“With respect to the future, I would say two things: One is, notwithstanding the good prognosis, my health is an uncertainty going forward,” said Alderson, who agreed to a contract extension in December. “And secondly, if I were to look at it on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted.”
Asked whether he would like Alderson to resume his GM duties if his health eventually allowed that, Wilpon avoided expressing an opinion and answered the same way twice: “I think his health and his family are first and foremost.”
Assistant general manager John Ricco and special assistants J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya will run the team’s baseball operations in Alderson’s absence. Minaya preceded Alderson as Mets general manager, and Ricciardi was GM of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2001-09.
Alderson was hired by the Mets after the 2010 season. He was diagnosed with cancer at the end of the 2015 season and had surgery but stayed on the job. He reduced his work schedule at times but remained in a full-time role while undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
“One difference between then and now is that that took place in the offseason,” Alderson said. “I had a surgery in the offseason, I had some chemo in the offseason. Much easier to manage that with offseason activity. I had the decision-making authority basically at that time. I will not have the decision-making authority going forward. If people want to call me, they’re welcome to do so. But at the same time, I don’t expect to be involved in day-to-day activity.”
Ricciardi, Minaya and first-year manager Mickey Callaway were all in the news conference room at Citi Field when Alderson and Wilpon made the announcement.
Wilpon said Alderson approached him Sunday about the idea. Alderson informed players in the clubhouse Tuesday before addressing the media.
“It is paramount to all of us that care greatly for Sandy that he makes this a priority for him and his family,” Wilpon said.
Alderson said a recurrence of his cancer was detected around late April or early May and he’s been receiving treatment since.
“I expect that the treatment will continue so I can have surgery later this summer. My prognosis is actually good. But in the meantime, the chemotherapy, the surgery, all take their toll,” Alderson said, choking back tears.
He said the treatment affects his energy level and leads to other side effects, explaining why he hasn’t been traveling on road trips lately.
“Which makes it difficult to stay up with sort of the pace, the tempo of the every day,” Alderson said. “Operations continue, the game continues, we have a season to play. So I think in the best interests of the Mets and for my health, this is the right result.
“I feel badly that we’ve had the season that we have had to date. I feel personally responsible for the results that we’ve had,” he added. “At the same time, I have confidence in our manager, our coaching staff, our players, that this will change. John, Omar, 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.”
New York reached the 2015 World Series after rebuilding under Alderson and made it back to the playoffs the following year, but injuries and underperformance have decimated the team since. The Mets started this season 11-1, but a 6-24 slide left them at 31-45 going into Tuesday night’s game, fourth in the NL East.
Alderson, a Marine Infantry Officer who served in Vietnam, is a Harvard Law School graduate. Before joining the Mets, he worked in the commissioner’s office and had success running the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres.
“Difficult day for me, but I appreciate everybody being here, appreciate the support that everyone has provided me over the course of a long period of time but certainly recently as well,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to the Mets getting back on track.”