Oct 11

Riggleman to interview tomorrow; Mets could lose Backman.

Real good piece by Andy Martino of The Daily News on the Mets interviewing former Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman tomorrow for the bench coach job.

RIGGLEMAN: To interview with Mets.

Martino wrote of Riggleman calling the Mets’ Willie Harris – a former player of his with the Nationals – after he and wife Trey lost their daughter early in the pregnancy. Riggleman contacted Harris to offer support and council, shortly after he resigned as manager when the Nationals wouldn’t pick up his option.

It was an emotional and stressful time for Riggleman, yet he offered support to somebody else. The story humanizes Riggleman and showed compassion. As a bench coach, he will spend more time one-on-one with a player than Terry Collins. What Riggleman did was demonstrate the qualities of communication and understanding, essential for that position.

As a former manager, Riggleman doesn’t have to be trained for this job. Wally Backman, however, needs to be groomed.

I was for Backman getting the chance to be bench coach last year and work under Collins, but the Mets wouldn’t give him the opportunity. Not taking that chance might cost them as Backman could be offered the bench job under Davey Johnson with the Nationals.

It seems as if the Mets are just dancing with Backman, much as they did with Mookie Wilson. If the Mets truly want Backman to stay they would have immediately offered him the Triple-A job when Buffalo manager Tim Teufel was promoted to third base coach.

General manager Sandy Alderson said Backman is not a candidate for the major league staff, and given that, why shouldn’t the second baseman of the 1986 championship team look to better his position elsewhere? Working under Johnson would be ideal.

Although Backman interviewed for the Mets’ managerial position last year, it was to placate an uneasy fan base clamoring for change after Jerry Manuel’s disastrous tenure. Clearly, it was a token interview, and not moving him up the ladder indicates the organization has reservations.

And, if offered the job in Washington, Backman should have no reservations about leaving.

 

Nov 22

Mets to tab Collins as manager

Terry Collins is 61 years old and hasn’t managed in the major leagues in 11 years, but will become the 20th manager in Mets’ history.

I’m happy about the selection and don’t believe for a second the team doesn’t have its fingers on the pulse of its fans, many of whom remain infatuated with 1986 and preferred Wally Backman get the job.

I’m pleased with the selection because it showed the Mets followed through on their promise to make a thoughtful decision and didn’t cave to make the popular pick, the easy pick just to placate the emotions in the stands.

Doing so could have set the team back several years.

Sandy Alderson knows more about what’s going on than the fans and the media. He has a proven track record and was hired to rebuild this franchise. I trust he knows what he’s doing and want to see how things develop before trashing his pick.

Alderson conducted an exhaustive search of ten candidates before narrowing it down to Collins, Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Backman. Collins’ reputation is one of being fiery – the description of Backman, who has 444 less career major league wins as a manager – and of being solid in player development, essential for a team looking to rebuild.

Hale is expected to remain with the organization, but no word yet on what will become of Melvin and Backman. Both worked for the Mets last season and could be brought back.

Alderson has a rebuilding plan and it won’t happen overnight. Collins will be given a two-year contract, time enough to lay a strong foundation.

The Mets are a team in transition. Their first step was to add a well-respected front office, which has now made it first move.

Let’s see how it works.

Nov 10

Mets’ manager interviews to have second phase

The Mets’ managerial search will include a second round of interviews with Terry Collins, Don Melvin and Wally Backman. No word on any others getting a second round.

Speculation is with the hiring of Paul DePodesta to oversee the minor leagues and player development departments, Collins has become a frontrunner for the managerial job.

Collins, the Mets’ minor league field coordinator last season, has a better grasp of the Mets’ minor league system overall than the other candidates overall. Melvin was a major league scout last season for the Mets and Backman was manager of their Single-A Brooklyn affiliate.

Both Collins and Melvin have major league managing experience.

Initially, it was thought the new manager should not have ties to the Mets, but all three do, as does Tim Tuefel.

Nov 06

New York Mets notebook

A lot of things happening with the Mets right now, beginning with the managerial interviews:

1) BACKMAN INTERVIEWS TODAY: Sandy Alderson will interview Wally Backman in California today and it is not a courtesy interview as the general manager doesn’t have time to waste. I’ve been hearing the Wilpons have some apprehensions concerning Backman, but nothing specific other than his lack of major league experience has come to light.

I’m still wary about Backman because of the experience factor, believing there are others that bring more immediately to the table.

2) COLLINS THE FRONTRUNNER: I don’t see how anybody can come to the conclusion Terry Collins is the frontrunner without all the interviews being conducted. The Mets do like Collins in his current role working with the minor leagues and could prefer him to stay in that role. Don’t forget, if Collins is reassigned then the Mets will need somebody else for the minor league job.

3) TAKAHASHI GONE: The Mets did not bring back reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The difference in gap  isn’t $1 million as people have suggested, but closer to $10 million if what has been reported is close. At 36, three years is a long time to give to a reliever with only one year in the major leagues.

4) CHARLIE SAMUELS: What was he thinking? The gifts Samuels received from the players is irrelevant. It’s the position he had and the betrayal factor. How much he bet on baseball, or if he bet on the Mets, is uncertain. The argument if he bet on baseball it would be OK if he wagered on the Mets doesn’t make it because of the message it sends if he didn’t bet on the Mets. Why?

I’ve always liked Charlie, but investigations like this don’t happen if there isn’t some degree of truth to the claims.

Too bad.

Nov 02

Looking at the make-up of the new Mets’ manager.

Sandy Alderson is back from teaching in California and at Citi Field working on hiring the next manager of the Mets. There should be some interviews scheduled by the end of the day, with some to happen this week.

While Alderson said he’s not adverse to hiring a “fiery,” manager – relief to Wally Backman supporters – his preference is of an analytical and knowledgeable type. Middle management, if you will. Speculation has Bob Melvin and Clint Hurdle emerging as early favorites.

Yes, the manager could be important to sell tickets – in that regard Backman might have it over Melvin – but winning is the most important criteria and if Alderson believes a low-key, almost vanilla personality is better equipped to implement his vision he’ll get the job. If the Mets play a fundamentally sound, aggressive brand of baseball and prove to always be in the game, that will sell the tickets and steady the ship until they start spending after the 2011 season.

In addition to Melvin, Hurdle and Backman, also on Alderson’s list is third-base coach Chip Hale, Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, Minor League field coordinator Terry Collins, Double-A Binghamton manager Tim Teufel, and former Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

Not an established genius on the list, then again, neither was Bruce Bochy, whom Alderson had in San Diego.

The new Mets manager must have these traits:

SMARTS/ANALYSIS: It’s a complicated game and a manager must always be thinking two, three innings ahead. Bochy was flawless this October in how he juggled his lineup and bullpen. It’s an oversimplification to blame injuries for an unstable batting order and bullpen, but Jerry Manuel showed he didn’t think things through with his insistence in batting Jose Reyes third and for overworking his bullpen. Those were the most glaring as it showed he didn’t have an understanding of the talent of his players.

Sometimes a manager must act on instincts and guts, but hoping and flying by the seat of 0ne’s pants isn’t the best strategy. Alderson is big on probabilities and that comes in being prepared which puts the odds in your favor.

HAVE A PLAN: The bullpen and batting order were all over the place with Manuel. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a manager to do is assess bullpen roles and keep them in place. The bullpen was solvent and stable in 2006 under Willie Randolph but hasn’t been since even though the Mets spent lavishly on closers Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez.

ABILITY TO CONVINCE THE PLAYERS OF THE BIG PICTURE: The Giants proved it is possible to win without marquee players in the starting lineup. (As long as you have four quality starters, a strong bullpen and dominant closer, then the batting order doesn’t have to mash). Neither Manuel nor Omar Minaya could convince Oliver Perez to do what was right, and they didn’t have the backbone to broach moving Carlos Beltran to right field.

Convincing Beltran to move to another position in his walk year will require a delicate, yet firm touch, as it is likely we won’t see him after 2011. The new manager will have to convince Beltran to do what is best for a team  he won’t  be a part of after this season. Tough task.

The Giants won with serviceable, productive role players who performed in a relatively stable lineup. Their lineup might not be as talented as the Mets’ order, but they all knew their roles and had a disciplined approach at the plate. One thing watching the Giants during the year and in the playoffs is they gave away far less at-bats than the Mets.

The new manager and his hitting coach must overhaul the Mets’ far too often careless and sloppy approach at the plate, and this begins with convincing the stars Reyes to improve his on-base percentage and David Wright and Jason Bay to cut down on their strikeouts.

It was almost a novelty when the Mets worked counts, manufactured runs and hit with runners in scoring position. It should be common place.

One of the most memorable at-bats during the World Series was Aubrey Huff sacrificing late in the game last night to set up Edgar Renteria. Arguably their best power hitter was bunting. Clearly, the Giants bought into what Bochy was selling. We rarely saw that here.

THE ABILITY TO MOTIVATE: It’s hard to believe major league players with the money they make need motivation, but it’s true. This is personified by Reyes, whom Manuel lost by juggling in the order and pushing his return from injuries. Reyes is still the Mets’ offensive key and requires delicate handling at times because he does lose focus.

HAVE PATIENCE WITH THE YOUNG PLAYERS: This team has a young core with Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada. Angel Pagan, Reyes and Wright are also in the prime of their careers. Part of this is surrounding himself with the proper staff. Hale and Dan Warthen, reportedly, could stay in some capacity and this should ease the transition.

It was Manuel who insisted on Jenrry Mejia opening the season in the bullpen when it was clear he was not suited for that role. A manager must put his players in position where they have a chance to succeed. Not only was Manuel wrong here, so was Minaya for letting him.

KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA: There were many instances Manuel criticized and threw a player under the bus in the press, which showed he didn’t trust them. Conversely, those players returned that lack of trust. Two of the more enduring images of the season was Mike Pelfrey turning his back on Manuel when he took him out and the John Maine incident. Both illustrated the players’ lack of respect and trust in their manager and it filtered down.

Manuel also failed several times when it came to informing players of change. When it came to informing Wright of an off day or Jeff Francoeur of his role with the return of Beltran, Manuel handled it sloppily. If you’re a manager and you’re selling a new system, you must have diplomacy, tact and consideration, knowing you’re going to rely on those players in the future. The new guy needs this trait.

Manuel did a lot of double-speaking when it came to the press and wasn’t believable, and with that neither the Mets were as a contender.