Oct 25

Mets’ GM search in second phase

Mets fans might have celebrated hollow victories over the weekend when the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated from the postseason on consecutive nights, the final out in each game coming on a called third strike. Alex Rodriguez one night; Ryan Howard the other.

Of course, rooting against the Yankees and Phillies is futile work, as it does nothing toward the improvement of the Mets.

However, the most important development lately has been the narrowing of the GM candidates to Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson.

Byrnes will interview with ownership, including Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, today, and Alderson will be on stage tomorrow. Both are highly regarded and will inherit a team with a high payroll and a myriad of issues.

Neither will be able to turn the program around in a year, and such a promise hasn’t been made by either in the first round of interviews.

Both GM candidates indicate Wally Backman is on their list of prospective managerial candidates, which parallels the Wilpon’s thinking. That is not to say Backman is a given, but he will get an honest shot. There are several things about Backman that concern me, most is the perception he is the Wilpon pick and he’s being forced on to the new general manager. My preference for Backman is to be promoted to bench coach and work under an experienced manager.

The new GM will inherit a team slightly below .500, meaning there is reason to be optimistic about improvement should all the pieces fall into place, notably the healthy returns of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran, continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese, and an encore from RA Dickey. The Mets aren’t void of talent, and improvement should occur, but they are still behind the Phillies and Braves, but those teams have their own issues.

A GM decision could be made as soon the off day following Game 2, which is a travel day in the World Series. As written here before, the GM candidates have their thinking on the manager, so that process should turn around rather quickly.

The first order of offseason business might night be conducted by assistant GM John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon, and that would be the re-signing of reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The Mets have until Oct. 31 to re-sign Takahashi, otherwise he can become a free agent.

Takahashi did everything the Mets asked of him last season as a starter or in a variety of bullpen roles, but the left-hander prefers to start. The Mets could promise him a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training or they could overpay to keep him in the pen.

Reportedly, Takahashi is seeking a two-year deal and he’s worth it based on what he did in 2010.

Oct 14

Don’t bank on Backman

Following the Mets’ GM search brings a couple of thoughts to mind.

BACKMAN: Would he be a gimmick hire?

I don’t see the Mets hiring Sandy Alderson plus Rick Hahn, as has been suggested.  I believe the job is Alderson’s for the taking, which would enable him to help groom John Ricco to be his successor. I don’t think they’ll end up hiring one assistant GM (Hahn) when they won’t interview their current assistant GM. If they did, they’ll take a risk at losing Ricco.

Because of Logan White’s proficiency in scouting, I can see him joining Alderson.

Whomever, the Mets hire as their general manager, I’m beginning to think Wally Backman won’t be hired as their manager if the new guy has the autonomy the Wilpons have promised. I’ve seen several list of the top managerial candidates and Backman hasn’t been on any of them.

I keep hearing about Backman’s spit and fire, but he’s not the only fiery personality out there, and that’s not the primary quality in a manager. The ability to motivate isn’t confined to yelling and over turning the food spread in the clubhouse. There’s also game management and dealing with player personalities.

Backman has not proven he can be that on a major league level, and with a team in transition such as the Mets a veteran presence is the best option. Like the general manager, I’d prefer a manager with a track record, one who could groom Backman by bringing him on as a bench coach.

This isn’t to say Backman won’t eventually become an accomplished major league manager, but I don’t believe this is the right time. There’s still too much for Backman to learn, and a rebuilding situation like the Mets isn’t the best place to start. I keep hearing about Backman’s fire and the ties to the 1986 championship team, but that sounds more and more like a gimmick hire.

I just don’t see a new general manager tying his success to an unproven manager.

Oct 11

Mets should target Alderson

The Mets today met with Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird, and will interview White Sox assistant Rick Hahn tomorrow, former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes Wednesday and Sandy Alderson Thursday or Friday.

ALDERSON: Like him for the job.

They appear to be the Mets’ final four unless Terry Ryan has a change or heart.

All are well respected within the baseball community, but Alderson has the highest profile and deepest resume. That’s why I would like him to get the job.

Alderson’s track record will likely enable him to make the most immediate and deepest impact. I believe he’s the one most able to hit the ground running and provide the change that would convince the fan base the Mets are serious.

Alderson built winning teams in Oakland and San Diego, has connections in Latin America which would minimize the need to retain Omar Minaya in that capacity. Plus, he’s wired like no other with the  commissioner’s office. I don’t think anything will get by him.

During this process we’re still hearing about Wally Backman’s managerial candidacy. The Wilpons might suggest him to the new general manager, but they also promised the new guy will make the call.

Each one of these GM candidates is well connected and probably has their own ideas that might not necessarily involve Backman.

Sep 21

Have to consider Torre.

TORRE: Must explore this.

Joe Torre has left the door open to managing again and would be interested in talking with the Wilpons.

“I am curious,” Torre said yesterday.  “When the season is over, I hope the phone will be ringing… I don’t really anticipate managing again, but I think it would be unfair not to listen just out of curiosity to see if something excites me.”

In this case, one plus one must equal two.

I am a Torre advocate, and believe he would immediately change the culture around this stagnant organization. Future Hall of Fame managers aren’t readily available and if this one is interested the Mets would be doing themselves and their frustrated fan base a disservice if they don’t explore the possibility.

The man has four World Series rings on his resume as a manager, which I believe is four more than Wally Backman and Bobby Valentine. He knows how to win and knows the pressure that comes in winning in New York.

For all the talk about building with youth, Torre knows how that’s done as it is how the Yankee dynasty under him was built. One cornerstone at a time: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

And, nobody commands respect like Torre. If there’s a crisis, I’d rather have a guy who has known he can handle it over a guy who has never managed on this level. You also won’t catch him sitting in the dugout with glasses and a fake moustache.

And please, let’s not talk about his laid back personality. He has his players’ attention. I’ve said it before, his is an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Torre would immediately bring respectability to the Mets, give them a credibility they have long lacked.

Let’s also not talk about him being 70 years old. He keeps himself in great shape and the Mets would provide a challenge to keep him interested. The Mets are a .500 team, that with a little tweaking, adding and luck, could improve on that next season. The aura of what Torre would bring to the table would automatically improve the Mets.

Torre would change the atmosphere in his first year, and in his second, after the books have been cleared of Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez – and possibly Francisco Rodriguez – his reputation would undoubtedly attract free agents who previously might have shunned the Mets.

Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next year after working under Torre. If the Mets are indeed grooming Backman, wouldn’t it be better for him to learn under Torre than to throw him to the wolves now?

David Wright spoke the other day about changing the attitude, the culture of the Mets and Torre would do that unquestionably. He brings the dimension of winning to the table that few other candidates can provide.

Torre would not come cheaply, but if the Mets are serious about change, then you must pay for it.

Sep 15

Kudos for Backman …. Manuel

Brooklyn’s season is over and the waiting game begins for Wally Backman. Quoted earlier about saying he could do some things better than Jerry Manuel, Backman took the high road yesterday, saying he’s not guaranteed of a job next year and the Mets aren’t on his mind.

Of course, they have to be on his mind, but when given a second chance to comment on the Mets’ job and Manuel, Backman took the high road, which won’t go unnoticed by management.

On a related note, Manuel knows his job is in jeopardy. He might even know he’s not coming back. But instead of crying or lobbying, he goes out there and does his job every day. That’s a professional thing to do and that won’t go unnoticed, either.